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The Text and the Context

The 2015 Synod on the Family is done; it produced several lights and not a few shadows. The Final Report, as it now stands, contains some strong spiritual reflections, drawing on the Sacred Scriptures and the traditions of the Church. It also deals realistically with many of the social and cultural and political situations of families around the world – situations that vary greatly: from the sex-saturated hedonistic culture of the West to conditions of war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. A few paragraphs would have been better left out. Taken solely as a general view of the family, it has value. But the context in which the text was developed is another thing entirely, and will be a sore point for years to come.

A theme often repeated by the Synod Fathers during the past three weeks is that a Church worried about the future of the family today would be taking a very narrow view if it only reflected Western concerns about gays and divorce. One sign of how far the 2015 Synod moved, despite continuing problems, is that there is none of the talk about “accepting and valuing. . .[gay] sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony,” a big walk back from the notorious 2014 Midterm Report. Over the weekend, the BBC said Francis had been “defeated” on gays – not particularly accurate since he’s not a supporter of gay marriage. And besides, the original Working Document, which he had little to do with, said little about homosexuality. But “The Beeb” wasn’t the only news outlet making things up to suit its own obsessions. Beware of such accounts, and the whole media echo chamber.

A good portion of the Final Report is helpful and a testament to a global Church interested in proclaiming the Good News and meeting responsibilities for all the world’s families. When it’s translated, it will be worth spending time with for anyone interested in the troubles at present and hopes for the future of families.

But Communion for the Divorced and Remarried still sucked up most of the oxygen in the First World – especially in the media. It would have been satisfying to be able to say that we know precisely where we are now. The Wall Street Journal has no doubts: “Bishops Hand Pope Defeat on Outreach to Divorced Catholics.” (Which is to say, as many have noted, that there is no explicit mention of Communion for them in the document, and therefore no clear textual support for one strain in the two-year synodal process since Cardinal Walter Kasper’s February 15, 2014 address to the bishops in Rome at Pope Francis’ invitation.) The Roman newspaper Il Messagero received a different message: “Yes, to Communion for Divorced.” Others, who want that to be the message, will claim that as well. In fact, the result was, as it often is under this pope, more muddled.

The bishops chose not to vote yes or no on the document as a whole, but only on the individual paragraphs so that it is, in essence, a series of reflections presented to the pope for his consideration, not a global statement formally approved by the Synod Fathers. We’ll have to wait for Francis himself to tell us what he considers to be the next step. He may have made it harder for himself both by the way the Synod was run and (see below) by his angry reaction to criticisms and traditional believers.

Despite what may be often said in the days and weeks to come, it’s worth repeating: The Final Report of the Synod does not speak of Communion for the Divorced and Remarried. (CDR) If that is what the pope wants, he will have to decide to put it there. As we have been saying here from the beginning, there was clear opposition to that proposition as such.  Because of controversies, there’s also better and clearer language about the relationship of conscience and the moral law in the text than in the earlier Instrumentum laboris. But a couple of paragraphs in the final text – which received the highest number of negative votes – push far into “discernment” of individual circumstances and invoke the “internal forum,” which is to say private direction by a priest or bishop, coming right up to the edge of CDR, but not crossing over into it in so many words.

Some reporters have cast this as strong backing of Church teaching, a too optimistic characterization. But neither is it a hall pass for Catholic liberals. There were efforts in the discussions the final day to clarify that this was not a blanket invitation to changing doctrine or discipline. Fr. Federico Lombardi deliberately emphasized continuity with the teachings of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, less convincingly, pointed to clear criteria that would guide discernment.

There are criteria, but whether they are clear is another matter. When you turn to the text, this is what you find (my translation because an official English text has not yet appeared):

85. St. John Paul II offered a comprehensive criterion, which remains the basis for the evaluation of these situations. “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.”

This is JPII being used to support the idea of more vigorous discernment, which may already be a bit of a stretch given the way discernment is now understood. What’s missing is what JPII says two paragraphs later in Familiaris Consortio: “However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.”

Pope Francis holds the Gospel Book as he celebrates a Mass to mark the end of the Synod of bishops, in St.Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. Catholic bishops called Saturday for a more welcoming church for cohabitating couples, gays and Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried, endorsing Pope Francis' call for a more merciful and less judgmental church. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Indissolubility is affirmed elsewhere in the Synod Final Report, and there are passages sprinkled in the text that suggest what JPII stated outright. There are also references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church about “imputability” when circumstances many diminish or even annul personal responsibility. Properly followed, all these citations could mean that we are still under the same regime as always in the Church. But eighty Synod Fathers voted no here, the most against any single paragraph because, without explicitly permitting a change in practice, it has the potential of allowing several loopholes.

The question being fought over is: will discernment be properly guided by those firm moral principles enunciated by JPII? This is where some may come down on the side of the WSJ or Il Messagero. The actual words of the text are these:

86. The course of accompaniment and discernment orients these faithful towards an examination of conscience about their situation before God. The discussion with the priest, in the internal forum, goes together with the formation of a correct judgment about what blocks the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on the steps that would favor it and make it grow. Given that in the same law there is not graduality (cf. Familiaris Consortio 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel’s demands of truth and of charity as proposed by the Church. So that this can happen, there should be guaranteed the necessary conditions of humility, reserve, love of the Church and her teachings, in the sincere search for the will of God and in the desire to achieve a more perfect response to it. [Italics added.]

There are a lot of compromises behind this wording, and the learned theologians will no doubt work it over carefully. But reading them as they are written, and taken apart from the controversial context, you might say that they could have been written by JPII. The phrase I’ve highlighted in italics seems to lean heavily in the direction of the need for a change in life to remove obstacles more than anything else. And when you say that there is no graduality in the law, you’re saying that people gradually come closer to what they are supposed to follow, but the law itself is always constant and cannot be abrogated simply because people are only slowly coming into harmony with it. Still, there’s a reason why sixty-four Synod Fathers voted against this paragraph, perhaps not so much for what it says, as what it could lead to in the current climate within the Church.

But also consider this: the votes for the Synod Council, the governing group for synods going forward. As I reported Friday (though the official results had not been released), these show basically a two-thirds majority for traditional Catholic teachings. Sandro Magister has reported over the weekend that Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia received the largest number of votes of any single person elected, worldwide – though Cardinals George Pell and Robert Sarah also had large numbers. This is very good news. From the Americas, we also have Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet (a solid citizen), and Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga (a close confident of the pope). From Asia, Cardinals Pell, Oswald Gracias (Bombay), and Luis Antonio Tagle (Manila). From Africa, Cardinals Sarah, Wilfred Napier, Gabon Bishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan.

