Catholics for Renewal


Synod on the Family
  • Developments
  • further below - Introduction: a work in progress until 2016  here
  • further below - Documents  and updated synod-related resources  here
  • further belowMedia Inquiries  here





23 August 2016  Vatican newspaper: 'Amoris Laetitia' is authoritative church teaching
Extract from Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 23 August 2016
Vatican City. Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the family is an example of the "ordinary magisterium" -- papal teaching -- to which Catholics are obliged to give "religious submission of will and intellect," said an article in the Vatican newspaper.      Fr. Salvador Pie-Ninot, a well-known professor of ecclesiology, said that while Pope Francis did not invoke his teaching authority in a "definitive way" in the document, it meets all the criteria for being an example of the "ordinary magisterium" to which all members of the church should respond with "the basic attitude of sincere acceptance and practical implementation.".....(more)

22 July 2016  Signers of document critiquing 'Amoris Laetitia' revealed
Extracts from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 22 July 2016

Rome. An until now unpublished list of names attached to a critique of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on family life shows the signatories to include professors at diocesan seminaries, a member of a pontifical academy, and the head of the church's ecclesiastical structure in Afghanistan.     The signatories had sent a letter to the world's Catholic cardinals asking them to "respond to the dangers to Catholic faith and morals" from Francis' Amoris Laetitia ("The Joy of Love"). The letter, which attracted press coverage earlier in the month as a possible sign of wider disagreement with Amoris Laetitia, was sent to Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, and to 218 individual cardinals and patriarchs.......One signatory said in a short email statement to NCR that he signed the letter because "there are mixed signals emanating from Rome and this Pontiff, and the Catholic faithful need a reassuring clarity and consistency."........"Statements that lend themselves to being interpreted at odds with the church's historical teaching may delight revisionists, but they are not helpful to the integrity of the church's mission or to the faithful," said Paul Blosser, a philosophy professor at the Detroit archdiocese's Sacred Heart Major Seminary..........Joseph Shaw, a member of the philosophy faculty at Oxford University's St. Benet's Hall who was a signer and is acting as the group's spokesman, said they mainly want the pope to clarify that some of the interpretations of his document are incorrect.........Following are the signatories of the letter to the cardinals, as listed in the document........(more)

8 July 2016 'Amoris Laetitia' at three months: Communion question still debated
Extract from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, 7 July 2016

Three months after the publication of Pope Francis' exhortation on marriage and family, bishops and bishops' conferences around the world are studying practical ways to apply it. Some still disagree on what exactly the pope meant.     In the first week of July, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput's pastoral guidelines for implementing the exhortation's teaching in his archdiocese went into effect; an Italian blog published reflections on the document by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, former president of the Pontifical Council for the Family; and La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal, released a long interview with Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, the theologian the pope chose to present the document to the press.      Francis continually insists that the exhortation, Amoris Laetitia ("The Joy of Love"), is about the importance and beauty of marriage and family life and the church's obligation to support and strengthen it. But much of the debate has focused on access to the sacraments for couples in what the Catholic church traditionally defined as "irregular situations," particularly people who were divorced and civilly remarried without an annulment.....(more)
6 July 2016 Chaput: Remarried divorced couples must live chastely
Extract from CathNews, Crux, 6 July 2016

Under new guidelines for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, people living together outside of marriage, and same-sex couples are eligible for Communion only if they "refrain from sexual intimacy," Crux reports.    Conceding that it may be seen as "hard teaching," Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap has also decreed that they cannot hold positions of responsibility in a parish or perform liturgical functions.      That latter prohibition, according to a new set of pastoral guidelines issued by Archbishop Chaput implementing Pope Francis' Apostolic ExhortationAmoris Laetitia, is designed to avoid "the unintended appearance of an endorsement of divorce and civil remarriage."      "Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist," state the guidelines, which took effect on July 1.      "This is a hard teaching for many, but anything less misleads people about the nature of the Eucharist and the Church," the document says.     Under the guidelines, same-sex couples must live chastely in order to receive Communion, and they cannot hold positions in a parish or perform liturgical ministries or roles.....(more) 

16 April 2016 Pope Francis' magnificent aid to discernment
The Apostolic Exhortation 'Amoris Laetitia' marks a change in the Church’s discourse
From Sébastien Maillard published 11/04/2016 in Global Pulse. Edited Extract here 16 April 2016

Rather than seeking to arbitrate doctrinal debates, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation issues a practical, very Ignatian invitation to discernment. Yet, since not everyone is a Jesuit, how will it be possible in practice to generalize the practice of discernment?      Cardinal Christophe Schönborn: "Each individual needs to discern what he or she should or should not do. Discernment is the very basis of human action. It is obligatory for all of us. Parents must discern for their children as well as in their own life as a couple. A couple involved in a new (second) union need to discern together whether they wish to undertake a path of faith to discern God’s will for them, based on where they have arrived with their conscience, how they have experienced the consequences of their separation, how they have dealt with their children."     The process of discernment is assisted by the Church, through faith and through prayer. It enables people to develop a mature personality. It does not mean forming automatons conditioned by the exterior, remotely controlled, but persons who have matured through their friendship with Christ.    With this exhortation, the pope has provided a magnificent pedagogical and spiritual tool for exercising discernment. He offers a helping hand to all those who are in difficulty.     How “to integrate everyone,” as the pope desires, without twisting doctrine?     Cardinal Schönborn: "The great joy that this exhortation brings me resides in the fact that it finds a coherent way to go beyond the artificial and sharp division between those involved in ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’ situations."  ......... .................... (more) 
8 April 2016 Publication of  Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation - The Joy of Love  (Amoris Laetitia)  and a summary
Friday 8 April 2016
The complete document (263 pages) may be sourced from the Vatican Here
A summary document (7 pages) as published on Vatican Radio may be sourced Here
April 2016 What Is Francis Saying with 'Amoris Laetitia'?
Extract from Massimo Faggioli,Commonweal, 8 April 2016

Amoris Laetitia, the fruit of the long “synodal process” that unfolded between 2014 and 2015, is in keeping with what we’ve come to understand as Pope Francis’s pastoral and nonacademic style. The exhortation draws from his previous catechesis and that of John Paul II, as well as from the documents of bishops’ conferences around the world. And, at 52,500 words, it is very long. But how does the document actually address the at-times contentiously debated issues that arose in the course of the two synod gatherings in Rome?       If there’s an interpretative key, it’s this statement that appears early on in the text: “I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it.” Yet Amoris Laetitia is a carefully constructed document that will give none of the most vocal factions on opposing sides of an issue any reason to claim “victory” or “defeat.”............ (more)

8 April 2016 Journey implied in ‘Amoris Laetitia’ may never be over
Extract from David Gibson, Religion News Service, Crux, 8 April 2016

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The wide-ranging papal document on the Catholic Church and modern-day families that the Vatican released on Friday was expected to be the culmination of a two-year gantlet of unusually frank discussions — a chance for Pope Francis to finally settle the fierce debates, and even dark warnings of schism, that his effort to open dialogue on contentious topics had unleashed.              With so much at stake, various camps were eager to parse every phrase to see if they had won, or lost, on a particular point and, as expected, the verdict on the document, a 263-page papal exhortation, titled “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” was mixed.      The hopes of some in the liberal camp that the pontiff might soften Catholic doctrine on marriage and divorce, or somehow signal an approval of same-sex unions, were always unrealistic; indeed, many progressives expressed disappointment in the exhortation even as Francis’ stress on pastoral flexibility over theological rigidity signaled a fundamental reorientation of Catholicism away from a rule-based focus.    That reaffirmation of long-standing doctrine on marriage was at least some consolation to the vocal number of conservatives who long feared the kind of unambiguous changes that the progressives hoped for, though many winced at several other elements, such as the openings Francis left for the divorced and remarried to take Communion.      But the larger reality conveyed by the document — and one that could unsettle Catholic traditionalists more than anything — is that the pope clearly wants the debates over church teachings and pastoral practices to continue and, perhaps, to continue to evolve..........(more)  

8 April 2016 Francis' exhortation a radical shift to see grace in imperfection, without fearing moral confusion  Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 8 April 2016
Vatican City:   In a radical departure from recent pastoral practice, Pope Francis has asked the world's Catholic clergy to let their lives become "wonderfully complicated" by embracing God's grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face -- even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms.           The pontiff has also called on bishops and priests globally to set aside fears of risking moral confusion, saying they must avoid a tendency to a "cold bureaucratic morality" and shift away from evaluating peoples' moral status based on rigid canonical regulations.       In a substantial and already hotly debated document addressing church teaching on family life, Francis says that Catholic bishops and priests can no longer make blanket moral determinations about so-called "irregular" situations such as divorce and remarriage.          Writing in his new apostolic exhortation, titled Amoris Laetitia ('The Joy of Love'), the pope strongly advocates for the worth of the traditional, life-long Christian marriage but speaks respectfully of nearly all models of family life......(more)
8 April 2016 Reactions to pope's reflection on family life
Extract from Staff National Catholic Reporter & Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service,  8 April 2016

Applause, dismay, confusion over pope's words:  Pope Francis' "Joy of Love", a massive document released April 8 that wraps unchanged doctrine on marriage, divorce, and LGBT life in gentle terms, is getting a mixed reaction from U.S. Catholics.      It brought joy to conservative Christians who feared Francis would tamper with dogma, but less love from liberals who had hoped for a change in practices, not simply in tone. Statements flooded out from both directions. A sampling...................(more)
8 April 2016 Top Ten Takeaways from “Amoris Laetitia”
Extract from James Martin S.J. America, The National Catholic Review, Friday 8 April 2016

Pope Francis’s groundbreaking new document “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”) asks the church to meet people where they are, to consider the complexities of people’s lives and to respect people’s consciences when it comes to moral decisions. The apostolic exhortation is mainly a document that reflects on family life and encourages families. But it is also the pope’s reminder that the church should avoid simply judging people and imposing rules on them without considering their struggles.            Using insights from the Synod of Bishops on the Family and from bishops’ conferences from around the world, Pope Francis affirms church teaching on family life and marriage, but strongly emphasizes the role of personal conscience and pastoral discernment. He urges the church to appreciate the context of people’s lives when helping them make good decisions.  The goal is to help families—in fact, everyone—experience God’s love and know that they are welcome members of the church. All this may require what the pope calls “new pastoral methods” (199).      Here are ten things to know about the pope’s groundbreaking new document...........(more)

6 April 2016 Francis' exhortation a radical shift to see grace in imperfection, without fearing moral confusion
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 8 April 2016

Vatican City: In a radical departure from recent pastoral practice, Pope Francis has asked the world's Catholic clergy to let their lives become "wonderfully complicated" by embracing God's grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face -- even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms.                    The pontiff has also called on bishops and priests globally to set aside fears of risking moral confusion, saying they must avoid a tendency to a "cold bureaucratic morality" and shift away from evaluating peoples' moral status based on rigid canonical regulations.          In a substantial and already hotly debated document addressing church teaching on family life, Francis says that Catholic bishops and priests can no longer make blanket moral determinations about so-called "irregular" situations such as divorce and remarriage.        Writing in his new apostolic exhortation, titled Amoris Laetitia ('The Joy of Love'), the pope strongly advocates for the worth of the traditional, life-long Christian marriage but speaks respectfully of nearly all models of family life.         He also persistently asks the church's pastors to shift away from models of teaching focused on repetition of doctrine in favor of compassion and understanding for peoples' struggles, and how God may be calling to them in the depths of their own consciences......(more)

6 April 2016 'Amoris Laetitia,' start with chapter 4
Edited Extracts from Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, 8 April 2106

If you are a layperson and want to read the pope’s apostolic exhortation on the family, skip the first three chapters and start with chapter 4. If you are a priest, moral theologian, or divorced Catholic, read chapter 8.             The 263-page exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) was released at noon today at the Vatican.....................This is a papal document well worth the time to read and reflect on. Parts are dull; parts inspire and delight; parts will give hope; and parts will infuriate. If it brings the conversation about families out of the synodal hall and down to the parish and families themselves, then it will be a success........(more).     [Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.]
8 April 2016 'Amoris Laetitia:' Francis challenges the church
Extract from Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter, 8 April 2016

At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its con­crete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel.” Thus, Pope Francis in his new apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. (Paragraph 311.) Here, and throughout the text, Pope Francis confronts the charge that any kind of change amounts to a capitulation to the culture, a watering down of Catholic doctrine, and turns the charge on its head. He reminds the whole Church that this great enterprise of evangelization and theology and pastoral accompaniment must flow from the root of the Christian Gospel, and not let any theological or cultural or canonical encrustations frustrate the Church from its primary mission of announcing that Gospel, most especially to the poor and the marginalized, the Gospel of Mercy.                From start to finish, Pope Francis challenges the Church to do more than simply repeat the Catechism and harangue the fallen. Some on the left will complain that he did not “change the rules” but Pope Francis is calling for something more radical than changing from rigid, conservative rules to lax, liberal ones: That would still keep the discussion about rules, as if the Virgin Mary had given birth to a code of canon law......(more)

8 April 2016 Vatican guide says Francis' family document puts doctrine 'at service of pastoral mission'. Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 6 April 2016
Vatican guide says Francis' family document puts doctrine 'at service of pastoral mis
Vatican City:  A Vatican reading guide sent to Catholic bishops globally ahead of the release of Pope Francis' widely anticipated document on family life says the pontiff wants the church to adopt a new stance of inclusion towards society and to ensure its doctrines are "at the service of the pastoral mission."          The guide -- sent by the Vatican's office for the Synod of Bishops in preparation for Friday’s release of "Amoris Laetitia; On Love in the Family" -- explains that Francis "encourages not just a 'renewal' but even more, a real 'conversion' of language."       "The Gospel must not be merely theoretical, not detached from people's real lives," states the guide. "To talk about the family and to families, the challenge is not to change doctrine but to inculturate the general principles in ways that they can be understood and practiced."              "Our language should encourage and reassure every positive step taken by every real family," it continues.                          Amoris Laetitia, which in Latin means "The Joy of Love," is a document written by the pope following two back-to-back meetings of Catholic bishops at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015 on issues of family life.                   The meetings, known as Synods, are known to have focused on sometimes controversial issues like divorce and remarriage and same-sex marriage. The new document, known formally as an apostolic exhortation, is being hotly anticipated for what Francis may say about the meetings and what decisions he might make on tough issues.            The Vatican reading guide came to bishops alongside a letter signed by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldiserri, the head of the Vatican Synod office. The cardinal’s letter tells bishops that the exhortation is "first and foremost a pastoral teaching."........(more)
6 April 2016 Pope’s exhortation will focus on ‘dialogue’, says Vatican
Extract from Catholic Herald UK, 6 April 2016

Pope Francis’s document on the family, published on Friday, will be a call to dialogue, according to a Vatican “reading guide” sent to bishops around the world.               The apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, follows two synods on the family. It is expected to discuss the question of whether divorced and remarried couples should be invited to take communion.         The reading guide, issued by the Vatican’s office for the Synod of Bishops, says that the exhortation will be “first and foremost a pastoral document”.    The document, which has been obtained by the National Catholic Reporter and Italian news sources, says: “To talk about the family and to families, the challenge is not to change doctrine but to inculturate the general principles in ways that they can be understood and practiced.”           In one of several references to “dialogue”, the document says: “The Pope’s vision of society is inclusive. Such inclusion involves the effort to accept diversity, to dialogue with those who think differently, to encourage the participation of those with different abilities.”........(more) 
Photo: catholicherald uk
5 April 2016 Six things to look for in 'Amoris Laetitia'
Extracts from Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, 5 April 2016

Amoris Laetitia, the much anticipated apostolic exhortation written by Pope Francis in response to the synod on the family, will be released Friday morning. The Latin title translates in English as “The Joy of Love.”        Here are six things to look for when the exhortation is published.      First, remember that most Catholics live in the global South, so what does this document say to them? Is the exhortation concerned only about European and North American issues, or does it have something to say to the millions of Catholics in the South.     In Africa, for example, the church has been struggling to figure out how to mesh the sacramental life of the church, especially marriage, with African traditions.   Thus, while the West, following Roman law, sees marriage as a legal contract between a man and a woman that takes place when the words of consent are spoken, in Africa, marriage is often an agreement involving two families that takes place gradually over time. There is no magic moment.    Since Francis is the first pope from the global South, you can be certain that the people of the South were in his thoughts as he wrote the exhortation.............Don’t be surprised if all predictions are wrong.........(more)
5 April 2016 The Exhortation Expectations Game
Extract from Massimo Faggioli, 5 April 2016

Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s post-synod apostolic exhortation, will be released this Friday, and the secrecy surrounding it is greater than usual. No doubt this is partly because of the sensitiveness of the issues involved, but it's also likely because the Vatican wants to guard against a leak like the one that allowed early publication of Laudato si' last June. Still, this hasn’t discouraged a pre-publication exercise in managing (or spinning) expectations.         Amoris Laetitia will plainly be a hugely important document on family and marriage, a substantial update of John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio (1981). And that explains the interest and commentary preceding it. Consider interviews given this week to Crux’s John Allen by two of the most visible prelates in the United States, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Each reveals something about the relationship between the American church and this pontificate.     Cardinal Dolan’s comments on the exhortation are illustrative of the worries some have about the “Francis effect” on American Catholicism. He sounds in some ways like the successor to the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago in how he expresses surprise and qualms at just what Pope Francis is doing. He gives the pontiff the benefit of the doubt perhaps—but little else.....(more)

31 March 2016    Francis' widely anticipated document on family life to be published April 8
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 31 March 2016

Vatican City:  Pope Francis’ widely anticipated document on Catholic family life -- which may touch on sometimes controversial issues like divorce and remarriage and same-sex marriage -- will be released on April 8, the Vatican has announced.    The document, the result of two back-to-back meetings of global Catholic bishops at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015, will be titled “Amoris laetitia, On Love in the Family.” The Latin title translates in English as “The Joy of Love.”     It will be presented at a press conference April 8 by Cardinals Lorenzo Baldisseri and Christoph Schonborn, alongside Italian lay people Francesco and Giuseppina Miano.    The document follows two church gatherings known as Synods of Bishops. Baldisseri leads the Vatican office for the Synod........(more)
29 March 2016 What Will Pope Francis Say in His Apostolic Exhortation on the Family?
Extracts from Pat Marrin, Focus E-news,  Future Church, March 2016

Sources say Pope Francis signed the 200 plus page post-synodal apostolic exhortation on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph but it is being translated into other languages (from Italian) before its release.  Reports say it will be published on April 8, 2016 at 11:30am (Rome time) and that Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna who was part of the German language group that offered a form of the “Internal Forum” as a way to bring divorced and remarried Catholics back into the fold, will present it.   Other expected participants at the press conference are: Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops;  Professor Francesco Miano, lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, and his wife, Professor Giuseppina De Simone in Miano, lecturer in philosophy at the Theological Faculty of Southern Italy in Naples.   The event will be live-streamed on Vatican Radio..................Journalist Gerald O’Connell makes some predictions about what will be in Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation......(more)

22 March 2016  Pope finalises sensitive document on the family
Extract from National Catholic Reporter, 22 March 2016

On Saturday, Pope Francis finalised a highly-anticipated teaching document on family issues that has been 18 months in the making.
- Washington Post/Crux: Francis has a reputation for opening the Church’s doors when it comes to concepts of family. The next few weeks may clarify just how far he intends to open them.         The document on the family isn’t expected to be released for a few weeks, but pundits, priests, and laypeople will be flipping through furiously as soon as possible to see how Francis proposes bringing more fully into Church life Catholics who are LBGT, divorced-and-remarried, or cohabiting outside marriage.       Based on recent hints dropped by the Pope and other top advisers, Church-watchers believe Francis will attempt the papal version of skating’s triple-axle: not changing orthodox doctrine on anything, but altering practice and rules enough to give different types of families new affirmation that they are a legitimate part of the Church.....(more) Photo: Cathnews, The 2014 Synod

10 March 2016 Document awaited from predictably unpredictable pope
Extract from Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 10 March 2016

Vatican City: Within a few weeks, Pope Francis is expected to release a new document on Catholic family life that may touch upon controversial topics like divorce and remarriage and same-sex marriage.    Francis stirred up much debate and anticipation by calling back-to-back Synods of Bishops in 2014 and 2015 on the topic of family life. Preparation for those worldwide meetings of bishops included diocesan consultations with lay and ordained experts and, in some places, open surveys of the faithful about the state of family life.         At the close of the October 2015 synod in Rome, some 270 bishops issued a lengthy document, meant to advise Francis. That document notably recommended a significant softening of the church's practice toward those who have divorced and remarried.                    Now, with most signs pointing to the end of March, the pope is expected to issue an apostolic exhortation on the synod. It should sum up the debates and decisions of the closely watched synod meetings, but, as with anything from the predictably unpredictable Argentine pope, it is unknown what direction Francis will take in his writing.        He could simply restate what the bishops said in October in their 94-paragraph final document, adding details here or there, but not touching on controversial topics too closely.    Or he could do what he did with the discussions from the 2012 synod on new evangelization, tossing aside the synod fathers' concerns to write his own manifesto, 2013's Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel").      One of the participants of last year's synod said that while he does not expect the exhortation to be a "bombshell" document, that "doesn't mean it has to be bland or beside the point."     "I expect the papal document to be a typical Bergoglio combination of challenge and encouragement," said Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, using Francis' family name. "This pope has a strange ability to say things which can be quite searing but end up being heartening.".....(more

