Next synod will take a new look at family issues

Next synod will take a new look at family issues

  Francis and his advisory council discussed the synod's future

Pope Francis has decided to devote the next Synod of Bishops to family pastoral issues, setting the stage for a far-ranging discussion that is likely to touch on questions concerning divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitation and annulments.

The synod will take place in October of 2014, and by then we may see other changes in the synod’s format that give its deliberations more weight.

The Vatican announcement today was accompanied by an unusual statement by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, that seemed to be a clear signal to German bishops to hold off on pastoral innovations for divorced Catholics until the synod is held.

Yesterday, the German Archdiocese of Freiburg outlined a new pastoral plan, involving prayer and conversation with pastors, that could allow some divorced and    remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

The church’s longstanding policy is that Catholics who divorced and remarried without obtaining an annulment may not receive Communion because they are not in harmony with the indissolubility of marriage.

Father Lombardi said today that family pastoral questions should be discussed “under the guidance of the pope and the bishops.”

“In this context, for local persons and offices to propose particular pastoral solutions could risk generating confusion. It is good to underline the importance of conducting a journey in the full communion of the ecclesial community,” the spokesman said.

It appears the Vatican is putting the brakes on the German bishops. And it’s not the first time. In 1994, three German bishops allowed Communion to Catholics who were divorced and remarried civilly, until the Vatican intervened to stop the practice. Following a dialogue with the bishops, the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation eventually sent a letter to the world’s bishops confirming that such Catholics may not receive the sacrament.

I spoke today with Father Lombardi, who said it made little sense for a single archdiocese to stake out a new policy on such an important issue when the universal church was preparing to discuss it at length. He also said that after the 2014 synod, technically an "extraordinary" session, there could be a follow-up ordinary session of the synod on the same theme.

Extraordinary synodal assemblies are called to discuss matters that require a "speedy solution." This one will take place in Rome Oct. 5-19, 2014, and the full theme will be "The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization."

3 comments (Add your own)

1. brencel wrote:
"It appears the Vatican is putting .the brakes on the German bishops"

"the Vatican" and Lombardi have no authority to put "the brakes on the German bishops", only Francis has and as he has told us to help the poor, of all kinds, that is unlikely.
Clearly Lombardi thinks these "poor" people can wait for the Oct 2014, or a later, synod to be permitted to receive Our Lord; not a very Christian attitude.

Tue, October 8, 2013 @ 9:14 PM

2. Joseph wrote:
I am not a canon lawyer. I did understand that in Canon Law, in case of doubt the presumption is in favor of the marriage standing. If that were changed, it would make a huge difference in the outcome of many annulments where there are no witnesses but it is obvious there was no sacramental marriage because of the attitude of one or both spouses.
I understand that the Jews in the time of Christ allowed couples to live together anytime after the solemn engagement but before the wedding. Would there have to be some kind of annulment/divorce after that arrangement when the couple did not follow through with marriage, but separated?

Tue, October 8, 2013 @ 9:25 PM

3. Jim McCrea wrote:
I'm sure that one family issue that won't be even considered is that of lesbian and gay families.

Thu, October 10, 2013 @ 6:43 PM

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