Only in Europe is there a rather weak slate: Schönborn, English Archbishop Vincent Nichols, and Archbishop Bruno Forte (strong Italian cardinals such as Scola, Caffara, Bagnasco had large numbers of votes individually, and if the Italians had gotten their act together and picked a single candidate, one of them would have swept to victory). In any event, in so far as the Synod Council will guide future events, there is a preponderance of serious figures – and their selection shows the general mood of the Synod Fathers.

The pope himself was not in an entirely happy mood at the end of the proceedings, though as is usual in Vatican events, the official line was that everything ended in fraternity and synodality, even a standing ovation at his final speech. Among many positive assertions, Francis, however, expressed irritation with parts of the conversation: “In the course of this Synod, the different opinions which were freely expressed – and at times, unfortunately, not in entirely well-meaning ways. . . .”

And in his remarks as to what the Synod was about, he said: “It was also about laying bare the closed hearts, which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families.”

This is recurrent theme with him. No one would deny that there are authoritarians among those who emphasize traditional teachings – just as there are authoritarians with the opposing theological views. But these are the fringes, and the few. Many clergy and lay people were quite offended – and angered – by this remark. To be fair, he may only have been saying that some traditionalists are hard of heart. But that is not how most people have read it. And it’s likely to exacerbate the divisions that already existed.

This is a reality that we will probably be dealing with for no small while now in the Church. The Final Report is a tolerable text, especially for something produced by a committee of 270. If it had been passed under the papacy of John Paul II, it would have raised little, if any, alarm. But in a context of mutual suspicion and anger, what is tolerable may become intolerable.

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments relevant to columns that are civil, concise, and respectful of other contributors. We do not publish comments with links to other websites or other online material.
  • Theresa Brown

    I disagree. This does open the door to Catholic Liberalism (which is already problematic enough and has been now made that much worse.)

  • Dave Fladlien

    These kinds of arguments have gone one since Apostolic times, when Peter and Paul battled over Gentile converts, and Paul and Barnabas over personal matters. It’s unfortunate, but part of the human condition, which we have to work through and go forward as a Church, hopefully with a lot of love and tolerance for one another.

    And, maybe above anything except love, we have to recognize that the real enemy isn’t each other, it’s those who want to remove God’s very name from all of society, not the atheists, but the “anti-theists”. Let’s save some fighting energy for the real fight that is almost for sure coming up with them.

  • samton909

    In the end, we have a bit of a mess. The synod document might be good, but unfortunately we have a faction in the church that is determined to distort everything the church says. We would have gotten a non-spinnable document, but Pope Francis appointed 45 people to the synod, and their votes were enough to cause clarity to be abandoned.

    We are already seeing celebrity Catholic priests tweeting out that the “internal forum” has been re-established, so all divorced and remarried should promptly run to their priest and tell him about their clean consciences, and demand their “Pope Francis communion”.

    In a way, you can’t blame them. Pope Francis himself has castigated those who follow the Magisterium of the church as being “cold-hearted”. He has informed us that the church is all about changing all the time, He uses the dissenters code words, like “signs of the times”. “Mercy” has been distorted into “Do whatever you want”.

    All in all, his words can be interpreted as “Let’s ignore church teaching in practice, and call it “Mercy”. Personally, I think he has a rather beautiful, refined concept of mercy, but he is having a terrible time keeping the flakier parts of the church from taking the idea and using it to endorse all their worst instincts.

    He wanted a Lio, and now he is going to get a Lio.

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    It’s time now to retire: Daneels (for the 2nd time), Marx, Kasper and Forte. Seventy-five is a magical number for many of us.

    It took 270 bishops three weeks in Rome to issue a statement that Church doctrine is Church doctrine. We’re in trouble.

    In the end, those in a state of mortal sin can just do what they’ve been doing all along – exactly as they please and this includes receiving the Eucharist. Does anyone with half a brain think that someone who commits adultery was ever going to draw the line and allow Church teaching to stop them from receiving Holy Communion if that is what they fully intended to do? Why would someone enter into an adulterous marriage and have pangs of conscience about the receiving the Eucharist unworthily? I sometimes think our bishops are in LA LA land.

    • Rusty

      In the end, we all meet our maker, alone with our conscience. However, our conscience (however formed) isn’t the judge. Our advocate, who tries to help us during our earthly sojourn, will know the truth.

    • Rick

      It seems difficult and often times hopeless, but we must not lose heart. The Church is ours, not the bishop’s or even the Pope’s. Our leaders are desperate to stop the bleeding that is, “declining mass attendance.” These changes will fail and are from men who have lost hope and yes, faith.

      Remember the parable about the seeds? Some fall on sand, others rocks, and some on fertile soil. These changes will not drop seeds on fertile soil. An experiment has to fail before the scientist finds the correct solution.

    • Romulus

      As I said to my pastor last week: “Why are bishops such chumps?”

    • Joe Anon

      Widowed as a young man, I had several opportunities to enter into relationships with divorced women but because I respected and observed the teaching of Jesus Christ and his Church I did not. As I result, I now do not demand that Jesus Christ, his Church and all the members of his Church change their teachings to satisfy my impulses.

      I have at times been guilty of selfishness and arrogance but I have never come close to the degree required to think I could coerce  God to change to my way of thinking. ‎

      • Rick

        Exactly, the confessional is the place for our pesky impulses, not the Synod.

    • Rene

      Methinks you have a point!

  • Charlie6

    Why did I “Cross The Tiber” after so many years of reading, studying, asking questions, going to Mass with my Catholic wife and daughter (that my wife and I decided was best she be raised in the Church)? BECAUSE THE CHURCH STOOD FAST AND FIRM ON THE CRITICAL ISSUES. St. John Paul and by extension Pope Benedict, guided a Church standing fast and firm to a world that is either spinning out of control or spun off into the total madness of events created by it’s own secular horror. The Church says to the world, “This is who we are, this is what we believe and this is why we believe it. You are more than welcome to join us of your own free will. We think you will find the peace and love you’ve sought and craved but please understand that there are many many things we cannot change and will not change. Our mission is to proclaim Christ’s love and mercy balanced by a firm unmovable stand against those designs, devices and desires contrary to revealed scripture and the traditions that firmly emanate from same scripture. What has come out of this “Synod” is nothing more than sitting on the fence in an effort to seek accommodation to a world at war with the Church from every angle and from every corner of the Earth. Pope John Paul II surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit to protect the Church in one of its most difficult times. Our Church fathers have surrendered to compromise with a power that hates it and seeks it’s destruction. But thanks be to God for Christ’s declaration in Matthew 16; it’s our last best hope.

  • Tanyi Tanyi

    The Synod has shown the true side of Francis, a man who is bent on having the Church his own way, irrespective of Jesus Christ and the 2000 year tradition of the Church. He hypocritically castigates faithful believers, yet forgets that he is pope because such believers have persevered in the faith. This papacy is a disaster for the Church, and more disasters are still on the way coming.