18 February 2016  Internal forum for divorced Catholics: Back to the future
Extract from Thomas Reese, National Catholic Re[porter, 18 February 2016  
                                              The papal apostolic exhortation in response to the Synod of Bishops on the family is expected to have some reference to the "internal forum" as a solution to the pastoral problems of divorced and remarried Catholics.     How to deal with divorced and remarried Catholics was one of the most divisive issues at the synod, which took place in October 2014 and October 2015. Cardinal Walter Kasper had recommended following the practice of the orthodox churches, which recognize only one valid sacramental marriage but allow for the divorced to be civilly married and readmitted to Communion after a penitential process.      Many bishops at the synod objected that this was contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the tradition of the Catholic church. The only way to deal with divorced Catholics, they said, was through a judicial process that concluded in an annulment -- a judgment that the original marriage was invalid. With an annulment, the parties could marry in the Catholic church.        In church law a bishop is the chief judge for any legal case in his diocese, although ordinarily he delegates that authority to his appointed members of the diocesan tribunal.               At the October 2014 synod, the synodal fathers overwhelmingly agreed that the annulment process should be simplified, and Pope Francis moved quickly on this by eliminating the mandatory appeal of annulment decisions and even instituting a "streamlined" process that could go directly to the bishop without a trial, "where the alleged nullity of marriage is supported by particularly clear arguments" (Motu proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus).......(more)

29 January 2016  Synod document to be released in March
Extracts from CathNews: 
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on family life following last year’s Synod will be published in March, says the President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family.    In an interview with the Portuguese Catholic agency Ecclesia, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said that the Pope will release the document in March, and that it will “show that the Church is close to families in all stages of their lives.” “I am convinced that the Apostolic Exhortation will be a hymn to love, to a love that will care for the well-being of children, that is open to wounded families who need strength, that wants to be close to the elder, a love that the whole of humanity needs,” Archbishop Paglia said. The Italian archbishop is leading a week-long conference for the Catholic clergy of Portugal’s Southern ecclesiastic provinces under the title Family: Centrality, Renewal and Continuity The apostolic exhortation will be the conclusion of a multi-year synod process. In 2014 the Vatican hosted an Extraordinary Synod which was in preparation for the October 2015 Ordinary Synod. An estimated 190 bishops from around the world participated in each gathering      The synods were surrounded by controversy, with hot-button topics of ministry to homosexuals and the divorced-and-remarried dominating media coverage.    Discussion in the Synod hall also touched on such issues as marriage preparation, pornography, and domestic violence and abuse. The apostolic exhortation is expected to be based on the final report from the Synod, which was released on October 24......(more)  

17 December 2015 Final Report of the Synod of Bishops to the Holy Father
............... Here

10 November 2015   Pope’s Florence address to the Italian Bishops Conference.
Extract from the address at Florence Cathedral on 10 November 2015 (This significant address by Pope Francis can only be appreciated if read in its entirety)
Read full address Here

Extract:    I do not want to design here a “new humanism” in the abstract, a certain idea of man, but to present in a simple way some of the traits of Christian humanism which is the humanism of the “mind of Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). They are not abstract provisional sensations of the spirit, but represent the warm interior strength that renders us able to live and make decisions. What are these sentiments? I would like to present at least three of them to you today.
The first sentiment is humility............. Read full address here

 As our volunteer website-communication member will be away until the end of November this website will be less frequently updated until then.


28 October 2015 The Synod on the Family – Success or Failure?
Extract from Paul Collins, John Menadue Website, 28 October 2015    

I was talking recently about the Synod with a very experienced parish priest. He said that if the bishops thought we were all waiting with bated breath for their decision regarding the divorced remarried receiving Communion, then they really do live in cloud cuckoo-land. Nowadays divorced Catholics don’t just hang around waiting for a bevy of bishops to decide. They follow their consciences and do what they think is right, especially if they have talked to a sensible, pastoral priest. Sure, many have understandably walked away from the church, but many have stayed having made their own decisions about going to Communion – the internal forum solution.          So really it’s irrelevant what the Synod decided. Even on the gay issue sensible Catholics already understand that talk about people being ‘intrinsically disordered’ is not only utterly insensitive; it is also ‘intrinsically’ un-Christ-like and evangelically ‘disordered’!......(more) 

27 October 2015 Walking Together: The Real Achievement of the Synod
Extract from The Editors, Commonweal, 27 October 2015

No knowledgeable observer expected the Synod on the Family to alter church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage or homosexuality. The s
ynod’s final report, a consensus document replete with the requisite ambiguities, opens a path for divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received an annulment to be welcomed back into the church. Whether they may receive Communion, the synod suggested, is a decision that in certain circumstances could be made in consultation with their pastors. Sacramental marriage is not possible for homosexual people, the bishops reiterated, but they too have a secure place in the Catholic family. On these hot-button issues, the synod affirmed traditional Catholic doctrine but avoided condemning those whose lives do not conform to church teaching. Engagement rather than denunciation marked the synod’s formal pronouncements, a pastoral style deeply rooted in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and profoundly embodied in everything Pope Francis does......(more).

24 October 2015 Pope Francis's address at the closing of the Family Synod                         Authorised  English translation and link to the Vatican Bollettino
Read full authorised English translation here. Link to Vatican Bollettino source here, Extract follows (25 October 2015)

Dear Beatitudes, Eminences and Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like first of all to thank the Lord, who has guided our synodal process in these years by his Holy Spirit, whose support is never lacking to the Church.          My heartfelt thanks go to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, its Under-Secretary, and, together with them, the Relator, Cardinal Peter Erdő, and the Special Secretary, Archbishop Bruno Forte, the Delegate Presidents, the writers, consultors and translators, and all those who have worked tirelessly and with total dedication to the Church: My deepest thanks!                     I likewise thank all of you, dear Synod Fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors and Assessors, parish priests and families, for your active and fruitful participation.             And I thank all those unnamed men and women who contributed generously to the labours of this Synod by quietly working behind the scenes.                        Be assured of my prayers, that the Lord will reward all of you with his abundant gifts of grace!                     As I followed the labours of the Synod, I asked myself: What will it mean for the Church to conclude this Synod devoted to the family?..........(read full English translation here) Source Here
23 October 2015 Pope creates new Vatican department for laity, family, and life                             Extract from CathNews, Friday 23 October 2015
Pope Francis has announced the creation of a new Vatican department for laity, family and life, reports The Catholic Herald.    He made the announcement at last night’s session of the Synod on the Family in Rome.    The idea of the new dicastery was proposed to the Pope by the Council of Cardinals, his body of cardinal-advisers.   It is currently unclear if the new department will be called a council or a congregation. It is also not known who will lead it.   The statutes of the new body are expected to be released in December.   According to a Vatican statement, Francis told the Synod: “I have decided to establish a new dicastery with competency for laity, family and life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Pontifical Academy for Life will be joined to the new dicastery.   “To this end, I have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new dicastery. The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Cardinals at their next meeting in December.”.....(more)

23 October 2015
The Synod of Bishops, Rome October 2015.

Reports from English the language ‘Small Groups’

Friday 23 October 2015
The reports are linked here

23 October 2015
Cardinal says final Synod document won't give answers

Extract from CathNews, 23 October 2015

One of the ten prelates responsible for drafting the final document from the Synod has said that while it may not give solutions to all the questions discussed, it will give good direction for future decisions, reports NCR Online.    Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias said the document “will not have all the answers, but it will have a direction.”   “The questions will be clear,” said Cardinal Gracias, speaking at a press briefing Thursday. “The answers will not be so clear.”  The Indian archbishop is helping draft the final document for the Synod, which has seen some 270 prelates discuss a wide range of issues facing families and the church.   Among controversial topics known to be under discussion are the church’s stance towards gay people and its practice prohibiting divorced and remarried people from taking Communion.   In answer to a question at the briefing about Pope John Paul II’s enunciation of that prohibition in his 1981 encyclical Familiaris Consortio, Cardinal Gracias said the former pontiff also spoke about how different people face different circumstances “and not to put everybody on the same bus.”.....(more)  Photo CathNews 
22 October 2015 German bishops 'dismayed' at Cardinal Pell remarks
Extract from CathNews, 22 October 2015

The dispute between conservative Cardinal Pell and the more liberal German bishops broke out into the open yesterday, with the Germans saying they felt “dismay and sadness” that Cardinal Pell had fostered division in the Synod, reports Crux.       The German bishops favour a proposal put forth by German Cardinal Walter Kasper to allow divorced Catholics who remarried without an annulment of their first marriage to receive Communion, as determined on a case-by-case basis.         Cardinal Pell and other conservatives oppose the idea, fearing it will dilute the Church’s teaching that marriage is indissoluble.     German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said Cardinal Pell’s recent remarks that set up the disagreement as a battle between supporters of Cardinal Kasper and followers of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was unhelpful and “contradicts the spirit of cooperation.”              Late Wednesday in Rome, a spokesman for Cardinal Pell told Crux he was “delighted to learn that Marx has explained that there’s no contrast between the Kasper camp and Benedict XVI,” calling it “a welcome surprise.”          The spokesman said Cardinal Pell added that “everyone was awaiting the recommendations on the Synod to the Holy Father with some interest.”.....(more)
21 October 2015 Letter from Rome "Healthy Decentralization" Gone Awry
Extract from Robert Mickens, Commonweal, 21 October 2015

.......A number of bishops voiced surprise—and some even great delight—at the address Pope Francis gave last Saturday at a special event to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Synod of Bishops. Indeed, it was quite the talk.        The pope further elaborated on one of the key themes from his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium—the need to reform the mentality and structure of Church governance. He probably felt he had to, seeing as so few people seem to have studied and meditated on the nearly two-year-old document, which Francis continues to see as one of the more important of his pontificate.       In his talk last Saturday, the pope spoke again of the need for a “healthy decentralization” of church authority, a further development of synodality at all levels of the church, and a new way for the bishop of Rome to exercise papal primacy for the sake of Christian unity.      Francis also indicated that developing episcopal collegiality through “ecclesiastical provinces and ecclesiastical regions, particular councils, and—in a special way—conferences of bishops” is extremely important, and might require “integrating and updating certain aspects of the ancient ecclesiastical organization.”     He said, “The hope expressed by the [Second Vatican] Council that such bodies would help increase the spirit of episcopal collegiality has not yet been fully realized.” Then in an adlibbed remark he said, “We are still on the way—halfway there.” The Vatican translation reads “part-way there"; No matter, the point is that Francis believes there is still a long way to go......(more

21 October 2015 German synod group outlines Communion path for remarried Catholics
Extract from National Catholic Reporter,  21 Oct. 21, 2015

Vatican City  The group of German speaking prelates at the ongoing Synod of Bishops -- which includes a rather diverse range of so-called progressive and conservative voices -- has presented a way that certain divorced and remarried Catholic persons might be allowed to take Communion in the church.    But while their arguments are being echoed by prelates of at least one other language group at the gathering, they have clearly not found support in others -- which have closed all openness to any possibility on the matter.   Catholics who remarry are currently prohibited from taking Communion unless they obtain annulments of their first marriages. The issue of the church’s practice in the matter has become one of the most discussed during the Oct. 4-25 Synod, called by Pope Francis to focus on family life issues.   Synod participants made their positions on the issue known Wednesday with release of the third and final reports from 13 different small discussion groups, separated by language preference, that have been helping guide the gathering’s discussions.....(more)

19 October 2015 Cardinal Napier: No more concerns about synod process, optimistic about outcome    Extract from Joshua J.McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 20 October 2015
Vatican City. One of the 13 cardinals said to have signed a letter to Pope Francis sharply criticizing the ongoing Synod of Bishops has said he no longer has concerns about the gathering and is even optimistic about its outcome.     South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier told reporters at a briefing Tuesday that Francis' response to the letter -- addressing the entire bishops' gathering on its second day of work Oct. 6 -- "made a huge difference … in the scale of confidence and of trust" in the pope and the synod process.    After hearing the pontiff that day, Napier said he felt "that the concerns had registered, they were being taken care of and therefore, from there on, everyone was going to work at the synod with all they've got."     "I think that's what I've experienced and that has been why I feel that this synod takes up where that first week of the last one had left off, when we were all optimistic and looking forward to really looking together on the issues as a team," said the cardinal, referring to an earlier synod held in 2014....(more) Photo: CNS / Paul Haring

19 October 2015 Pope says Church needs more decentralisation, changes to Papacy
Extract from CathNews, 19 October 2015

Pope Francis has called for a Church that is far more decentralised, where the laity play a greater role, bishops’ conferences take care of certain problems, and even the Papacy is rethought, reports AP on Crux.....(more)
19 October 2015 US sister-auditor: Synod shows cultural divide between bishops, laypeople
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 19 October 2015

Rome.           The discussions at the ongoing Synod of Bishops have shown a clear difference in mindsets between the prelates considering issues of family life and ordinary Catholics looking to the gathering in hopes for changes in church pastoral practice, one of the non-voting participants in the event has said.     U.S. Sacred Heart of Mary Sr. Maureen Kelleher -- who is taking part in the Oct. 4-25 synod as one of 32 women serving in non-voting roles alongside the 270 prelate-members -- said there is a clear cultural divide between bishops' and laypersons' points of view.   "There's such a culture here and a common background," said Kelleher, speaking in an NCR interview. "These men have all pretty much studied together through formation and onward -- [and] are very steeped in the magisterium and the canons and the different papal documents that have come out and have formed them."          "And they're very, very -- well, they're in pain I think to deal with the pastoral situation and reaching for particularly the remarried after divorce in a way that would be accompanying them ... and yet being faithful to their understanding of Jesus' sentences on divorce and its consequences," she continued.    "I am watching people who have been very formed and steeped in language and concepts really trying to reach for a way that won't confuse us faithful laity and will be sensitive and yet be faithful to everything they believe," said Kelleher.     "I am watching a faith community in a tangle, in a knot, and I don't know what's going to happen when the pope gets this product," she said, referring to the final document the synod is expected to write and then give to Pope Francis.....(more

19 October 2015 Puerto Rico archbishop calls for path to Communion for remarried
Extract from Joshua J McElwee, National Catholic Re[orter, 19 October 2015

Vatican City. Puerto Rico’s representative at the ongoing Synod of Bishops has poignantly called for some sort of penitential path towards taking Communion for Catholics who have divorced and remarried, saying the current practice does not allow them a “full encounter” with Christ.....(more)
18 October 2015 Cardinal Wuerl: Bishops and synod should meet people where they are
Extract from Joshua J McElwee, National Catholic Re[orter, 18 October 2015

Rome. One of the main challenges facing Catholic bishops today is to be clear about the church's moral teachings but then also to meet people where they are in life without just admonishing them, Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl has said.....(more)

17 October 2015 Pope Francis’ Address at Commemorative Ceremony for the 50th Anniversary of the Synod of Bishops   October 17, 2015 , Paul VI Audience Hall – Vatican City, [Working translation prepared by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, English language media attaché, Holy See Press Office].........(Here)                                                                                                                          

17 October 2015 Pope Francis Reminds the Synod that He Has the Last Word
Extract form Gerard O'Connell, Dispatches,  America, The National Catholic Review 17 October 2015
The synod journey culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, (who is) called to speak authoritatively as ‘the Pastor and Teacher of all Christians,'" Pope Francis stated on October 17, on the eve of the final week of the synod on the family.               In a keynote talk of the utmost importance delivered at the celebration for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the synod of bishops, Francis spoke about “synodality in the church,” the synod’s place within this, the relation between the synod and the Successor of Peter, and reminded the synod fathers that he has the last word     He emphasized the need to give new life to structures of synodality in the local churches worldwide, and confirmed his intention to promote greater “decentralization” in the Catholic Church and to bring about “a conversion of the papacy.”.....(more)

17 October 2015 Pope Francis lays out vision of synodal Church, a “church of listening”
Extract from Deacon Greg Kandra, The Deacon's Bench, 17 October 2015

ope Francis on Saturday morning marked the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops as a permanent body. Gathered with the Fathers of the XIV Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops – who are currently meeting in Rome to discuss the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in contemporary society – Pope Francis spoke of both the process and the substance of the Synod as constitutive and expressive of the Church’s own nature and mission.           “Journeying together,” said Pope Francis in an enlargement on the Greek words from which the English word ‘synod’ is derived, “laity, pastors, and the Bishop of Rome, is an easy concept to put into words, but not so easy to put into practice.”           The Holy Father went on to say that each and everyone has a place in the Church, and that the key to journeying well together is listening. “A synodal Church is a Church of listening,” said Pope Francis. “It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn: the faithful, the College of Bishops, [and the] Bishop of Rome; each listening to the others; and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14, 17), to know what he ‘says to the Churches’ (Rev 2: 7).”                  “The Synod of Bishops,” continued Pope Francis, “is the convergence point of this dynamism – this listening conducted at all levels of Church life,” starting with the people, who “also participate in Christ’s prophetic office” and who have a right and a duty to be heard on topics that touch the common life of the Church. Then come the Synod Fathers, through whom, “[T]he bishops act as true stewards, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church, which [they] must be able carefully to distinguish from often shifting public opinion.” In all this, the Successor to Peter is fundamental. “Finally,” explained Pope Francis, “the synodal process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, called upon to speak authoritatively [It. pronunciare] as ‘Shepherd and Teacher of all Christians’: not on the basis of his personal beliefs, but as the supreme witness of the Faith of the whole Church, the guarantor of the Church’s conformity with and obedience to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ and the Tradition of the Church.”.....(more

17 October 2015 The Synod on the Family - What's really happening?
Extract from Editorial, Catholics fOR Renewal, 17 October 2015

The Synod on the Family has completed two of its three weeks. The final week will be critical, but already there are some positive signs of the Spirit at work. Will the College of Bishops recognise its isolation from the people of God and the need to ensure that the Church’s teachings and governance are properly informed by the sensus fidelium, the faithful’s sense of the faith, as taught by Vatican II? Such recognition is implicit in the pastoral approach sought by Pope Francis. As late as Friday 16/10/2015,  the full synod was hearing many 3-minute contributions on such controversial issues as cohabitation, the possibility of communion for the divorced and remarried, and the Church's approach to homosexuality.......(more)

17 October 2015 Synod fathers should relish the uncertainty
Extracts From NCR Editorial staff, National Catholic Reporter, 17 October 2015

Midway through the general assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, confusion, if not chaos, reigns, to paraphrase a synod father. And in that confusion is fear, fear of uncertainty and the unknown.     Well, bishops, our brothers, welcome to family life. Seemingly without knowing it, you have stumbled upon a key experience of being in and raising a family: uncertainty.     Don't fear it, synod fathers. Relish it. This is how families live.............How will the drafting committee pull all of the divergent views into one document? Will the bishops like it? Or will they just end in chaos and pass everything on to the pope as they fly home? Maybe it should be left to the pope? If this three-week process ends with seemingly nothing to show, will that be a defeat for the Catholic church? Or would that be the sign of a church on a journey? The pilgrim church?      The issues under discussion are complicated, and there is no reason to pretend otherwise. As Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge says, there is vast territory to explore and "that's what the synod should be about."     Maybe the specific answers Catholics in London need are not what Catholics in Lusaka need. One answer for all would make us feel safe and secure, but would it be true?    How revolutionary would a synod document be that says: "We cannot reach a global census on many issues, but we rejoice in that diversity and pledge not to let differences divide us." The Catholics in London and Lusaka would have to trust each other, even when they disagree. The pilgrim church would continue the journey.....(more)  

16 October 2015 German group at synod united: Church doctrine has developed over time
Extract From Joshua J McElwee, National Catholic Reporter,  16 October 2015

Vatican City. The group of German speaking prelates attending the worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family -- which includes a rather diverse range of what might be called progressive and conservative voices -- has called on the gathering to recognize that church doctrine has developed over time.     The group has also said the church’s understanding of Jesus’ mission on Earth means that there cannot always be one universal principle that applies to all concrete situations.    Writing in their report on the discussions taking place in their small group for the ongoing Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops, the German bishops say: “It … became clear to us that we are too static and not biographical-historical in many debates and observations.”     “The Church’s doctrine of marriage was developed and deepened in history,” they write.    The group explains how the church’s understanding of marriage has developed over time -- first emphasizing monogamy of marriage, then “the personal dignity of the spouses” before coming to understand the family as the “house church.”......(more

