The 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family has wrapped up its work and the bishops have voted on a final document to be given to Pope Francis. In the past three weeks, 270 cardinals, archbishops, and priests from around the world, joined by lay observers, have discussed and debated a host of issues, including letting divorced and civilly remarried couples return to Communion, using less harsh language in reference to gays and lesbians as well as couples living together outside of marriage, preparing couples better for the challenges of married life, and supporting them more during marriage.
Crux is translating the document and will post information about each topic section-by-section, so check back frequently for updates.
Divorced and civilly remarried Catholics
Section 84. The first section on the divorced and remarried was adopted by a vote of 187-72.
While not advocating that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics should receive Communion, the bishops nonetheless declared that the Church should figure out whether they can be included in any elements of Church life from which they are now excluded.
They also said that they should be more integrated into the life of the Church and not made to feel that they have been excommunicated — not only for their sake, but for the sake of their children.
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Section 85. The second section on the divorced and remarried was adopted by a vote of 178 to 80.
When deciding how much to integrate remarried Catholics into Church life, the bishops said consideration must be given to the fact that both parties in a divorce may not be equally to blame, and that the fallout from a divorce may not be the same in all cases.
The Church should follow the “complex criterion” set out by Pope Saint John Paul II in understanding the difference between Catholics who tried to save their first marriage but were abandoned, and those who destroyed the marriage “through a grave fault.”
Some Catholics, they pointed out, remarried for the sake of their children. But they should ask themselves how they treated their kids when their marriage started breaking apart, how hard they tried to reconcile, how their second marriage has affected their family, and whether they are truly setting a good example for young couples contemplating marriage.
Section 86. The second section on the divorced and remarried was adopted by a vote of 190 to 64.
How to figure out how divorced/remarried Catholics can participate more fully in the Church? They should have private conversations with their priest, who will help them understand their situation and what steps they can take.
But they must demonstrate humility, discretion, and a love for the Church and its teaching, and be sincerely searching for the will of God, the bishops said.
Gays and lesbians
Section 76. The section on homosexual unions was approved by a vote of 221-37.
The bishops strongly rejected the notion of same-sex marriages, declaring that they are not “even remotely analogous” to straight unions. They also reiterated Church teaching that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, be treated with dignity and respect and not be subjected to “unjust discrimination.”
They said local churches shouldn’t be pressured on the question of same-sex marriage, nor should international aid organizations make the acceptance of gay unions a condition of their financial help to poor nations.