Excerpts from the Synod on the Family for apologetics use

Okay, I know that many people are all manner of bent out of shape about what they have heard or read about the document from the synod. I have finally finished reading it and have assembled quite a few excerpts that I have been sharing with friends who also were distressed by what they’ve heard. Here is a link to the Vatican copy.

I think it’s very important that we take the time to carefully read the document for ourselves so that we 1. understand it ourselves, and 2. can then effectively dialog about it with those who (whether Catholic or non) have misunderstood it and/or been misled about it.

I will now post my excerpts and we can discuss as needed.

“In many contexts, and not only in the West, the practice of cohabitation before marriage, or indeed cohabitation not orientated towards assuming the form of an institutional bond, is increasingly widespread.”

“The danger of individualism and the risk of living selfishly are significant.”

“The crisis in the couple destabilizes the family and may lead, through separations and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening the individual and social bonds. The decline in population not only creates a situation in which the alternation of generations is no longer assured, but over time also risks leading to economic impoverishment and a loss of hope in the future.”

“The great values of marriage and the Christian family correspond to the search that distinguishes human existence even in a time marked by individualism and hedonism. It is necessary to accept people in their concrete being, to know how to support their search, to encourage the wish for God and the will to feel fully part of the Church, also on the part of those who have experienced failure or find themselves in the most diverse situations. This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy.”

**“**Imitating Jesus’ merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm.”

The Synod dialog has allowed an agreement on some of the more urgent pastoral needs to be entrusted to being made concrete in the individual local Churches,

The announcement of the Gospel of the family is an urgent issue for the new evangelization. The Church has to carry this out with the tenderness of a mother and the clarity of a teacher (cf. *Eph *4,15), in fidelity to the merciful kenosi of Christ. The truth is incarnated in human fragility not to condemn it, but to cure it.

Evangelizing is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her own ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of spouses and families, the announcement, even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society…

It will be decisive to highlight the primacy of grace, and therefore of the possibilities that the Spirit gives in the sacrament. This is about letting it be known that the Gospel of the family is a joy that «fills the hearts and lives», because in Christ we are «set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness» (Evangelii Gaudium, 1). In the light of the parable of the sower (cf. Mt 13,3), our task is to cooperate in the sowing: the rest is God’s work. We must not forget that the Church that preaches about the family is a sign of contradiction.

It must not be forgotten that the crisis of faith has led to a crisis in matrimony and the family and, as a result, the transmission of faith from parents to children has often been interrupted.

Christian marriage cannot only be considered as a cultural tradition or social obligation, but has to be a vocational decision taken with the proper preparation in an itinerary of faith, with mature discernment.

In the same way, the necessity was underlined for an evangelization that denounces clearly the cultural, social and economic factors, for example, the excessive room given to market logic, that prevents an authentic family life, leading to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence.

 Of great importance in this pastoral is the presence of experienced couples. The parish is considered the ideal place for expert couples to place themselves at the disposal of younger ones. Couples need to be encouraged towards a fundamental welcome of the great gift of children. The importance of family spirituality and prayer needs to be underlined, encouraging couples to meet regularly to promote the growth of the spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life. Meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families, were mentioned as vital in favoring evangelization through the family.

In the West as well there is an increasingly large number of those who, having lived together for a long period of time, ask to be married in the Church. Simple cohabitation is often a choice inspired by a general attitude, which is opposed to institutions and definitive undertakings, but also while waiting for a secure existence (a steady job and income). In other countries common-law marriages are very numerous, not because of a rejection of Christian values as regards the family and matrimony, but, above all, because getting married is a luxury, so that material poverty encourages people to live in common-law marriages. Furthermore in such unions it is possible to grasp authentic family values or at least the wish for them. Pastoral accompaniment should always start from these positive aspects.

All these situations have to be dealt with in a constructive manner, seeking to transform them into opportunities to walk towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. They need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy. With a view to this, the attractive testimony of authentic Christian families is important, as subjects for the evangelization of the family.

The dialog and meeting that took place in the Synod will have to continue in the local Churches, involving their various components, in such a way that the perspectives that have been drawn up might find their full maturation in the work of the next Ordinary General Assembly.

Each damaged family first of all should be listened to with respect and love, becoming companions on the journey as Christ did with the disciples of the road to Emmaus. In a particular way the words of Pope Francis apply in these situations: «The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment”, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other.

Such discernment is indispensable for the separated and divorced. What needs to be respected above all is the suffering of those who have endured separation and divorce unjustly. The forgiveness for the injustice endured is not easy, but it is a journey that grace makes possible. In the same way it needs to be always underlined that it is indispensable to assume in a faithful and constructive way the consequences of separation or divorce on the children: they must not become an “object” to be fought over and the most suitable means need to be sought so that they can get over the trauma of the family break-up and grow up in the most serene way possible.

Various Fathers underlined the necessity to make the recognition of cases of nullity more accessible and flexible. Among the propositions were the abandonment of the need for the double conforming sentence; the possibility of establishing an administrative means under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop; a summary process to be used in cases of clear nullity. According to authoritative propositions, the possibility should then be considered of giving weight to the faith of those about to be married in terms of the validity of the sacrament of marriage. It needs to emphasized that in all these cases it is about the ascertaining of the truth over the validity of the obstacle.

Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their state. The local community and pastors have to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when there are children involved or they find themselves in a serious situation of poverty.

In the same way the situation of the divorced who have remarried demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against. For the Christian community looking after them is not a weakening of its faith and its testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but rather it expresses precisely its charity in its caring.

As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis

The problems relative to mixed marriages were frequently raised in the interventions of the Synodal Fathers. The differences in the matrimonial regulations of the Orthodox Churches creates serious problems in certain contexts to which have to be found suitable responses in communion with the Pope. The same applies to inter-religious marriages.

Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or those international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

It is not difficult to notice the spread of a mentality that reduces the generation of life to a variable of an individual’s or a couple’s plans. Economic factors sometimes have enough weight to contribute to the sharp drop in the birthrate which weakens the social fabric, compromising the relationship between generations and rendering the view of the future less certain. Being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love.

*The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelization

  • The fundamental challenge facing families today is undoubtedly that of education, rendered more difficult and complex by today’s cultural reality. What have to be considered are the needs and expectations of families capable of testifying in daily life, places of growth, of concrete and essential transmission of the virtues that provide form for existence.

The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialog that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015. These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view. All the same the collegial path of the bishops and the involvement of all God’s people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all. This is the wish that from the beginning of our work Pope Francis has extended to us, inviting us to the courage of the faith and the humble and honest welcome of the truth in charity.

Alright, I know that this is very much a sort of “Reader’s Digest Condensed” version, but anyone can read the full 16 page document if they wish.

The above is just what I have gleaned from it and feel certain that these may be either the topic of conversations with people we know and encounter, or, (as has already happened with Mike Gendron :rolleyes:) we will see anti-Catholic propagandists cherry picking it in order to attempt to indict our Catholic faith.

Please feel free to copy and paste any section that you have questions about or would like to offer your insights about.

I’ll begin…unlike some people, I see not one thing that indicates a willingness to alter church teaching and doctrine with regard to anything discussed. If anything, I see more questions than answers as to how we all as the church can clearly and compassionately help these “wounded” (as the Pope and the synod call them) people to find their way home to the church.

The issue in many cases is how to reach out to people who perhaps have not been as blessed as we have been in their marriages and even in their lives. We all know someone who could benefit from this. I know myself that I would not be the best counselor with regard to marriage, even though I agree with the church and actually have a happy marriage. Honestly, I simply would not have much of a clue as to where to begin, so I’m hoping that the synod next year will give me some wise counsel that perhaps I can pass on to friends and relatives who need it.

With regard to the paragraphs on homosexuality…Here I think we see nothing but questions. I think the church is searching for the best possible ways to dialog with homosexuals in order to call them to conversion in the same way it does you and me. Nowhere do I see anything that infers that actively homosexual lifestyles will be anything other than disordered behavior and that persons with SSA will called to take up their cross daily and follow Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ in chastity just as we heterosexuals are. In these sections I see a dialog among the bishops as to how to do this as pastors.

I think there are a lot of interesting insights in all this and much good food for thought that we can hope and pray will turn into wisdom that will help us all to evangelize and share our most holy faith.

Thank you, CM, I confess that I had not known about this teaching. I appreciate your synopsis.

"**The decline in population **not only creates a situation in which the alternation of generations is no longer assured, but over time also risks leading to economic impoverishment and a loss of hope in the future.”:confused:

World population has more than doubled since 1960; from 3 to 7 billion. What has lead the bishops to consider this a decline?

Thank you CM for your help with this subject. I’d love to comment but I’ve gotten in too much trouble already for some of the things I’ve said so playing safe for now. You’ll say it better for me anyway. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good works.


I would say that the issue is actually more oriented to the west, where many countries birth rates are falling and in some places are nearly zero. The fact that here in the U.S. the “average” family settles for 2.5 children and the “norm”.

The fact that so many so called experts are telling everyone that population is growing at an alarming rate, but I suggest that one needs to look at where the populations are actually growing while others decline.

Hey, like I said, it’s 16 pages in my document. It’s not a hard read, but you do have to sort through the abundance of words and in some cases sentences that are poorly translated.

I do see that they are asking more questions than offering concrete answers so I look to the synod next year to deal with all of this.

Aw, you’ll be alright. just gotta stick with the topic and simply say what the church does.

You mean to tell me now that after all the controversy that we have seen about the synod that this is all the discussion that these direct excerpts generate?

I think there is a general burn-out from all the wrangling before this final synopsis. :stuck_out_tongue: Unless you agree with the radicals, there is no room any longer for honest discussion.

You did an excellent job condensing this into the key points!

Thanks S2, I appreciate the post.

You are probably right. If nothing else this will allow people to locate what was actually said instead of going off of the media clips.

[FONT=Times New Roman][size=4]As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis.


In response to this paragraph, I would like to share Cardinal Kasper’s actual words from his book to give us greater clarity.

The path in question would not be a general solution. It is not a road path for the great masses, but a narrow path for the indeed smaller segment of divorced and remarried individuals who are honestly interested in the sacraments. Is it not necessary precisely here to prevent something worse? For when children in the families of the divorced and remarried never see their parents go to the sacraments, then they too normally will not find their way to confession and communion. Do we then accept as a consequence that we will also lose the next generation and perhaps the generation after that? Does not our well-preserved praxis then become counterproductive?

On the part of the Church, this path presupposes discretion, spiritual discrimination, pastoral prudence and wisdom. For the monastic father Benedict, discretio (discernment) was the mother of all virtues and the basic virtues of the abbot. That is equally true for the bishop. Such discretio is no cheap compromise between the extremes of rigorism and laxity, but rather - like every virtue - the path of the responsible middle and the right measure.

I hope that on the path of such discretio in the course of the synodal process, we find an answer so that we can credibly bear witness to the word of God in difficult situations as a message of fidelity, but equally as a message of mercy, life, and joy.

I pray that those who wish to put words in Kasper’s mouth would consider this last paragraph, which was concurrent in his book. He did not urge any change whatsoever, but looked forward to finding an answer within the synod, and simply posed questions for further discussion and a possible conclusion.

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