16 October 2015  Cardinal: No-one can change ‘essential Church teachings’
Extract from CathNews, 16 October 2015

Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See, has told the Synod on the Family that it has no power to change “essential Church teachings,” reports The Catholic Herald.    The full text of his intervention was published in the Herald’s Letters from the Synod. A shorter version was delivered in the Synod hall.      In the full text the Cardinal said: “Our first episcopal task as teaching bishops is not to be theologians, but to teach, explain, and defend the apostolic tradition of faith and morals.”            He said that, while the Synod fathers could “contribute to the genuine development of doctrine”, they had no power to “change or diminish the Word of God, much less to refashion it according to prevailing insights, or relativise the objective truths of Catholic faith and morals as passing expressions in some Hegelian flux.”     Jesus was “not afraid to confront society”, Cardinal Pell said, adding: “He did not tell the adulterous woman to continue in her good work, but to repent and sin no more.”....(more) Photo: CathNews  
16 October 2015 Quest to help Synod grasp importance of violent marriages
Exract from CathNews, 16 October 2015

An American psychologist is trying to raise awareness of domestic violence at the Synod on the Family by distributing booklets to participants, reports the Catholic News Agency.   Christauria Welland is a clinical psychologist who’s worked with both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence – and with one in three women worldwide suffering from abuse at the hands of a partner, her goal is to make sure bishops know about the problem.     Often kept secret through shame or fear of stigma, the scourge of physical and emotional violence between couples is something that Catholics are anything but immune from, and Welland says she hopes to bring about healing and change through awareness and education.....(more)
16 October 2015 Five reasons the synod is doomed to fail
Extract From Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, 16 October 2015

Vatican City. The synod on the family has crea
ted a lot of interest in the church and spilled a lot of ink (or electrons) in the media, but there are five reasons that it was doomed to fail before the bishops even gathered in Rome Oct. 4. Perhaps Pope Francis can perform a miracle and save it, but the odds are against him.    First, the topic of the synod, "the family," is too broad.    The family touches everything and is touched by everything. Anything bad in the world affects families, and any problems in families affect the societies in which they live.     Social and economic factors impact families: unemployment, housing, war, terrorism, climate change, interreligious differences, consumerism, social media, education, and on and on. Every problem in the world has an impact on families, from addictions to political corruption.    Scores of moral issues surround the family, everything from the sexual act itself to fidelity, abortion, contraception, surrogate mothers, homosexuality, divorce, gender equality, child abuse, spousal violence, and so on.    Families are the place where one learns or does not learn the Christian faith, to say nothing of simple moral habits and virtues.    And we have not even gotten to the theological and canonical issues surrounding families: marriage as a sacrament, annulments, liturgical ceremonies, the family in the church, etc.     It is simply too much to deal with in a three-week meeting.   Second, the membership of the synod makes dealing with the topic of the family difficult....(more)   Photo: NCR,    (CNS/Paul Haring)  
14 October 2015  The Vatican Publishes Second Batch of Reports on Synod’s Discussion from 13 Language Groups
Extract from Gerard O'Connell Dispatches, America, The National Catholic Review,  14 October 2015

The second batch of reports that summarize the results of the discussion from the 13 language groups of the Synod on the Family were published today, Oct. 14. The reports from the four English language groups are given below. You can also read highlights from the Italian language groups, the Spanish language groups and the French language groups.   Over the past few days, the 270 synod fathers and other participants have discussed part 2 of the working document (“Instrumentum Laboris”), which deals with “The Discernment of the Family Vocation.” That section is divided into three chapters that focus on: the family and divine pedagogy, the family and church life, the family and the path leading to its fullness.     Today’s reports reveal that several groups had problems with this whole section of the working document, Cardinal Vincent Nichols told a press briefing in the Vatican. They had problems because this basic text “has complicated the process” by trying to combine two sources—the final report of the 2014 synod and the input that came in the period between October 2014 and June 2015—into one text. The groups were in general agreement that this whole section “needs restructuring with a better theological framework” and several came up with “creative” proposals for this. Cardinal Nichols emphasized that a good theological framework is necessary so as to be able to deal properly with the pastoral questions that are coming up in part 3 of the working document. “Part 2 is the theological foundation for part 3,” he said.     The English cardinal said he believed the German language report today is “very important” because the first topic it focused on was “the relation between mercy, truth and justice.” He drew attention to the fact that this group unanimously agreed on all its proposals.         Asked whether the synod will conclude with the publication of its final document on Oct. 24, Cardinal Nichols said he hopes that “the pope will reflect” on the results of this synod and “and issue an apostolic exhortation or other magisterial text.” He added: “We need to bring this synod to a conclusion and only the Holy Father can do that.” He said he detected “a growing feeling” among the synod fathers that this should happen........(more)    Photo: America, The National Catholic Review, (CNS photo/Ettore Ferrari, EPA)

13 October 2015  Australian archbishop: Synod must change church’s language, actions
Extract from Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 13 October 2015

Rome. The ongoing worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family is being called to explore the “vast middle ground” between never-changing church teaching and committing iconoclasm, an Australian archbishop who leads one of the meetings’ English-language groups has said.       Archbishop Mark Coleridge said that while there are many opinions among prelates at the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops, one impression that has emerged is that some believe the choice facing the gathering is either to “abandon church teaching” or commit to a “bubble of immutability.”        “Between those two extremes … there is in fact a vast territory … to be explored,” said Coleridge, who heads the eastern Australia archdiocese of Brisbane.           “That's what the synod should be about,” said the archbishop. “The words and exercise of pastoral activity -- saying, 'OK, we don't go to one extreme and say we're going to chuck church teaching out the window or the other extreme and say we're going to do nothing.'”               “I think we have to explore all kinds of possibilities in that vast middle ground, where I think the Spirit is moving and calling us to be,” he said.....(more)    

12 October 2015 Doctrinal Changes: As the synod convenes, wisdom from Karl Rahner
Extract from America The National Catholic Review, Peter Folan, S.J. 12 October 2015

If this October is anything like last year’s, the press covering the Synod of Bishops will focus almost exclusively on homosexuality and the possibility of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion. That emphasis is understandable, since there is certainly division among Catholics on both issues.        Not surprisingly, the press frames the synod as merely a political contest boiling down to which “side” has the numbers to win. This approach ignores the fact that the synod’s pastoral conversation about homosexuality, divorce and the sacraments will be framed by the church’s faith, including the articulation of that faith in doctrine.     For many members of the Christian community, however, the invocation of “doctrine” might suggest the death of all hope. A popular perception of doctrine is that it is a set of rigid, uncompromising propositions that are handed down from on high: one obeys doctrine; one does not tend to look to it for help during life’s difficulties.          For the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner (1904–84), on the other hand, doctrine enables the church to speak to the real problems of real people. Father Rahner calls doctrine that which, when put into words, proclaims the faith of the church in ordinary language, thereby leading people more deeply into relationship with God. Put differently, doctrine invites people into friendship with God by proclaiming what the church knows about God........(more)
10 October 2015  Kenya’s cardinal determined to be in the thick of the synod action
Extract from John Allen Jnr,Associate Editor Crux, 10 October 2015

ROME — As a young man, Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, Kenya, became adept at both boxing and karate. He says those skills in the martial arts are “still very useful for me,” especially “when I am provoked.”      Njue, 71, is taking part in the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops on the family, and while he’s not throwing any literal punches, he’s brought the same fighting spirit to this gathering of 270 bishops from around the world.     Here, for example, is Njue’s take on calls at the synod for a more compassionate approach to gays and lesbians.      “It is there in the Bible,” he says, referring to the Church’s teaching against homosexuality. “It is clear.”       “I think there is not much option,” Njue said. “There are facts, such as the fact that God created humanity as Adam and Eve. Whenever someone starts running away from their identity, whatever they do will certainly not be the right thing.”      “If we come to the point of saying that can be changed, there is no logic behind it, with all due respect,” he said.......(more)     
9 October 2015 Highlights from Synod Working Group Reports: UPDATED
Extract from Gerard O'Connell, America, The National Catholic Review, 9 October 2015

The Vatican today released the texts of the 13 reports from the English, French, German, Italian and Spanish language groups that were presented to the plenary assembly of the Synod on the Family this morning, October 9.       Some early points that are worth noting: several groups said the presentation of the family in this first part of the working document (WD) is too negative, too bleak, because it “mainly highlights problems.” Without diminishing the challenges mentioned there, they propose that the final document should offer a positive, inspiring presentation of the family.     Several reports ask that the final document be written in a language that reaches ordinary people, not in “church-speak,” or as Archbishop Kurtz told the media at a Vatican press briefing today, a language that is “simple, understandable and inspiring.”......(more)

9 October 2015  German archbishop: Church’s stance on divorce makes people ‘doubt God’
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter,9 October 2015 
Vatican City. One of Germany’s representatives at the worldwide meeting of Catholic prelates on family has pointedly told the gathering that church teaching preventing divorced and remarried persons from receiving the Eucharist makes people “doubt God.”     Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch has used his 3-minute address during the deliberations to directly address one of the issues known to be creating the most disagreement among the prelates, saying he is often asked why remarried couples are barred from the Eucharistic table.    The church’s theological arguments “do not silence the questions in the hearts of people,” Koch told the assembly.    “Is there no place at the Lord’s table for people who experienced and suffered an irreversible break in their lives?” he asked. “How perfect and holy must one be to be allowed to the supper of the Lord?”.....(more)

9 October 2015  Pope warns bishops over 'Synod-rigging' conspiracy theories
Extract from CathNews, 9 October 2015

Pope Francis has warned bishops at the Synod on the Family not to be taken in by conspiracy theories, as conservatives and liberals reportedly engage in Machiavellian attempts to manipulate the outcome, reports AFP on Yahoo7.    Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi on Thursday confirmed reports that the Pontiff had warned bishops and cardinals behind closed doors on Tuesday not to get caught up in “the hermeneutic of conspiracy”.    The phrase, better translated as conspiracy theories or a conspiratorial mentality, comes amid concerns within the conservative camp that new methodology being used in the three-week meeting favours the liberal wing who want the Church to be more welcoming to homosexuals and remarried divorced people.....(more)

8 October 2015 Archbishop: Synod vote now would go against Communion 65/35
Edited Extract from CathNews, 8 October 2015
Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge says if the idea of allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to return to Communion were put to a straight vote in the Synod right now, it would probably l
ose by a margin of 65% to 35%, reports Crux.      That proposal is most associated with German Cardinal Walter Kasper, and although Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane said he can’t personally support it, he also finds some of the criticism of Kasper for his position “scandalous.”      Archbishop Coleridge stressed that his estimates of how a hypothetical vote might break are simply “intuitions,” and that things could change before synod’s end. He also emphasized that ultimately the only vote that matters belongs to      Pope Francis, since the synod’s role is simply to make recommendations.     Archbishop Coleridge said that if the question on the Communion ban were rephrased to allow local bishops or bishops’ conferences to make decisions for themselves, the split among the 270 bishops taking part in the Synod might be closer to 50/50.    Archbishop Coleridge also said there’s strong support in the synod, something on the order of 70/30, for a “less condemnatory” language about gays and lesbians.condemnatory” language about gays and lesbians......(more)  Photo: Cathnews  1212coleridge_22984artthumb.jpg

7 October 2015 Philly’s Chaput: Bishops sorting out into lobbying groups at synod

Extract from Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 7 October 2015
Vatican City. Bishops at the Vatican's worldwide meeting on family life issues are dividing amongst themselves to form lobbying groups in favor of various positions, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has said.       “I’ve never been at a church meeting where there aren’t groups that get together and lobby for a particular direction -- and that’s going on, I assure you,” the archbishop said at a Vatican press conference Wednesday.     “That’s what happens when human beings get together,” said Chaput. “We shouldn’t be scandalized or surprised by that, as long as it’s done open and honestly and not in a way that tries to win than to arrive at the truth.”     “We’re not here to win anything, we’re here to arrive at the truth that the Lord, through his Holy Spirit, is guiding the church towards,” he said.....(more) Photo, NCR,  CNS/Paul Haring
7 October 2015 The Francis strategy for change; a synod process loosed; and Durocher’s stunning proposal for women
Extract from Report from Rome, Deb Rose-Milavec, Synodwatch, Future Church, 7 October 2015

There are days when you are sure God is having her way. Today was one such day at the synod.    The tone of the voices rising from the great marble synod hall could not have been more different from the tones heard yesterday.      Yesterday, stern warnings fell all around and weighed heavy on hopes for a more generous, just and compassionate Church.    Today, elation and even laughter filled the air as we heard that participants talked about all that the Church could be if it dared to risk being one with the God of surprises; the God that is the living, loving source..........A Francis strategy for change:  Small groups will have a critical role in shaping the final document....(more)

7 October 2015 Archbishop: Synod should reflect on allowing female deacons
Extract from CathNews, 7 October 2015

Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, said the Synod should reflect on the possibility of allowing for female deacons as it seeks ways to open up more opportunities for women in Church life, reports NCR Online.
Where possible, qualified women should be given higher positions and decision-making authority within church structures and new opportunities in ministry, he told Catholic News Service yesterday..      Discussing a number of proposals he offered the Synod fathers to think about, he said: “I think we should really start looking seriously at the possibility of ordaining women deacons because the diaconate in the Church’s tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry.”    Currently, the Church permits only men to be ordained as deacons. Deacons can preach and preside at baptisms, funerals and weddings, but cannot celebrate Mass or hear confessions.....(more)
6 October 2015 On the Road Together – The Synod begins
Extract from Synod On The Family Blog, Archbishop Mark Coleridge (Australia), 6 October 2015

We’ve just completed the first morning of the 3-week marathon. There was lots of milling around before we actually started – greeting those you know, finding your place in the Synod Hall, sorting through the documentation, making sure you know how the technology works (microphone and voting device).............About five minutes before we were due to start at 9am, in sauntered the Pope just like any other member of the Synod. Once upon a time, the Pope would enter only when everyone else was in the Hall and would be greeted by courteous applause. But with Francis it’s different: he just strolls in, mingles with the mob, shakes a few hands, exchanges a few words. It was the same at morning tea: he came down and wandered among the crowd saying hi to various people and (I think) having a coffee. The style has certainly changed. It’s strange because neither John Paul II nor Benedict XVI was at all a pompous man; but they were middle Europeans of a certain vintage and they had about them an instinctive courtliness. But not Pope Francis; he’s more instinctively one of the mob..............The work has begun – none too glamorously; but that’s the way of the Synod......(more
6 October 2015  Belgian bishop asks Synod for 'space and responsibility' to make decisions for diocese  -  Extract from National Catholic Reporter, 6 October 2015
Rome. Belgium's representative to the worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family life has asked that individual prelates be given the "space and responsibility" to respond to the pastoral needs of those in their care.    Bishop Johan Bonny, who heads the Antwerp diocese, makes his request in the text of his remarks to meeting, known as a Synod of Bishops.   Bonny made his Dutch-language remarks public. Blogger Mark de Vries has posted an English language translation here.    "It is important that the Synod give space and responsibility to the local bishops to formulate suitable answers to the pastoral questions of that part of the people of God which is entrusted to their pastoral care," Bonny states in the text.....(more)
6 October 2015 Vatican: Pope reminded Synod that divorced and remarried not only issue
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, 6 October 2016

Vatican City. Pope Francis made short unplanned remarks Tuesday morning to the Catholic bishops gathered for his global meeting on family issues to emphasize to them that care for the divorced and remarried is not the only issue to be discussed, a Vatican spokesman said.     The pontiff also reassured the some 318 prelates, gathered for the second day of the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops, that the church’s doctrine on marriage “was not being put into question,” said the spokesman.                 Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, detailed the pope’s comments during a press briefing Tuesday on the state of the discussions at the synod, which is taking place behind closed doors.     Joining the priest to detail the discussions Tuesday were four other spokespeople and two Synod participants: Italian Archbishop Claudio Celli and Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher.          Despite the pope’s reported exhortation that the participants focus on a number of issues, Celli said discussion of the church’s pastoral practices to Catholics who divorce and remarry remains “open.”    Asked during the briefing about Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo’s remarks opening the Synod on Monday -- which seemed to suggest there would no change on the church’s prohibition on receiving the Eucharist for Catholics who have remarried without obtaining annulments -- the Italian said: “The discourse is open.”               Celli, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Communications, said the Synod has just begun and at this point the discussions are “totally open.”......(more)
6 October 2015 Francis: Synod not parliament but place to listen to Holy Spirit
Extracts from CathNews, 6 October 2015

The Synod on the family is not a parliament where participants negotiate, Pope Francis said, but a place of prayer where bishops speak with courage and open themselves to "God who always surprises us," reports the Catholic News Service............The Synod is not a convention or a parliament, Pope Francis said, "but an expression of the Church; it is the Church that walks together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God."       Synod members must be faithful to Church teaching, "the deposit of faith, which is not a museum to be visited or even simply preserved, but is a living spring from which the Church drinks to quench the thirst and enlighten" people, he said.       The synod hall and its small working groups, he said, should be "a protected space where the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit."       In a spirit of prayer, Francis said, the Spirit will speak through "everyone who allows themselves to be guided by God, who always surprises us, by God who reveals to the little ones that which he has hidden from the wise and intelligent, by God who created the Sabbath for men and women and not vice versa, by God who leaves the 99 sheep to find the one missing sheep, by God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations."......(more)
5 October 2015 Synod Watch: Shields, Bridges and Some Pretty Good Questions
Extracts fom Report from Rome, Deb Rose-Milavec, Future Church, 5 October 2015

During the press briefing later in the day with Cardinal Erdo, Archbishop Bruno Forte and Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Cardinal Erdowas challenged several times regarding the finality he seemed to imply on the divorce and remarriage question.  One journalist noted that section three of his report did not appear to be a summary of the Instrumentum Laboris as Erdo stated, but, “a stance, a clear stance.”  Another asked if Erdo believed the Kasper proposal had lost all support. Erdo seemed to imply it was DOA at this point since there had already been much research on the Kasper model and many conferences on the topic since the 2014 Extraordinary Synod.      Listening to Cardinal Erdo, it would seem the deal is done and everyone should go home.    Of course, we still have Pope Francis.    This synod puts the prelates, especially those clinging to dogma, in a bind.  All three Cardinals repeated the mantra, “doctrine cannot change,” a kind of lullaby that seems to calm their nerves while admitting they are here to make some sort of change.  Some pretty good questions......(more)

5 October 2015 Synod bishop expresses concern that prelates lack understanding of family
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Cayholic Reporter, 5 October 2015

Rome. One of the two prelates representing England and Wales at the ongoing global meeting of Catholic bishops has expressed concern that the church leaders are discussing issues of family life but may be limited in their understanding of those issues because of their celibate lifestyles.     Bishop Peter Doyle, who heads the Northampton diocese some 70 miles north of London, said in an interview Saturday he thinks "there is a bit of an issue."    "I thought I understood marriage and family life because I come from a family, because I've ministered for 37 years in a parish," said Doyle. "When I got involved in marriage and family life, I suddenly realized that there was a whole world there that I didn't know."     "I am a little concerned that there is a big area that we don't actually understand," said the bishop.    "Of course, we're bringing the views of everyone," he continued. "But I think it's quite difficult to kind of see things from a family point of view. I think there is a difficulty. I don't think there's any need to avoid that."....(more)
5 October 2015  Pope tells Synod to be open-minded, cardinal says no to divorced and remarried   Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 5 October 2015
Vatican City. Pope Francis has called on the hundreds of prelates gathered for his second worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family issues to remain open in their deliberations to the call of the Holy Spirit, repeating his frequent assertion that God is a God of surprises.         Yet, within minutes of the pope’s call, one of the cardinals leading the meeting seemed to say there could be no surprise in one of its most anticipated discussions -- indicating no foreseeable movement on the church’s stance towards couples who are civilly divorced and remarried.      The back-and-forth took place at the first open session of the Synod of Bishops, a highly anticipated meeting that has brought some 318 people to Rome -- mainly male prelates -- for discussions Oct. 4-25.         Francis opened the event Monday at one of the three-week gathering’s only public sessions by calling on the gathered prelates to work in their deliberations with “apostolic courage, evangelical humility, and trust-filled prayer.”     The Synod, the pope said, is not a parliament or a senate, but an “ecclesial expression” of a church “that walks together to read reality with eyes of faith and the heart of God.              “It is the Church that questions itself on its fidelity to the deposit of the faith, so that it does not represent a museum to be looked at or only to be safeguarded, but a living spring from which the church drinks to quench thirst and illuminate the deposit of life,” the pontiff said of the Synod.       “The Synod is also a protected space where the Church goes through the action of the Holy Spirit,” said Francis......(more)

