“The family is experiencing very difficult times requiring the church’s compassion and understanding in offering guidance to families ‘as they are.”
Synod 2014 Working Paper
The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization
By the Synod of Bishops General Secretariat
Origins, Pages 157-183, July 17, 2014 Volume 44 Number 10
Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization
Contraception, divorce, same-sex marriage, abortion and the right of parents to be primary educators of their children will be among the topics facing the third extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, according to the 24,600-word “instrumentum laboris,” or working paper, made public June 26 at the Vatican by the Synod Secretariat. The document will serve as the basis for discussions at the synod, scheduled for Oct. 5-19. It summarizes the thousands of responses received from bishops’ conferences, dioceses, parishes, academic institutions and individual Catholics and non-Catholics to a series of questions posed by the Vatican on marriage and family life. “Many respondents confirmed that even when the church’s teaching about marriage and the family is known, many Christians have difficulty accepting it in its entirety,” it says. Catechesis about marriage and family “cannot be limited exclusively to the preparation of couples for marriage,” but must instead permeate the entire church, the document adds. The working document says many bishops’ conferences encouraged the church to consider “more widely exercising mercy, clemency and indulgence toward” divorced and remarried Catholics. On the topic of same-sex marriages, the document said the church needs to “develop a ministry that can maintain the proper balance between accepting persons in a spirit of compassion and gradually guiding them to authentic human and Christian maturity.” The text of the working document follows
0 n Oct. 8, 2013, Pope Francis convoked the third extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops to treat the topic “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops began its preparation by sending the preparatory document, which generated significant reflection among the people of God. The results of that consultation are presented in this instrumentum laboris. . . . .
The Holy Father has determined that the work of the Synod of Bishops is to take place in two stages forming an single organic unity. In the third extraordinary general assembly in 2014, the synod fathers will thoroughly examine and analyze the information, testimonies and recommendations received from the particular churches in order to respond to the new challenges of the family. The ordinary general assembly in 2015, representing a great part of the episcopate and continuing the work of the previous synod, will reflect further on the points discussed so as to formulate appropriate pastoral guidelines.
The instrumentum laboris is based on the responses to the questions in the preparatory document that was divided into eight groups of questions on marriage and the family. After its publication in November 2013, this document was distributed worldwide.
A great number of detailed responses to the questions was submitted by the synods of the Eastern Catholic churches sui iuris, the episcopal conferences, the departments of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General. In addition, other responses — categorized as observations — were sent directly to the General Secretariat by a significant number of dioceses, parishes, movements, groups, ecclesial associations and families, not to mention academic institutions, specialists both Catholic and non-Catholic, all interested in sharing their reflections.
The present text is divided into three parts and, for an orderly treatment at the synodal assembly, reflects the eight major subjects treated in the series of questions. The first part, devoted to the Gospel of the family, treats the divine plan and the vocation of the person in Christ. Within this perspective, the section gives indications — positive as well as negative — of the faithful’s knowledge and acceptance of pertinent teachings on the family from the Bible and the documents of the church’s magisterium as well as the faithful’s understanding of the natural law.
The second part treats various challenges and actual situations related to the pastoral care of the family. The third part is devoted to the topic of an openness to life and the responsibility of parents in the upbringing of their children — characteristic of marriage between a man and a woman — with particular reference to difficult pastoral situations.
The present document, the fruit of a collegial effort by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and the ordinary council of the General Secretariat to gather and examine the results of the consultation of the particular churches, is placed in the hands of the members of the synod assembly as the instrumentum laboris. The document offers a broad, yet by no means exhaustive perspective on the present-day situation of the family, on the challenges of the family and on the reflections related to the family today.
The topics that are not included in the document, those in response to Question 9 in the preparatory document (miscellaneous), will be treated in the ordinary general assembly of 2015.
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri General Secretary Vatican City, June 24, 2014
The proclamation of the Gospel of the family is an integral part of the mission of the church, since the revelation of God sheds light on the relationship between a man and a woman, their love for each other and the fruitfulness of their relationship. In these times a widespread cultural, social and spiritual crisis is posing a challenge in the church’s work of evangelizing the family, the vital nucleus of society and the ecclesial community.
This proclamation of the Gospel of the family takes place in continuity with the synodal assembly on “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith” and the Year of Faith announced by Pope Benedict XVI.
The extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the topic “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” aware that “tradition, originating with the apostles, proceeds in the . . .
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, one of three presidents appointed by Pope Francis to direct the daily sessions of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops in October, told Catholic News Service that he found responses to a Vatican questionnaire about marriage and family issues “shocking, if I am allowed to use that word.”
“Shocking because almost in all parts of the world the questionnaires indicated that the teaching of the church regarding family life is not clearly understood by people, and the language by which the church proposes the teaching seems to be a language not accessible to people,” the cardinal said in an interview in mid-May.
“So this is my hope, not far change — how can you change the biblical teachings? But maybe a real pastoral and evangelical concern for the church: How do we present the good news of the family to this generation, with its limitations, with its greatness, with its unique experiences?”
Cardinal Tagle will take turns with Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris and Cardinal Raymund° Assis of Aparecida, Brazil, running the general sessions of the synod, which will be held Oct. 5-19.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., will represent the U.S. at the 2014 synod as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Other presidents of national bishops’ conferences, the heads of Eastern Catholic churches, Vatican officials and three superiors of men’s religious orders, chosen by the Union of Superiors General, will be full voting members. Usually the pope also makes several appointments..
The extraordinary synod — held outside the normal three-year cycle of synods — will not make any final. . . .
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