Synod synopsis: What’s being said behind closed-doors

Synod 2014

VATICAN CITY — The latest discussions coming out of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family are continuing to focus on the challenges today’s families face.

This morning the auditors — almost all of them lay couples or individuals — took the floor to explain the pastoral situations they face and the approaches they take in their work to help families. Today’s briefing also covered talks by the synod fathers from yesterday afternoon.

Here are a few highlights of the latest that’s unfolding:

The church needs to show its concern for children who are living in broken families, one bishop told the assembly.

One idea is to set up “support groups,” so kids — so often the victims in difficult family situations — can get additional help. Kids who find care  and support in the church also can be a bridge for getting the parents back to the church, some said.

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Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, the English press briefer, said the same bishop wanted to see this focused pastoral care extended to all children, emphasizing that kids of same-sex couples shouldn’t be denied the sacraments because of their parents’ irregular situation.

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One “new element” that emerged in discussions was the idea of a “penitential journey” for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told journalists this topic received “detailed and intense” discussion.

One synod father offered a model of how couples would have to reflect on a number of questions, like the impact their divorce has on the children and spouse, and how the damage and errors could be repaired.

It’s not “a simple solution,” but it would be part of a wider, longer journey of reconciliation to bring the couple back to the church.

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Talks continued on the need to streamline the process of verifying the nullity of some marriages. Now with the new commission Pope Francis has created for this task, synod fathers expressed hopes some agreement could be reached on a simple and uniform procedure for the whole church.

Synod participants also wanted to see more lay judges, especially women, working on marriage tribunals.

People also recognized that engaged couples often see the marriage preparation course as “an imposition” or “a duty” to put up with so there ends up being no real learning or appreciation for the teachings.

Courses then become too brief and are spending too much time on “social and juridical” matters rather than the religious and spiritual side of the vocation of marriage. Marriage should have the same lengthy and intense preparation and follow-up care as religious vocations have, according to today’s briefing.

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Attention again turned to the unfair pressure Western countries put on African nations by giving economic aid only when a recipient country promises to promote abortion, contraception and same-sex unions — things that go against not just church teaching, but traditional cultures as well, assembly members said.

“Our poverty doesn’t mean we have no dignity,” Father Rosica quoted one synod participant as saying.

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Jocelyne Khoueiry, a synod expert who spoke to reporters at today’s news conference, said everyone agrees that the indissolubility of marriage is sacred and must not be changed. However, two different approaches for protecting this truth have emerged, she said.

The ideal situation is for the church to use God and his mercy as its guide and “integrate the truth of marriage” without compromise while being close to those who are suffering, she said.

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The synod assembly put out a message of support for all families who are affected by the world’s conflicts, especially families from Iraq and Syria.

Thanking the world community for the assistance they’ve shown so far, “we invite people of good will to offer the necessary aid and help to the innocent victims of the barbarity underway,” the synod fathers wrote.

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And lastly, it’s the final blow to Latin at the synod.

After Pope Francis switched the synod’s official language from Latin to Italian, Father Lombardi now said the small working groups — that have now been set up and are divided up by language — would not have a Latin group. Miseret Latin lovers!

7 Responses

  1. Delighted with this report;, especially after R Arroyo had Cdl R Burke on EWTN’s TWO last night running down Cdl Gasper and questioning the POPE for his annulment panel, bypassing the Synod and insisted that t Jesus was against communion for re-married without tan annulment. Fr Lombardi is now explaining the reconciliation-non-annulment steps that are planned. It is telling that R. Burke the Pope’s chief canonist is not on the annulment panel. He should take the hint and move out.- being bounced off the bishop-making panel should have been a hint.

