I appreciate this opportunity to share my thoughts about the midterm report from the Synod of Bishops, a report that has been the subject of many news reports and commentaries.
I must begin with the declaration issued by the Vatican today in light of the reactions in the media to yesterday's report. The Holy See Press Office reiterated that yesterday's report 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." The Vatican explained that "often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature." I think this is very important to keep in mind.
I do not think it is accurate to say that there is a "seismic shift'' taking place in the Church on issues that are being discussed. I agree with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, one of the Synod delegates, who said that the document is a draft and did not represent any kind of "earthquake" in Church teaching.
I think it is important to look at the whole report and not just a few excerpts. It is important to see the affirmation of Church teaching on marriage and the family and the importance of pastoral care of the family. At the same time, clearly there is a lot of debate, not on doctrine, but on how the Church welcomes, reaches out, and assists those who live in what we consider to be "irregular situations," such as cohabitating couples, divorced and remarried couples, and same-sex couples. How do we reach out with God's love and mercy to those living in situations that fall short of the ideals of the Gospel? There is a lot of debate going on regarding this issue. There seem to be disagreements among the bishops at the Synod regarding solutions to the pastoral challenges facing the Church, especially in the West, because of the increased numbers of people not living according to the Church's teaching on marriage and the family.
In my opinion, it is good to study and debate how the Church might do a better job in making people in the above-mentioned irregular situations feel welcomed as brothers and sisters in the Church. Here in our diocese, we have been working hard in this area. We have ministries for the separated, divorced, and the divorced and remarried and for persons with homosexual inclinations. I don't want anyone to feel excluded from the warmth of the Church's love which should mirror the love of Christ. I think many of the bishops at the Synod are also concerned with the language the Church uses in regards to persons living in irregular situations, language that may alienate, rather than attract, people.
# # #
Declaration of the Director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod:
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.