  • Tim

    Looks like they got in by the back door. Kasper says today the door is open to Communion for divorced/remarried in interview with Il Giornale and Antonio Spadaro tweeted this: “The big step forward of the #Synod15 was to open a big window toward the possible integration with #discernment and without #limits”

    • Alwaysright

      Yes, that is how political liberals operate… slowly, and use whatever changes, “words” they put in their final report, to open the doors to all the changes they want to make in practice… and yes, he implies discernment with homosexuals couples too. Many Bishops and liberal teachers in USA will use and mislead the faithful with that.

    • Dennis .Brown

      Francis is a heretic. The last days have begun

      • Tim

        I think he is still tip toeing around. The last days began before I was born, when will they end?

  • Marguerite

    How about if in rebuttal to Pope Francis’ remarks someone told him that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    • sg4402

      How about if someone asked him, “who is he to judge?”

  • Mary Elena

    I’m confused. “Thou shall not commit adultery” is no longer a mortal sin? If there is stability in co-habitating, it’s okay, but if I co-habitate and contracept then I am sinning? Please clarify.

    • Florian

      Well, here is what angers me…we rightfully understand that one must not commit adultery, that it is a serious sin; and I would imagine that anyone who would help another to commit adultery would be aiding and abetting that sin and therefore, also committing sin. What about those who aid and abet murder…the mass slaughter of millions and millions of babies in utero? There are Catholics in public office who not only accept abortion, but who aggressively promote unlimited rights to the killing of unborn babies, but do so publicly while criticizing the Church and her Bishops for being not in line with the times, such as Nancy Pelosi, Andrew Cuomo, Joe Biden, etc…and yet they are permitted to receive the Eucharist as Catholics in good standing with the Church. No wonder so many Catholics are confused…it’s okay to aid and abet the killing of babies in utero but not to commit adultery…

  • Manfred

    A brilliant priest friend told me yesterday “The best fruit of Synods 2014 and 2015 is that Pope Francis has proven that he is not Catholic. I will leave it to an Ecclesial Court to formally declare him a heretic.” The three fonts of TRUTH which Christ and the Holy Spirit have given to this Divine Church are: Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. At the time of the Protestant revolt, the Protestants abandoned Tradition and the Magisterium. Bergoglio and his cohorts are doing the same today.
    Cdl Muelller of the CDF has said repeatedly that there are no “progressive” Catholics nor are there “conservative” Catholics. There is only Catholicism which one either accepts in Its entirety or one is not Catholic. Modernists (heretics) have been running the Church for the last fifty years. Anyone who suggests problems may continue for a long time is a fool. Schism should come now and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith should initiate formal hearings for this pope to either recant or leave the Church NOW. The salvation of SOULS demamnds it.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      But Can 1404 says, ” Prima Sedes a nemine iudicatur” – The First See is judged by no one.

      • Manfred

        Read Robert Bellarmine who wrote on how to deal with an heretical pope. The loss of a soul to hell for eternity is worse than murder if it is caused by another party.

      • No one, that is, except a subsequent occupant of the First See or perhaps a council.

        Theologian Christopher Malloy, over at his blog Theological Flint, recently wrote an article titled A Condemnable Pope Condemned? Yes. He discusses the anathematization of Pope Honorius by the Ecumenical Council Constantinople III and by Pope Leo II.

        We could even mention the farcical Cadaver Synod, or the opinions of St. Robert Bellarmine and Suarez about the recourses available to the Church for a pope who professes heresy. But clearly there is precedent.

    • Dennis .Brown

      Thank you. Exactly!

    • grandmary42

      Oh how I agree with you!
      And his stand on global warming is foolish. Who is he to decide? I believe he’s pushing that to “redistribute wealth”, like all good socialists. Get him out of there before he damages The Church!

    • Dave Fladlien

      Don’t you think calling him a heretic and advocating his impeachment is a little extreme?

  • PCB

    As regards the charge of, “hard of heart”, I merely make the interesting observation that being ‘hard of heart’ is Our Lord’s own charge as to why Moses permitted divorce under Jewish law. (Matthew 19:8).

    • Tamsin

      It was breathtaking that Pope Francis decried those who do not want to let men put away wives, as sitting in the chair of Moses.

      • Joe Anon

        Exactly. PCB and Tasmin bring to light that what he states is in exact opposition to what Jesus Christ says. ‎

  • SD

    The Liberals will have almost full control as long as we have this pope. Confusion will reign.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    What troubles me about Pope Francis’ closing remarks is not his balancing criticisms of traditional v progressive inflexibility. Rather it is the anomaly of statements like liberal do gooders who seek to bandage the symptoms and not the underlying cause. When traditional Catholics offer treatment of causes that distance some from the Church and address let us say homosexual behavior as disordered and commend changed behavior and the sacrament of reconciliation; or that divorce and remarriage is an abrogation of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage requiring an altered life style [such as living s brother and sister] the Pontiff elsewhere has virtually condemned this is divisive and harsh and being stuck to the word [He he really referring to The Word]. What then is his solution? Is it not more in line with those with whom he shares an affinity with like Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s New Age notion of apotheosis, that respect of conscience means respect of the truth in what others believe is true as they perceive it within themselves. As I said in the previous commentary on the Synod by Dr. Royal that this approach to truth bypasses the very substance of who the Word is as truth itself and the need for us to repent and conform his definition of redemptive love. If, that is if Pope Francis continues on this tack without clear resolution the various bishops conferences some much more liberal than others will drift apart.

    • Mandrake Munderton

      Hope is indeed what is called for. If Christ is who he says he is, then there is always grounds for hope. If his not, then the state of Church means nothing. This is what has sustained me this morning: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

  • grump

    The Spin Zone is now open. Ever looking for a liberal slant, here is the Washington Post’s lead story: “VATICAN CITY —Pope Francis on Sunday
    appeared to lecture church elders at the closing of a landmark summit on
    the family here, suggesting they should not be quick to exclude a broad
    array of people deserving of God’s grace.”

    Separately, a WAPO headline trumpets:

    Vatican meeting reveals growing Catholic divide over divorce and homosexuality

    In the days to come, the secular media will continue to exploit the “divide” by emphasizing the pope’s wishy-washy comments, suggesting the Church is leaving the door open to embracing so-called “gay marriage.” After all, the thinking goes, homosexuality is just a sin like so many others and didn’t Jesus meet with sinners?

    The slippery slope grows more slippy by the day and it’s only a matter of time before you won’t be able to tell the difference between a Catholic an an Episcopalian.

    • Dave

      Actually we are there in some ways already: it’s already hard to tell the difference in many cases, except, when those cases occur, the Episcopalians generally are possessed of better taste. The best taste in Catholicism is shown by those who are orthodox, who love the heritage and the culture, and who practices the virtues and prayer as Holy Mother Church proposes.

