Sixth General Congregation: the Church is the house of the Father, not a customs office, and must not be indifferent to weakness
City, 9 October 2014 (VIS) – During the Sixth General Congregation,
which took place yesterday afternoon, the Synod Fathers continued their
debate on the theme set forth in the Instrumentum Laboris: “Difficult
pastoral situations (Part II, Chapter 3). Situations in Families /
Concerning Unions of Persons of the Same Sex”.
it was underlined that the Church is not a customs house, but rather
the house of the Father, and must therefore offer patient accompaniment
to all people, including those who find themselves in difficult pastoral
situations. The true Catholic Church encompasses healthy families and
families in crisis, and therefore in her daily effort of sanctification
must not show indifference in relation to weakness, as patience implies
actively helping the weakest.
regard to processes for the declaration of nullity of marriage, in
general the need to streamline the procedures was observed by many
(along with the need to integrate more competent laypersons in the
ecclesiastical Tribunals), but the Assembly also noted the danger of
superficiality and the need always to safeguard respect for the truth
and the rights of the parties. It was also remarked that the process is
not contrary to pastoral charity, and judicial pastoral must avoid
attempts to apportion blame, instead encouraging a calm discussion of
cases. Again with regard to marriage nullity, the hypothesis of recourse
to administrative channels, not in lieu of the judicial process but
rather as a complement to it, was considered. It was suggested that it
would be the responsibility of the bishop to decide which requests for
nullity could be dealt with through administrative channels.
was strongly emphasised that an attitude of respect must be adopted in
relation to divorced and remarried persons, as they often live in
situations of unease or social injustice, suffer in silence and in many
cases seek a gradual path to fuller participation in ecclesial life.
Pastoral care must not therefore be repressive, but full of mercy.
regard to polygamy, on the one hand it was underlined that this is a
diminishing tendency as it is favoured mostly within rural contexts and
therefore undermined by advancing urbanisation; on the other, it was
recalled that there are polygamists who have converted to Catholicism
and who wish to receive the sacraments of Christian initiation, and it
was asked if there are specific pastoral measures to engage with these
situations with the appropriate discernment.
returned to the need for greater preparation for marriage, especially
among the young, to whom the beauty of sacramental union must be
presented, along with an adequate emotional education that is not merely
a moralistic exhortation that risks generating a sort of religious and
human illiteracy. The path to marriage must involve a true growth of the
the hour of free discussion – between 6 and 7 p.m. – the interventions
presented experiences and practical models for the pastoral care of
divorced and remarried persons, making extensive use of listening
groups. It was remarked that it is important to carefully avoid moral
judgement or speaking of a “permanent state of sin”, seeking instead to
enable understanding that not being admitted to the sacrament of the
Eucharist does not entirely eliminate the possibility of grace in Christ
and is due rather to the objective situation of remaining bound by a
previous and indissoluble sacramental bond. In this respect, the
importance of spiritual communion was emphasised repeatedly. It was also
commented that there are evident limits to these proposals and that
certainly there are no “easy” solutions to the problem.
in relation to the pastoral care of homosexual persons, emphasis was
placed on the importance of listening and the use of listening groups.
interventions focused on the issue of Catholics who change Christian
confession, or vice versa, with the difficult consequences that may
arise from inter-confessional marriages and the validation of their
validity in the light of the possibilities of divorce in the Orthodox
the Ordinary Synod held in 1980 on the theme of “The Christian family”,
it was observed that great evolution has occurred since then in
international legal culture and it is therefore necessary for the Church
to be aware of this, and for cultural institutions such as the Catholic
Universities to face this situation in order to retain a role in