Synod, Day 20, Friday October 23, 2015 – As Seen by the Catholic Left
“[I]t is the end of a Church that passes judgment on every situation. It is the sign of a Church that is open.” – Archbishop Van Looy
Synod of bishops fine-tuning final document on family life
23/10/2015 : Vatican Radio [with additions from the AsiaNews.it report in blockquotes]
With just two days to go until the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, participants on Friday gave their reactions to a draft of the final document which is now being fine-tuned and will be voted on by the bishops on Saturday.
At a press conference following the morning session, Fr Federico Lombardi was joined by Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, Canadian Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec and Belgian Archbishop Lucas Van Looy of Ghent to talk about their hopes for the outcome of the three-week meeting. [Where was Fr. Tom Rosica: Checking out the “internal forum”?]
In his presentation, Fr Lombardi noted that Pope Francis yesterday announced the creation of a new dicastery for the family. In response to a reporter’s question on the same issue, Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said, “The announcement that the Holy Father made yesterday [. . .] can be presented as the end of a process, because this is not the first time that the Holy Father has brought up the issue at a public meeting with cardinals and bishops. [. . .] He has done it twice, first with the heads of dicasteries, then, at the end of the meeting of the Cardinals after the last Synod, he came up with the issue.”
“It is a desire of the Holy Father to reform the Curia,” the cardinal explained. “At that time, these two possibilities were addressed: bringing together the family and the laity on account of the proximity of the subject matter and then probably strengthen them with two other offices for youth and women. That was the way it was presented at the beginning. Yesterday, we had the final form decided upon – the family, the youth and the Pontifical Academy of life brought together and probably supported by the two other groups. [. . .] About the possibility of the other coming together, nothing was said yesterday.”
After Francis’ address, the members of Council of the Secretariat of the Synod were elected. Their names will be announced when the pope makes the final choice.
Long days and sleepless nights – that’s how Cardinal Turkson characterised the work of the drafting committee, currently trying to integrate over 1,350 proposals for changes to the original working document put forward by the Synod’s small groups. On top of that, there were over 50 further comments made in the Synod Hall on Friday on subjects ranging from biblical quotations, to pastoral formation to the crucial question of the relationship between the Church’s moral law and the individual’s right to follow his or her own conscience.
Is it possible to integrate so many differing perspectives without watering down the contents of the final document, journalists wanted to know? Will the substance of the debate on key issues really be reflected, or must it be sacrificed to the need for consensus that can be accepted by all? Cardinal Lacroix noted the final Synod document is not a legislative text so it doesn’t have to reflect unanimity among the Church leaders – on the contrary, he said, differences of opinion reflect a healthy engagement with the difficult issues under discussion.
Among them are the ever-present questions of how to help divorced and remarried couples be reintegrated into the life of the Church and how to approach the issue of homosexuality, which some Synod fathers suggest has not been adequately dealt with at this meeting. Not so, said Cardinal Turkson, revealing that in his small group some bishops and cardinals themselves had shared experiences of gay members of their families. The cardinal also reiterated the view of another Ghanaian participant who told journalists that attitudes in Africa on this issue are changing, faster than they are in other parts of the world.
All three participants pointed to the important experience of synodality, as outlined in the Pope’s own words, allowing bishops in the different parts of the globe greater freedom to exercise leadership, while allowing the Pope to draw on the wealth of local expertise and experience.
Archbishop Van Looy said another key word of this Synod is tenderness, heralding a new attitude of the Church to stop judging and start journeying with people in whatever situation they may find themselves. While it’s vital to support families who do live up to Church teaching, Cardinal Lacroix said there is no such thing as the perfect family and the Church must remain close to all those looking for God’s grace in times of struggle and need.
At the briefing, Mgr Lucas Van Looy, bishop of Ghent, said that “this synod is the end of judging people; it is the end of a Church that passes judgment on every situation. It is the sign of a Church that is open, one that speaks with clarity. But for me, the last word that comes from this Synod is the word ‘tenderness’ that the Church has made its own for every situation; not just in the family, but for everyone. It could be the beginning of a new Church.”
Cardinal Lacroix from Canada answered a question that the issue of homosexuality. “I do not know how the final document will be. What is certain is that during the whole Synod we spoke of homosexuality in our families. It is possible that the topic will be included in the text. This was not a synod on homosexuals, but homosexuals do exist. I would not say it was about a taboo because it was discussed in an open and shared fashion.”
“The topic was also discussed in my work group,” added Cardinal Turkson. “We heard bishops and cardinals with experience of homosexuality in their families. [. . .] Let us not criminalise this phenomenon,” he said, “but let us not victimise those who have a ‘problem’ with it.”