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The final document of the Synod contains a total of 94 paragraphs. The synod fathers voted on the text paragraph by paragraph, but as the document is intended only to be offered the Holy Father as a basis for his own further reflection, the assembly did not vote on it as a whole. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, told reporters at a briefing on Saturday evening that it is still unknown if Pope Francis will write an Apostolic Exhortation.
All of the paragraphs contained in the Synod’s final report received a 2/3 majority. However, three paragraphs (84, 85 and 86)—all concerning the question of the pastoral care of divorced and civilly “remarried” Catholics—did so only by a slim margin. In fact, paragraph 85, which speaks of the criteria for evaluating these situations based on just one paragraph of Pope St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio (paragraph 84), received the needed majority by only one vote.
Regarding the care of persons with homosexual tendencies, the synod fathers voted 221 to 37 in favor of paragraph 76, which speaks to the need to care for families who have members who are same-sex-attracted, while upholding the Church’s teaching regarding homosexuality. It also roundly denounced attempts being made by international organizations to hinge funding to poor nations dependent on their acceptance of same-sex unions.
An official English translation of the final synod document is expected in the near future. For the benefit of English-speaking readers, Aleteia has translated the above-referenced paragraphs.
76. The Church conforms her attitude to the Lord Jesus who in a limitless love offered himself for every person without exception (MV, 12). Regarding families who live the experience of having within their family persons with homosexual tendencies, the Church repeats that every person, independently of his sexual tendency, is to be respected in his dignity and welcomed with respect, careful to avoid “every sign of unjust discrimination” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Family, Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons, 4). May special attention be reserved also for the accompaniment of families in which persons with homosexual tendencies live. Regarding proposals to equate unions between homosexual persons with marriage, “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved” (ibid.). The synod hold that it is entirely unacceptable that local churches suffer pressure on this matter and that international organizations make financial help to poor counties conditioned on the introduction of laws that institute “marriage” between persons of the same sex.
Discernment and Integration
84. The baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried should be more integrated into Christian communities in the various ways possible, avoiding every occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral accompaniment, so that they know not only that they belong to the Body of Christ which is the Church, but that they may have a joyous and fruitful experience of this. They are baptized, they are brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit pours into them gifts and charisms for the good of everyone. Their participation can be expressed in various ecclesial services: it is therefore necessary to discern what are the various forms of exclusion currently practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional areas may be overcome. They must not only not feel excommunicated, but they can live and mature as living members of the Church, feeling that she is a mother who always welcomes them, takes care of them with affection and encourages them in the walk of the life of the Gospel. This integration is also necessary for the care of Christian formation of their children, who must be considered the most important. For the Christian community, taking care of these people is not a weakening of its own faith and witness regarding the indissolubility of marriage: indeed, the Church expresses her charity precisely in this care.
85. St. John Paul II offered overall criteria which remain the basis for the evaluation of these situations: “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.” (Familiaris Consortio, 84). It is therefore the task of pastors to accompany interested persons on the way of discernment in keeping with the teaching of the Church and the guidance of bishops. In this process it will be useful to make an examination of conscience through times of reflection and penitence. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves how they behaved toward their children when the conjugal union entered into crisis; if there were attempts at reconciliation; how is the situation with the abandoned partner; what consequences the new relationship has on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; what example it offers to young people who must prepare for marriage. A sincere reflection can strengthen the trust in the mercy of God which is never denied to anyone.
Furthermore, it cannot be denied that in some circumstances “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments and other psychological or social factors” (CCC, 1735) for reasons of various conditions. Consequently, the judgment of an objective situation should not lead to a judgment about the “subjective imputability” (Pontifical Council for legislative texts, Declaration of June 24, 2000, 2a). In specific circumstances people find great difficulty in acting a different way. Therefore, while upholding a general norm, it is necessary to recognize that the responsibility regarding certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking account of the rightly formed conscience of persons, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of the acts carried out are not necessarily the same in all cases.
86. The process of accompaniment and discernment directs these faithful to an awareness of their situation before God. Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and the steps that can foster it and make it grow. Given that for the same law there is no graduality (cf. FC, 34), this discernment can never prescind from the demands of truth and charity of the Gospel proposed by the Church. For this to happen, the necessary conditions of humility, confidence, love for the Church and her teaching, in the sincere search for God’s will and the desire to achieve a more perfect response to it, must be secured.
Diane Montagna is the Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.