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Various bishops leave the hall where the Synod on the Family is being held.

Following a revolt of the bishops inside the Vatican Synod on the Family, the full summaries of the 10 working groups working on the final document have been published, after the bishops themselves voted to make the text of the summaries public. Originally only a brief summary was to be published.

“The Synod fathers decided unanimously this morning to publish the summaries, the ‘relationes’ from the different working groups,” Cardinal George Pell said today, “because we wanted the Catholic people to know actually what was going on in talking about marriage and the family. And by and large, I think people will be immensely reassured.”

The summaries (three English groups, three Italian, two Spanish, two French) produce a picture very different to the mid-term report or ‘Relatio’ released Monday, which caused great consternation among the Synod bishops and Catholics all over the world.

What emerges from the summaries is a clear picture that most of the Synod Fathers were alarmed and perturbed at the publication of the mid-term report, which most had not seen prior to its being released to the press. 

As South Africa Cardinal Wilfred Fox Napier told Vatican radio today, the mid-term report was “not to the liking of many Synod Fathers who were objecting that what was said by one or two people was largely presented (and was certainly being taken up by the media) as if it was the considered opinion of the whole synod.” Added Napier, “And that make people very angry”.

Cardinal Napier said, “there were two issues that got people ‘hot around the collar’. One was presenting homosexual unions as if they were a very positive thing…  and the fact that people (remarried after divorce) should be facilitated to get access to the sacraments.”

While even in the summaries there remained three groups expressing a vague openness to the concept of Communion for remarried Catholics in specific circumstances, there was a total rejection of the concept of valuing the homosexual orientation itself, which was the most controversial point in the Relatio.

The language used by the Synod Fathers was not complimentary. “Many in the group felt that a young person reading the Relatio would if anything become even less enthusiastic about undertaking the challenging vocation of Christian matrimony,” said participants in the second English-language group.

One of the French-language groups, headed by Cardinal Sarah, expressed the “emotion and the consternation that has been caused by the publication” of the Relatio, noting it was a “counter-productive” and sowed “confusion.”

There were calls for reassertion of the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical of soon-to-be beatified Pope Paul VI, which reiterated age-old Christian teaching against artificial contraception. 

The Synod Fathers drew attention to the need to acknowledge sin and call people to conversion. 

There were also condemnations of abortion and “assisted fertilization techniques,” in which “the dignity of human love and the child is also destroyed.”

The Fathers spoke of “an urgent need for leadership” from the Church on marriage and family matters, and that failure to give such a witness “would be to fail humanity.”

From another group, the Fathers stressed the need to speak out despite lack of popularity that may ensue.  

While the Fathers were clear on the need to welcome all persons into the Church, including those with same-sex attraction, they stressed, “To pastorally accompany a person does not mean to validate a form of sexuality nor a lifestyle.” Or as the French group moderated by Cardinal Schonborn put it, “this does not mean that the Church should legitimize homosexual practices and much less recognize, as certain governments do, so-called homosexual ‘marriage.’”

“On the contrary,” the Fathers added, “we denounce all of the maneuvers of certain international organizations seeking to impose legislation instituting so-called homosexual ‘marriage’ on poor countries by means of financial blackmail.”


LifeSiteNews has produced a document of the highlights from each of the summary reports:

From the first English language group moderated by Cardinal Raymond Burke:

Our Proposals have stressed God's love and our love and pastoral care for individuals, while at the same time honestly recognizing and acknowledging sinful situations, and searching for ways to invite conversion of heart.

For example, where the Relatio appeared to be suggesting that sex outside of marriage may be permissible, or that cohabitation may be permissible, we have attempted to show why such lifestyles do not lead to human fulfillment.

We believe that if we imply that certain life-styles are acceptable, then concerned and worried parents could very easily say “Why are we trying so hard to encourage our sons and daughters to live the Gospel and embrace Church teaching?”

We did not recommend the admission to the sacraments of divorced and re-married people, but we included a very positive and much –needed appreciation of union with Christ through other means.

From the second English language group moderated by Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier

In the first place, the group strongly felt that the Relatio ended up placing too much emphasis on the problems facing the family and did not stress sufficiently the need to provide an enthusiastic message which would encourage and inspire hope for those Christian families who despite many challenges and even failures – strive every day to live out faithfully and joyfully their mission and vocation within the Church and society.

The group asked me to record explicitly its concern about some of the conclusions drawn in the Relatio, about its methodology, its complicated language (compounded by poor translation) and of the effects of its publication before it had been reviewed by the Synodal Fathers.

