VATICAN CITY — Most members of the Synod of Bishops on the family are enjoying the strangely warm Roman weather; only members of the groups drafting the synod’s message to the Catholic faithful and drafting its final report were working this morning.
But the media is still here in force and the Vatican press office wanted to give them more views of what happened inside and what will happen next. Tomorrow morning synod members will vote on the message and, in the evening, they will vote on the report.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the German bishops’ conference, spoke to reporters today and focused on the report as the final step only of this stage of the discussion. For the next year, Catholic bishops around the world will be asked to study and discuss the themes and consult with their faithful in preparation for the next step: the world Synod of Bishops in October 2015.
Cardinal Marx was one of those bishops at the synod looking particularly for new ways to reach out to Catholics living in family situations that do not meet the ideals taught by the Catholic Church. As a representative of the German bishops’ conference, for example, he said a significant majority of German bishops voted to back “the question” raised by German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who asked about possible ways to admit to Communion some Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried, but who do not have an annulment.
Still, he said, he is not disappointed by the discussion or the opposition of some synod members to the question. The discussion was important, it was mature and, he said, it deals with matters that will continue to be studied by pastors, theologians and canon lawyers.
Interestingly enough, the whole “three steps forward, two steps back” has Catholic roots. It’s part of a procession in Echternach, Luxembourg.
Pope Francis, Cardinal Marx said, has not called two synods simply so bishops listen to one another and then decide, “we can only repeat what we have always said.”
Cardinal Marx told reporters the synod process is important for helping the Catholic Church and its pastors find more compassionate, accurate language for its teaching on morality. It must be clear and faithful to the church’s tradition, he said, must it also must be realistic about how the way many men and women live is not completely good or completely bad.
“Exclusion is not the language of the church,” he said. The church cannot say divorced and civilly remarried couples are “second-class” Christians and it cannot say there is no way for a homosexual person to experience the Gospel.