Synod, Day 19, Thursday October 22, 2015 – As Seen by the Catholic Left

Synod, Day 19, Thursday October 22, 2015 – As Seen by the Catholic Left

[We know by now that the daily Vatican press briefing is a view from the Catholic Left]

Synod on the Family: Press Briefing Day 15

(Vatican Radio) Thursday 22 Oct. The Church’s youngest Cardinal, Soane Mafi, was a guest at the daily press briefing for the Synod on the Family. He was joined by Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracious [sic: A last minute replacement for Oswald Cardinal Gracias (also from India and on the Synod’s drafting committee); or, Who edits Vatican Radio’s transcripts?] and Archbishop José H. Gómez from the United States of America.

Cardinal Gracious told the briefing that a way forward – for the divorced and civilly re-married – needs to be further explored and could be referred to in the final document which is going to be presented to the Holy Father on Saturday.

At the beginning of the briefing Holy See Press Spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, was again asked about the health of the Holy Father. He assured the media that the Pope is in good health [“Methinks he doth protest too much”]. The three prelates affirmed this.

Cardinal Soane told the media that this was the first Synod he had attended and that it was “exciting.” He said that he is apprehensive as he awaits the outcome. Soane told the briefing that although Oceania is a small isolated island, families there are also affected by global problems. He said that the extended family was important but that many young people were leaving the island looking for a better life. He spoke of the challenges of individualism and materialism.

Archbishop Gómez said that the Synod was wonderful and that it was an experience of listening, learning and talking about the reality of people’s lives. He said that it was important that the Church challenged families to really live their mission of family and for other families.

Gómez lamented that there was not enough time to discuss some issues; he referred specifically to migration [How about a separate synod on that topic as a British bishop and one group want to have on sodomy?] and the world’s economic crisis. He said that it was essential that the Church helped people to reach their potential in all aspects of their lives.

Cardinal Gracious was asked many questions about the final document and process. He said that the drafting committee had voted unanimously to accept the first draft that will be presented to the bishops on Thursday afternoon. He said that the bishops would be addressed on the procedural aspects of the next few days by the General Secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri. After this the General Relator, Cardinal Peter Erdo, will relate the important parts of the draft. The bishops will be given a copy of the text to go and study overnight.
The plenary will resume Friday morning for any comments on the draft. The necessary changes will then be made and, on Saturday, the bishops will meet to hear the final draft and vote on the document paragraph by paragraph. There will also be a vote on the document as a whole. Thereafter the document will be presented to Pope Francis. Gracious reminded the media that this document is intended for the Pope, to help and advise him. It is not being written for the world.

Gracious was asked for his thoughts on “healthy decentralisation.” He said that the Church is one universal body but this also means that there are diverse circumstances in this body. He said that the Church had to deal concretely with situations. It would therefore be appropriate for Episcopal Conference’s to study behaviours which occur in their context, he thought. He used polygamy as an example. He said that this was not an issue in India but was in Africa so it would be fitting for the African Church to investigate this [“Bless” it as the synodaliberals wish to do with adultery and sodomy in Western Europe and North America?]. He added that bishops would need to have the right training and assistance theologically and canonically.

He also said that the drafting committee received between 700-800 “modi” or “comments” for the final text. They were given to experts to be sorted into various different areas. They were looked at by the drafting committee then given to the writers.

The Cardinal was asked about Familiaris Consortio #84 (the document from the 1980 Synod on the Family). In this document St. John Paul II said that the divorced and civilly re-married could not be admitted to the Eucharist. He was asked if the drafting committee would raise this issue in the final document because it had been spoken of often at this Synod. Gracious said that a number of issues were similar but that circumstances have changed. He pointed out that in Familiaris Consortio it also stated that cases should be looked at carefully. He said that St. John Paul II, in that paragraph, stated that we must not put everyone in the same category. The Cardinal said that we cannot treat all people in the same manner. The one who broke up a marital bond is different to another who did not want that to happen and tried by all means to keep it. Gracious said, “to be honest, we don’t have a solution.” He said that there needs to be a study of scripture, moral theology, doctrine, tradition and, hopefully, as understanding is deepened, so too will a way forward emerge.

