Synod adopts tougher language on divorced, remarried
By John L. Allen Jr.
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In the wake of last-minute debates, the final message of the Synod of Bishops has adopted tougher language on divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, removing the phrase "your suffering is our suffering" that had appeared in earlier drafts, and not describing their ban from communion as a "sacrifice."
The synod has produced two documents, a final message to the world and a set of propositions, or recommendations for action, the pope. The message was released this morning as participants voted on the propositions.
NCR's coverage of the final propositions, based on a copy obtained yesterday, can be found here: The final set of propositions.
The message, drafted by a team led by Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Canada, was originally set for release mid-day on Friday. During its presentation Friday morning, however, several participants, including Cardinals Edmund Szoka of the United States and Alfonso Lopez Trujillo of Colombia, both senior Vatican officials, objected that the language on divorced and remarried Catholics risked creating confusion about the church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
Earlier objections along the same lines had already resulted in a steadily tougher tone in successive drafts of the message.
The evolution can be seen by comparing the first draft and later draft, both of which were not released to the public but were obtained by NCR, with the final message. The three versions read as follows:
First Draft: Oct. 14
"We know the suffering of those who are unable to receive the Body and Blood of Christ because of their irregular family situations. Some divorced and remarried people accept the loss of Sacramental Communion and they offer themselves to God in union with the passion of Christ. Others are not able to understand this restriction, and live with great internal frustration. We reaffirm that nobody wishes to exclude them from the life of the Church. On the contrary, their suffering can be transformed into a precious involvement in the Christian community. We invite them to give themselves assiduously to a listening to the Word of God so that their life of faith and their concern for the sick and the poor might be nourished. We want to tell you that we are close to you in our prayer and in our pastoral concern: your suffering is also our suffering. Together, let us ask the Lord to help us faithfully obey his commandment."
Read more NCR coverage of the synod on the Eucharist|
Report #19: 'Massive endorsement' of priestly celibacy said to be among the synod's important accomplishments Posted Oct. 22, 11:O5 a.m.
Report #18: Synod adopts tougher language on divorced, remarried Posted Oct. 22, 10:15 a.m.
Final draft rebuffs Latin Mass; priest shortage,
divorce squarely on churchs pastoral agenda
Posted Oct. 20, 11:00 a.m.
Gregory: Little change expected but synod took honest talk of pastoral realities
Posted Oct. 19, 11:00 a.m.
Draft propositions do not recommend changes in church discipline
Posted Oct. 18, 11:00 a.m.
Womens voices heard through interventions of 12 synod auditors
Posted Oct. 17, 12:15 p.m.
Statement on married priests likely in final list of proposals
Posted Oct. 17, 12:00 p.m.
Outreach to Latin Mass Catholics proposed for final message
Posted Oct. 15, 9:32 a.m.
Report #11: Problems acknowledged, synod bishops seek middle ground solutions. Posted Oct. 13, 1:15
Report #10: Despite frank talk, few breakthroughs expected from synod. Posted Oct. 12, 11:00 a.m.
Report #9: Key synod themes seem clear, but consensus may be elusive. Posted Oct. 11, 11:00 a.m.
Report #8: Inculturation of liturgy sparks debate at this and past synods of bishops. Posted Oct. 10, 11:30 a.m.
Report #7: Bishops of Global South link Eucharist and
justice, local cultures. Posted Oct. 8., 9:52 a.m.
Report #6: Discussion of celibacy and marriage clergy continue to hold center stage. Posted Oct.
7, 10:21 a.m.
Report #5: Environment, social justice emerge as eucharistic themes. Posted Oct. 6, 10:30 a.m.
Report #4: Divorced, remarried Catholics topics of frank synod discussions.
5, 3:00 p.m
Report #3: Priest shortage continues to roil synod of bishops. Posted Oct. 4, 2:01 p.m.
Report #2: Movements appeal for changes to make Eucharist more accessible. Posted Oct. 4, 2:00 p.m.
Report #1: Priest shortage takes center stage on synod's first day. Posted Oct. 3, 3:04 p.m.|
Read The Word From Rome columns|
The final set of propositions; The case of viri probati; Some worry the synod lacked theological heft. Posted Oct. 21, 2:07 p.m.