  2. I work with a lot of couples in marriage preparation and find that those who might have been married before really needed family – parents, brothers and sisters, and even grandparents to support them in being able to have a permanent relationship with their spouse. I also see how important the support of the church community and even the culture which they live within is also important for the support of a permanent marriage. We don’t usually have that any more, so when a couple begins to struggle, and they all do, there is no one to help them work things out, and that often is the end of their relationship. So we end up with so many couples needing formal cases for an annulment which takes usually at least two years to complete. Very discouraging and scares off many. We need a way to be able to let these couples married outside the church to experience God’s love through the sacraments. But also to receive the grace that helps them stay on their journey to heaven. It seems when we deny them this, we have in a sense given up on them; like we don’t want them any more. Many times, I see these couples end up going to non-denominational churches where the focus is not worship but entertainment. They feel accepted there and rejected by the Church.

  3. The annulment process is too limited and ineffective in dealing with the vast majority of divorced-remarried Catholics. They do have a place in those few, rare occasions when a marriage is forced upon someone against their free will or through outright deceptive actions. But for most marriages that end up in divorce, whether the Church wants to accept this fact or not, there is a breaking of the bond of marriage in reality.

    There must be another way, other than annulments, to deal with these cases. In most instances the marriages were legally performed and met all of the legal and spiritual criteria set up by the Church. Thus, no annulment is going to be allowed, leaving both spouses with a moral and spiritual dilemma that they will resolve using their own conscience and judgment. And that appears to be where we are all at now.

  4. Somebody better be reading Sacramentum Caritatis,especially 27 through 29 of Also to read # 83- especially the last sentence. The Post Synodal Apostolic exhortation by Pope Benedict XVI is less than 10 years old! Something is very wrong in what Pope Francis has been saying and doing. The inclusion of retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels in the synod is a disgrace, an insult to the victims of sex abuse and all those who have fought to maintain the Christian definition of marriage. Danneels is not in a position to speak about family! This man left the Church in Belgium in a state of disaster! Empty churches, same sex “marriage”, abortion on demand, and euthanasia ALL LEGALIZED in a country which was overwhelmingly Catholic when his tenure began.

  5. As a Passionist and a divorced and celibate mom who is hoping to help her husband (who is still the one and only father of my children) get to heaven, I pray the Church will some day put away this message that everyone must “feel welcome” or else the people who “don’t make people feel welcome” are in sin…..and instead preach the Cross again, wherein we love those who do not make us feel welcome, even to the Cross. I’m sure my children have learned from me that marriage is lifelong and that they should be certain that they are prepared for sacrifice before walking down the aisle. This Synod has done nothing but sadden me. There is redemption in the Sacrament of Matrimony. Please don’t preach otherwise. Thank you.

  6. The annulment process is too long. Legal marriages end in legal divorces, however the canon process to annull the marriage can take months if not years to come before the tribunal. Why? I recommend a special dispensation to eliminate the current process and streamline and accelerate the process with specific due dates or automatic advancement or approvals if the respondent or witnesses fail to answer or the Trbunal fails to act.

  7. According to the New York Times:Today the synod, among other things asked pastors to recognize the “positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation.” Positive aspects of cohabitation? Indeed! Where is the child in all this? What does a woman who cohabitates teach her sons and daughters? AND what does a man who fathers, (no! produces because you cannot properly call this fatherhood) 6 children with 6 different women teach his sons and daughters? Yes indeed! There are positive but selfish aspects of cohabitation but cohabitation from the very beginning is an affront to human dignity! What is it all about anyhow? Is it about economic benefits which might be had? You don’t need to share a bedroom for that! A high school classmate of mine spoke of cohabitation years ago, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” No commitment to the child which might be conceived or to each other.-No strings attached-leave your sleeping bag rolled up behind the couch sort of relationships! . 1 million abortions in the US every year and millions 40 % of all children born in the US born out of wedlock. Cohabitation is associated with educational failure, crime and poverty. ALL of this likely to be repeated in the next generation! It is arguably the greatest cause of poverty in the US!
    I grew up poor but I did not live in poverty because I had a mom and dad. I witnessed the exploitation of our daughter through cohabitation. Our grandson, all his life was unsupported and unguided by his biological father. He experienced his mother living with a series of 5 men, bonding with none of them. This is poverty which cannot be measured in dollars. Now he cohabits with his girlfriend.Yes tell me about the “Positive’ aspects of cohabitation! Have they lost their minds?

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