  • Alicia

    A tolerable text? Is this what millions of Catholics who look to their Pope and cardinals for clear teachings and guidance get?
    We’re back where we started from.! We didn’t need 2 synods for this. We’ll need Synod 2016 to interpret and clearly explain the Synod 2015 report.
    So now, it’s up to my conscience to decide and find the right priest who agrees with my conscience.
    What else is up for grabs? I feel ashamed to be sarcastic, but I can’t help it.
    I feel sad, empty, disappointed, and abandoned.
    Reminds me of the Lutheran Church that recently approved gay marriage to be officiated by the pastors who approved of it. But the ones that don’t approve of it, don’t have to officiate them.
    What are we now? Protestants?
    I’m old enough for my faith and my 50s Catholic upbringing to sustain me, but what of young people? Which way will they turn? More Relativism – pure and simple!
    This is not a tolerable report. It is a very sad report and there is no way to defend it. We’ll get a lot of well-meaning interpretations with unclear, empty generalizations.
    Very, very sad.
    A daily rosary for our church and let Our Blessed Mother take care of us and the church of her beloved Son, Jesus.

  • Diane

    All of those Cardinals and Bishops who are for changing the Doctrines of the Catholic Church, need to leave and they need to leave now! If they do not like the Catholic Church and what She stands for they can go to another Church where their heresy is welcomed. We should not have to be subjected to this. Faithful Catholics know that the Church that Jesus Christ instituted must remain unchanged. Aren’t there enough brave Cardinals and Bishops to fight this and make it right?

    • edith wohldmann

      unfortunately, the Pope is one of them. Here is what he said last Saturday: “God wants people to observe and evaluate what changes are unfolding in the WORLD and to change with them…”

  • Florian

    Oct. 26th…If, after serious consideration, a marriage is found to have been contracted with some impediments, then why all the effort to find ways to allow that person to receive the Eucharist; if the sacramental marriage was invalid for whatever reason, then give the annulment. I wonder how many of those who were married in the Church really understood what it means to make an eternal covenant with God, the Church and the spouse? Very few I would imagine. I know many who were married in the Church who had not been to the Sacraments since their confirmation and had no intention of participating in the Sacramental life of the Church afterwards.

  • Tamsin

    If Pope Francis may only have been saying that some traditionalists are hard of heart, I would say that some progressives are heartless in their schemes to undermine doctrines on indissolubility and sexual complementarity that have supported the dignity of women for two thousand years and counting.

  • edith wohldmann

    Cardinal Mueller head of the Congregation of the Faith was in the German Group. Why do we not hear his voice?

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      Obviously Cardinal Gerhard Muller was not invited to do so.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      Allow me to clarify. Perhaps it was not so obvious to many that Cardinal Gerhard Muller Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a strong conservative Catholic voice co-authored with four other Cardinals including Cardinal Raymond Burke who Pope Francis ‘exiled’ to Malta, and Church historian Cardinal Walter Brandmuller the book titled Remaining in the Truth of Christ. That book was sent to members of the Synod but was intercepted and withheld by Cardinal Baldisseri. Obviously Pope Francis and his entourage did not want to hear much from Cardinal Muller.

    • MSDOTT

      Actually, Gloria TV did an exclusive interview with Cardinal Pell after the Synod, and Cardinal Pell ” explains that according to the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, “there is no doctrinal error in anything that has been published”.

  • Dave Fladlien

    I know this will be unpopular but I think Pope Francis is saying that to be useful to Christ, the Church must bring Christ to everyone, including those who are not able to fully accept Him right now. And the Pope is looking for ways to do that, and he turned to his team for input.

    In fairness to a Pope with whom I have often strongly disagreed in business and economic matters (so I’m no stranger to the kinds of feelings being expressed on these pages), the Pope did give clear instructions of what he wanted from this team of his: he wanted something neither relativistic nor overly doctrinarian, with which he could take the message of Christ to those “sick” people who “need a doctor”. For once he was clear what he wanted, and he didn’t get it. He got what seems to be (I haven’t found a complete document that I can read in English yet so I’m jumping the gun a little here) a very woosy-worded thing that says — like the Pharisees when Jesus said He’d answer their question after they answered His — “…well we don’t know and we can’t say and it might be but you guess what we’re saying”. That’s a lousy performance by our bishops, and just reacting as a business man, I don’t blame the Pope for being furious. I would be too.

    • Mr. Graves

      Francis — like Obama — has a credibility problem. What he wants, whether stated with clarity and conciseness or not, is viewed with suspicion by the legions of Catholics he lambasts with some regularity. Probably *because* he lambasts them with some regularity — while seeming to coddle the Kasperites.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      This is the most valid assessment of Pope Francis’ pastoral policy and I hope you are correct. What I am most concerned with is not those of us who have a higher degree of education and knowledge of Church history but the desultory effect it is having on the Church at large which seems evident by many of the comments here and as I alluded to previously the notion of members of my own relations who believe akin to the New Age pantheistic heresy God is everywhere and no need to marry in the Church. All we need to do is the impression people in the pews are receiving is believe you’re okay and I’m okay [remember the book if you are as old as I am] and “tenderly” hold hands and sing Kumbaya. If I were to be utterly cynical Francis’ ploy is to continue to say nothing of real consequence and sit back and watch the Church fragment. If God forbid that is what is happening there will certainly be a strong remnant of Catholics and other Christians who will remain faithful to Christ and who will represent the Church He established. He will never abandon those who love Him and remain faithful to His Word.

      • Dave Fladlien

        For me, maybe only me (but recall please that I didn’t get what I wanted from the Synod either), one useful exercise is to ask myself what the Holy Spirit might be doing by permitting all this uncertainty and distress. I can’t say that I think He wants it, but He is permitting it, and He wouldn’t do that without a reason.

        It’s not because I might figure out what He’s up to (if He enables me to) that it’s an important exercise, though. It’s important because it forces me to face squarely the fact that Someone far smarter than I am is ultimately calling the shots here, and so — this goes along with what you just said — any inclination to despair and decide I’ll never have a Church I can feel good about is pointless. The Holy Spirit will preserve His Church, He is still running the operation, and that will be clear some day.

        • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

          Dave. I changed my response to your comment from valid to validating which is more in line with what I intended, although valid is clearly positive and again I hope you are right. For example some commentators have criticized Dr Royal for overly positive assessments but he as editor has a responsibility to a wider more inclusive audience and needs to be balanced and sober by giving the benefit of the doubt when there is question but no hard evidence to the Pontiff. It is called professionalism.

          • Dave Fladlien

            Well Father, at the risk of a bit of “pie-in-the-sky”, let me offer one more hopeful thought (as I too try to find a few more): a whole lot of people are pouring a whole lot of time into commentary on TCT, including a lot of names I am not so used to seeing. Some of them have some very interesting thoughts and perspectives. Clearly not only do a lot of people care, care a lot, but a lot of people are thinking very deeply too. Those have to be good things.