Cardinal Gracious added that there are divergent views but it is important that a key text is produced which can offer pastoral direction at this time.

[The Church’s Magisterium – no longer an arbiter to (re)solve problems or disputes but a provocateur to provoke discussion and further consideration of such]

Cardinal: Synod’s final document doesn’t give answers, but lays out questions

Joshua J. McElwee | Oct. 22, 2015 | National Catholic Reporter

VATICAN CITY One of the ten prelates responsible for drafting the final document from the ongoing Synod of Bishops on family has said that while it may not give solutions to all the questions discussed by the gathering, it will give good direction to Pope Francis for future decisions.

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias said that the document “will not have all the answers, but it will have a direction.”

“The questions will be clear,” said 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 Oct. 4-25 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, Gracias said the former pontiff also spoke about how different people face different circumstances “and not to put everybody on the same bus.”

Giving an example of a divorce where one of the partners has left the other unjustly, the cardinal said: “You can’t treat the two in the same manner.” The question, he said, is determining how to treat the two in appropriate ways.

“Theology progresses — the doctrine remains the same — and our understanding of church discipline also progresses,” said Gracias.

“I think we’re still on the path of searching, the whole synod,” said the cardinal. “What’s marvelous for me is that I’m very happy personally that there was so much diverse opinions among different things.”

“I think that’s how you cross-fertilize and are able to grow and be able to see the way forward, everybody able to respect the others opinion and knowing the person is sincerely trying to find how can we help our people,” he continued.

“I don’t think that we have seen the solutions,” he said. “But at least we have begun to speak about the problem and begun to say that this has got to be tackled and this has got to be studied.”

“As we deepen our understanding, I’m sure we’ll find a way forward,” said Gracias.

The Indian was speaking as the synod is winding to a conclusion after three long weeks of deliberations. His committee finished a first draft of the final document from the gathering on Thursday morning, which is to be presented to the prelates Thursday afternoon.

The cardinal said the bishops will then have most of Thursday afternoon to read and study the draft, before gathering again Friday morning to discuss it in open session. They will then be able to submit amendments or alterations to the text for consideration.

A final vote on the document is expected for Saturday afternoon. Gracias said he expected the assembly to vote on the text paragraph by paragraph, and then as a whole.

Asked by NCR about the length of the text, the cardinal said it was currently less than 100 paragraphs long.

“We have kept in mind continuously what is the mind of the house,” Gracias said of the drafting process. “Very clearly, we’re not touching doctrine. This synod is not making doctrine. But it’s really seeing what’s the pastoral approach, what guidelines can we give.”

“In our mind, at the moment, we present it to the Holy Father on Saturday as a result of our reflections,” said the cardinal. “And then he’ll take it forward, we expect.”

“This has got really general directions,” he said. “It doesn’t get into very, very specific points in that sense.”

Gracias also spoke briefly about one suggestion given by some of the small discussion groups at the synod for how the church might change its practice towards the divorced and remarried. Currently, such persons are prohibited from taking the Eucharist unless they have received annulments of their first marriages.

At least two of the 13 small discussion groups — one Italian language group and the only German-speaking group — have suggested that the church might be able to use what is called the “internal forum” to allow some remarried persons to take the Eucharist on a private, case-by-case basis after seeking guidance, advice and then permission from priests or bishops.

“Certainly, an internal forum solution is a possibility which we’ll have to study,” said the cardinal.

“This is … not new,” he said, before referring to a 20th Century Redemptorist priest and renowned moral theologian who was not always in vogue at the Vatican.

“Bernard Haring, the moral theologian, proposed this many, many years ago,” said Gracias.

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