Editor's note: The following document is an invitation sent by the presidents of the bishops' conferences in France, Germany, and Switzerland to a confidential meeting in Rome that discussed advancing a progressive agenda on issues such as homosexuality and Communion for the divorced and remarried. For more information on the meeting, see LifeSiteNews' article here. Vatican reporter Ed Pentin highlights significant points of the below document in an article here.
Bishops' Conference of France – German Bishops' Conference – Swiss Bishops' Conference
xx. April 2015
Draft Letter of Invitation
The Holy Father has initiated an invitation to the XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place from 4 to 25 October in Rome, and which will have as its announced topic “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.”
Already the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of last year [October 2014] offered manifold opportunities to discern future-oriented paths of theological reflection and of pastoral practice unto the promotion of marriage and the family.
The Lineamenta of the this year's Synod [in 2015] again has contained a questionnaire which has now received answers from all over the world. Further reflections now seem to us to be helpful.
In preparation of the Synod, we – the Presidents of the French, German, and Swiss Bishops' Conferences – host a theological Day of Study together. It will pick up on the impulses which have come out of the present opinion-forming responses, and which refer to the theological-anthropological aspects of human biography and love and to the exegesis of the message of the New Testament which relates to this topic.
Cordially we invite you personally to participate in this Day of Study. It will take place on
Monday, 25th May, 2015, from 9.00 am. until 16.00 pm.
At the Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Sala Gonzaga,
Piazza della Pilotta, 4
You will find enclosed the preliminary program, as well as a content-related summary of the three topics to be discussed.
The Day of Study brings together participants of the Synod, high-ranking Curial members, theologians from our [three] countries, as well as journalists. The number of participants shall not exceed more than about 50 persons. In the interest of a free debate it is to be a closed event, which has for the participating journalists the character of a background conversation.
It would give us much joy if you could make possible your participation. You will also find enclosed an application form. We ask for your application in this form, to be received not later than 4 May 2015. We will gladly cover the travel and lodging costs. A list of nearby hotels is also enclosed.
In case of further questions, Mrs. XXX (French Bishops' Conference +33 01 72 36 68 00?), Mrs. Patricia Dehnert (German Bishops' Conference, tel. +49 228 103-274), as well as Mrs. xx (Swiss Bishops' Conference, +41 26 5101515) will be available for you.
We remain with very cordial greetings and the best wishes and blessings for this Season of Easter, yours
Mgr. Georges Pontier
Mgr. Markus Büchel
Reinhard Cardinal Marx
Day of Study Concerning the Synod of Bishops
“The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.”
A Conjoint Initiative of the Presidents of the French, German, and Swiss Bishops' Conferences
Monday, 25 May, 2015 – Rome, Gregorian University, Sala Gonzaga
08.00 Occasion for Participation at the Holy Mass
Jesuit Chapel, Gregorian University
09.00-09.30 Welcome and Introduction into the Conference
(P. Prof. Dr. Hans Zollner, SJ, Archbishop Georges Pontier)
The Words of Jesus concerning Marriage and Divorce
– Reflections upon a Catholic Hermeneutic of the Bibel
09.30-09.50 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Anne-Marie Pelletier)
09.50-10.10 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Thomas Söding)
10.10-10.40 Discussion with the Participants
– Coffee Break –
Sexuality as Expression of Love
– Reflections upon a Theology of Love
11.10-11.30 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Eberhard Schockenhoff)
11.30-11.50 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. François-Xavier Amherdt)
11.50-12.20 Discussion with the Participants
– Lunch Break with Snack –
The Gift of One's Own Life
– Reflections upon a Theology of the Biography
13.30-13.50 Short Presentation (P. Prof. Dr. Alain Thomasset SJ)
13.50-14.10 Short Presentation (Prof. Dr. Eva-Maria Faber)
14.10-14.40 Discussion with the Participants
14.40-15.40 Final Overall Discussion
15.40-16.00 Closing Remarks (Cardinal Reinhard Marx)
Moderation: Dr. Francine Charoy / P. Bernd Hagenkord SJ
Concerning the Main Topics of the Conference
The Words of Jesus Concerning Marriage and Divorce: Reflections upon a Catholic Hermeneutic of the Bible
The words of Jesus concerning marriage and divorce have to be interpreted in the context of his entire proclamation and of the tradition of the Church. According to the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation in the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum (No 8), the understanding of tradition is the cause for progress in history, namely, because of the study and the considerations of the faithful, their own understanding of spiritual things, and because of the teaching of the Magisterium. What is the meaning of the spiritual experiences of the faithful for the hermeneutic of Scripture and Tradition? What significance lies in the experiences of the faithful in marriage and in the family, with respect to the understanding of the words of Jesus concerning marriage and divorce and their concretization in the context of the contemporary life realities?
Sexuality as Expression of Love: Reflections upon a Theology of Love
The Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar doctrinal developments have promoted a personal understanding of sexuality which considers sexual relationships as expressions of marital love. However, love between a man and a woman exists also outside of a canonically valid marriage. What significance can sexuality have in such relationships? A newly developed theology of love is therefore necessary which can build upon the tradition of the moral-theological capacity to differentiate, and which includes new insights from anthropology and sociology. Part of this would be a personal understanding of sexuality which is not concentrated upon sexual acts or their consummations, but rather looks at the connection between Eros and Agape. How can these different forms of love be assessed moral-theologically, and in a differentiated way? What is the “added value” of the sacramental marriage in comparison to other forms of living? The Law of Graduality, as it has been discussed at the last Synod, or the reference to the teaching of the“logoi spermatikoi,” as made by the Relatio, can both – is it not so? – be starting points for a further development of the Church's teaching on marriage?
The Gift of One's Own Life: Reflections upon a Theology of the Biography
Socially, in a highly complex and pluralistic society, the individual has a greater responsibility for one's own way of life. Often, it does not follow traditional patterns any more. The personal concepts of life and the conscientious decisions of the individual [now] play a greater role; biographical developments [sic] are part of the planning of life. To this fact, the pastoral practice concerning marriage and the family has to respond. What kind of new role could the proclamation of the Gospels and the formation of conscience play when the faithful in their relationships and in their sexual life do not live up to the demands of the Gospels? Concerning those people who have failed with their life designs, how can the Church accompany them with regard to pastoral care as well as, possibly, with regard to the liturgy? How can the Church proclaim convincingly the presence of God in such failures?
Translated by Maike Hickson