    • Mike M

      I’ve leaned towards such thinking, but, if he wanted something that was doctrinally orthodox and pastorally novel, he needed to insist on the doctrinal orthodoxy to free those on “both sides” to focus on authentic pastoral innovation without fear (or hope) that doctrine would be manipulated. Despite his occasional reminder that doctrine would not be changed, he kicked off the events by giving Kasper a big platform to advocate a proposal that was clearly inconsistent with doctrine (on the indissolubility of marriage and/or on the nature of the Eucharist).

      Francis gave prominence in the discussion to issues that were inevitably going to suck up most of the air. The effects of that decision are on him.

    • SD

      Cardinal Kasper said he was happy with the final document. It is obvious why he is happy. The document was written with a huge crack you can drive a truck through. Beyond that we have a Pope ready to drive that truck. How on earth can any rational and faithful person not be concerned about what is happening?

    • Manfred

      The word “convert” means to “turn from” A convert to Catholicism always understood that he would be leaving his former life behind and adopt Catholic teachings in their entirety. These items left behind were often sexual, e.g., polygamy, incest, edebophilia, etc. St. Paul says “Put on the new man”. The reason a bishop has a crozier (a shepherd’ crook) is to signify the tools he would use to lift a fallen person out of a hole (ignorance) or from behind a rock(sin) in order for the “lost sheep” to rejoin the flock.

      • Dave Fladlien

        Yes, but there are levels of what we believe too. There are the core principles from our Apostolic Tradition, and then there are many “how do we deal with it” issues which are much more pragmatic in nature. I thought the Synod was about those — or at least I wanted it to be — and I think Francis did too.

        Evidently many thought that core values were threatened. That changes the entire picture, as we saw.

        • SD

          You cannot have a so-called pastoral practice that contradicts doctrine. That is illogical.

    • craig

      But those aren’t clear instructions. Not even close.

      I work on a government contract for highly-technical engineering stuff, and we confront this problem all the time: a customer who knows he wants something and has some ideas about what it is, but is unwilling or unable to commit to actual binding requirements. “Not this and not that” gives the appearance of delimiting the boundaries of acceptable replies, but in a statement of work it’s egregiously bad. Far better to state what attributes a solution must include, and how to confirm that each of them is present in the final output. Constraints are useful so long as they are stated as something that must happen — X must be specified in conformance with document Y, paragraph Z — and not as something that must not happen.

      (The process is jokingly referred to here as “bring me a rock”. Oh, well I was thinking of a bigger rock than that. And maybe sharp on one edge too. OK, couldn’t the rock be a different color? Etc. The process is maddeningly open-ended and leads to bad designs as each individual hidden wish is uncovered and addressed sequentially as single-point modifications to the proposed design, whereas a unified design might have addressed them all together had they only been stated up front.)

      • Dave Fladlien

        Aach. My reply seems to have vaporized (I’ve seen similar comments from one or two other people about that problem too). What I wanted to say is that, as a designer myself, I hear what you’re saying, but the other side of the coin is that overly-rigid specification too early in the process stifles creativity and shuts out what might be the very best solutions. And I’ll admit that I tend to err on the side of allowing too much freedom.

        I think the process should start pretty wide open, then be narrowed as the consideration continues, until finally a specification results, then the design process begins, and continues through a finished design and design review. Maybe the Church needs to follow this kind of methodology which it sounds like we both use — possibly with substantial differences — in our businesses.

    • Agnes Goh: on Feeding-Tube :-D

      I think you’re spot on, Dave Fladlien. Pope Francis was looking to the bishops to help him come up with a way for the Church to help families in crisis (people not marrying, the married are divorcing and committing adultery, blended families, etc) in a totally Catholic way but the bishops were unable to deliver. They were unable to work with one mind and heart. It’s a great disappointment for the Pope and for the Church. Ah well, perhaps we’re asking too much from our bishops expecting them to produce a solution. I wonder whether the problem lies in the fact that the bishops are in synod rather than in council? Synods have only a consultative voice, so the Holy Spirit is not necessarily protecting them. Bishops in Councils have the the protection of the Holy Spirit. Then again, perhaps there needs to be a different kind of synod, a written rather than an oral one where every bishop in the world can take time to read and ponder what other bishops are proposing, and can have the chance to put forward his own thoughts. With modern communication technology, there is no need for bishops to meet physically and be under pressure.

      • Marguerite

        What’s wrong with his already easing up the conditions for an annulment? You know one simple way to help families in crisis–get them to pray the Holy Rosary together. If it defeated the Muslims at Lepanto it can certainly keep families together. There’s a smoke screen for something more insidious going going on here. Look at this mess Pope Francis made of his church in Argentina.

      • Phil Steinacker

        We’ve had bad Councils which needed overturning, Alice. You don’ hear or read about them often, but they have occurred.

    • Diane

      There is nothing new here. Re-marriage after divorce, without an annulment was always adultery, from the time of Christ. Active homosexuality was always sinful and still is. If you sin and want forgiveness, you must repent. They have all of the opportunity to do that and always have. To tell them they can receive the Holy Eucharist unworthily is a mortal sin and that is not helping that sinner. To be merciful is to tell the truth and that is where the kindness is, not in giving them the path to hell.

    • Roberto Hope

      Of course the Church must bring Christ to everybody, but disregarding Christ’s teachings is not bringing Christ to anyone. The only way to do it is by teaching sinners they must repent, confess their sins and sin no more, just as all of us are required to do; not by allowing them to desecrate the sacraments or the Holy mass.

  • Manfred

    Does the readership understand that two of the items that couples living in adultery will be allowed are to serve as GODPARENTS (We reject Satan and all his evil pomps,), and to serve as lectors at the Community Meal?

    • MSDOTT

      The document did say “WITHOUT causing scandal” [My emphasis in capital letters]. Adulterous couples being godparents would cause scandal, as you clearly show, and therefore, this would be contrary to what the document actually says.

      I’ve commented as follows elsewhere – with slight modifications: For myself, I think the orthodox bishops- [short of walking out, as per the ‘walkout’ petition asking them to walk out if they felt they were being stymied at every turn,] did a fantastic job. They, as Cardinal Pell said (in his interview with Gloria TV), worked incredibly hard. These orthodox bishops were given a document written by Pope Francis’ appointees. Even then the bishops fought to not approve the controversial paragraphs. These paragraphs only got enough votes, -again, because of Pope Francis’ appointees, who voted in favour. I honestly don’t know what more these bishops could have done, short of walking out. As such, I respect what these bishops have accomplished when faced with a highly stacked deck against them. I thank them for their hard work.

