Here is a ZENIT translation of the B and C Italian-language group reports from last week’s synod on the family.
* * *
Circulus Italicus “B” Report
Moderator: H.E. Cardinal Angelo BAGNASCO
Reporter: H.E. Monsignor Salvatore FISICHELLA
The meeting of the Minor Circle made it possible to give ample time to the discussion and especially to be able to verify both the fundamental unity that characterized our dialogue as well as complementarity of the positions, fruit of the local experiences and of the cultural diversity of the participants. The commitment of the Minor Circle was twofold: we began with a general discussion on the Relatio, and, subsequently, passed to an analysis of the text and proposals for its modification. I shall pause, therefore, only on the general considerations, synthesizing the most salient points.
We thought that a re-elaboration of the second part of the Relatio was important in regard to the Gospel of the Family. This seems to us to be the foundation on which to build the entire articulation of the document. Noted, in fact, was a disproportion between the treatment of the Gospel of the Family and the different situations of crisis and of reality foreign to it, which do not make it possible to gather immediately the positive vision and beauty of the family. We believe that the first recipients of our reflections must be Christian families themselves, which have the urgent need to be supported in their testimony, in order to find the strength to continue their daily commitment, in a context that is anything but easy and favourable to them. Therefore, we cannot allow ourselves to give the impression that the Christian family is neglected in our synodal dialogue.In this connection, considerations must not be lacking that lead to verifying the different pastoral conditions that arise in various contexts. We think of the family in the ambit of large cities and metropolises, and those of small countries and villages. In this context, a reflection would also be extremely useful on the condition of the elderly in the vast gamut of their existential situations. The prolonging of age is creating situations of grave difficulty, which should not find the Church unprepared but, on the contrary, farsighted in proposing pastoral commitments that render evident her presence and her closeness. There are elderly families reduced to poverty, elderly who are alone and relegated far from their original family and elderly families now deprived of hope and with the sole desire to die. These realities challenge us and call for a credible answer. Our silence would be harmful.
Some topics of the Synod present an objective complexity that requires necessary further reflection to be in a position to involve experts on the matter. The speed to arrive at some conclusions does not always make it possible to obtain the desired result. Therefore, it is important to reach a coherent and unitary vision of the problem without falling into unilateral perspectives deprived of the necessary historical and theological support. This is true both for the proposals of penitential courses as well as for a correct discouragement of practices proper to the Orthodox Churches. To see in what way they can be transported to the Latin Church requires a pondered study, a non-conflictual presentation and a common solution in communion.
The final text should necessarily show how there is continuity in the teaching of the Magisterium in this regard. On the other hand, the pastoral character of this Synod should evidence even more that there is no break between the doctrine and the pastoral, but that the latter is based on the former and expresses the truth in the daily life of the Christian community. As Saint Gregory the Great said: “Pastoral commitment is the proof of love.” Precisely because of this, it is important to put, as the foundation, the very heart of the Gospel. This also entails the need to make evident that we are always before a progressive development of the doctrine. This is a guarantee for the pastoral so that it will remain dynamic and not yield to the temptation of initiatives that, to say with Pope Francis, expresses pastoral indolence. Therefore, the Gospel of the Family is in need of being presented in all of its complexity but also with credibility.
A subject that merits our attention is that of spouses who live a wounded maternity or paternity and who, nevertheless, accept their condition. They open themselves, in fact, to a gratuitous choice of love that becomes a form of adoption for those that, not having a family of their own, are alone and abandoned. This choice makes possible, to all effects, to express a true family that is able to receive, that generates new life and that gives hope for the future. These families merit a particular attention. We also have examples of families that already have children and who, nevertheless, open themselves to a communion of life with those who do not have the gift of a natural family. The forms of adoption and of entrustment are to be supported, not only at the level of a cultural proposition that privileges this way rather than the easier way of a medically assisted maternity in its different senses. It becomes also an appeal to governments to listen to these requests, and to become active supporters through legislation that facilitates adoption rather than impeding access to it through asphyxiating bureaucratic forms.
It is important that the synodal work continue affirming that matrimony and the family are not, in the first place, an ethical exigency, as often seems to emerge in several points of the Relatio, but are, first of all, an ontological and sacramental dimension, which is the foundation of the ethical horizon and not vice versa. In this way it becomes more.