Many in the group felt that a young person reading the Relatio would if anything become even less enthusiastic about undertaking the challenging vocation of Christian matrimony.

It was felt that in the current situation of widespread cultural confusion about marriage and the family and the human suffering that this can bring, there is an urgent need for leadership in today's world and that such clear leadership can only come from the Church. Such leadership is an urgent part of the Church's service to contemporary society and a failure to give such witness would be to fail humanity.

It recommended the examination of possible paths of repentance and discernment by which, in particular circumstances, a divorced and remarried person might participate in the sacraments; and about providing alternatives, such as a deeper appreciation of the classical wisdom and value of spiritual communion.

On the subject of the pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies, the group noted that the Church must continue to promote the revealed nature of marriage as always between one man and one woman united in lifelong, life-giving, and faithful communion.

On the question of openness to life, it was noted that in many areas of the world children are seen as a burden rather than a gift of God. The group stressed that children are really the supreme gift of marriage. Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love will help couples to be ready with generous hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day. In this light, the group felt that the Church should revisit and give a positive reevaluation of the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae for the formation of conscience regarding family planning.

From the 3rd English group moderated by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

Anglicus Group C was surprised by the release of the Relatio to the media…

We should not fall into the trap of thinking, or in some way conveying, that marriage and family are a failure, no longer appropriate to our times.

We rightly wish to welcome, without judgement or condemnation, those who, for some reason, are not yet able to express life-long commitment in a marriage between a man and a woman. We wish also to give them encouragement, to help them recognize their own goodness, and to care for them as Christ cares for his sheep. We wish them to know that they are loved by God and rejected neither by him nor the Church. In expressing such sentiments we may inadvertently convey the impression that marriage is not important, or that it is an ideal that only a few select people can achieve. It is possible that some may even have the impression that all unions are equal.

For this reason, we felt it necessary to carefully define the meaning of the law of gradualness, which should not be understood as gradualness of the law. Gradualness should not make insipid the challenge of the Gospel to conversion, to “go and sin no more”, as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery. The aim of recognizing gradualness should be to draw people closer to Christ.

From the 1st Italian group moderated by Cardinal Fernando Filoni (translation by Maria Dalgarno)

The need therefore emerged to suggest to the Secretary that Part II should be re-written proposing in a clear and joyful way the matrimonial life designed by God our Creator, in Genesis, and  ‘resumed’ by Jesus, searching – in this regard – to bring out what Jesus Himself said and did, remembering the experience of the Family of Nazareth, likewise the meetings of Jesus with the Samaritan, the adulterous woman and with the newlyweds who found themselves with empty wine-vats.

It was re-affirmed that the union between people of the same sex cannot be compared to marriage between a man and a woman, expressing the concern to safeguard the rights of children to grow up harmoniously with the tenderness of the father and mother.

From the second Italian group moderated by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco

The final text must necessarily show that it is a continuation of the Teaching Magisterium in this regard.  The pastoral character of this Synod, on the other hand, must show even more that there is no break between the doctrine and pastoral, but this (pastoral) is based on the first (doctrine) and it expresses the truth in the daily life of the christian community.

It seems that there is some fear in expressing a judgement on different topics which have become by this time dominant cultural expressions.   This does not appear to be coherent with the prophetic mission which the Church possesses.  It is important that the text expresses at best the prophetic role which the Pastors and the Christian community possess knowing well that we are not in search of an easy populism … but that we have the responsibility to express also a judgement which comes from the Word of God.

The words addressed to the prophet Ezechiel: “When you hear from my mouth a word, you have to inform them in my name…” (Ez 3, 17-19).    This becomes evident above all in front of situations which are surmised as a form of de-instituting marriage and the family in force of asserted alleged rights.

From the 3rd Italian group moderated by Archbishop Angelo Massafra

All of the Fathers of the Circolo press for clarity on the final document, expressing this directly at the beginning of the text.

The majority of the Fathers said they were surprised at the public dissemination of the Relatio post disceptationem; others, conscious that this was the practice in former synod assemblies, suggest avoiding this in the future.

It would be appropriate to return to the practice of publishing the interventions of the individuals.

Consider it essential that the Relatio restate in an explicit way the doctrine on marriage, family and sexuality, without hesitation in recourse to “sin” and “adultery” and “conversion” with respect to the situations which objectively conflict with the Gospel of the family.  The same fathers insist on the fact that to use euphemisms may cause misunderstandings among the faithful, above all due to distorted interpretations made by unskilled press.

The majority of the fathers, in analyzing the text of the Introduction to the document, signaled the need to use words that leave no doubt from the beginning that the only model of the family which corresponds to the Doctrine of the Church is that founded on a marriage between a man and a woman. This direction was readily welcomed.

