At the conclusion of the 3-week synod on the family in Rome, Australia’s George Cardinal Pell has said that he agrees with the Holy Father, ‘that everyone will have been changed by the synod’.
He said, ‘It made people realise even more, if it was necessary or possible, how important the family is and how imperfect it often is, but we encourage people to keep on keeping on.’
Speaking on the final document, which is currently only available in Italian, and which contains 94 paragraphs on the theme ‘The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world’, Cardinal Pell said, ‘it demonstrates that the Church is first of all about love’.
‘It’s very clear that the synod fathers are well aware of the enormous variety of complex situations which families find themselves in around the world … It’s very clear the Church is addressing real situations.’
Two hundred and sixty-five voting members approved in its entirety all 94 paragraphs of the final document—each required a two-thirds consensus to pass. According to Cardinal Pell, the contentious paragraphs in the document dealt with divorced and remarried Catholics. They were sections 84, 85 and 86, which are categorised under the title ‘Discernment and Integration’.
Translated into English, paragraph 84 states: ‘The baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried must be more integrated into the Christian communities in the diverse ways possible, avoiding every occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral accompaniment, so that they not only know that they belong to the Body of Christ, which is the Church, but that they can have a joyous and rich experience. They are baptized, they are brothers and sisters, and the Holy Spirit pours out gifts and charisms on them for the good of all. Their participation can express itself in diverse ecclesial services; and for that reason, it’s necessary to discern which of the different forms of exclusion actually practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional arenas can be overcome. They not only must not feel themselves excommunicated, but they can live and mature as living members of the Church, feeling it to be a mother who always welcomes them, taking care of them with affection, and encouraging in the path of life and the Gospel.’
And to be clear, this does not mean that divorced and remarried couples will be able to receive communion. ‘Nowhere in the document does it mention communion for divorced and remarried couples,’ said Cardinal Pell.
‘It does speak a lot about discernment and it says that discernment has to be done in the light of the teachings of the Church and on this particular issue, in the light of the teachings of John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio—in all of his teachings, not just the little bit that is quoted [in paragraphs 85 and 86]. It also mentions, perhaps three or four times, the teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage.’
Cardinal Pell was also pleased that paragraph 76 upholds the view that ‘there is no possible equality or even analogy between same-sex unions and marriage’. This section states: ‘Taking care of the families that have a member who has homosexual tendencies, the Church insists that every person, regardless of their own sexual tendency, be respected in his dignity and welcomed with respect, trying to avoid “any kind of unjust discrimination”. Regarding projects that try to equal homosexual unions to marriage, “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”. The Synod sustains in any case that it’s unacceptable for the local churches to be pressured on this subject or that international organizations condition financial help to poor countries to the introduction of laws that institute the “marriage” between same-sex people.’
Cardinal Pell explained that the information presented in the synod’s final report is ‘potential teachings to the world, to be considered by the pope when he puts together his own document’.
He said, ‘I think it’s a well-ordered document, it’s elegantly written, it’s intellectually very respectable and it’ll give the Holy Father plenty to chew on.’
While the Church waits for Pope Francis’ official response and implementation of the teachings, Cardinal Pell said he hopes the synod outcome will encourage those living the vocation of marriage and family.
‘The vocation of the spouses to love one another, to support one another is enormously important and that love has to be open to life—openness to children is essential,’ he said. ‘Generally the reality of children is one of the great blessings of married life.’
And for those marriages and families facing difficulty, Cardinal Pell said, ‘We hope it [the report] will encourage those who are in difficult and imperfect situations to realise the Church understands their situation, it calls them to conversion, it recognises that people are weak and you get caught in situations where it is very difficult to change. The fundamental thing is to have confidence in the teachings of Christ. To believe that God’s love and mercy is expressed in his teaching and it’s there we have the source of faith and hope and love.’