      Also, as I noted in response to another comment here, according to the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, “there is no doctrinal error in anything that has been published”
      So here’s my take: If according to the CDF, there is no doctrinal error in anything that has been published, why are we (orthodox Catholics), reading this through a lens of unorthodoxy? Why not read it, in light of the assessment by the prefect of the CDF no less of ‘no doctrinal error’, through the lens of what the Church has always taught?
      I wish the document could have been more clear, and personally, I hope for another conclave soon, as I think that this current papacy is a disaster. But somehow, despite all this, the Holy Spirit continues to work.

  • Lance

    This is what happens when you allow doctrine to be up for dialogue.

    Naturally people assume if it is OK to discuss this then it must be up for redefinition. Why else even have the discussion? (I know that is an oxymoron to say that doctrine can be redefined, I am talking about the perception this synod created). That leaves the crack in the door where the unorthodox can insert their ambiguous language and sow more confusion. They will just keep pushing until the door is open.

    Let’s not fool ourselves and think Pope Francis opened up this can of worms accidentally. Look at his appointments to the Synod and how those people voted. Without them paragraphs 84-86 would never have passed.

    The only regret Pope Francis has right now is that the language was not more mushy and now he is forced to declare his thoughts, rather than just rubber stamp his unorthodox lieutenants, recommendations.

  • MJD

    Likewise, nobody would have been concerned if Benedict XVI had given Cardinal Kasper the chance to propose his curious notions about mercy at the February 2014 consistory of cardinals. It would have been understood as a generous gesture by an adversary who, while respecting the theological acumen of his opponent, recognizes the danger of his thought. But the problem with Francis is that there is substantial evidence indicating that he actually does support Kasper’s ideas.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Except that the Kasper proposal is 35 years old, having been raised by the cardinal in 1980 at the first Synod on the Family under Pope St. John Paul II. His proposal was shut down WITHOUT CONSIDERATION.

      As for Pope Benedict XVI, he continued to muzzle subsequent desires by Kasper to resurrect his pet proposal. It was, in effect, a dead letter until resuscitated by Pope Francis – quite unnecessarily and to the detriment of the Church.

      It would seem that the facts contradict your suggestion that Benedict XVI would have given Kasper the high-profile platform from which to launch his proposal quite unrelated to the consistory.

      I suspect we’re in agreement on substance, though, based on your last line.

      • MJD

        Oh yes, I agree with everything you say. Benedict would not have let Kasper set the agenda. But speaking hypothetically, if Benedict had done so, nobody would be worried as we are today because nobody would have thought that Benedict’s doing so would have indicated support for Kasper’s thought. I’m only bolstering Royal’s view that context matters and, as there is massive evidence that Francis supports Kasper’s views, the ambiguity the synod’s final document is grounds for genuine and grave concern.

  • Rene

    If I understand the internal forum correctly, this is a way of sneaking communion under the carpet for those in invalid second marriages. All they need to do is find a liberal priest, something that is not so hard to find these days. What is needed is the clarity that JPII showed in Familiaris Consortio. I believe Pope Francis shares a lot of the blame in the increased mess that appears to be coming. I hope I am wrong, but the current papacy appears to me to be a failed papacy.

  • Diane

    I will not attend a Mass where homosexual couples are welcome. Because I don’t trust that they are there for the right reasons. Just to flaunt their relationship and disrupt the Mass. Once they have what they want, acceptance, you won’t see them again. It is all about them forcing everyone to accept their sinful, dangerous lifestyle. All of the homosexual clergyman need to leave the Catholic Church and become ministers in the protestant accepting churches, where they belong. This is all about them and their sexual desires. Get then out of our Church!

  • cestusdei

    Sometimes the Pope is pretty judgmental about being non-judgmental. Frankly the hardest hearts I have ever encountered were in liberal bosoms.

  • Aliquantillus

    Contrary to what Mr. Royal says, I don’t think the synodal Final Report is an acceptable text from a Catholic or even a common sense traditional Christian viewpoint. There is no mention of sin, specifically of mortal sin in this document. The language is “inclusive” in the sense of including people in all kinds of situations that from the viewpoint of traditional Catholic doctrine straightway lead to hell.

    That’s why this Report does enormous harm to the salvation of souls. Disgustingly, it speaks of those in irregular relationships as not having the “fulness” of sacramental marriage, thus suggesting that those living e.g. in cohabitation, adultery, or homosexual relationships, although missing the “fulness”, are somehow participating in the reality of the sacrament. Using such language for situations of mortal sin is a sacrilege in itself. It is completely monstruous. Church teaching is not that people living in these irregular relationship are just missing the fulness of sacramental marriage. Church teaching is that these people go to hell, to eternal damnation, if they don’t repent. And that is what should have been taught at this Synod. That would have been pastoral care: To tell them the dangerous truth.

    This whole synodal exercise of Francis is a dereliction of reason and faith, of supernatural as well as natural law and truth. My advice: Read Pius XI’s Casti Connubii and burn this synodal Report. It is an effeminate. perverse, and decadent document.

  • Orwell’s Oracle

    A rose is a rose… and faint praise, fairly offered, is damnation by any other name. Dear Francis is fading as the tabula rasa of progressive hope and change, and is now regressing into the mediocre mean. As is the case with all progressives, he is valued much more for his style than his substance. Never fear… the Holy Spirit is always there to stand in the breach when mere Vicar’s fall short…
    “et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam”

  • JGradGus

    I wonder if maybe some we are not seeing the forest for the trees in all of this.

    Pope Francis has changed the conversation. The liberal secular media is no longer obsessing over ‘the Catholic Church is full of perverts who molest children.’ Instead it is talking about Church doctrine on marriage, divorce, the family, homosexuality, and what love and mercy mean.

    The liberal media praised the heck out Pope Francis (their Man of Year) and now they are kind of stuck. Their ‘liberal’ Pope seems to be letting them down, and now they are in a bit of a quandary. They can either admit they were wrong about him (fat chance of that), they can just shut up (fat chance of that too), or they can do what they always do and blame ‘the conservatives’ for foiling their plans for utopia on earth. But no matter what they do now they’ve allowed Francis to change the conversation.

    • SD

      The Pope who appointed Danneels to the Synod and Cupich? The pope who surrounds himself with homosexualist clerics and prelates? That Pope? Now, why on earth would the press think he is liberal?

      • Diane

        What the media will not admit, however, that the priest sexual abuse was a homosexual priest abuse. They are pro-homosexual but not when it comes to that abuse. They can’t have it both ways.