4 October 2015  Francis opens Synod calling for church that is bridge, not roadblock
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 4 October 2015

Vatican City.  Pope Francis has opened his much anticipated second worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family issues by telling prelates gathered from around the globe for the discussions they have a duty to uphold Catholic teachings but also must resist holding too fast to legalistic interpretations of God’s love.      In a homily Sunday during the opening Mass for the meeting, known as a Synod of Bishops, the pope said the church has a duty to proclaim truth “that is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions.”          At the same time, however, Francis told church leaders they must not forget “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”.....(more

2 October 2015 New process for Synod of Bishops aims at allowing more dialogue
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 2 October 2015

Vatican City    The Vatican has outlined the process for this month’s highly anticipated global meeting of Catholic bishops on family life issues, saying they have put together a “new methodology” for the gathering in order to facilitate more dialogue and discussion between the prelates.       The Vatican is also saying that the process will be more transparent and open to media coverage than in the past. While individual texts of bishops’ remarks during the Oct. 4-25 event will not be made public, prelates will be made available for interviews and there will daily briefings on the discussions.        Outlining the new process at a press briefing Friday, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri explained that this year’s Synod of Bishops would essentially be composed of three mini-Synods.       Where in the past the Synod saw weeks of open discussion among the hundreds of bishops before they broke into small discussion groups separated by language, this year the Synod will be broken into three parts.    Each week will begin with open discussion on a theme and conclude with small group discussions on that theme.        The bishops will repeat the cycle for the three weeks of the Synod.......(more)

2 October 2015 Synod to be culmination of two years' preparation, consultation
Extracts from Joshua J McElwee, Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter, 2 October 2015

The 14th general assembly of the Synod of Bishops opens in Rome Oct. 4. It will bring together some 300 cardinals and bishops, along with a few dozen lay and religious advisers and consultors to discuss pressing issues around family life.      The synod -- its official theme is "The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World" -- runs until Oct. 25 and is the culmination of more than two years of preparation that included among the widest consultations the Vatican has ever undertaken.        In the fall of 2013 and early 2015, the Vatican distributed questionnaires about family life and church teaching on the family to the world's bishops with the instructions that the questionnaires be used as tools to consult parishes and deaneries.         Although how individual bishops consulted with their people varied widely, the Vatican did receive thousands of responses to questions like................"The task of the pope is to guarantee the unity of the church," he said. The first duty of bishops as pastors, he said, "is to feed the flock -- feed the flock -- that the Lord has entrusted to them."         They must find a middle path between doctrine and reality, Francis said, telling the delegates to avoid the temptation to become either a "hostile rigorist" concerned only with enforcing church doctrine or a "destructive do-gooder" who advocates "false mercy" instead of truth-telling.............Bishop Emanuel Barbara of Malindi, Kenya, said in July that Africans face many different challenges than Europeans. "If we want to have respect to our African Christian families, we need to work seriously on an African Christian theology of marriage," he said. "It's not enough to apply other models that have been there for centuries."......(more)

1 October Where do we go from here?
Extract from Massimo Faggioli, The Tablet, 1 October 2015

......Francis’ view of the future Church is based on an “ecclesiology of the people”, and in the inter-synodal period the people of the Church have sent signals that need to be interpreted. This will require more than the three weeks of debate among the bishops at the synod in Rome.......(More)

28 September 2015  Pope: Communion for divorced, remarried isn't the only synod issue
Extract from Elise Harris, Catholic News Agency, 28 September 2015

Vatican City: Pope Francis told journalists on board his flight to Rome that giving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics is a “simplistic” solution to the issue, and stressed that there are also other problems that need to be discussed.      “(It) seems a bit simplistic to me to say that the synod, that the solution for these people is that they can receive communion. That's not the only solution (asked for).”
       What the “Instrumentum laboris” proposes “is a lot,” he said. “Also, the problem of the new unions of divorcees isn't the only problem.”      “In the instrumentum laboris, there are many (problems to be addressed). For example, young people don’t get married. They don’t want to get married. It's a pastoral problem for the Church. Another problem: the effective maturity for a marriage. Another problem: faith.      Pope Francis spoke to journalists on board his American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Rome after spending 10 days in Cuba and the United States......(morePhoto:  CNA Alan Holdren

28 September 2015 Francis again rejects women priests without specific reasoning
Extract from Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 28 September 2015

Pope Francis has again forcefully rejected the possibility of female priests in the Catholic church, saying simply that his predecessor Pope John Paul II decided "that cannot be done." In response to a question during a press conference on his flight back to Rome late Sunday/early Monday after an historic ten-day trip to Cuba and the U.S., Francis said that while women may "have the capacity" to be priests John Paul clearly made a negative decision in that regard.      "Women priests -- that cannot be done," the pontiff said bluntly. "Pope St. John Paul II -- after long, long discussions, long reflections -- said it clearly."     "Not because women do not have the capacity," said Francis.     "But, look, in the church, women are more important than men because the church is woman; it is 'la' church, not 'il' church," he said, speaking in Italian and referring to the gendered article used before the Italian word for church.     "The Church is the bride of Jesus Christ," said the pope. "And the Madonna is more important than popes and bishops and priests."     "I must recognize we are a bit late in an elaboration of the theology of women," he continued. "We have to move ahead with that theology. Yes, that’s true."......(more

19 September 2015  The Synod on the Family - will the people of the Church be heard?
The 14th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Rome, 4-25 October 2015                                        
"The vocation and mission of the family in the Church "
Extract from Editorial, Peter Johnstone, Catholics for Renewal, 19 September 2015

".....The Synod’s focus on the family presents an opportunity to expose the desperate need for major changes in the institutional Church. But that won’t happen without the involvement of the faithful envisaged by Vatican II. As the synod approaches, we suggest that a key question is: “Will the people of the Church be heard?”    In the Editorial we consider this question in examining the following:
  • What are synods, especially this Synod on the Family?
  • Why should the People of God be heard?*
  • What might we expect from the Synod on the Family? "

Read Editorial Here

7 September 2015 Melbourne Parish Family Survey results sent to Australian Synod Representative
In response to Pope Francis's comprehensive endeavour to hear from members of the Church, St Leonard's Parish in Melbourne has conducted its own survey of attitudes to issues under consideration by the 'Family Synod'.  The Parish was assisted in this process by Catholics For Renewal. One of the things distinguishing this survey from many others is that it aimed to gather information on the needs of parishioners with particular emphasis on thoughts from Catholics who may feel alienated from the Church. The survey response and final analysis were sent to an Australian representative to the forthcoming Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome from 4-25 October. The parish was pleased to receive a positive acknowledgement.  With permission of St Leonards Parish the survey results are published here

27 August 2015 Synod members should include sensus fidei
Extract from Viewpoint, Thomas P. Ivory, National Catholic Reporter, 29  August 2015

Pope Francis has called for new ways for the journey of faith of the pilgrim people of God. By exercising the collegiality envisioned by the Second Vatican Council, he has encouraged the Synod of Bishops on the family to participate in open discussions on the various issues. As we await the second session of this synod, it seems particularly valuable to benefit from the 2014 document issued by the International Theological Commission, "Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church.".............In our Catholic church, we believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within all the baptized faithful. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, all of the baptized participate in the prophetic office of Jesus Christ. As a result, the faithful have an instinct for the truth of the Gospel that enables them to recognize and endorse authentic Christian doctrine and practice, and to reject what is false.      The Second Vatican Council strongly emphasized the importance of the sense of the faithful, especially in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Although distinguishing between the teaching church (ecclesia docens) and the learning church (ecclesia discens), the council affirmed that all the baptized participate in their own proper way in the three offices of Christ -- as prophet, priest and king.    The council clearly taught that the laity are not merely passive recipients of what the hierarchy teaches and theologians explain; rather, they are living and active subjects within the church. All believers play a vital role in the articulation and development of the faith......(more)


27 August 2015  Opening Gospel at Synod: Jesus' prohibition of divorce
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 27 August 2015

Pope Francis is expected to open the highly anticipated second global meeting of Catholic bishops on family life issues Oct. 4 by celebrating Mass with the several hundred gathered prelates in St. Peter's Basilica, where he will likely offer the homily.    And the Gospel reading the pontiff will reflect on that day, as provided by the universal Catholic lectionary? Jesus' seemingly clear denunciation of divorce.    The reading, first noted Tuesday by Italian journalist Sandro Magister, presents an interesting confluence, as one of the questions the bishops are expected to discuss are possible changes in the church's pastoral practice towards divorced and remarried persons.   The global meeting of bishops, known as a synod, is the second of two the pope has called for 2014 and 2015.    German Cardinal Walter Kasper introduced the idea of easing restrictions on the divorced and remarried before last year’s synod, suggesting the creation of some sort of penitential path to allow them to take communion after repenting of their first marriages.    That idea, backed by a number of other influential cardinalatial voices, has met stiff resistance by those concerned with upholding church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.   This year's synod will be held Oct. 4-25. It will be opened by the Mass Oct. 4, which is also the feast of 13th-century St. Francis of Assisi. The pope's homily then will likely be scrutinized by many as a possible signpost for what he wants from the prelates' discussions......(more)

7 July 2015  It matters what Catholics think about sex. Just not enough to change their church
Extract from Andrew Brown, The Guardian, 7 July 2015

Does it matter that the Roman Catholics of Europe and north America overwhelmingly reject some of the church’s sexual teaching? We learned last year that there are still men in the Vatican who don’t think it matters because they haven’t noticed that millions of Catholic disagree with them. The questionnaire sent out in advance of the synod on the family last year contained some questions that would never have occurred to anyone who had actually talked about these things to a heterosexual lay person at any time during the last 30 years. On the other hand it did contain enough realistic questions for the results to be suppressed by the bishops’ conferences in most countries.      In particular, regular churchgoing Catholics reject the ban on communion for remarried divorcees, completely reject the ban on artificial contraception, and are relaxed about equality for gay people. This is partly a result of their demographics. Like most Christian groups in the rich world, English Catholics skew old. There are younger ones who see in the teaching about abstinence an exciting and countercultural sign, but the older ones, in whose generation numerous marriages have failed or been built on the ruins of earlier ones, take a more realistic view...................(more)

30 June 2015  Synods no longer just for a privileged few
Church hierarchy must prove it is willing to listen to the views of everyone
Extract from Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith for Catholic Herald International, 29 June 2015

A huge amount of discussion has been generated by the synod on the family, and one feels a little guilty about adding to it. But this synod is rather different to all those which have gone before, which is why I turn to it again. It touches on a key point of doctrine (the indissolubility of marriage), which is a hot button issue for most of us, but it goes further than that.     This is the first synod of the Internet age.       Once upon a time, decisions about faith and doctrine were made by a very restricted group of people. The Council of Trent at most of its sessions comprised a few dozen bishops. Between Trent and Vatican I, one has the impression that the pope and his cardinals ruled the Church, an Italian pope and a small number of Italian cardinals, none of whom ever or hardly ever left Rome. Vatican I was international, but the first truly global gathering of the Church was Vatican II, which had huge input from America, France, Belgium and Germany........(more)    

2 June 2015 Europe's fractious Catholics set out their views in synod questionnaire
Extracts from Johnathon Luxmoore, National Catholic Reporter, 2 June 2015

Like their counterparts around the world, Europe's bishops' conferences are supposed to have been engaged in a listening process for next October's Synod of Bishops on the family. And while little has been divulged officially so far about the views collected from Catholic respondents, it's been possible to glean some measure of the strong feelings being expressed.      When the Vatican sent out the final report of the synod's October 2014 Extraordinary Assembly, it asked bishops to conduct an "in-depth examination" and seek out "practical solutions" to the "innumerable challenges" identified at the synod sessions.     It circulated 46 questions, as part of the lineamenta, or preparatory documents, about family ministry and how the church could best tackle issues such as homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, contraception, and cohabitation.    While Spain's bishops kept the questionnaire strictly within the church, those of England and Wales released it on the Internet and invited everyone to respond. Other church leaders handled the document variously in time for Rome's April 15 deadline.................Europe's fractious and divided church looks set to play a key role when the synod convenes in October.........(more)

28 May 2015  Spokesman says bishops’ gathering was not about changing doctrine
Extract from Cindy Wooden, Catholic Herald (UK), 28 May 2015

German, Swiss and French bishops wanted to 'enrich thinking' about the foundations of the synod.   Germany’s bishops have denied that their talks with other bishops’ conferences ahead of the October family synod were about changing Church teaching.    “It was a real fruitful discussion and very broad and that was important; it was not just about the hot topics” of divorce and homosexuality, Matthias Kopp, the German bishops’ spokesman, told Catholic News Service yesterday.    The three bishops organised a study day in Rome on Monday, bringing together bishops and scholars, a couple of Vatican officials and a few journalists to discuss issues likely to be raised at the synod in October.........Among the points made by individual participants, the agency said, were: Church teaching and discipline are not immovable, but develop over time; “a second marriage can be an authentic union”; the indissolubility of marriage is an ideal or “utopia” to strive for; that God may be present in a stable and faithful homosexual union, but the union is not a marriage; that the Church must find a language that is less “blunt” or harsh to speak about people in situations that do not measure up to the Gospel ideal......(more)

9 May 2015 No doctrinal change at Synod: Cardinals     Extract CathNews, 9 May 2015
Cardinals George Pell and Péter Erdő have suggested that no change will result from the Synod of Bishops on the Family, either on Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, Crux Now and Yahoo News report.   Cardinal Erdő, who was the relator at last October's Synod and will play the same role this year, said that talk of revisions on those fronts is the result of "a pressure with no foundation to change Church teaching," Crux Now says.   Speaking to reporters in Rome, he said that the tough questions surrounding the family are being confronted "with love and sensibility," but also with "responsibility toward the unity of the Church."    Cardinal Erdő called the synod a place for an honest discussion over the difficulties families face, and said that legal and theological efforts are being made to find answers.    He warned, however, that "all the possible solutions will be rooted in the faith."    "We need to reason with a great sense of tradition, and a great sensibility toward the possibilities that are within the theological and institutional heritage," the Cardinal said, adding that the theological foundations for the family and marriage are clear and "regarded as such" by Pope Francis...........................(more)     

24 April 2015  German Catholics find Vatican family questionnaire ‘too fixated on ideal image of the family’   Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet, 23 April 2015
The German bishops’ conference has summarised and commented on the replies of German Catholics to the 46 questions of the second Vatican questionnaire on the family, in an 18-page report published on 20 April.         The main criticism, which applies to all parts of the questionnaire, the bishops point out, is that it proceeds from an idealised image of the family which does not adequately relate to the reality of life in German society. Many of those who replied said that idealising marriage and the family not only did not appeal to Catholics in Germany but, on the contrary, put them off sacramental church marriage.  That is why many German Catholics would like to see definite steps taken before the October Synod to overcome the gulf between family life as it is really lived and church teaching.           The questionnaire had not found an “appreciative language for relationships which neither corresponded to the Church’s ideals nor were definitely orientated towards marriage and the family”, the report says. The German faithful were not satisfied with the Church’s present teaching concerning remarried divorcees, “mixed” marriages and register office marriages and expect concrete changes from the Church concerning all three. “A pastoral approach which only sees such relationships as sinful and calls for repentance is not helpful as it contradicts the positive experiences which such couples have”, the bishops’ conference report says. German Catholics above all want to see remarried divorcees allowed to receive the Sacraments under certain conditions. “The expectation that the Synod will open new pastoral possibilities is very high indeed”, the bishops say.       The fact that neither the question of homosexual partnerships nor that of the different methods of contraception, both of which had been addressed in the first questionnaire, had been omitted this time had been sharply criticised in the replies.......(more)
        Photo: CathNews

15 April 2015  In between synods, bishops keep talking
Extracts from  Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 15 April 2015

With months to go before October's Synod of Bishops on the family, bishops from around the world are already discussing some of the main topics, including LGBT relationships and divorced and remarried couples.       Meanwhile, Pope Francis asked for prayers, "not gossip," for the upcoming synod at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square March 25.        The pope called on everyone to pray each day for the synod, scheduled for Oct. 4-25, and for the church so that it could be even more "dedicated and united in the witness of the truth of God's love and mercy for the families of the world, [with] no one excluded either inside or outside the flock."         Francis asked that prayers and the synodal process itself be driven by "the compassion of the Good Shepherd for his flock, especially for people and families who, for different reasons, are 'troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.' "................German Cardinal Walter Kasper also urged Catholics to let their bishops know their hopes and concerns for the synod, and to pray that the Holy Spirit guide the bishops' deliberations.    "We should all pray for it because a battle is going on," he said March 19 in a speech presenting his new book, Pope Francis' Revolution of Tenderness and Love, published in English by Paulist Press.     Bishops attending the synod will be called to discern ways the church can communicate joy to all families, including those who have experienced the brokenness of a sacramental marriage, he said.        "Hopefully, the synod will be able to find a common answer, with a large majority, which will not be a rupture with tradition, but a doctrine that is a development of tradition," the cardinal said. He added that if the church believes it has a "living tradition," it means that there is room for it to develop..........(more)

9 April 2015   500 lay people in UK support clerics' plea over Communion
Extract from CathNews, The Catholic Herald, 9 April 2015

More than 500 British lay people have signed a letter in support of hundreds of priests who recently wrote to The Catholic Herald declaring their support for the Church’s teaching on marriage.   The lay people’s letter, published in this week’s edition of The Catholic Herald, states: “We believe that the Church must continue to proclaim the truth about marriage, given us by Christ in the Gospels” and is signed by 505 lay persons. The letter has gained another ten signatures since the Catholic Herald went to press taking the total number to 515.  The letter begins: “We, the undersigned, wish to endorse and support the letter signed by over 460 priests in the recent edition of the Catholic Herald.  “As laity, we all know from our own family experiences, or those of our friends and neighbours, the harrowing trauma of divorce and separation, and we sympathise with all those in such situations.”  It continues: “It is precisely for that reason that we believe that the Church must continue to proclaim the truth about marriage, given us by Christ in the  Gospels, with clarity and charity in a world that struggles to understand it.” (more) Photo CathNews

31 March 2015  Why I didn’t sign the British priests’ letter
Extract from CathNews, 31 March 2015

Like several of my priest friends, I decided not to sign the letter circulated by nearly 500 British priests last week. Not that I lack sympathy with those disturbed by this Papacy and the synod, writes Msgr Keith Barltrop in The Catholic Herald.     Some of the emotive comments on social media about the recent letter to The Catholic Herald on the upcoming synod included the following: "Deep disturbance” felt by one writer that Cardinal Vincent Nichols pressured priests not to sign the letter; admiration for the “brave priests” who resisted “intimidation by senior churchmen” to pledge their loyalty to Church teaching on marriage; even a suggestion that the signatories will be assigned to “deadbeat parishes” as a punishment.     In a world where everyone with a cause seeks to use social media to gain adherents, the Cardinal might have anticipated that priests worried about the synod, and more generally about Pope Francis, would resort to the media. After all, priests, like others drawn to radical movements, often feel rather unempowered, and may excitedly jump on any bandwagon that promises them a taste of real influence.   Like several of my priest friends, I decided not to sign the letter. Not that I lack sympathy with those disturbed by this papacy and the synod.   In fact that is precisely the point: a priest is surely called to listen attentively and with empathy to all people, both those worried about unfaithfulness to tradition, and those who long for an alternative approach, theologically coherent and pastorally sensitive, to remarried divorcees and gay people. A priest is a bridge-builder (pontifex), an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), who died to gather into one the scattered children of God (Jn 11:51-2), not a spokesman for a party...................(more)

31 March 2015    UK Cardinal tells clergy as divisions deepen: Don’t go to war over family synod
Extracts from The Tablet, 31 March 2015

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has instructed priests not to regard the forthcoming Synod on the Family as a “battle”, warning that hostilities can cause “collateral damage”.      His comments, in his homily for Tuesday’s Chrism Mass at Westminster Cathedral, come a week after he rebuked the almost 500 priests in England and Wales for going to the press with a letter saying they would resist any change to church teaching at the Synod.       In his homily the cardinal said: “It is wrong, in my view, to think or speak of this Synod as a battle, a battle between contesting sides.”      “Battles have winners and losers,” he continued. “And often ‘collateral damage’ is the most tragic consequence of hostilities.”.................The growing debate around the Synod has exposed deep divisions in the Church nationally and internationally over issues around divorce and remarriage (more).