It seems that there is fear to express a judgment on several questions, which, in fact, have become dominant cultural expressions. This does not seem to be coherent with the prophetic mission that the Church possesses. It is important that the text express in the best way the prophetic role that the Pastors and the Christian community possess, knowing well that we are not going in search of an easy populism that assuages and muffles everything, but that we also have the responsibility to express a judgment, which comes from the Word of God. In this context, the significant words are recalled addressed to the prophet Ezekiel: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life” (Ezekiel 3:17-19). This becomes evident especially in face of situations that are assumed as a way of de-institutionalizing matrimony and the family in force of individual rights. A simple phenomenology of the fact does not seem in accordance with the prophetic function of the Church.
It is good that a critical voice also make itself heard on expressions of contemporary culture that are vehicled by the Internet. In the context of formation, it is good to accentuate the recommendation that families and institutions evaluate with due attention the new culture that emerges from these means, the language that has been assumed and the consequent forms of behaviour that derive from them. To think that this is only an instrument does not allow for evaluation of the real new culture that is at the base and that conditions the young generations from the first years of life. It is good to recover energetically inter-personal relati
ons and, in regard to the family pastoral, to renew the dynamic of relation of family to family so that the weakness of one can find strength in the support of the other.
Circus Italicus “C” Report
Moderator: H.E. Monsignor Angelo MASSAFRA, O.F.M.
Reporter: Reverend P. Manuel Jesus ARROBA CONDE, C.M.F.
The thematic unity between this and the next Synodal Assembly, as well as the novelty that the substitution of the Propositions with a Relatio Synodi represents, have induced the totality of the Fathers of the Circle to solicit clarity on the nature of the final document, expressing this directly at the beginning of the text.
The majority of the Fathers was surprised by the public diffusion of the Relatio post Disceptationem; others, aware that this was the practice in preceding Synodal Assemblies, suggested avoiding it in the future. There was no lack of those who regarded the diffusion as positive, because they considered it in line with the frankness that has characterized the manifestations to the press of many Synodal Fathers before and, especially, during the Assembly. It would be opportune to return to the practice of publishing the interventions of individuals.
As a general and recurrent element, what made the Circle’s discernment more difficult, in the formulation of proposals readily shared, was the choice of the underlying perspective to privilege today, thirty years after the preceding Synod on the subject, in the renewed proclamation of the Gospel of the Family, in full fidelity and in regard to its contents, but also to the necessary progress they exact for an effective transmission of the nucleus of the faith, given the changed situations of cultures, of the different societies and of the persons of our time.
This difficulty continually marked the dialogue and the exchange on the various contents of the Relatio, with two different sensibilities emerging, both animated by identical apostolic zeal.
A first sensibility stemmed from the concern that the renewed proclamation of the Gospel of the Family, by the language to be used, the accents and the selection of topics, would contribute involuntarily to accentuate the lack of total acceptance of its contents. Although accepting that the specific profile of the topic, which invests this Extraordinary Assembly, is that of pastoral challenges, these Fathers believe it indispensable that the Relatio should confirm explicitly the doctrine on matrimony, family and sexuality, without wavering on the categories of “sin” and “adultery” and “conversion” regarding situations objectively opposed to the Gospel of the Family. The Fathers themselves insisted on the fact that to use euphemisms could cause misunderstandings among the faithful, especially distorted interpretations made by one part of the non-specialized press.
The second sensibility stemmed from the priority that, it is believed, should be attributed to the “desire of the family,” sown by the Creator in the heart of every person, including those faithful that, for various reasons, do not live it in full coherence with the Word of Christ. Because numbered among the reasons of the said incoherence are the lack of consciousness of sin and the grave cultural conditionings, these Fathers believe a new and encouraging language is necessary, which in orienting to the fullness of the evangelical message, is able to work on the positive elements that are already present in imperfect family experiences. In regard to objective situations of sin, the Fathers themselves, without failing in the proclamation of the truth, were moved by the conviction that the Gospel of mercy is an indispensable integral part of truth itself and, consequently, cannot be reduced to the observance of a mere pastoral attitude on persons.
These two different sensibilities, notwithstanding, the Fathers of the Circle drove themselves to carry out a serious discernment, in order to produce formulations that were shared as far as possible, accepting one another’s indications, especially in virtue of possible lacunae of the proposed text and, not rarely, renouncing also some problematic concepts to safeguard the contents. Proof of this is the fact that the majority of modes, also object of burning discussions, were voted unanimously, especially those referring to the first and second part of the Relatio.
Indicated, now, synthetically are the general aspects and some more specific ones that were the object of special discernment in the Circle on each of the three parts of the text.