From the first French working group moderated by Cardinal Robert Sarah (translation by Matthew Hoffman)

I also think I must express the emotion and the consternation that has been caused by the publication of a document that we consider as a simple – although very useful – working document, and therefore provisional.   What we have experienced, that is, the counter-productive aspect of this publication, seems to require us to carefully evaluate the causes and the consequences of an event that, by sowing confusion and provoking questions, has not aided the process of reflection.

We wish to affirm…  all that which stimulates the Church in its obligation to express truth and hope for our contemporaries and to question certain international organizations regarding the manner of linking their aid to the acceptance of their own conception of man, marriage, and society.

To note the failures of love and the existence of imperfect unions which are multiplying, calls for pastoral attention which knows how to respect people, to encourage efforts at repentance and to offer the fraternal support of the Christian community to which they belong.

Regarding the relationship between the divorced and remarried and the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, our text says that it is important to “not change the doctrine of the Church regarding the indissolubility of marriage and the non-admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, but to apply this constant doctrine of the Chruch to diverse and painful situations of our epoch with a renewed perspective of compassion and mercy with regard to persons.”

Concerning the reception of homosexual people, it seems clear to us that the Church, in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd (Jn 10: 11-18), has always desired to welcome people who knock on its door, a door open to all, who are to be received with respect, compassion, and with the recognition of the dignity of each individual. To pastorally accompany a person does not mean to validate a form of sexuality nor a lifestyle.

From the second French group moderated by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn (translation by Matthew Hoffman)

We have repeated our respect and our welcome to homosexual persons and we have denounced the discrimination that is unjust and sometimes violent that they have suffered and still sometimes suffer, including in the Church, sadly!  But this does not mean that the Church should legitimize homosexual practices and much less recognize, as certain governments do, so-called homosexual “marriage.” On the contrary, we denounce all of the maneuvers of certain international organizations seeking to impose legislation instituting so-called homosexual “marriage” on poor countries by means of financial blackmail.

Finally, we want to present in a positive manner, updated for today, the prophetic inspiration that animated the blessed Paul VI when, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, he celebrated the beauty of the very profound link that unites, in conjugal life, the union of the spouses that is at the same time spiritual and carnal, as well as openness to the gift of life.

From the 1st Spanish group moderated by Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega (translation by Gualberto Garcia Jones)

With regard to number five dealing with the current anthropological and cultural change, it was deemed appropriate to add that the most evident effect of it is the crisis of faith that has hit so many Catholics and has led to a crisis of marriage and family. This crisis has led to increased free unions, experimental marriages, divorce, and to be closed to life with the growing practice of the abortion.

The serious diagnosis offered at 10, deserved the following comment: “This is the result of the widespread mentality which reduces the generation of life to a one factor.   Economic factors sometimes play a determinative role, contributing to the sharp decline in the birth rate, which jeopardizes the relationship between the generations.  In the drama of infertility, when seeking a solution through assisted fertilization techniques, the dignity of human love and the child is also destroyed.”

We wanted to conclude this second part saying “knowing that the greatest mercy is to speak the truth in love (St. Augustine), we are going beyond compassion.  Just as merciful love attracts and binds, it also transforms, exalts and calls to conversion. See (Jn 8: 1-11).

Returning to those in courtships (34) it is necessary to remember the importance of education and particularly the virtues of chastity and purity, absolutely essential conditions to the growth of genuine interpersonal love.

Turning to n.50, it has been observed that one should not speak of homosexuals almost as if homosexuality was part of a person’s ontological being, but as people with homosexual tendencies.  It was requested to replace the text with the following: “The sexuality that makes us exist as humans, as male and female, is an non-derogable value in anthropology and in Christian theology. It makes us the one with and for the other, not by creating a distinction by but complementarily … people with homosexual tendencies also need orientation and support to help them grow in faith and get to know God's plan for them.”

On the transmission of life (53) it was noted that children are not a hindrance to natural conjugal love, but are its most natural and precious fruit, love made flesh (GS 48-51).

From the 2nd Spanish group moderated by Cardinal Luis Sistach

Pastors and experts in theology and law must reach clearer proposals on issues such as the possible admission of divorced and remarried to Eucharistic communion and legal proceedings for nullity of marriage, among other issues that have been raised

We consider that the document was missing an emphasis on important topics such as abortion, attacks on life, the broader phenomenon of adoption, the conscientious decisions of spouses, as well as greater clarity on the issue of homosexuality. 

We insist on basic doctrinal elements to avoid divisions or even parallel magisteria.