26 March 2015  UK cardinal rebukes 500 priests over letter to resist change
Extract from CathNews, 26 March 2015

UK Cardinal Vincent Nichols has rebuked the almost 500 British priests who have signed a letter resisting any change to Church teaching at the Vatican’s next Synod on the Family in October, reports The Tablet.   The Cardinal said discussions between priests and bishops ahead of the gathering are "not best conducted through the press."    Almost 500 priests in England and Wales have signed a letter calling on the Vatican’s next Synod on the Family to proclaim the Church’s “unchanging” moral teaching and resist any move allowing Communion for the divorced and remarried (more). Photo: CathNews  

25 March 2015  UK priests urge Synod to stand firm on Church teaching
Extract from CathNews, 25 March 2015

Almost 500 British priests have signed a letter urging those attending this year’s family Synod to issue a “clear and firm proclamation” upholding Church teaching on marriage, reports The Catholic Herald.    In the letter, published in this week’s Catholic Herald, the priests write: “We wish, as Catholic priests, to re-state our unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church’s Magisterium for two millennia.”    Last year’s extraordinary Synod provoked heated debate on the question of whether remarried Catholics should be permitted to receive Holy Communion – a proposal presented by retired German Cardinal, Walter Kasper.    In what is thought to be an unprecedented step, 461 priests in England and Wales have joined together to urge Synod participants to resist the proposal.    They write: “We affirm the importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments, and that doctrine and practice remain firmly and inseparably in harmony.” (more)

 24 March 2015 Dublin Archbishop Recalls Synod, Reflects on Ireland's Debate on Marriage
Extracts from speaking notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin on the Church's teaching on marriage today, a lecture given last week to the Iona Institute.  Zenit, 24 March 2014

..........The strong message of the Synod was a call for a radical renewal of the Church’s pastoral support for marriage and the family and their role in society.   In the pluralism which exists today in every part of the world we need a radical catechesis on marriage and the family.  Marriage preparation is not just preparation for a wedding day.      The tone which Pope Francis wished to give the Synod was never condemnatory.  The Church must encounter families where they are. The Church must listen to where God is speaking also through the witness of those Christian married couples who struggle and fail and begin again.  The tone was one of reaching out pastorally and of reflecting the mercy of Jesus.  Pope Francis constantly stresses an image of the Church as a “field hospital on the scene of a battle”, where people are taken up into the caring arms of someone, where their wounds are washed and cleaned and they receive a welcome of care and concern.       One Bishop took up Pope Francis’ image of the Church as a “field-hospital” where wounds are healed, saying that sadly too often the Church appears more like the city morgue where all the pathologies of things that have gone wrong with the family are examined without emotion.     That is something we must keep in mind in the way we reflect for the future. We should be very realistic in our examination of the reality of the institution of marriage and family in society, but not get bogged down only with problems, but bring a message of hope and encouragement and support to families...............Among the subjects discussed at the Synod was that of men and women with same sex orientation.  During the Synod’s discussion as to how to reach out to men and women of same sex orientation it was clearly and unanimously stressed by all that there is a radical difference between marriage between a man and a woman and the union of two people of the same sex.        Yet it was also stressed that the Church had to welcome people as they are.  For many it is hard to understand how Pope Francis can be opposed to same sex marriage and yet ask “who am I to judge” (more).

10 March 2015  Cardinal Burke condemns pro-reform voices at Pope’s ‘confusing and erroneous’ Synod on the Family  Extract from  Liz Dodd, The Tablet, 10 March 2015                                                                      US Cardinal Raymond Burke has condemned church reformers who want to explore ways of admitting civilly remarried Catholics to Communion in a damning critique of October’s Synod of bishops on the Family. The cardinal, whom Pope Francis moved from heading the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura to leading the Knights of Malta, is in England this week. In an hour-long address he criticised attempts to change church teaching on marriage and family life and said that last year’s Synod on the Family, called by Pope Francis, was “confused and erroneous” in that it sought to condone contraception, gay relationships and “living in a public state of adultery”. He told a meeting on Friday in Chester, which was organised by the lay Catholic group Voice of the Family, that “confusion about the meaning of human sexuality” had led to breakdown of the family, corruption of children and “ultimately, self-destruction.” During the address, which ran to 25 pages but did not mention Pope Francis, he called the report that was issued at the midpoint of the Synod, which advocated using more welcoming language around homosexuality, “a manifesto, a kind of incitement to a new approach to fundamental issues of human sexuality in the Church. He singled out a presentation given in February 2014 by Cardinal Walter Kasper, who urged the Church to show greater mercy when dealing with family issues, as the first instance where such “confusion and error” was expressed, (more)  

9 March 2015 Cardinal Tagle criticises use of ‘harsh words’ for gay and divorced people
Extracts from Catholic Herald UK, 9 March 2015

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, has lamented the “harsh words” that the Church used about gay and divorced people in the past, saying it left them feeling “branded”. The cardinal, who had spoken at the Flame 2 Youth Congress, a gathering of 8,000 young Catholics at the SSE Wembley Arena, told the Telegraph that a “growth in mercy” and a shift in sensibilities meant that “what constituted in the past an acceptable way of showing mercy, … now, given our contemporary mindset, may not be any more viewed as that”. He said that insights in child psychology had led to a change in the way people were instructed about Church teaching in Catholic schools and other institutions. He said: “I think even the language has changed already, the harsh words that were used in the past to refer to gays and divorced and separated people, the unwed mothers etc, in the past they were quite severe. “Many people who belonged to those groups were branded and that led to their isolation from the wider society.................Speaking about the upcoming extraordinary synod Cardinal Tagle said: “The questions asked were an invitation for people to really examine their conscience. For example, in your parish if you are aware that something is happening are you just aware? Or have you already started doing something? There’s the question of the youth, the elderly, and in the case of the Philippines, families that are separated by migration because of jobs. We know what is happening and we know about the negative effects. But what are we doing? Are we just talking about it? “We must remember that this is an international gathering so people are coming from different contexts. It is the same gospel and the same truth, but you cannot avoid people thinking: ‘How do I present this teaching to my people?’. No single country, diocese or parish can exhaust all possible responses, so it will be a learning moment where the diversity could help all of us.” Asked about communion for divorced and remarried couples under certain circumstances, he said that it is not easy to say either yes or no. “Every situation for those who are divorced and remarried is quite unique. To have a general rule might be counterproductive in the end. My position at the moment is to ask, ‘Can we take every case seriously and is there, in the tradition of the Church, paths towards addressing each case individually?’ This is one issue that I hope people will appreciate is not easy to say ‘no’ or to say ‘yes’ to. We cannot give one formula for all.” 

9 March 2015 Cardinal Burke: New evangelization fails unless teachings on marriage are upheld
Extract from Somon Caldwell, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 9 March 2015

Chester, England The new evangelization of Western societies will fail unless the church succeeds in transmitting its teachings on marriage and the family to Catholics, said U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Knights of Malta.    The success of efforts to convincingly preach anew the Gospel in secularized societies rests on the ability of Catholics to faithfully abide by the church's teachings, Burke said.    He said the obedient Christian witness of faithful married couples was critical to the renewal of the church and society and said Catholics must be willing to suffer in their efforts to uphold the truth of marriage.    "The challenge which confronts the whole church confronts particularly the church in the first cell of her life, which is the family," he said in a March 6 speech, "Remaining in the Truth of Christ on Holy Matrimony."    "If we can't get it straight with regard to the truth about marriage and the family, we really don't have much to say about anything else," Burke told more than 150 people at a meeting organized by Voice of the Family, an initiative of Catholic laity in support of the 2014-2015 Synods of Bishops on the family (more). Photo: NCR CNS/Simon Caldwell

27 February 2015  International church group enters synod fray with ‘alternative’ survey
Extract from Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter, 27 February 2015

An international church reform group is the latest to offer a version of the Vatican’s 46-item questionnaire that will guide discussions at the upcoming ordinary Synod of Bishops on the family.
Catholic Church Reform International has created a 20-question “alternative” survey, which it describes as “a straightforward, non-directive questionnaire inviting people to share their experiences on the effectiveness of the Church's pastoral care of families in all their diverse forms.”      “We want to be sure their voices are heard,” Rene Reid, the group’s director, told NCR in an email.    As of Friday morning, the alternative online survey has gathered 1,100 responses since opening Monday, according to the international reform network that represents more than 100 groups in 65 countries. Posted in English, the group has invited Catholics worldwide to participate.    “Pope Francis is eager to know you and your family. Here is an opportunity to share the challenges of your family life with him and how effective the Church's pastoral care has been for you,” reads the alternative survey’s greeting.    Reid said the survey will close around March 9, but the deadline may be extended if response is high. At that point, a team of six people will collate and organize responses by country to see what cultural variances may exist before sending the report to the Vatican before its April 15 deadline. The reform also plans to publish the final report on its website (more).

26 February 2015  U.S. National clergy group launches its own synod questionnaire
Extract from Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter, 26 February 2015

As U.S. dioceses continue their Vatican-ordered consultations for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, a national clergy group has launched its own questionnaire in an effort to highlight the issues most pressing to priests. The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests sent a synod survey on Jan. 31 to its 1,000-plus members, asking each not to answer the 46 questions presented in the synod’s working document, the lineamenta, but instead to rank them in importance on a seven-point scale from “not important” to “essential.” Each question also offers comment space for priests to expand on those questions they deemed as essential. The instructions for the survey also ask respondents to keep in mind two “preliminary” questions posed by the synod document: Does the descriptions of family issues in the lineamenta correspond to today’s church and society? And what aspects are missing that should be included? The exercise, said Fr. Bernard Survil, an association board member, allows the priests to show which questions they as a group view as most important for the synod to discuss, and ultimately, answer. “We know that none of us are going to be delegates, but we do want to have input,” said Survil, who is a priest in the Greensburg, Pa., diocese. “We want to let our delegates know … that this is what you should be focusing on,” he added (more).

25 February 2015   Strong Catholic Families offers simplified survey for family synod
Extracts from Soli Salgado, National Catholic Reporter, 25 February 2015

If you found the official survey on family life presented to Catholics by about half of all U.S. dioceses difficult to answer and time-consuming, maybe you should try the survey prepared by Strong Catholic Families, a group of four national organizations that minister to families and youth.     Your answers, unfortunately, won't be shared with the Vatican's Secretariat for the Synod, which is directing the official surveys, but you can be sure the answers will be discussed by church leaders and parish workers interested in your family's welfare.       "It became pretty frustrating for me, even as a church leader, to read [the official synod surveys] and think of the people who had to respond to them, and how difficult it is to both understand and respond pastorally to those kinds of questions," said Michael Theisen, director of Ministry Formation at the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, part of Strong Catholic Families.   "They're certainly not made for parents to respond to; they're specifically for a very few church leaders to grasp and understand the language use."    The survey from Strong Catholic Families, which went live Monday, uses concise language and consists of  three questions that take about five minutes to complete.   And you won't have to wait until some unknown date in the future to know what the survey found. Theisen plans to present the results of the survey at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress on March 14 in Anaheim, Calif (more)

19 February 2015 Open Letter to Pope Francis: Concern with Synod 2015 Questionnaire
Catholic Church Reform International, Thursday 19 February 2015

This letter expresses our concern that the Lineamenta Questionnaire released by the Vatican is totally unworkable. From our monitoring, we know that the Vatican questionnre is not being promoted on most diocesan and episcopal websites and, consequently, is undermining the desire of Pope Francis to hear from all levels of the Faithful. In its place CCRI is offering to release an Alternative Living Poll. Please read our open letter and then fill out the form at the bottom of the page to sign the letter yourself (here). Thank you - Catholic Church Reform Internatrional.  (Note: Catholics For Renewal is an active member of Catholic Church Reform Intl.)

17 February 2015 US dioceses consult Catholics on family issues for fall synod
Extract from Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter, 17 February, 2015
[Editor's Note: We posted this story at 10:30 a.m. central time. By 12:15 p.m. we had received additional information sent to We will update this story as soon as we can.]
Catholics who want to give input to their local bishops ahead of October's global Synod of Bishops on the family have ample opportunity -- but they better hurry.     A preliminary sampling of 21 dioceses around the U.S. found all were seeking input from individual Catholics through online surveys or parish consultations, and information on how to provide that input was easily available through the local diocesan newspaper, the diocesan website, or both.     But most dioceses in this preliminary sampling are closing the consultation in early March, and at least a few are closing the consultations as early as Friday. Many dioceses issued the invitation to participate in surveys in January. Juneau, Alaska, seems to be earliest, issuing an invitation Jan. 14. (more).

11 February 2015 Key African prelate backs Communion for divorced, remarried
Extract from John Allen Jnr, Associate Editor, Cruxnow, 11 February 2015
ROME — A key African participant in October’s looming Synod of Bishops on the family said Tuesday he’s open to allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, belying impressions of a uniformly hostile African stance toward change on such matters. Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, Ghana, said in a Crux interview that he supports allowing local bishops to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis, and also believes that’s the result . Pope Francis wants from the October summit. Palmer-Buckle, 64, is one of four executive officers for the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), the continent-wide assembly of Catholic bishops in Africa who met Pope Francis last Saturday in Rome. In late January, Francis confirmed the election of Palmer-Buckle by his fellow bishops in Ghana as a participant in the Synod of Bishops, set to assemble at the Vatican Oct. 4-25. When it does, Palmer-Buckle says he’ll be disposed to cast a “yes” vote on the proposal of German Cardinal Walter Kasper to allow Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church to return to Communion under certain circumstances (more
). Photo: CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec, 

10 February 2015 Synod questionnaire
Extract from Media Release, Rene Reid, Catholic Church Reform International, 10 February 2015
Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) has written an Open Letter to Pope Francis telling him that the 46-question survey requiring all essay-type answers devised by the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to gather feedback for the October 2015 Synod on the Family, is totally unworkable and not being promoted on most of the worldwide diocesan websites. "We know it is an unworkable document," said Peter Wilkinson, CCRI coordinator from Australia, "because our research shows that, in the nine weeks it has been out there, few bishops and dioceses anywhere in the world are using it. The complex survey is not only doomed to fail, but sadly, appears to have been designed to fail." "Not only will it not gather the voices of Catholic couples and families, but it will drive them away," said Rene Reid, CCRI co-founding director. "Whether it is intentional or not, this questionnaire is counterproductive, threatens to thwart the Pope's wishes, and could even endanger the effectiveness of the Synod itself."  (more)

10 February 2015  “widen the circle” petition for lay voices at the 2015 Family Synod         Extract from Future Church, 10 February 2015

 This petition (here), supported by Catholics For Renewal and other Church renewal groups around the world urges the Vatican Synod office to make every effort to include a wide diversity of Catholics, especially those from the constituencies being discussed including divorced and remarried people, cohabiting couples, interfaith families, impoverished families, single parents, families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, same-sex couples, and families torn by the violence of war and abuse. These women and men can share their lives and stories in a way that creates greater understanding among the bishops who will, in the end, make critical recommendations about the Church’s priorities and pastoral practices for years to come. The petition is to be closed off by Future Church, its main sponsor, on 3 March.

8 February 2015 Cardinal Marx on Francis, the Synod, Women in the Church and Gay Relationships. Extracts from Luke Hansen, S.J,  America, the National Catholic Review, published 22 Jan 2015, 8 February 2015
An exclusive interview with the president of the German bishop's conference and papal adviser Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, is head of the German bishops’ conference, a member of the Council of Cardinals that advises Pope Francis on church governance, coordinator of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy and author of Das Kapital: A Plea for Man (2008). Cardinal Marx delivered the annual Roger W. Heyns Lecture on Jan. 15 at Stanford University in California.This interview, which has been edited for clarity and approved by the cardinal, took place on Jan. 18 in Memorial Church at Stanford University                                                           Has your experience on the Council of Cardinals offered you a different perspective on the church?..............What challenge accompanies this new time in the church?.............What can you tell us about Pope Francis, the person, from working closely with him?........Two issues at the present synod are divorced and remarried Catholics and gay Catholics, especially those in relationships. Do you have opportunities to listen directly to these Catholics in your present ministry?..........At the synod you referred to “the case of two homosexuals who have been living together for 35 years and taking care of each other, even in the last phases of their lives,” and you asked, “How can I say that this has no value?” What have you learned from these relationships and does it have any bearing on sexual ethics today?..................Just last month Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, Belgium, said the church should recognize a “diversity of forms” and could bless some gay relationships based on these values of love, fidelity and commitment. Is it important for the church to discuss these possibilities?..............How will the Catholic and Protestant churches mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017? What are the possibilities for greater cooperation among our churches?............Pope Francis has called for an increased role of women in the church. What can you imagine as possible? What would help the church better fulfill its mission?...............Progress is not apparent..........What impediment needs to be overcome?..........Pope Francis will make his first visit to the United States in September. What is your hope for the visit?....  (read complete article here)

Photo: America,  courtesy of Stanford University Office for Religious Life/Hagop's Photography   heyns14-1593 

31 January 2015 Pope confirms 48 prelates as voting members of October 2015 synod
Extracts from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 31 January 2015

Rome. Pope Francis has ratified the elections of prelates from bishops' conferences around the world to participate in October's global meeting of Catholic bishops, confirming selections of 48 prelates from six continents..........The papal confirmations, announced in the Vatican's daily press bulletin Saturday, mean the prelates will be able to participate and vote in the discussions of next October's meeting, known as a Synod of Bishops.    The Synod, which is focused on issues of family life and has attracted hopes that the church might alter some of its pastoral practices in that area, is the second of two called by Francis for 2014 and 2015.  The 2015 synod is to be held Oct. 4-25 at the Vatican on the theme: "The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World." It follows the 2014 synod, held on the theme: "Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization." (more)

18 December  2014  2015 Synod on the Family - simplified Questionnaire  released        Life, Marriage and Family Office, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Thursday 18 December 2015                                  Following the recent Extraordinary Synod on the family, Pope Francis and the Bishops’ Synod are again seeking input ahead of their October 2015 Synod. In response to feedback during the previous process, a simplified questionnaire has been developed for our local Church (here). The online survey can be found here.     A simple guide with the questions is available from the Life, Marriage and Family Office website.

While not essential, people may also wish to read the Relatio Synodi - the final summary of the Extraordinary Synod in October 2014 - before responding. The final part of the Relatio also includes the full set of questions. The on-line survey will be open until midnight on Tuesday 10th February 2015. While using the on-line survey is preferred, hard copy responses can be submitted up to Friday 6th  February 2015.      To obtain a hard copy contact your Parish Office.   Any questions about the process can be directed to the Life, Marriage & Family Office on 03 9287 5579.

12 December  2014 New Synod questionnaire on family issues issued by Vatican 
Extract from and link to Vatican 'Lineamenta' and Questions Aimed at a Response to and an In-Depth Examination of the Relatio Synodi of the III Extraordinary General Assembly, Association Of Catholic Priests, 12 December 2014

Preface. At the conclusion of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, celebrated in 2014 to treat the topic, The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization, Pope Francis decided to make public the Relatio Synodi, the document which concluded the synod’s work. At the same time, the Holy Father indicated that this document would be the Lineamenta for the XIV Ordinary General Assembly to take place from 4 to 25 October 2015 to treat the topic, The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.           The Relatio Synodi, which is sent as the Lineamenta, concludes in the following words: “These proposed reflections, the fruit of the synodal work that took place in great freedom and with a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate points of view that will later be developed and clarified through reflection in the local Churches in the intervening year leading to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops” (Relatio Synodi, n. 62)               The Lineamenta has a series of questions aimed at knowing how the document is received and to generate an in-depth examination of the work initiated during the Extraordinary Assembly. It is a matter of re-thinking “with renewed freshness and enthusiasm, what revelation, transmitted in the Church’s faith, tells us about the beauty, the role and the dignity of the family” (Relatio Synodi, n. 4). From this vantage point, we have “one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront” (Pope Francis, Concluding Discourse, 18 October 2014). The results of this consultation, together with the Relatio Synodi, will serve as the basis for the Instrumentum laboris of the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of 2015.           For this purpose, the episcopal conferences are asked to choose a suitable manner of involving all components of the particular churches and academic institutions, organizations, lay movements and other ecclesial associations (more).