Latin Mass a non-issue; Interview with Bishop Skylstad; Scola's 17 questions to guide the synod. Posted Oct. 14, 10:46 a.m.
The synod so far; How to report on a synod; A view from Moscow; Document on homosexuals in seminaries will not create an absolute ban; Catholic left and right square off. Posted Oct. 7, 11:55 a.m.
Preview of the synod on the Eucharist. Posted Sept. 30, 8:05 a.m.|
Second Draft: Oct. 19
"We know the sincere suffering of those not granted access to sacramental communion because of their family situations that do not conform to the commandment of the Lord (Matt 19:3-9). Some divorced and remarried people accept the sacrifice of not being able to receive sacramental communion and they offer themselves to God. Others are not able to understand this restriction, and live with great internal frustration. We reaffirm that, while we do not share choices they have made, nobody wishes to exclude them from the life of the Church. We ask that they participate in Sunday Mass and to give themselves assiduously to a listening to the Word of God so that it might nourish their life of faith and their conversion. We also invite them to devote particular attention to the sick, the poor and those in need so that in this way their charity might contribute more effectively to the life of the community. We want to tell you again how close we are to you in our prayer and in our pastoral concern: your suffering is also our suffering. Together, let us ask the Lord to help us faithfully obey his commandment."
Final Text: Oct. 22
"We know the sadness of those who do not have access to sacramental communion because of their family situations that do not conform to the commandment of the Lord (see Mt 19:3-9). Some divorced and remarried people sadly accept their inability to take sacramental communion and they make an offering of it to God. Others are not able to understand this restriction, and live with an internal frustration. We reaffirm that, while we do not endorse their choice (cf. CCC 2384), they are not excluded from the life of the Church. We ask that they participate in Sunday Mass and devote themselves assiduously to listening to the Word of God so that it might nourish their life of faith, of love and of conversion. We wish to tell them how close we are to them in prayer and pastoral concern. Together, let us ask the Lord to obey his will faithfully."
In an Oct. 22 news conference, Ouellet defended the final language as one that "respects the debate we had in the synod hall."
"This theme was among the most delicate in the synod," Ouellet said. "From the beginning we heard discussion among the fathers. There was truly a concern for expressing compassion and understanding for the situation of the divorced and remarried. At the same time, we have to maintain a balance with the doctrine of church, which is tied to the command of the Lord in Matthew 19. The church is not free to change the gospel."
In an Oct. 19 interview with NCR, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta described the bishops in the synod as "conflicted" on the issue of divorced and remarried Catholics.
"Many of the fathers, fully knowing and accepting the teaching of the church, nevertheless came back asking, 'What am I going to say to these wonderful people who find themselves in an awkward situation, who want to practice their faith and be good parents and yet find themselves in this situation?'" Gregory said.
"There were two strong views on that question expressed on the floor," Gregory said, referring to a division between those who wanted generous pastoral language, and those who wanted a clear affirmation of church teaching on marriage.
The proposition dealing with divorced and remarried Catholics, number 40, reflects a similar ambiguity.
"According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, they cannot be admitted to communion, finding themselves in conditions of objective contrast with the Word of the Lord who returned marriage to its original value of indissolubility," it says. Nevertheless, it says, divorced and remarried Catholics "belong to the church," which "welcomes them and follows them with special attention," encouraging them to participate in the Mass, though without receiving communion.
If such Catholics cannot obtain an annulment, and "objective conditions" exist why their new marriage cannot be dissolved, the proposition says, they are to be encouraged to live their new marriage "according to the exigencies of the law of God, transforming it into a loyal and trustworthy friendship." In effect, the language means that these couples should not consummate their relationships.
"But blessing these relationships should be avoided," the proposition says, "so that confusion does not arise among the faithful regarding the value of marriage."
John L. Allen Jr. is NCRs Rome correspondent. His e-mail
address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCRonline.org will post daily reports from the Bishops Synod on the Eucharist through Oct. 22. Bookmark this page or check back with NCRonline.org to read more coverage of this international Catholic event.
October 22, 2005, National Catholic Reporter