  • Will Buttarazzi

    Let us pray that we will be open to the Holy Spirit in the model of Our Blessed Mother that we, the Church, can accept the Holy Spirit and do the will of God. Such a prayer, if it is to be effective, starts with listening. Often in a conversation, as in prayer, our defenses get triggered when we hear something that contradicts our understandings and beliefs and it is hard to remain open. The Synod on the Family, as a pastoral forum, sought to address pastoral concerns of the Church. While the encouragement of marriage, family, children was likely a goal. What has dominated conversation was topics of those on the fringe, particularly the challenge of Catholics who are married, divorced and remarried. This topic was raised in last year’s preparations and continued throughout the Synod. An instinct to jump to defend the Church teaching should be considered. Scriptures also inform the context of a reaction. In MT 19, Jesus verbally addresses the question of marriage and divorce. In JN 4, Jesus demonstrates a pastoral approach to meeting a woman, married multiple times. When the woman leaves the well, I would dare to say she not only fully received Jesus, she became one of His greatest evangelist, bringing others from her foreign territory to accepting Him as the Savior of the world. And so is the pastoral challenge, how does the Church, through its ministers, meet those at the “well”, and what will bring to those at the well to the fullness of belief, so having met Him and having their thirst quenched with the endless water of eternally life, they will go bring others to the Savior of the world? These two texts figure prominently in any discussion on the topic of married and divorced. As an arbiter of the discussion, Jesus leaves us the final chapter of John’s Gospel, through which He sets an emphatic standard of care for Peter and the Church; if you love Christ, you will tend/care/walk with/shepherd/feed/love His sheep/people/those coming to know their Shepherd and Savior. It is this standard that I hope we all will pray informs our conversations, fills our prayers, and opens our hearts more fully to where He is leading us. Like Mary, may we walk in faith, not knowing where God’s Holy Spirit leads us, but trusting in his abiding love and fidelity. Most Holy Spirit please guide us!

  • Dave Fladlien

    I’ve just been reading through a lot of the many, many comments about the Synod here, and it is really amazing to me how many people felt as strongly about this Synod as I did, albeit probably hoping for some different outcomes. Neither “side” represented my hopes.

    But while I understand the frustration, as I’m feeling some of it myself, I want to say again that I think we have to remember that the main threat isn’t the Catholic whose belief is a bit different from ours. There is a whole army of people out there who want to remove the name of Jesus Christ, even the Name of God Himself, from the earth. And they seem to be very dedicated to doing just that. As far as I can tell, we are at best holding on in that struggle, probably losing ground.

    We’re going to need all the strength and unity we can muster for that fight. Let’s please remind ourselves who the real threat are, and save some energy for surviving their assaults, and not destroy by our attitudes our ability to unite with many other people of good will, and with our Pope, to win that vital campaign.

    • Roberto Hope

      Unfortunately one who often dispenses with the name of Christ and his teachings is the Pope himself

  • Matthew Kilburn

    The document, in and of itself, is, as you say…tolerable. Which is to say that future, more traditional Popes will be able to implrment it in a manner that conforms to the practices we are used to. But it also probably means Francis will look the other way while Germanophonic Bishops allow the divorced and remarried into Communion.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      Cardinal Gerhard Muller Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith appointed by Benedict XVI who is quite orthodox will prevent that if not prevented by Pope Francis. Muller said recently in effect that a bishops conference is not a magisterium alongside The Magisterium. Rumor is Pontiff will remove him soon. If that happens Pontiff will apparently be revealing his hand as he did with Cardinal Burke. The only valid reason I can see in him doing that is to prevent outright schism with German church.

      • MSDOTT

        I have read somewhere, that the Pope might just do away with the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Father, is that possible?
        Also, rather than do away with Cardinal Gerhard Muller, why not just let the German Church go into schism? It looks as if they are already are, and want the rest of the Church to go down the path they are laying out. May be it’s for the best they go.

        • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

          It conceivably can if the Pope Francis wishes to overturn, recreate the oldest congregation of the Curia established by Pope Paul III “Licet ab intio” 1542 as a countermeasure [the so-called Counter Reformation] to the Protestant Reformation and the inroads Protestant thought was having within Catholicism. It received the pejorative title of Office of the Inquisition, later simply the shortened Holy Office. What is being reported is that Pope Francis is weakening it internally informing South American bishops that they can ignore its admonitions to be doctrinally correct and continue with changes as he has already apparently given the green light to Cardinal Marx who has personally contested Cardinal Gerhard Muller and who has openly repudiated the Congregation’s authority. This is consistent with this Pontiff’s policy of internal maneuvering rather than direct action to implement what he wants. This is entirely unique in Church history and the most dangerous threat to Catholic orthodoxy since the Protestant Reformation.

        • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

          I should add to what is already posted “if as reported” regarding Francis’ instruction to the South American bishops. Also there is precedence in a Pontiff ruling to countermand the Congregation’s previous policy as when Pius XII gave permission to Catholic biblical scholars to adapt the new methodology of exegetical research. We need to be patient and see what transpires. All depends on how Pope Francis manages this alleged new policy.

          • MSDOTT

            Thank you for your reply Father. I will continue to pray for the unity of Our Church – One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic.

  • hamous

    I knew we were in trouble when the Cardinals elected a Jesuit. Like most “progressives”, generally, they are masters of sophistry.

    • Diane

      Growing up, Jesuits were always considered liberal and not very Catholic. I cringed when I learned that Pope Francis is a Jesuit. He is living up or down to those inclinations.

  • Questioner @ large

    I still want to scream. No one seems to worry about the children of the first marriages. I can give story after story of the harm done to them especially if the partner in the new marriage was the cause of the breakup of THEIR family especially if the first children are not living on the same standards of the second. one.

  • Questioner @ large

    So what’s the answer? Will persons be able to receive Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin as a medicinal thing or as Pope Francis asks is it a reward for the faithful?

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      The answer is that people will do what they very well please to do. Nothing stopped them from obtaining a civil marriage when they were already sacramentally married to someone else, so nothing will stop them from receiving the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin. What stops all the contracepters, pro-abortion Catholics and those voting for pro-abort politicians from receiving Holy Communion? Absolutely nothing. Morality no longer matters; everything rests on what your conscience tells you (as one archbishop would have us believe).

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Most of the comments including my own express concern some far more than others about the Synod and Pope Francis. The most important phrase in the Pope’s closing remarks is “not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord.” Much significance rests with the words “to call to conversion.” We recall three women who I believe represent all sinners including ourselves, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, and the woman who wept at His feet. To call to conversion on face value gives absolute validity to the approach the Pontiff wishes us to take toward sinners, which is compassion and even tenderness. Of paramount importance is how this fragment is addressed by the Pope’s in his final report.

    • Joe Anon

      I think the difference between then and now is there was no debate about the actions in question being sinful. It seems today that people don’t want forgiveness, they want to be confirmed in their sinful actions.

      • hamous

        Exactly. Jesus didn’t say “I’ll just change the definition so what you’re doing is no longer a sin.” He said “Go and sin no more.”