10 December  2014 Rome instructs world's bishops to 'rethink' pastoral approach to family and consult all the faithful   Extract from James Roberts, The Tablet, 10 December 2014
The Vatican has instructed all bishops’ conferences to initiate wide-ranging consultations and discussions on matters arising from October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, in preparation for the Ordinary Synod that will take place in October 2015. The Office for the Synod of Bishops that issued the instruction contains 46 questions that will guide an “in-depth examination” of the work begun at October's Extraordinary Synod.                     The questions are designed, the bishops are told, to help them avoid “a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine”, as this might not “respect the conclusions of the Extraordinary Synodal Assembly” and risked leading to a “reflection far from the path already indicated”.                                       The task now, the instruction says, quoting from the final document of the October Synod, is to “re-think … what revelation, transmitted in the Church's faith, tells us about the beauty, the role and the dignity of the family”. “All levels” of the Church must be involved, the instruction stipulates, including “academic institutions, lay movements and other ecclesial associations”. "Every effort should be made not to begin anew, but to continue on the path undertaken in the Extraordinary Synod as a point of departure,” the instruction states.                       The pastoral approach already established in October must guide all future deliberations, it says, providing “concrete instances” arising from “specific situations”. The instruction quotes extensively from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), mentioning specifically the exhortation’s emphasis on mercy and journeying to the peripheries of society. “How can people be helped to understand that no one is beyond the mercy of God and how can this truth be expressed in the Church’s pastoral activity towards families, especially those that are wounded and fragile?” is one of the questions asked, according to a translation reported by Joshua McElwee of the US-based National Catholic Reporter (more).
Painting. Christ and the Samaritan Woman, Carl Bloch (1834–90) 

9 December  2014 Secretariat publishes 'Lineamenta' for next Synod on Family
Extract from Vatican Radio, 9 December 2014
(Vatican Radio) In preparation for the General Synod of Bishops on the family, set for October 4th to 25th 2015, the Synod Secretariat on Tuesday announced the publication of its preparatory document, known by its Latin name, the ‘Lineamenta’. Philippa Hitchen reports. While Pope Francis made clear, at the conclusion of last October’s Extraordinary Synod on the family, that the final report, or ‘Relatio’, from the two week encounter would serve as the preliminary document for next October’s Synod, the Secretariat said it has also drawn up a series of questions to accompany that ‘Relatio’. These two parts of the ‘Lineamenta’ have been sent, in the original Italian, to bishops conferences, the Synods of Eastern Catholic Churches, the Union of Religious Superiors and the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Over the coming days they will be translated into other languages, in order that they can be shared as widely as possible for consultation with all those people and organisations concerned with the pastoral care of families. All the results of such consultation must be returned to the Synod Secretariat by April 15th so that the working guidelines, known as the ‘Instrumentum laboris’, can be published before next summer. The wide-ranging questions ask for reflections on all aspects of the promotion of authentic family values, the training of clergy in family ministry, the way the Church can be more present among those living far away from the Christian faith and the care of families that are wounded and fragile, including those who are divorced and remarried or seeking to care for homosexual members (more).

1 December  2014 Pope Francis answered questions on the synod on his journey home from Turkey Extract from Staff Reporter, Catholic Herald UK, 1 December 2014
Pope Francis has said that the Synod on the Family is not a parliament but a “protected ecclesial space” where “the Holy Spirit may speak”. According to Catholic News Agency, the Pope told reporters on the plane home from Turkey, “The synod is a path, it is a journey, firstly. Secondly the synod is not a parliament. It’s a protected space in which the Holy Spirit may speak.” Pope Francis also stressed that the final report of the Synod was “lineamenta”, or a starting point, for next year’s synod and is currently being discussed by the episcopal conferences so it can be amended and another ‘instrumentum laboris’ (official Vatican document) drafted. Pope Francis said: “It’s a path. For this reason, you can’t take (the) opinion of one person or draft. The synod has to be seen in its totality (more).

20 November 2014 Vatican sending bishops' conferences documents for 2015 synod
Extracts from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 20 November 2014

Rome, Just over a month since the conclusion of October's keenly watched meeting of Catholic bishops on issues of family life, the Vatican has announced it's already gearing up for the next meeting in 2015. Within weeks, the Vatican said in a statement Thursday, bishops' conferences around the world will be receiving preparatory documents for the 2015 meeting, known as a Synod of Bishops........................Thursday's statement was made following a Vatican meeting Tuesday and Wednesday of the council of prelates who lead the Vatican's office for the Synod of Bishops. The statement said the Vatican office will send a preparatory document for the 2015 synod to the world's bishops conferences "at the beginning of December" in hopes that an initial working document for the next synod can be ready by summer 2015. While the initial preparatory document for the 2014 synod, sent in October 2013, made headlines because it contained a wide-ranging questionnaire that the Vatican synod office said was to be distributed "as widely as possible," Thursday's statement does not indicate if the document for the 2015 synod will also have such a questionnaire. The statement does, however, say that the new preparatory document will "be constituted" of the final document from the 2014 synod along with "a series of points that help in its reception and its deepening." Thursday's announcement from the Vatican marks the beginning of what will likely be a flurry of intense activity for the synod office as it prepares to organize what it expected to be a month long meeting of prelates and lay experts in October 2015.          While the 2014 synod saw an estimated 190 prelates take part in the discussion, the 2015 edition is expected to see at least three times that number, as the 2015 synod is open not only to presidents of bishops' conferences but also several members of each conference, who are being elected to attend by their peers. Thursday's statement noted the pope was present at the Vatican synod office meetings, saying he had attended those meetings to "underline the importance that he attributes to the synod, as an expression of episcopal collegiality, and to the family, theme of the two assemblies." The statement also said those at the Vatican meeting "agreed that the period now opening between the two Assemblies, which is unprecedented in the history of the synodal institution, is very important." The year between the synods, the statement said, "should take the path already done as a starting point and take this special opportunity to study issues and promote discussion at the level of Episcopal Conferences, finding the means and the tools necessary to further involve also the different ecclesial bodies in the synodal reflection on the family."

18 November 2014  International Reform Network calls for more Synod Openness.  
Extract from Media Release, Catholic Church Reform International, 18 November 2014

Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI), a network of groups and individuals in 65 countries committed to the renewal of the Catholic Church, is calling for more openness from the Synod of Bishops in its discussions on marriage and the family.  CCRI has recently written to Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, asking that the Vatican not only permit local Episcopal Conferences to make public the summaries of responses they prepare on Synod questionnaires, but actually encourage them to be more open.  Last year, when Cardinal Baldisseri sent a specially prepared Synod questionnaire to bishops across the world urging them to circulate it widely and get grass-roots feedback on the issues it raised, he also instructed that their summaries of the responses be kept secret............As preparations get under way for the Ordinary General Assembly in October 2015, the Catholic faithful are again to be asked to reflect, this time on the contents of the 62-paragraph Relatio Synodi (Synod Report), and to provide feedback.  In a sign that Pope Francis understands the need for openness, he instructed that the voting results on each of the Relatio’s paragraph be appended to the document. But CCRI is asking for more.  When the grass-roots reflections on the Relatio have been gathered and summarized, CCRI wants every Episcopal Conference to be free, indeed encouraged, to make their summaries public and widely available.  Further, prior to the commencement of the new round of reflections, CCRI has also asked Cardinal Baldisseri to allow every Episcopal Conference to publish and disseminate the summaries of responses to the 2013 questionnaire. Those summaries could greatly assist the faithful in every local church to develop and clarify their reflections on the issues which the Synod is about to ask of them

14 November 2014 Francis Has His Hand On The Tiller — And He Will Not Change Doctrine
Extract from the journal of Robert Moynihan, published in The Truth Will Make You Free, 14 October 2014

......I attended a round-table the other evening, on November 11, at the Centro Ecumenica Russia on Borgo Pio, a few steps from the Sant'Anna Gate into Vatican City, at which Cardinal Walter Kasper spoke. Kasper, just back in Rome after a trip to the United States, was joined by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, one of the leading canon lawyers in the Church, and now President of the Vatican's most important canon law office, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (he was also, for many years, the private secretary of the late, and important, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan). The two discussed the October Synod on the Family for an hour and a half. About 25 people were present. One essential conclusion of the discussion was this: that the Church will not change her established moral doctrine. Both men said this: that next year, when the Synod reconvenes, there won't be any change in Church doctrine, only an effort to change the application of the doctrine in specific cases. Coccopalmerio put it this way: "We never wished to change doctrine, only to change the application of the doctrine to particular cases. The doctrine cannot change." Kasper concurred. This is important. There are many who are wondering, and whispering, about the chances of a "change in Church doctrine." Yet while they wonder, and whisper, the very protagonists of the alleged move to change Church doctrine, men like Kasper and Coccopalmerio, are saying quite openly that a change in doctrine is not in the cards. It is not going to happen. And this means that those who fear that the barque of Peter is sailing "rudderless," that there is no helmsman at the tiller, that Pope Francis is falling short in carrying out his mission to confirm his brothers in the faith and in assuring the unity of the Church, are wrong....(more)

31 October 2014 Synod's genie may be out of the bottle ...... but it still remains in the ecclesiastical kitchen  Extract from Fr Frank Brennan, Global Pulse, United States, 31 October 2014
The Vatican has now released the official English translation of the relatio synodi, the concluding document from the Synod of Bishops convened by Pope Francis to consider “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.”                  The earlier relatio post disceptationem was the punchy and slightly provocative discussion paper put together by Pope Francis's small hand-picked group, charged with putting the issues for discussion on the table.         That document indicated a novel acceptance of some "constructive elements" of couples living together without marriage, of the need to welcome homosexuals into the life of the Church, and of the possibility of admitting divorced and remarried people to the Eucharist. The Synod fathers agreed that they wanted to "offer a meaningful word of hope" to the Church. To do this, they needed to acknowledge that the genie is out of the bottle and that there is a need for a comprehensive rethink by the Catholic Church on its teaching about marriage, sexuality, and reception of the Eucharist.            The relatio synodi is much more than a discussion paper. It is a lengthy committee job cobbling together the many different strands of discussion over the week of the synod. Each of the 62 paragraphs was separately voted on by the 180 bishops in attendance who voted. It does not put the genie back in the bottle, but it does revert to much of the old style Vaticanese, trying to confine the genie to the episcopal kitchen. What’s refreshing is that unlike synod documents published during the last two papacies, this one actually reflects the divisions and differing perspectives. We are even given the voting figures on each paragraph... (more)
    Photo: Frank Brennan SJ,  Global Pulse

30 October 2014 Looking to the 2015 Synod
Extract from Gerard O'Connell, America - the National Catholic Review, 3 November 2014
The Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which closed on Oct. 19, approved a final report that, with the pope’s endorsement, will soon be sent to the 114 Catholic bishops’ conferences worldwide and to the patriarchates and major archbishops of the Eastern Catholic churches. The sending of that text from the secretariat of the synod to the local churches marks the opening of a most important phase in the new synodal process established by Pope Francis in 2013. The report, which will be accompanied by a questionnaire, is meant to serve as a working document for the discussion that is to take place in the local churches over the next year......(more)     Photo: America, the National Catholic Review 

30 October 2014 Full text: Official translation of final 2014 synod report
Extract, By Staff Reporter, Catholic Herald UK, on Thursday, 30 October 2014

1. The Synod of Bishops, gathered around the Holy Father, turned its thoughts to all the families of the world, each with its joys, difficulties and hopes. In a special way, the Assembly felt a duty to give thanks to the Lord for the generosity and faithfulness of so many Christian families in responding to their vocation and mission, which they fulfill with joy and faith, even when living as a family requires facing obstacles, misunderstandings and suffering. The entire Church and this Synod express to these families our appreciation, gratitude and encouragement. During the prayer vigil held in St Peter’s Square on 4 October 2014 in preparation for the Synod on the family, Pope Francis evoked, in a simple yet concrete way, the centrality [of the experience] of the family in everyone’s lives:  (read the full official translation here). Photo: CNS

20 October 2014 Final Synod report strips out paragraphs welcoming gays
Extract from CathNews, Monday 20 October 2014

Pope Francis has suffered a setback as proposals for wider acceptance of gay people failed to win a two-thirds majority at the Synod, with paragraphs in a draft document stripped from the final text, reports the BBC. The draft issued half-way through the meeting of bishops had called for greater openness towards homosexuals, and divorced Catholics who have remarried. It said that homosexuals had "gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community" but the revised document only said that discrimination against gay people "is to be avoided". All other parts of the draft report were accepted by the Synod. The Pope said the full draft document, including the rejected paragraphs, should nonetheless be published. Correspondents say the text welcoming gay people and remarried Catholics had been watered down in the final version that was voted on - but it appears that they still met with resistance from conservatives. Speaking after the vote, Pope Francis told attendees that he would have been "worried and saddened" if there had not been "animated discussions" or if "everyone had been in agreement or silent in a false and acquiescent peace", AP news agency reported. He also cautioned against "hostile rigidity, that is the willingness to close oneself inside the written word instead of letting God surprise us".......(more)

19 October 2014 Synod14 Final Briefing: Though We Still Are On a Journey, Pope Wanted This Document Available to All.  Fr. Rosica Also Speaks on Pope's Warning Against Temptations in Final Address to Synod Fathers.   Extract from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Zenit, Sunday 19 October 2014
Vatican City. Pope Francis has ensured that the world will be fully aware of results of this synod on the family and has warned the world’s top Church officials against various temptations, including being too rigid, as well as too soft..Speaking to the nearly 200 prelates gathered at the Synod of Bishops on the family’s final session Saturday afternoon, the Holy Father cautioned Synod Fathers against “a temptation to hostile inflexibility”. He also cautioned them to not fall into “destructive tendency" of being do-gooders, saying "that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them.”. The Pope’s final discourse, at the conclusion of these two weeks full of debate, not only wrapped up this synod, but seemed to lay the groundwork for the second phase of the synod on the family, set to take place a year from now. During the briefing at the Holy See Press Office Saturday night, Fr. Federico Lombardi, Fr. Thomas Rosica, and Fr. Manuel Dorantes spoke on this Synod's final outcomes. Looking at the text of the report, it was evident that the Relatio Post Disceptionem’s seemingly “more open” language, has been dialed back a step, retaining a more middle ground. Father Lombardi had noted that there had been some 470 proposed changes to that original released Monday. In addition to the text itself, the Vatican has included the figures on exactly how many voted in favor and against each paragraph. It was stressed by the Holy See Press Office director and the other spokesmen that “this is not a final document, but a reflection for the next phase of the synod,” one which can help the world’s Episcopal conferences prepare for the second phase. “The Pope wanted the text be published in full, even paragraphs that didn’t have the necessary 2/3 majority,” Fr. Dorantes said......(more)

18 October 2014 Synod a win for Francis and for openness
Extract from Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, Saturday 18 2014

 As people analyze and debate the final relatio or report from the synod on the family, there is a danger of missing the forest for the trees. It is true, the welcoming language toward gays was dialed back from what was expressed in the October 13 draft, and Communion has not yet been granted to divorced and remarried Catholics. But while we are spilling a lot of ink (or electrons) comparing the final report with the earlier draft, let's not forget the big picture: The synod was a victory for openness and discussion in the church and the final document is an invitation for everyone in the church to join that discussion. This is exactly what Pope Francis wanted. The bishops as pastors faced a fundamental conflict: How to have the church be a loving mother while at the same time being a clear teacher. Every parent can relate to that problem. True, there were some ideological traditionalists who did not want any change. Those the pope referred to in his final address as zealous traditionalists or intellectuals who have "certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve." But most of the bishops are pastors who worry that if they appear too welcoming or accommodating then people will think that all sexual unions are equal and there is no reason to get married in the church. These bishops simply need more time to figure out how to be a loving parent and a clear teacher. For too many years they only worried about being clear.....(more)

18 October 2014   Synod report narrows open tone, Pope calls for middle path
Extract from Joshua K McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Saturday 18 October 2014
Vatican City. Wrapping up his global meeting of Catholic bishops on family issues -- which has seen both decisive shifts in tone from the Vatican and heated debates over the church's direction -- Pope Francis called on bishops to find a middle path between doctrine and reality. Emphatically calling on the prelates to "feed the flock" and to search for lost sheep, the pontiff also directed them to avoid the temptation to become either a "hostile rigorist" concerned only with enforcing church doctrine or a "destructive do-gooder" that advocates "false mercy" instead of truth telling.....(more)   Photo: Pope Francis talks with Italian Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi as they leave the concluding session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 18. At right is Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Interesting quotes from Pope Francis himself in Joshua McElwee's report (above)
Extract from Brian Coyne, Catholica  on Joshua k McElwee article above "Synod report narrows open tone, Pope calls for middle path: 19th October 2014
There are some interesting comments by Pope Francis himself in Joshua McEwee's report. I think it's still difficult to work out if, at heart Pope Francis is a conservative (certainly in some respects he is) or whether we have here a man who genuinely doesn't yet know what the final outcome will be and does see this entire process as one being guided by the Holy Spirit. What follows is text taken directly from the end of Joshua McElwee's report:   (more)

18 October 2014 Synod14: At Briefing, Head of Asian Bishops Says the Relatio 'Embraces Everybody'  Cardinal Gracias Says It's 'Open,' 'Balanced,' But Admits 'We Don't Have All of the Answers'   Extracts from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Zenit, Saturday 18 October 2014
Vatican City. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, has reminded the world that the Synod of Bishops on the family, wrapping up its first stage this weekend at the Vatican, is not about bishops learning what the Holy Father wants to do or change, but rather the Holy Father wanting to learn from his brother bishops how to best address the families of the world. A second stage of the synod on the family will occur next October....................... The Relatio Synodi, summarizing the work of the synod, will be voted on later today. “The Relatio is open and wants to embrace everybody,” said Cardinal Gracias of Bombay, noting “It's balanced, and admits we don’t have all of the answers to everything.” The head of the Asian bishops pointed out, however, that it is not the bishops who wish to discern the Holy Father’s view on, for example, administering the sacraments to the divorced and remarried, rather the reverse. Clarifying that it is rather the Holy Father who seeks to hear his bishops’ view, he warned against thinking it’s the opposite way around. “We need to help the Holy Father to make a decision regarding divorced and remarried couples,” he urged, saying, “So we need to pray about this.” While the Church “must first accept and understand the changes of society,” he continued, “it must also have its own identity.”  (more

17 October 2014 Bishops indicate swing towards rewrite of Synod document
Extract from CathNews, 17 October 2014

It seems increasingly clear that the Synod of Bishops' concluding document, the relatio synodi, will be substantially different than the mid-term relatio which was released on Monday, reports the Catholic News Agency. After the issuance of the mid-term report, the Synod fathers raised their concern in 41 free interventions, which highlighted the absence of the word sin, the absence of the Gospel of Family, and some perhaps naive sentences of the document which could be subject to misinterpretation. “The issue at stake is whether the Catholic Church is going to shape the world with its teaching, the truth it reveals, or if it is going to be shaped by the world,” Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, who is president of the Polish bishops' conference, said on Wednesday......(more)   

15 October 2014 Cardinal Pell: Synod says no to 'secular agenda'
Extract from Francis X Rocca, Catholic News Service including Cardinal Pell Video, 16 October 2014.

Vatican City -- Cardinal George Pell said working-group reports from the Synod of Bishops on the family finally give a true picture of the assembly's views, counteracting what he characterized as a misleading midterm report. "We wanted the Catholic people around the world to know actually what was going on in talking about marriage and the family and, by and large, I think people will be immensely reassured," Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, told Catholic News Service Oct. 16, the day the reports were published. "We're not giving in to the secular agenda; we're not collapsing in a heap. We've got no intention of following those radical elements in all the Christian churches, according to the Catholic churches in one or two countries, and going out of business," he said.....(more)

15 October 2014 Read this week's letter from Robert Mickens: Where Pope Francis stands on developing Church doctrine   Extract from Robert Mickens, Global Pulse, 15 October 2014
No Synod assembly ever has captured, even remotely, the interest of so many people around the world as the one underway right now in Rome. And on Monday it got a lot more interesting. The publication of the controversial document summarizing the interventions made during the Synod’s first week brought both rapturous praise and fierce criticism. In the last few days a cross-section of just about everyone in the Church has added his or her two cents to the mix. And you’d better believe Pope Francis is paying close attention – especially to what the men wearing miters are saying. He asked for an honest and open debate and now he’s got one. In crude terms, it comes down to those who favor a further development of the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality and those who want to merely bolster its current doctrine. Anyone who doubts where Papa Bergoglio stands on this divide need only re-read the blockbuster interview he gave in the summer of 2013 to Antonio Spadaro SJ, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica. He was asked how the Church should respond to the “anthropological challenge;” that is, our changing conception of what it means to be human. “The thinking of the Church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the Church’s teaching,” he said.......(more)

15 October 2014 The Vatican Synod has let the genie out of the bottle.  Deo Gratias
Extract from Frank Brennan SJ.Pearls and Irritations, John Menadue website, 15 October 2014

Let there be no doubt.  There is change, and a great deal of uncertainty, in the air in Rome.  And it is not just coming from Pope Francis.  The Catholic Church retaining some of the attributes of a royal court in its mode of governance provides its senior prelates with every opportunity to emulate the tone and substance of the remarks and the ambiguity of approach of the one they call “the Holy Father”.  The Pope has the opportunity even when convening a synod of 190 bishops to handpick those who steer the synod process, write the minutes and manage the media statements to the world.  On Monday, Cardinal Peter Erdo, the chief reporter (general rapporteur) of the Synod on the Family released the ‘relatio post disceptionem’ after the first week of the Synod.  This is not a final text.  It is simply a working document “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 ahead. The document shows the way things are going, and that way is very different from any dictated path approved by the late St John Paul II and simplistically reaffirmed by those prelate who say they too like mercy but prefer the indisputable teachings of Jesus.   The document, which starts with a section on “listening: the context and challenges to the family” before then describing “the gaze on Christ: the Gospel of  the family”, lacks the judgmental certainty of the past and displays the moral ambiguity of any pastoral approach which is truly attentive to the complexity, and often the mess, of families and human relationships........ (more). 

