The family: vocation and challenges

Publication of the Instrumentum Laboris that accompanies the preparation of the Synod Assembly of October next. Novelties and news

A “new pace” for a “differentiated accompaniment” of families, notably fragile and wounded families, through “cautious and merciful discernment” along with the “ability to grasp the diversity of the single situations concretely”. The sentence is taken from the Instrumentum laboris ahead of the XIVth Ordinary Assembly of the Bishops, released on June 23. The document stems from the “Relatio Synodi” -of which it encompasses several passages – integrated by 99 answers to the “Lineamenta”, in addition to the 359 remarks “freely sent by parishes and dioceses, ecclesial associations and spontaneous groups of faithful and civil organizations and movements, families and believers”, as explained by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Bishops’ Synod, during the presentation of the document. Starting with reality. “For the Church it’s a question of starting with the concrete situation of families today, all of which needy mercy, starting with the most suffering ones”, states the text, articulated in three parts: listening to the challenges on the families, discernment on its vocation, reflection on its mission. Challenges include also that very “integral ecology”, proposed in the Pope’s new encyclical, to overcome “inequalities and social exclusion”. It takes a “moral of grace”, to “explore and flourish the beauty of the virtues of married life” and dissipate young people’s fears to get married for fear of failure. Another truth to be proposed is that of the “difference” between men and women. On contraception, the essential reference remains ”Humanae vita”. The icon is that of Jesus who accompanies the disciples of Emmaus: “Sometimes it is necessary to remain close and listen in silence; others, to stand in front and indicate the way forward; other still to stand behind, supporting and encouraging”. Women’s role. “A greater enhancement of women’s responsibility inside the Church, their participation in decision-making processes, can contribute to the recognition of their important role”; their participation in “the board of a given number of institutions; their involvement in the formation of ordained ministers”. It is one of the novelties of the Instrumentum, with a paragraph on women’s role. For couple crisis. “Wide consensus”, among the synod fathers “on the opportunity of making more accessible and feasible, perhaps gratuitously, the legal procedures in cases of marriage annulment”: an innovative proposal, in this direction, is “to create inside the dioceses a permanent counselling service”, in which should be freely guaranteed, information, counselling and mediation services linked to the pastoral care of the family, in particular to divorcees and for couple crisis”. Reception and integration for remarried divorcees. No to the “exclusion” of remarried divorcees. In fact the document calls for an “increasing integration within the Christian community” through “avenues” preceded by “dedicated discernment by the pastors on the irreversible feature of the situation and life of faith of the couple in a new union”. “Welcome” and “integration” are the two key-words; in terms of a “progressive system respectful of the maturity of consciences”. “There is joint agreement on the possibility of an itinerary of reconciliation or way of penance, under the bishops’ authority, for remarried divorcees who are experiencing a situation of irreversible cohabitation”, states the Instrumentum laboris, whereby some fathers suggest “an itinerary leading to the acknowledgement of the failure and of the wounds it produced, with repentance, verifying the possibility of marriage annulment, commitment to spiritual communion coupled by the decision to exercise lifelong self-restraint”. As for the marriage custom of Orthodox Churches to bless second unions, this is in itself a “penitential celebration” which should be understood as “pastoral condescendence towards failed marriages, without questioning the ideal of total monogamy, namely the unity of marriage”. The homosexual “question”. “There is no foundation to assumed similarities, however distant, between homosexual unions and God’s plan on marriage and the family”. It’s the Church’s position on same-sex unions, mentioned in the letter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the subject, quoted in the “Relatio Synodi” and in today’s Instrumentum laboris. “Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, deserves to be respected in his/her dignity and welcomed with sensitivity and kindness, inside the Church and in society alike”. “It is to be hoped – is the proposal – that diocesan pastoral plans shall devote special care to the accompaniment of families whose members have homosexual tendencies and of these same persons”.

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