        • DoghouseRiley9

          In the Church of Cupich (Archdiocese of Chicago), there is no repentance, only “reconciliation” or negotiation with your confessor (oops, there is no confession either). If you and your reconciliator agree that you “follow your conscience” that’s all you need! If you live in the Windy city, your “conscience” trumps Jesus! If not, check with your bishop who may have his own rules. We are all Protestants now!

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        You are right about that which is one of the issues that deeply concerns me. It is what I address in my sermons. So few go to confession today. I do not recall Francis speaking of that serious need. Conversion means repentance [formal confession], and resolving to turn away from sin [a resolute change of life style] in accordance with our Apostolic Tradition. That and nothing else is the truth of our faith. My answer here is the same for Questioner @ large. A ‘new ecclesiology’ cannot omit that and remain true to Christ. Let us hope for that in the final report. I read your comment of having gone through the agony of divorce and remaining faithful. We need more like yourself to continue to witness to the truth if things go from bad to worse.

        • PCB

          This is precisely my concern – even with repentance, how does someone separate themselves from an existing adulterous marriage under the probable complications of destroying the family-life of that existing family? It is as much a grave injustice to deny these children of an adulterous marriage of a home with mother and father together, as it was when it occurred to the children of valid marriage. The Church owes greater duty of justice to both sets of children than to an adulterous parent who has entered this condition under their own free-will.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            The Church doesn’t require that the parents of children in an adulterous marriage separate. The requirement is [usually given before confession or during as a condition for absolution] that they live as brother and sister. If they, the parents are willing they give an heroic example of faith to their children and the Church, and those in their immediate community. As regards a homosexual union the conditions would be the same. I personally would advise that the couple separate because the example of a homosexual union even if not practicing gives example to the children that such a union has merit. According to God’s will as seen in the Natural Law which reflects the Eternal Law such example in effect condones repudiation of God’s ordering of the nature of creation. Above all we owe justice to God meaning giving Him due obedience and worship.

          • PCB

            This is a great discussion and a great education in the Faith – thanks for taking the time to elucidate, Fr. Morello! My understanding is greatly enhanced. Yes, of course, above all, greatest justice is owed to God.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            I was hoping PCB with my years as a priest I would be able to contribute something to our conversations. It was good that you were right up front with your questions instead of simply accusing. But even there I understand everyone’s ire and frustration.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      When the sinful person is fully aware of your clear position against their sinful behavior and realize that you still sincerely love them the effect can be redemptive. That has been my experience.

      • PCB

        I would question you how many actually remove themselves from second (adulterous) marriages or separate from their homosexual partner(s). The Lord was very clear, “Go and sin no more” – has this also been your experience?

      • Agnes Goh: on Feeding-Tube :-D

        That has been my experience, too, Father Morello, limited though it is. People in irregular relationships are deeply wounded. They have to be because they are in objective mortal sin so they can’t be truly happy and fulfilled. That’s why they’re always so angry and so touchy. I find that if I try to always see them as God sees them and love them as God loves them, and give them my unconditional friendship, then they begin to trust me even though they know that I’m firmly in one mind and heart with the Church and will not compromise even for them. They appreciate my friendship and we can enjoy conversations and have laughs together and genuinely enjoy each other’s company, and they begin to confide in me, and they treat me with the utmost respect. And their friends, surprised at first to see me invited to their birthdays, for example, begin to relax and trust me. I can’t convert their hearts and minds. I leave that to God. I can only be a channel of His love and grace.

        • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

          You stated what I’m trying to say better. Thanks Agnes.

  • Diane

    Why is this Pope being allowed to cause so much confusion and fear?

  • Dave

    Phil, anything that happens, in the Church, in the world, in our lives, is either actively or permissively desired by God, who does indeed have the ability to bring good out of evil, which is why his will is sometimes permissive. Dave is right that the Holy Spirit is running the Church — at a much higher level than we think, else the Church would have collapsed long ago. We don’t yet know what will come out of this mess; but Dave is right to exercise the virtues of faith, hope, and charity here.

    In addition, look to Humanae Vitae: there the Holy Father went against the express recommendations of his experts, which gives testimony to the Holy Spirit acting to preserve the Church’s teachings (and the Church). The Final Document dissembles and maybe even prevaricates in passages: but the Lord promised the Church, and the Pope, the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

    There is motive for hope.

  • Dave Fladlien

    Diane and J — I don’t think it’s that simple. On the one hand there is the “what ideally would be done”, which may well be to turn back the clock and not get into these compromising situations. But if you can truthfully tell me that you’ve never tried to act in a reasonable manner and then found yourself in a complex position, you’re way ahead of me. And that raises the question of how people should handle the resulting *practical* problem in a practical way.

    The theoretical idea is essential, it is needed, it is the foundation. But theory without carefully considered application can lead to horrible secondary injustices. We need to look at the practical “what’s the best we can do in this situation” as well as at the ideal. Jesus set down the concepts, the principles, but He left it to us, and to the Holy Spirit, to work out what to do in practical situations. That’s what I think Francis was, however unclearly, trying to do, and what I hoped the Synod would do. It didn’t.

  • Dave Fladlien

    Diane and J — I think the issue here is the difference between the principle (in this case the indisolubility of marriage), and the practical application (what do we do after the fact when someone acts otherwise). To my mind, Jesus set down the principle, remarriage is adultery, but he left it to us and the Holy Spirit to determine how to apply that principle in after-the-fact situations.

    I think that is what Pope Francis was trying to get at, he realizes it is his job to spell that out. He asked for serious input from his bishops, input that was neither relativistic nor rigidly doctrinaire. And he didn’t get what he asked for. Possibly that is because he, as Craig suggested further down, didn’t spell out clearly enough what he wanted. But for whatever reason, he didn’t get what I think he asked for. His team let him down.

    • Roberto Hope

      Jesus told the adulteress to go and sin no more. For that he gave us the sacrament of confession. That’s the practical application. Let’s not go around the bushes trying to justify the unjustifiable.

      • Dave Fladlien

        Some of us, speaking of the adulteress, need to remember to “…let the one without fault be the first to cast a stone.” That leaves me totally out of the stone-throwing business.

        We are not talking about what a person in a compromised state ideally should do. We are talking about how that person can live, still honoring the obligations he/she has taken on to other people, and at the same time manage to fully repent. Those are conditions for absolution, to the extent that they are possible, and in the case we are discussing, remarriage, seem nearly impossible in some cases. It is those very difficult supporting questions which I think the Pope is trying to make some progress on, and which I at least had hoped the Synod would provide a lot more guidance than it seems to have provided.

  • Elizabeth

    i do not believe that The Catholic Thing allows links to web sites, but I highly recommend Chris Ferrara’s article “The Synod on the Family: Business Model for the ‘Spirit of Vatican II.’ ” It is an in depth and excellent analysis of “this charade of a Synod.”