15 October 2014 Cardinal Pell says synod's 'relatio' document is tendentious and incomplete and is being revised    Extract from Christopher Lamb in Rome, 15 October 2014
A key document from the bishops' Synod on the Family calling for the Church to make radical changes to its pastoral approach to gays, divorce and remarried and those in civil marriages has been criticised by Cardinal George Pell as “tendentious and incomplete”. The text – known as the relatio – was released at the synod’s midway point and sought to summarise the discussions at the gathering so far. It has been described as a “pastoral earthquake” and suggests the Church should recognise the good in unions outside marriage. But Cardinal Pell, one of Pope Francis' close advisers, who has been tasked with reforming Vatican finances, said that the document was an “incomplete resumé” of what the Synod Fathers had said it needed to be “enhanced and corrected”.....(more)

15 October 2014 Laws that don't lead people to Jesus are obsolete, Pope says
Extract from CathNews, Wednesday 15 October 2014

If laws do not lead people to Christ then they are obsolete, Pope Francis said in his morning homily, reports the Catholic News Service. In fact, the scholars of the law in Jesus’s day were so wrapped up in doctrine as an end in itself, they were unable to see that Jesus was leading people down a new and surprising path toward his glory, the Pope said during his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae on Sunday morning. Jesus did “strange things,” like “walk with sinners, eat with tax collectors” — things the scholars of the law “did not like; doctrine was in danger, that doctrine of the law” that they and the “theologians had created over the centuries,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. The scholars were safeguarding the law “out of love, to be faithful to God,” the Pope said, but “they were closed up right there,” and forgot all the ways God has acted in history. “They forgot that God is the God of the law, but is also the God of surprises,” he said (more).

14 October 2014 Vatican Clarifies Synod Document Released Monday                                               "A Working Document ... Offered for Discussion"
Extract from Zenit, Vatican City, 14 October 2014

After the summary document released Monday by the synod's general secretariat generated worldwide media attention and intense debate among the synod fathers, a Vatican press office statement today attempts to clarify the nature and purpose of the document. The "Relatio post disceptationem" was read Monday by the synod's relator-general, Cardinal Péter Erdő, and the full text was released publicly. The Vatican today announced: "The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, reiterates that it is a working document, which summarises the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod. "The work of the Small Groups will be presented to the Assembly in the General Congregation next Thursday morning." (more)

14 October 2014 Bishops critique synod document, saying it may cause confusion
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 14 October 2014

Vatican City. Some prelates at the global meeting of Catholic bishops have expressed concerns about the landmark document the meeting released Monday, saying that it "may give rise to confusion.". The document, which calls for the church to listen more and to apply mercy much more widely, was released by the Synod of Bishops which is meeting in Rome on the subject of family life Oct. 5-19. It summarizes the state of the discussions at the synod so far and was read aloud Monday morning to the some 190 prelates attending the meeting by Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, who is serving as the synod's relator. Following that reading, 41 prelates at the synod made speeches about the text, suggesting additions or changes. Unlike previous synods, the Vatican is not releasing the texts of the speeches made by the prelates. According to an unofficial Vatican summary of those remarks, released Tuesday, the prelates praised Monday's document, but also raised some concerns (more).

14 October 2014 Napier on synod document: 'The message has gone out and it's not a true message' Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 14 October 2014
Vatican City. One of the prelates participating in the Synod of Bishops on the family has sharply criticized the landmark document the meeting released Monday, saying its message of openness to modern society has put the prelates in "a position that is virtually irredeemable." "The message has gone out: This is what the synod is saying, this is what the Catholic church is saying," South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said at a Vatican press conference Tuesday. "And it's not what we're saying at all," Napier said. "No matter how we try correcting that ... there's no way of retrieving it." ."The message has gone out and it's not a true message," he continued. "Whatever we say hereafter is going to be as if we're doing some damage control." Monday's document, which calls for the church to listen more and to apply mercy much more widely, was released as a summary of the synod's discussions so far and is known officially as a relatio post disceptationem......(more
      Photo: NCR, CNS/Paul Haring   

14 October 2014 Interim Synod Summary Document
The Vatican Unofficial English translation of the Interim Synod Summary document is available here


 13 October 2014 Prelates: Synod document is the fruit of Vatican II spirit
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, 13 October 2014

Vatican City, Several prelates responsible for helping lead the Synod of Bishops on the family have said the landmark document the synod released Monday was the result of a newfound spirit of the Second Vatican Council in the prelates' discussions. Commenting on the document and the synod, Philippines Cardinal Luis Tagle said: "This morning in the free discussion, some of the synod fathers and participants said openly that they felt the spirit of Vatican II very much.". "I think what the participants were saying is this ... Vatican II reflected definitely on the church and its mission in the contemporary world," said Tagle, who is serving as one of three presidents for the synod.....(more).

13 October 2014 A conundrum for Pope Francis
Extract from Paul Collins, Eureka Street, Monday 13 October 2014

It was unusually hot in Rome for the first week of the Synod on the Family. But that didn’t dampen the excitement surrounding Pope Francis of the unusually large crowds for October in the Piazza of St Peter’s. He has really struck a chord with people and, significantly, with the secular media. But that enthusiasm is certainly not reflected in a sizeable minority of the hierarchy attending the synod. As a result some seasoned Roman observers are pessimistic that anything at all significant will happen. They note that those who oppose any change in issues like communion for divorced remarried Catholics, or the contraception ruling, let alone the recognition of gay unions, are out in force making their views known.....(more)

13 October 2014 Synod releases document with new tone, calling for mercy, listening
Extract from Joshua J, McElwee National Catholic Reporter, Monday 13 October 2014

Taking a decidedly different tone than many church statements in recent years, the worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family issues has released a document calling for the church to listen more, to respect people in their various struggles, and to apply mercy much more widely. Summarizing the work of the continuing meeting, known as a synod, the document acknowledges bluntly that the strict application of church doctrine is no longer enough to support people in their quest for God."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," states the document, released Monday morning. "This requires that the doctrine of the faith, the basic content of which should be made increasingly better known, be proposed alongside with mercy," it continues (more).

11 October 2014 Archbishop Martin: Synod developing church doctrine
Extract from Joshua J, McElwee National Catholic Reporter, Saturday 11 October 2014

 Vatican City. The global meeting of bishops on the family must show that Catholic teaching can develop to address contemporary concerns of family life, an Irish archbishop participating in the event said Saturday. "This synod can't simply repeat what was said 20 years ago," said Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, referring to the Oct. 5-19 meeting, known as a synod of bishops. "[The synod] has to find new language to show that there can be development of doctrine, that there has been a willingness to listen to what emerged in the questionnaire that went out, and what was said in the synod itself," he said. Martin, who is attending the synod in his role as vice-president of the Irish bishops' conference, spoke Saturday during a Vatican press briefing. His comments seem to reflect a difference among prelates in whether the synod may result in changes to church family life doctrine or practices, as several other bishops and cardinals have said the synod is not intending to issue any such changes. In one example, Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama said Oct. 8 that the synod might only be changing the church's pastoral approach (more).

10 October 2014 Austrian, German cardinals stress need for new look at teachings on marriage, family     Extract from Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, National Catholic Repoirter, 10 October 2014
Both Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich are campaigning for a new look at marriage and the family at the ongoing synod in Rome. They are both known to support Cardinal Walter Kasper's merciful The Gospel of the Family, in which Kasper outlines a possible way of allowing some divorced and remarried people to receive the sacraments. Small wonder, therefore, that they are both being interviewed at length during the synod. When Jesuit Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, head of the German section of Vatican Radio and one of the few journalists allowed to attend synod sessions, asked Schönborn on Thursday to explain what exactly was meant by "graduality" -- an aspect of tradition that recognizes that moral decision-making develops over time and that has repeatedly been mentioned at the synod -- Schönborn said while it is clear that one cannot change divine daw, it is at the same time essential to point out that few people manage to keep it 100 percent of the time. "The Ten Commandments are not at our disposal, we cannot change them. But what we actually experience in our own lives is that we only keep them partially and not 100 percent," he said. "If one applies this to marriage and the family, then of course the full realization is sacramental church marriage, which is indissoluble and open for children. But we also know that many people only reach this full realisation of marriage gradually." On the Austrian bishops' ad limina visit in January, Schönborn said, Pope Francis had asked the bishops whether, like in Argentina, many young couples first cohabited in Austria. "The pope didn't say that cohabitation was OK," Schönborn said. "He merely said that that was the situation in Argentina. And he went on to say that when a child was on the way, the couple often began think, 'Perhaps we should marry after all, possibly in a registry office.' And some couples then went a step further and said, 'We want a church marriage.' We must accompany these couples, step by step, in this gradualness so that they can discover what the full form of the sacrament [of marriage] is, the pope told us." (more)

Kasper's book: Mercy has been 'criminally neglected,' which is 'catastrophic'                                      Edited Extract from Opinion and Book Review by Thomas Ryan, National Catholic Reporter, 8 October 2014  |  
Cardinal Walter Kasper's most recent book (Mercy: The Essence Of The Gospel and the Key To Christian Life) translated into English (by William Madges) bristles with the claim that mercy has been "criminally neglected" in recent dogmatic theology, a "disappointing, even catastrophic" situation.
This neglect has not been universal. St. John XXIII sought "the medicine of mercy" over "that of severity" in inaugurating the Second Vatican Council. St. John Paul II dedicated his second encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, to it and canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, known for her popular image of and devotion to Divine Mercy. The current pope also values mercy. During the most recent conclave and while still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, he received a copy of this book from Kasper and remarked, "Ah mercy! This is the name of our God." At his first Angelus, Pope Francis announced, as the cover declares, "This book has done me so much good." Mercy, Francis said, "changes the world … makes the w
orld less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God," a task at which this book succeeds (more).

10 October 2014  Synod considers how to respond to 'burdened' children of parents in 'irregular situations'      Extract from Hannah Roberts in Rome, The Tablet, Friday 10 October 2014
Children of gay couples should be baptised and welcomed into the Church, the Synod has heard. The children of gay partners or whose parents are in any "irregular situation" already bear "heavy burdens", one bishop said, but that should not stop them having access to the Church or the sacraments of Baptism and Communion. Vatican spokesman Fr Thomas Rosica said the Synod fathers were concerned about the "faith development" of these children. Fr Rosica told a press conference: "Those [who are] broken, alienated, whether they have alienation imposed or those pushed out, we must be concerned with their children."He said participants were concerned for the children "who are often victims or bearing very heavy burdens because of these irregular situations." He said: "On the children of gay couples. How do we assist? We don’t refuse the sacraments. We care for them, we provide pastoral care for them." The Church should communicate this to their parents and let them know that it does not refuse to baptise their children, and cares about their well being. This should happen during church support groups or "listening groups", he said. Fr Rosica also updated journalists on the ongoing discussions about Communion for the divorced and remarried saying that there was "great emphasis on the idea of a penitential journey the church would like to develop for those who have remarried". (more)

10 October 2014 Abp. Hart on Synod: We need a language of love
Extract from Emer McCarthy, Vatican Radio, Friday 10 October 2014

(Vatican Radio) “I came to this Synod with a lot of hope”, says Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia.  “In my words, I suggested that we need to use in our teaching and in a way faithful to our teaching, words that engage with the experience of families”. Abp. Hart - who is also President of the Australian Bishop's Conference - says he agrees with the point that was raised by one married couple in their presentation to Synod Fathers that the language the Church uses can appear to some people as if it were  “from another planet”. He said his intervention suggested a ‘rethink’ in how to communicate the beauty of the Churches teaching on marriage and family life – particularly for those in crisis- beginning with the terminology that is used.   “That’s true in what the theology expresses, in that Catechism of the Catholic Church, about people being ‘disordered’, things being ‘intrinsically evil’.  You say that to a parent who has a gay son or daughter and they just cannot understand that this child whom they love and who they have nurtured -  might have chosen a thing that they don’t approve of – but is to be totally rejected because of that. And I think we have to be faithful to our doctrine and our teaching and practice have to go hand in hand, but we can do so with mercy and love and help people to realize that whatever may be the challenges that our in their life, they are respected and loved by the Church”. Abp. Hart continues, that this Synod is “not an exchange of theological principals and ideas”.  “They underpin all we do” he adds, “but the bishops want to engage with people and see the needs of families (more).
    Photo: Vatican Radio

10 October 2014 Bishops debate: Where does doctrine end and pastoral practice begin?
Extract from David Gibson, Religion News Service, National Catholic Reporter, 10 October 2014

Senior Catholic leaders meeting at the Vatican are deep into passionate debates about how the church can respond to the realities of modern family life, yet at the same time they have repeatedly stressed that they are not going to alter long-standing doctrines, such as the teaching on divorce and remarriage. Does that mean the hopes for real changes are DOA just a few days into the high-level summit? Those who are pushing for reforms say no. They argue that the church can in fact make important adaptations by changing the "pastoral application" of doctrines -- how teachings function on the ground. The pastoral practice generating the most attention is the banning of divorced Catholics who have remarried outside the church from receiving Communion."The reception of Communion is not a doctrinal position. It's a pastoral application of the doctrine of the church," said Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a delegate at the two-week synod and an influential voice pushing for a new approach.(more)

10 October 2014 Press Briefing Oct. 10 Father Rosica Says Synod Discussed Life as a Journey of Penance, Reconciliation and Bringing People Back to the Faith
Edited Extract from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Senit, Vatican City, Friday 10 October
At the briefing at the Holy See Press Office this afternoon, Father Federico Lombardi and Father Thomas Rosica gave the following briefing on the latest synod discussions: Today was a day dedicated to more interventions and testimonies, they said. Challenges, creative strategies were at the forefront of yesterday afternoon's discussions. Father Rosica outlined the difficulties, discussed in great detail, facing families: poverty, HIV/AIDS, conflict, constant migration of peoples, uprooted and divided families in the Middle East, war, violence and all types of abuse, a great emphasis on poverty among others. Also mentioned was the power of images and how images, particularly those viewed via social media, online, and in programs, have destructive abilities, regardless of how much some can unite. The penitential journey: There was, he noted, a great emphasis to speak about the "penitential journey" that must be in place, noting its role in bringing people back to the faith, particularly the divorced and remarried. He admitted: "This is not a simple solution, but different bishops spoke about the penitential journeys, the moments of reconciliation, the journeys of reconciliation." Globalization's ability to divide and the imposition of ideologies on nations, especially those of the third world, were also addressed......Yesterday's closed discussions: Father Rosica reiterated that although the hall is not set up for it, bishops and cardinals address and speak with each other freely. He said there was a great dialogue taking place, according to Father Rosica, which was especially visible when speaking about education......(more)

10 October 2014 Head of US Bishops Hopes Synod Will Help Restore Confidence in Marriage
Archbishop Kurtz Tells ZENIT Family Is in Crisis, Urges Faithful Not to Panic But Rediscover the Good
Edited Extracts from Castellano Lubov, Zenit, Vatican City, Friday 10 October 2014
The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has reminded people that they shouldn’t be discouraged by statistics, as persons are more than numbers and deserve to have the fruitful marriages of which they are capable.In an exclusive interview with ZENIT this week in the Vatican, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, a native of Pennsylvania who was appointed Bishop of Louisville under Pope Benedict, says how he is bringing the view of a pastor and a member of a family into the Synod hall. He also discusses his hopes and expectations for the synod as well as the crisis of the family in secularized nations, particularly his own...........I’ll be disappointed if, after the synod process, which, I think, begins now—in other words, we don’t have to wait a year from now to have some of the positive effects happening, but I’ll be disappointed if there’s not that capacity for renewed confidence ….........My second (hope) was … my hope is that the beauty of the teachings of Christ, as conveyed over the centuries by the Church, will be given a new hearing. So one of the synod fathers said in his presentation, he said, “It’s not so much we want to explain. We want to show. .............And then my third would be something that I know is very dear to the heart of Pope Francis and that is we accompany people, who are struggling. And you know what I am learning, every one of us is in a family that struggles. It would be wrong for us to say, 'Well, these are the struggling families and these are the ones that have it together.' No, in a sense, everyone needs that sense of accompanying them and helping them in what I would call the process of conversion. So those are my three hopes. I think just with that interview we’re starting to get that moving. What do you think …?  (more)

Thursday 9 October Open to the voice of the future
Extracts from Christopher Lamb, Features, The Tablet, 9 October 2014

The ground rules for the Synod on the Family, as laid down by Pope Francis, allow not just debate but collegial decision-making. Francis is in listening mode – an attitude, he insists, that requires humility. At this stage, the road ahead is intriguingly unclear. Since he stepped out on to the balcony in St Peter’s Square 19 months ago, Pope Francis has radically improved perceptions of the Church. He has won over the world’s media and embarked on a dialogue with Italy’s most prominent atheist. As The Tablet went to press, rumours were circulating that the Pope might win the Nobel Peace Prize. But while Francis has been successful in his witness to the world, the internal difficulties in the Church remain. In many parts of the world, particularly in the West, a large gap has opened up between teaching on sexuality and the lived experiences of ordinary Catholics. By calling two synods on the family, with the first opening in Rome this week, those tensions came sharply into focus. Yet, as the instrumentum laboris – the synod’s working document which brought together the experiences of local churches – points out, most young people still want to marry and have children as the Church encourages them to do. At a prayer vigil on the eve of the synod’s opening, Francis put the challenge like this: “How can we propose with credibility the Good News on the family?” The credibility of what the Church teaches is something that appears to be on the Synod Fathers’ minds......................In recent years, synods have been criticised for offering little more than an exchange of ideas rather than assisting the Pope with decision-making, as the Second Vatican Council mandated them to do. According to Austen Ivereigh, author of a new papal biography The Great Reformer, the Pope has created a “reformed synod” and is thus “embedding the dynamic of the council permanently in the Church”. Although it is early days, results already appear to be evident. “This is my fifth synod and it’s a totally different approach,” Archbishop Dew explained. “It’s clear that the teaching on collegiality is close to his [Pope Francis’] heart and he wants to use this Synod to express that and put it into action.” (more)

Thursday 9 October Archbishop Georg Gaenswein Reaffirms Church Doctrine on Marriage
Says He Sees Pope Francis Following the Line of His Predecessors

Extract from Staff Reporter, Zenit, Varican City, 9 October 2014
As the first week of the Synod of Bishops on the family is underway at the Vatican, Archbishop Georg Gänswein has reaffirmed Church doctrine on Holy Matrimony.
The prefect of the Pontifical Household and private secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI insisted not only that marriage cannot be dissolved, but also that "starting a new union contradicts what the Lord has indicated," reported Italian News Agency ANSA. In an interview with Chi magazine, the senior prelate made the remarks, in an interview in which he also commented on homosexuality. "Gays must be received with respect but their [sexual] acts are contrary to natural law," he said. Moreover, he added, “The Church must have the courage to express its convictions as otherwise it would not be in the service of truth." (more)

Thursday 9 October Jesus Didn't Meet General Cases, He Met Individuals, Says Canadian Prelate
Archbishop Durocher Says Synod Is Promoting 'Inductive' Thinking, Starting With Real Situations
Extract from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Zenit, Vatican City, 9 October 2014

Archbishop Paul Durocher of Gatineau, leader of Canada's bishops, is reminding people that Jesus worked directly with individuals, not generalities. He says the synod participants are now called to do the same as they bring the synod's eventual outcomes to their communities (more).

