The family is not an outdated model, and Catholics should defend it from the sins that call into question and often destroy the traditional family, the general rapporteur of the Synod of Bishops said Monday.
Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest presented the 14-page “relatio ante disceptationem” at an Oct. 6 press conference.
The relatio took into consideration the responses given a preliminary questionnaire which was delivered to bishops’ conferences earlier this year, as well as the relations of the synodal fathers; it is in four parts: the Gospel of the Family in the Context of New Evangelization; the Gospel of the Family and Family Ministry; difficult Pastoral Situations; and the Family and the Gospel of Life.
Cardinal Erdo said that “the renewal of the methodology of the synod lies also in the fact that we are already drafting the post-discussion relation, on the basis of the written interventions of the synodal fathers, though we still have to consider what comes out from the debate.”
He also announced that for the first time, deliberations at the synod will be held in Italian rather than in Latin.
Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, who is general secretary of the synod, added that “the synod of bishops had matured in the course of years.”
“The synod had become too set, and Benedict XVI wanted to introduce free discussion, beyond the prepared interventions,” Archbishop Forte said in a Catholic News Agency report.
He added that “as the most important issues of the Second Vatican Council were discussed in the inter-session, the the non-formal ones, I expect that the most important outcomes of the synod of the bishops will come from the free discussions, that Pope Francis wanted to be frank.”
The relatio read by Cardinal Erdo will provide some of the topics on the table during these two weeks of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.
The relatio stressed that “today, the family is certainly encountering many difficulties, but it is not an outdated model, because of a widely diffused indication among the young of a renewed desire to form a family.”
According to Cardinal Erdo, “the fundamental teaching on marriage appear well-enough known, but the specific aspects of doctrine and the Church’s Magisterium on marriage and family are not always sufficiently well-known by the faithful.”
The relation stressed many times the need for more comprehensive education on the Catholic teaching.
“It is particularly useful for the bishops of the local communities to be offered clear guidelines to help those living in difficult situations,” since “it is unrealistic to expect that by themselves they will find the right solutions in conformity with the truth of Gospel and nearness to individual in particular situation,” the document reads.
The relatio also alerted local communities to avoid “the improvisations of a do-it-yourself-ministry, which in ends in making the acceptance of the Gospel of the Family more difficult.”
The document also stressed that “engaged couples need to be assisted in coming to a clear understanding of what marriage is in the Creator’s plan, namely a covenant which, between baptized persons, has always enjoyed the dignity of Sacrament.”
Mercy does not do away with truth
Given that “the issue of mercy has emerged more prominently as an important perspective in proclaiming the Gospel,” the relatio underscored that mercy does not “do away with truth nor relativize it, but seek to interpret it correctly in the hierarchy of truths.”
“Consequently, mercy does not take away the commitments which arise from demands of the marriage bond,” which “continue to exist even when human love is weakened or has ceased,” the relatio said.
Divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, civil marriages
The relatio addressed difficult pastoral situations such as cohabitation, civil marriage, and divorce and remarriage.
Cohabitation and civil marriage represent “a new dimension of pastoral care of the family today,” and the Church “cannot fail to take advantage of an opportunity, even in situations which, at first sight, are far from satisfying the criteria of the Gospel, and to draw close to people in order to bring them to a conscious, true and right decision about their relationship.”
Regarding divorced and civilly remarried persons, the relatio said that “the situation does not put in question Christ’s words or the truth of the indissolubility of marriage, or even maintain that these are no longer in force.”
Cardinal Erdo stressed that “divorced and civilly remarried persons belong to the Church”, and “they have the right to receive care from their pastors.”
“Consequently, in each particular Church, at least one duly prepared priest is needed, who can offer counsel, without charge, as a first step for the parties to ascertain the validity of their marriage.”
The relatio also noted that “many feel the procedure” for assessing a marriage’s validity “needs review” because of a “divorce mentality.”
To this end, Pope Francis established a commission to study a reform of the process of marriage annulment on Aug. 27.
The relatio also addressed the issue of homosexuality, emphasizing that “there is a broad consensus that people with a homosexual orientation should not be discriminated against,” but at the same time “it is clear that the majority of the baptized – and all episcopal conferences – do not expect that these relationships be equated with marriage between a man and a woman.”
At the same time, the document underscored, there is no “consensus among a vast majority of Catholics on the ideology of gender theories.”
“Instead, many want to see a change in the traditional roles in society which are culturally conditioned and in discrimination against women, which continues to be present, without denying, in the process, the differences by nature between sexes and their reciprocity and complementarity.”
The Gospel of Life
In conclusion, the relatio stressed the importance of the Gospel of Life.
The relatio maintain that “openness to life is not extraneous to conjugal love,” and “the idea of openness to life cannot be limited to conception and birth, but find its fullness in the upbringing of children.”
The relation also stressed that “welcoming life, assuming responsibility in procreating life, and the care required are possible only if the family is not conceived as an isolated unit, but as an active part in a network of relationships.”
In the end, the “Church is called to proclaim and witness the supreme dignity of human person,” and so particular care “needs to be given to education in love and sexuality.”
For this purpose, the relations pointed out the need of re-proposing the positive message of Humanae vitae, Paul VI’s encyclical on the regulation of birth.
Issued in 1968, the encyclical reaffirmed the teaching of the Church regarding artificial birth control, and met not infrequent opposition.
Humanae vitae “mainly presents the positive aspects of morality in conjugal life ordered to its mission of love and fertility,” the relatio stressed.
Bring back the attractiveness of the Christian message about marriage and family
The relation concluded that “the challenge of this synod is to try to bring back to today’s world the attractiveness of the Christian message about marriage and the family.”
This mission should be fulfilled in “highlighting the joy” given by living Christian teachings, and at the same time “to respond, in a true and charitable way, to the many problems which have a special impact on the family today.”
The relatio stressed the need to emphasize that “true moral freedom does not consist in doing what one feels or living only by one’s feelings, but is realized only in acquiring the true good.”