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Church doctrine on family can develop, papal advisor says

When Pope Francis called for frank and open talk at the Synod of Bishops, he was encouraging bishops to speak up “without fear that Cardinal Mueller will come after you,” one of the pope’s closest associates said today. The humorous aside – well, I think it was humorous – came from Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, who is reputedly one of the pope’s top theological advisors. Archbishop Fernandez was addressing reporters on the synod’s third day, and he said the pope’s call for an honest exchange was necessary if the assembly wanted to be productive. The reference to Cardinal Gerhard Mueller prompted chuckles in the press room. Muel

Church needs to drop harsh language on marriage and family, synod is told

As the Synod of Bishops entered its second day, more than one participant zeroed in on the negative language the Catholic Church sometimes uses when it discusses marriage and family issues. In particular, one bishop said, terms like “living in sin,” “intrinsically disordered” or “contraceptive mentality” do nothing to draw people closer to church teaching. It’s a form of labeling that can turn people off, he said. The point emerged during a briefing for journalists that identified some of the topics discussed during the synod, but without identifying the speakers. In some cases, a few lines of the unnamed participants’ talks were quoted. According to Father Tom Rosica, one of the briefers at

Cardinal Marx says German bishops back Kasper proposals on divorced and remarried Catholics

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich said a strong majority of German bishops supported Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to find a way to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion, and that he intended to raise the issue at the Synod of Bishops. Speaking at the close of the synod’s first day, Cardinal Marx also said it was crucial for the synod’s debate on family issues to be an “open discussion” that extends beyond the synod hall and involves the wider society. Marx, who is president of the German bishops’ conference, made his remarks in a meeting with journalists. Synod participants have been told that their official speeches during the assembly should not be published, but

Synod of Bishops hears plain talk from Australian couple

This morning, Pope Francis called for open and honest discussion at the Synod of Bishops. This evening, the bishops heard it loud and clear from an Australian married couple, who urged the church to learn from the sometimes “messy” lives of modern families. Ron and Mavis Pirola of Sydney were the first of several couples to address the synod as “auditors.” They don’t have a vote in the proceedings, but they do have a voice – and they delivered a message that contrasted with the ecclesial-speak of the synod’s official documents. Ron Pirola told the synod that his 55-year happy marriage began when he looked across a room and saw a beautiful young woman. Their attraction, he said, was basically

Synod kicks off with a papal call for candor

Pope Francis convened the working phase of the Synod of Bishops on the family with a strong call for frank discussion, saying bishops should not feel afraid to disagree openly but respectfully – even with the pope. His brief talk Monday was followed by the reading of a revised synod working document that downplayed a topic at the center of fierce debate in recent weeks: the possibility of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The pope sat at a dais in the Vatican’s synod hall before about 180 bishops and some 70 other participants at the start of the two-week-long assembly. He said “synodality” means talking clearly and listening with humility. Francis recalled that after last Febr

The synod and birth control

In recent months, I’ve often been asked whether the October Synod of Bishops on the family will be looking at the issue of birth control. There are so many other important questions on the synod’s agenda, including the real-life struggles of families that face separation, poverty and violence, that one hesitates to focus on a doctrinal issue like contraception. Yet it’s a logical question. Birth control is arguably the biggest and best example of the disconnect that exists between the Catholic Church’s official teaching on marriage and actual practice by Catholic couples. The church teaching, proclaimed in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, says the use of contraceptive methods is intrinsica

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