Thursday 9 October  We can soften language but don't expect us to rewrite church teaching, say cardinals      Extract from Christopher Lamb in Rome, The Tablet, Thursday 9 October 2014
Two leading cardinals attending the synod on the family have said that while a change in language on church teaching on sexuality is necessary, it does not mark a shift in doctrine. Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s Prefect of the Economy and close adviser to Pope Francis, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, made their remarks at the Rome launch of the Crux website at the North American College. They were reflecting on the discussions at the Synod on the Family which is taking place at the Vatican and which they are both attending. “Everybody wants to show God’s love and mercy but it also brings you to very difficult situations and as Christians we follow Jesus,” said Cardinal Pell. “I confess that I might have been tempted to hope that Jesus might have been a little softer on divorce; he wasn’t, and I’m speaking with him.”  (more)    Photo:The Tablet

Thursday 9 October On the Indissolubility of Marriage, Communion, Cohabitation and Responsible Parenthood       Extract from staff,  Zenit,  Vatican City, 9 October 2014
The seventh general congregation of the synod of bishops, which took place this morning, Thursday, was divided into two phases: the first consisting of further general debate on the theme of the previous afternoon, “Difficult Pastoral Situations” (Part II, Chapter 3. Situations in Families / Concerning Unions of Persons of the Same Sex”, and the second regarding the subsequent issue, “The Pastoral Challenges concerning an Openness to Life”. In the first part, therefore, the Assembly continued its reflection on the matter of access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried persons. Firstly, it re-emphasised the indissoluble nature of marriage, without compromise, based on the fact that the sacramental bond is an objective reality, the work of Christ in the Church. Such a value must be defended and cared for through adequate pre-matrimonial catechesis, so that engaged couples are fully aware of the sacramental character of the bond and its vocational nature. Pastoral accompaniment for couples following marriage would also be useful. At the same time, it was said that it is necessary to look at individual cases and real-life situations, even those involving great suffering, distinguishing for example between those who abandon their spouse and those who are abandoned. The problem exists – this was repeated several times in the Assembly – and the Church does not neglect it. Pastoral care must not be exclusive, of an “all or nothing” type but must instead be merciful, as the mystery of the Church is a mystery of consolation. It was in any case recalled that for divorced and remarried persons, the fact of not having access to the Eucharist does not mean that they are not members of the ecclesial community; on the contrary, it is to be taken into consideration that there exist various responsibilities that may be exercised. Furthermore, the need to simplify and speed up the procedures for the declaration of nullity was underlined (more).

Vatican’s top lawyer outlines possible reforms of annulment process
Extract from Abigail Frymann Rouch, The Tablet, 9 October 2014 18:38

The Vatican’s top canon lawyer chosen by Pope Francis to oversee a reform of the process of annulments signalled that he wants to see major change in the way that failed marriages are declared null. Italian Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmiero is president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and a member of the commission Francis set up last month to study reforming the annulment procedure. He told journalists reporting on the Vatican’s Synod for the Family on Thursday that he favours letting individual bishops make nullity decisions after careful consideration based largely on the credibility of the couple, changing what has been an exclusively judicial process to an administrative one. He said care would be needed to ensure this procedure did not become superficial, but he said he was “very much in favour” of this approach (more).


Thursday 9 October Bishops rethinking development of theology, annulment process at synod
Extract from National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 9 October 2014
Vatican City. Bishops meeting at the Vatican to discuss issues of family life have to relearn how to d
o theology in order to address contemporary concerns, an archbishop attending the meeting said Thursday. Unlike in the past, when bishops or theologians would deduce theology from general, sometimes idealized notions of God or humanity, the prelates at the Synod of Bishops on the family are using inductive reasoning to instead examine theology in the reality of families today, Canadian Archbishop Paul-André Durocher said. "What's happening within the synod is we're seeing a more inductive way of reflecting, starting from the true situation of people and trying to figure out what's going on here," said Durocher, who leads the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The prelates, the archbishop said, are "finding that the lived experience of people is also a theological source -- what we call a theological source, a place of theological reflection." "I think we're learning to use the Harvard case study method in reflecting theologically on the lives of people," continued the archbishop, who also heads the archdiocese of Gatineau in Quebec. "And we're only, in a sense, starting to learn how to do this as church leaders," he said. "And this is going to take time for us, to learn to do this and together to come -- as we reflect on this -- to find what is the way that God is showing." Durocher spoke Thursday during a Vatican press briefing on the synod. His reflections, which came at the end of the 70-minute briefing, may suggest a change in how bishops develop theological thought, which in the past has typically followed deductive methods of authors such as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas over inductive methods used in systems like pastoral, or even liberation, theology. 

Thursday 9 October Jesus Didn't Meet General Cases, He Met Individuals, Says Canadian Prelate
Archbishop Durocher Says Synod Is Promoting 'Inductive' Thinking, Starting With Real Situations
Extract from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Vatican City, 9 October 2014

Archbishop Paul Durocher of Gatineau, leader of Canada's bishops, is reminding people that Jesus worked directly with individuals, not generalities. He says the synod participants are now called to do the same as they bring the synod's eventual outcomes to their communities (more).

Thursday 9 October On the Indissolubility of Marriage, Communion, Cohabitation and Responsible Parenthood      Extract from staff,  Zenit,  Vatican City, 9 October 2014
The seventh general congregation of the synod of bishops, which took place this morning, Thursday, was divided into two phases: the first consisting of further general debate on the theme of the previous afternoon, “Difficult Pastoral Situations” (Part II, Chapter 3. Situations in Families / Concerning Unions of Persons of the Same Sex”, and the second regarding the subsequent issue, “The Pastoral Challenges concerning an Openness to Life”. In the first part, therefore, the Assembly continued its reflection on the matter of access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried persons. Firstly, it re-emphasised the indissoluble nature of marriage, without compromise, based on the fact that the sacramental bond is an objective reality, the work of Christ in the Church. Such a value must be defended and cared for through adequate pre-matrimonial catechesis, so that engaged couples are fully aware of the sacramental character of the bond and its vocational nature. Pastoral accompaniment for couples following marriage would also be useful. At the same time, it was said that it is necessary to look at individual cases and real-life situations, even those involving great suffering, distinguishing for example between those who abandon their spouse and those who are abandoned. The problem exists – this was repeated several times in the Assembly – and the Church does not neglect it. Pastoral care must not be exclusive, of an “all or nothing” type but must instead be merciful, as the mystery of the Church is a mystery of consolation. It was in any case recalled that for divorced and remarried persons, the fact of not having access to the Eucharist does not mean that they are not members of the ecclesial community; on the contrary, it is to be taken into consideration that there exist various responsibilities that may be exercised. Furthermore, the need to simplify and speed up the procedures for the declaration of nullity was underlined (more).

Wednesday 8 October 2014  At synod, bishops say doctrine won't change, share 'best practices'
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Wednesday 8 October 2014
Bishops meeting at the Vatican to discuss issues of family life have shared "best practices" for helping families around the world and are continuing to focus on the notion of mercy in church life, according to Vatican observers. During the discussions, Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica said, "there was no sense of doom or gloom or despair," but a desire among the estimated 190 prelates to share ideas that are working to promote church teaching. One idea shared among the bishops, Rosica said, is using the image of God as a "kindly light ... that walks in the middle of people and leads them on the journey." (more)

Wednesday 8 October Rosica sums up the work thus far
Extract from Synod Watch, 8 October 2014
..........Fr. Thomas Rosica CSB, English language assistant to the Holy See summed up the synod work thus far. He said right now there are a number of categories that capture the English interventions being discussed including:

  • The process within the synod itself including both the day to day workings and the weight given to the questionnaires that were completed
  • The application of the “law of graduality” as developed in “Familiaris Consortio”
  • The use of language describing marriage saying “marriage is already seen as being filtered by harsh language in the Church”
  • The virtue of hope in marriage preparation and life
  • Creative pastoral practices and programs to help develop strong marriages and families
  • The unique place of family as a cell in society and the Church.
  • The unchangeability of doctrine and yet the desire for a change in pastoral practice
  • The multifaceted nature of marriage
  • The evolving nature of biblical interpretation of Jesus’ words regarding marriage and divorce
  • Marriage as a mystery of Trinitarian relational life

(more) Also see other Synod Watch reports (here)

Wednesday 8 October African Prelate: Church Upholds Dignity of All People, Also With Teaching on Homosexuality   Extract from Deborah Castellano Lubov, Zenit, Wednesday 8 October 2014
Archbishop Kaigama Decries International Aid Linked to Unwanted Population Control Measures
Doctrine is not up for dispute at the synod, affirms Nigeria's top prelate, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, as only the pastoral approach is up for discussion (more). See All Zenit reports here

Wednesday 8 October Full Text of Fifth General Congregation,
Extract from President Cardinal Assis' Introduction and Mrs. Toure's Testimony, Zenit, Wednesday 8 October 2014
........"The family is the place where one can be oneself, take off ones mask without being judged; the place where one learns to have confidence in oneself thanks to the admiring and at the same time lucid look that parents have for their offspring" (more)  See All Zenit reports here

Wednesday 8 October Kasper and Burke: the Real Clash
Beyond the Sharp Exchanges, the Future Is Becoming Clear -- and It Belongs to Burkeans
Extract from Father Dwight Longenecker, Rome, Zenit, Wednesday 8 October 2014
.......I expect that the next man in white will be more Burkean than Kasperian in his underlying views. He may come from the Philippines, India, Canada, Nigeria or Peru, but he will almost certainly see Catholicism as a powerful force for creative conflict with the world. He will see the Catholic religion as the power for the followers of Jesus Christ not to be conformed to the world but transformed (more).
Fr Dwight Longenecker is Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina.

Tuesday 7 October 2014 Synod shows potential to advance conversation on family
Extract from Vinnie Rotondaro, National Catholic Reporter, Tuesday 7 October 2014
The extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family kicked off in Vatican City on Monday, and we are beginning to see what frank and open dialogue may look like in the church at its highest level in 2014. Many Catholics are hopeful the synod will bring meaningful change to how the church ministers to the modern Catholic family. But where Pope Francis encouraged synod members to speak boldly and candidly, at least one prelate was quick to say that bold does not always mean earth-shattering. "Mercy does not take away the commitments which arise from the demands of the marriage bond," said Cardinal Péter Erdő, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest in Hungary, in reference to the thorny question of divorce and remarriage, which is of particular concern for Western Catholics. "This means that, in the case of a consummated sacramental marriage, after a divorce, a marriage recognized by the church is impossible, while the first spouse is still alive," he said. At the same time, remarks made by a married Australian couple spoke with eloquence to the concerns of many Western Catholic families, including divorce (more).

Tuesday 7 October 2014 Among first synod discussions: changing harsh language, trying 'graduality'    Edited Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Tuesday 7 October 2014
The first days of discussions at the global meeting of Catholic bishops have focused partly on how to change "harsh language" used by the church in discussing family life and on acknowledging that people grow in faith slowly, according to Vatican observers of the meeting. One theme said to be included in 70 speeches made by prelates over the past two days is how the prelates label people with words that "are not necessarily words that invite people to draw closer to the church." Briefing reporters Tuesday on the event, known as a Synod of Bishops, Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica said one or more synod members specifically referred to three terms commonly used by the church:

    "Living in sin": a reference to couples who live together before marriage;
    "Intrinsically disordered": a reference to gay people; and
    "Contraceptive mentality": a reference made by some prelates to a society that does not respect life.

"To label people ... does not help in bringing people to Christ," said Rosica, summarizing the synod member. "There was a great desire that our language has to change in order to meet the very difficult situations." Rosica spoke Tuesday during a Vatican briefing summarizing the talks at the Oct. 5-19 synod. Unlike previous synods, the Vatican is not releasing texts or summaries of the some 190 prelates' talks but is instead providing daily briefings with three spokesmen who are attending the synod and summarizing events (more)

Tuesday 7 October 2014  Cardinal Nichols: Hoping for More Thoughtful Discussion of the Family  Extract from Zenit, Tuesday 7 October 2014.                                                                                                           ........Says Ideas Being Presented Will Gradually Bring About the "Positive Language Needed to Properly Address Catholics". He added that with bishops from various continents sharing, they are learning from each other. “For me one of the most interesting things is how can this synod ... provoke in society a more thoughtful discussion on the importance of the family in society. ”On the atmosphere in the synod, he expressed, “It is a very light atmosphere,” one with active dialogue where people feel free to speak. He clarified that the synod environment is not tense or academic, but friendly, where reflections are given from their perspective as priests, often as parish priests, and as members of families (more)

Monday 6 October 2014  Speakers tell pope, synod that parishes should welcome same-sex couples.    Edited Extract from Francis X Rocca, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter,  Monday 5 October 2014
Vatican City. A(n Australian) married couple told Pope Francis and the Synod of Bishops on the family that Catholic parishes should welcome same-sex couples, following the example of parents who invite their son and his male partner to their home for Christmas. "The church constantly faces the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy. Families face this tension all the time," Ron and Mavis Pirola of Sydney told the synod Monday. "Take homosexuality as an example. Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home, too. They fully believed in the church's teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three [sic] words, 'He is our son.' ". "What a model of evangelization for parishes as they respond to similar situations in their neighborhood," the Pirolas said........The couple called for emphasizing the positive dimension of Catholic teaching on sexuality. "Marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse. We believe that until married couples come to reverence sexual union as an essential part of their spirituality it is extremely hard to appreciate the beauty of teachings such as those of 'Humanae Vitae,' " they said in reference to the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed the church's teaching on contraception. "We need new ways and relatable language to touch people's hearts," the Pirolas said (more).

Monday 6 October 2014 Introductory Report of the Relator general of the Synod, Cardinal Erdo,  6 October 2014 - Video recording (in Italian), Catholic TV, YouTube
For those who don't speak Italian this video (1 hour), or part of it, at least gives a sense of what it's like physically being in Attendance at the Family Synod on its first working day and includes the Introductory Report by Cardinal. Péter Erdő.. (view here)

Monday 6 October 2014  Cardinal Erdo Presents Synod's Main Points for Development
Edited Extract from Staff Reporter, Zenit, 6 October 2014

Vatican City, Report says Church can be remedy for Protecting Family Unit..................The challenge for this Synod, concludes Cardinal Erdo, is to try to bring to today’s world, while taking into account the complexity of society, “the attractiveness of the Christian message” about marriage and the family and giving answers that are true and full of charity”, because “the world needs Christ.”  (more)

Monday 6 October 2014 Pope Opens First Session of Synod on the Family                                      Extract from Zenit, Monday 6 October 2014
The Pope opened the first session of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops this morning, thanking the synod fathers and all those who have worked with patience and expertise in the preparation of the synod.............The Pope emphasized in particular the synodal and collegial aspects and explained some changes he introduced to make these characteristics even more effective. The voice of the synod, the Pope added, must be brought in synodality everywhere..........Finally, the Holy Father pointed out that all must speak clearly with parrhesia ("freedom to say everything"). They must speak with sincerity and to say what each person in the Lord feels they have to say. They have to listen with humility: speaking clearly with frankness and listening with humility are the keys of collegiality, he said. Done everything in this way, the Pope added. Have no fear, he reassured those present, as this is done with Peter and under Peter (more).

Sunday 5 October 2014                                                                                                                             Pope opens Synod criticizing 'bad shepherds,' those who 'thwart' God
Extract from Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter, Sunday 5 October 2014

Vatican City. Pope Francis opened a worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops Sunday -- a possible landmark of his papacy -- by warning against "bad shepherds" who unduly burden the faithful and who "thwart" God by not being guided by the  Holy Spirit. Francis was speaking in a homily during the opening Mass for the meeting, known as a Synod and focusing on modern struggles of family life, in St. Peter's Basilica. Referring to the Mass readings for the day and to the prophet Ezekiel’s warning about shepherds who care for themselves and not their sheep, the pontiff said some shepherds become tempted by "greed for money and power." "To satisfy this greed bad shepherds lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move," said Francis. The pontiff also laid out clearly what the Synod is not to do. "Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent," said the pontiff. "They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord's vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people." Francis' words Sunday are likely to be met with much speculation over what direction the pontiff hopes the Synod, in which some 190 bishops and cardinals will discuss family life topics in closed-door sessions Oct. 6-19, will take (more).


Synod on the Family (Introduction - work in progress to 2016 )


Renewal of the Catholic Church?

Introduction                                                                                                                                             Catholics For Renewal has been and remains an active and optimistic supporter of the 'Family Synod' and prayerfully wishes it well during its October deliberations in Rome and over over the next twelve months or so. Our hopes are shared by many Catholic individuals and organisations around the world with whom we closely collaborate.                                                                                                                                           

In an Australian context this new Catholics For Renewal webpage will track Synod proceedings and include links to key Synod and related documents as they become available. The October Extraordinary Synod of the Family will be followed one year from now by a final Synod that will make its recommendations to the Pope, for determination by him in 2016. For Catholics For Renewal Media Inquiries see below.

The Synod on the Family will run initially from 5-15th October 2014 after around two years of preparation. Since late last year at the call of Pope Francis a global survey of Catholics was quickly conducted, based on a preparatory document identifying a number of Family issues, but also leaving the door open for any other relevant matters. Although very limited in its nature and distribution this has been the first Catholic public consultation in Catholic history, and has been followed by some further surveys and discussions thoughtfully and comprehensively prepared by catholic reform/renewal groups.  

The Vatican survey summaries will be presented at the Synod, more formally known as he Extraordinary General Assembly for "Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the context of Evangelization". Other inputs have been forwarded informally to the Synod for debate also.

The debate                                                                                                                                                    With a number of personal pre-emptive and divergent media comments by some conservative members of the Church hierarchy, the Synod is shaping up to be what Catholica describes as "a new battleground, much like Humanae Vitae turned out to be in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council that could shape the future for Catholicism long into the future." The Catholica forum has noted that  "we've had plenty of regular updates from Sandro Magister who has become one of the main journalists in the world pushing the conservative position that there should be no changes in Catholic teachings or beliefs — and particularly concerning the position of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics whose first marriages have not been annulled,".

Of further relevance is this statement from the very conservative Vatican correspondent, Dr Robert Moynihan who in his Letter # 28 of 19 September 2014 wrote: “With new reports of papal irritation over the upcoming publication of a book containing five essays by cardinals, all staunchly defending traditional Church teaching on marriage, on the eve of the October bishops' synod on marriage it seems clear that the papacy of Pope Francis is entering a critical, decisive phase. Everything up until now has been, in a sense, prologue. The true story of this pontificate is now beginning to be written. What happens at the Synod, and during the upcoming year, leading to a second Synod to be held a year from now - when decisions will be taken - will go far to defining the meaning and significance of this pontificate.” 


Other Synod inputs?                                                                                                                                        A significant informal Synod document is already available and is perhaps the leading work undertaken anywhere by those advocating a more pastoral and progressive position and has been produced by Catholic Church Reform International (CCR Int'l.), of which Catholics For Renewal and around 100 other renewal/reform organisations around the world across 65 countries are members. Catholics for Renewal has been one of several significant contributors to this work which was forwarded to the Synod Secretariat in May (see below). 

CCRI Recommendations to the Synod on the Family produced on behalf of its members                   Published in May of this year and titled "Listening to the Faithful: Recommendations to the Synod on the Family - An answer to the request of Pope Francis for all faithful  to support and add their voices to the synodal process"  this set of recommendations to the Synod from CCRI is available online as a 47 page downloadable .pdf document on the CCRI website HERE . The overview is shown graphically below. Catholics For Renewal considers the Recommendations as essential reading for those closely following this potentially historic development in the life of the Catholic Church.

 CCRI - Recommentations Overview

Interim Summary Report of Family Issues from various Gatherings and surveys around the globe
CCR International has just published an Interim summary report on Family Issues summarising data from all the various surveys, discussions and forums around the world, including Australia. Although an 'Interim' report it already contains a great deal of substance. It has been produced at this stage to provide a direct report to members of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod and has just been distributed to all its Synod Bishops and invited laity. It is available here.  The Interim Report includes some content from a recent Australian Forum that relates to the impact on family of child sexual abuse, not covered elsewhere in the Interim Summary. This is included as an a
ddendum.  CCR International will continue to keep the Surveys open through mid-2015 so that all may be able to voice their opinions on Family Life in the context of Church teachings as proceedings continue..

Secretary General of Synod invited to attend CCRI Forum in Rome from 2-3 October ahead of the Synod                                                                                                        CCR International will hold a Forum (Forum on the Family: Listening to the Faithful) in Rome from 2-3 October immediately before The Synod on The Family. The Secretary General of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri has been invited to the Forum  and also asked to look supportively at CCRI recommendations directly offered by faithful Catholics from around the world. A copy of the Invitation with program attached is provided here.

New Synod Rules
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri explains new rules for the Synod here

Some other useful resources

  1. Synod Preparatory Document here
  2. Instrumentum Laboris here
  3. Synodal Information here 
  4. Name and Title List of the Participants in the Extraordinary Synod here
  5. Breakdown of Participants in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family (5-19 October 2014) here
  6. "Upcoming Synod of Bishops is about more than just marriage and family", Robert Mickens, National Catholic Reporter, 29 September 2014, here
  7. Catholic Church Reform's alternate gathering on the family highlights lay vocation,  Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter, Thursday 2 October 2014,  here
  8. Synod Watch, Future Church (here)
  9. 6 Days to the Synod, Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) here
  10. Interim Synod Summary Document 14October 2014
  11. The Vatican Unofficial English translation of the Interim Synod Summary document is available here
  12. Introductory Report of the Relator general of the Synod 2014.10.06. Video recording (in Italian)
    For those who don't speak Italian this video (1 hour), or part of it, at least gives a sense of what it's like physically being in Attendance at the Family Synod on its first working day and the Introductory Report by Cardinal Péter Erdő. Source: Catholic TV, YouTube, (view here)

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