In analysing the text of the Introduction to the document, a good number of the Fathers pointed out the need to use formulas that leave without doubt from the beginning that the only model of the family, which corresponds to the doctrine of the Church, is that founded on marriage between a man and a woman. The indication was readily received.
As the aspect of general importance, which emerged in the reflection on the first part of the document, the Circle pointed out the need to indicate in a more effective and detailed way the cultural significance that the crisis of the family possesses and its principal effects.
On this point a way was voted unanimously in which the dangerous break of the nexus of matrimony-family-life is manifested, in virtue of an exaggerated exaltation of the individual, recognized here is the possibility of reconstructing the triad to one’s pleasure, with the paradoxical result of rendering individuals weaker and more alone, and society more fragile (precisely because it is
The permanence of a generalized desire of family renders it unthinkable to uproot it from the normal experience, even if the elements of crisis manifest the need to foster family models that are attentive to the quality of the relations between the spouses and between them and the children, as well as the relations and the synergy of action between families.
By way of more specific contributions to the text of this first part, the Circle numbered, among the pastoral difficulties, the lack of knowledge of the doctrine on the family and insufficient care that the usual pastoral structures risk failing to give to experiences of life and of faith that are incumbent upon concrete families.
In regard to the second part of the text of the Relatio, the contribution of more general significance, which the Circle believed it had to offer,was the express mention of the doctrine, as some Fathers desired. The specific object of this part being “The Look towards Christ” and the “Gospel of the Family,” some texts of Scripture and of the Magisterium, which present the ideal model of matrimony and the family, were included explicitly. Consequently, the reordering of the numbers of this part was suggested, without affecting radically the structure of the document. A number was included that, in regard to living together and to new unions after a failure, alludes expressly and clearly to encouragement and to conversion towards the constitution or re-constitution of the family nucleus, in coherence with the Gospel.
Some specific contents of this part were the object of a more difficult discussion: the “hermeneutic key” of Lumen Gentium 8 was proposed as possible analogy for family situations; the topic of the law of graduality; the question of the degree of communion with the Church of persons involved in irregular situations. Cited on the first and the third concept were the difficulties that their use could entail from the ecumenical point of view; on the second, the risk of changing the law of graduality into graduality of the law.
After an intense dialogue, even the Fathers who were most convinced of the goodness of the mentioned concepts, believed it preferable that they not be used in the
The reflection on the pastoral perspectives of the third part was longer and was articulated around those proposals that entail some evolutions of the present discipline in regard to matrimonial failures. However, the most worthy aspect to note is the appreciation that the Fathers manifested immediately on the number in which the more general underlying choice is articulated: “to begin again from the family” in the entire pastoral action, convinced that the Gospel of the Family represents a privileged occasion for the proclamation of the essential contents of the Gospel in today’s world.
In the first part, the choice is specular to the cultural significance of the crisis, on which the Fathers of the Circle felt they should reflect further. In fact, the family is a school of humanity, because it is a school of love in life and in the growth of the person, thanks to the relations that matrimony requires between the spouses and between the parents and the children. It is a school of socialization, because it supports the person in the development of his capacities at the service of society. It is the womb of ecclesial life, which educates to live in the communion of the Church and to be active protagonists in her. Finally, it is a school of sanctification, in which the journey of sanctity of the spouses and of the children is exercised and nourished; it should be a special training ground for vocations to priestly and consecrated life. For these reasons the Church proclaims the value and beauty of the family and, with this, renders a decisive service to a world that implores to be illuminated by the light of hope.
In this connection, the Fathers pointed out some more specific aspects to enrich the proposals formulated in the text: an express mention of family movements; an apposite number on adoptions; an invitation to study new presences in the educational field; a return to the texts of the Instrumentum laboris regarding homosexual unions; an appeal to institutions to promote policies in favour of the family.
On the evolution of the discipline, the Circle pronounced itself unanimously on the need to study the enlargement of the exercise of the Potestas Clavium and the conditions to address, with extraordinary judicial procedure, the causes that do not require an ordinary judgment; the Bishops are asked to start a careful judicial pastoral, preparing sufficient operators, clerics and laymen.
On the access of divorced persons to the Sacraments, the Circle voted on a proposal, approved by a majority of votes, that opens this possibility in specific conditions and in moments defined by ecclesial and family life, valuing the meaning of the Eucharist as Sacrament for growth in Christian life, and holding firm the doctrine on conjugal indissolubility.
Some Fathers held the present discipline binding; others felt that the study on the theological foundation, which allows evolution, is not sufficiently mature.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]