The reports of the 13 working groups on the third and last part of the Instrumentum Laboris - "The Mission of the Family Today" - have now been published and I will again share an overview of their common themes here, with the same nomenclature as I did for the first and second part.
Please, note that these reports are much extensive (at 16K words) than those on the fist and second parts (both at 12K words), which is indicative both of this third part being the most extensive in the Instrumentum Laboris and of the topics discussed here being the most controversial.
With that in mind, here is again a selection of the contents of the English, Italian, Spanish and German reports, grouped by topic:
- Family as subject of evangelization.
G: "To clearly emphasize the family as a pastoral subject it needs to become understood that Christian families are called to witness to the Gospel of marriage, which is entrusted to them through their lives. Christian couples and families are therefore part of the new family of Christ, his Church. So may married couples be a sacrament for the world."
IA: "The family as the subject of evangelization (and not only as an object of care) is to be preserved in its being "domestic church", where the Gospel makes its home in prayer, spirituality and the daily life of the couple and their children (in the diversity of families), beyond all idealism or resignation to the present time."
IB: "Given the fact that evangelization is the duty of the whole Christian people, [...] the necessity emerged for families, under the grace of the sacrament of marriage, to become ever more subjects of pastoral care, expression of a mission that becomes expressed through the concrete life, not something that is only theoretical but an experience of faith rooted in people's real problems. In this perspective, priests should be trained to recognize such being subjects, valuing the skills and experiences of all: lay, religious and ordained."
AB: "The group stressed that the family is not just the object of evangelization but an active subject, agent, and source of evangelization. The family carries out the work of evangelization within the family cell itself, through the self-giving love of the spouses, through the education to unselfish affectivity of children, and being a transforming leaven in society. The actual living out of family communion is a form of missionary proclamation. The mission and witness of evangelization finds its roots in the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist."
- New language.
G: "An appropriate and renewed language is decisive, especially for the leading of adolescent children and young people to a mature human sexuality. This is primarily the responsibility of parents and must not be left solely to the schools or the media and social media. Many parents and pastoral workers find it difficult to find a proper and at the same time respectful language that presents the aspects of biological sexuality in the overall context of friendship, love, enriching complementarity and mutual self-giving of man and woman."
- On gender.
G: "The Christian view derives in principle from God having created the person as male and female and having blessed them, that they may be one flesh and be fruitful (Gn 1:27f; 2:24) Being man and being woman are God's good creation, both in their personal dignity and in their distinctness being equal. According to the Christian understanding of the unity of body and soul, biological sexuality ("sex") and socio-cultural gender roles ("gender") can be analytically distinguished from each other, without it being possible to fundamentally or arbitrarily separate them. All theories that view the gender of a person as an a posteriori construct and want to promote its arbitrary exchangeability in society, are to be rejected as ideologies. The unity of body and soul is consistent with the concrete social self-understanding and social roles of men and women in various cultures to be differently expressed and subject to change."
- Dignity and responsibility for women.
G: "Becoming aware of the full personal dignity and public responsibility of women is a positive sign of the times, which the Church values and promotes."
- Sacramentality of marriage. G: "In no longer homogeneous Christian societies or countries with different cultural and religious backgrounds, it can not be assumed that a Christian understanding of marriage is present even among Catholics. A Catholic who does not believe in God and His revelation in Jesus Christ can not automatically perform a sacramental marriage without, or even against, his knowledge and his will. What is lacking is intention, or at least the wish for that to happen, which the Church understands by it. Although sacraments do not come about by the faith of the recipient, they can not do so without them or even against them; at least is is a Grace that remains fruitless, because it is not received with faith, which is determined by love, and taken on with free will. [...] We recognize the diversity of studies that exist about this issue and recommend an in-depth study of these issues with the aim of a magisterial revaluation and greater coherence of the dogmatic, moral theological and canon law statements regarding marriage with pastoral practice."
- Valuing mixed marriages.
G: "Regarding the issue of mixed marriage, we ought to mention especially its positive aspects and the special calling of such marriage, since non-Catholic Christians are in no way outside the One Church, but belong to her through baptism and a certain, albeit incomplete, communion with the Catholic Church (cf. UR 3). Interdenominational marriage too is to be regarded as a domestic church and has a specific vocation and mission, which consists in an exchange of gifts within the ecumenism of life."
AC: "Some were keen to stress that mixed marriages, while they present challenges, also present great opportunities; and in general we felt that there was need to speak more positively about both mixed marriages and disparity of cult. Disparity of cult can present great challenges in some situations - more so with some religions than others - but such marriages can also be a prime locus of an interreligious dialogue which has its feet on the ground. That is a value in itself. We proposed that the Synod recommend that a special rite for the celebration of interreligious marriages be devised."
- Family and the state.
G: "Without families there can be no community. Therefore, the political community is obliged to do everything possible to facilitate these "living cell" and to permanently promote them. The oft-lamented "structural disregard" towards families has to be overcome. Means to this are mainly access to housing and employment, the facilitation of education and childcare, as well as fair family benefits in tax legislation, which recognize the contribution of families to society in an equitable manner. It must be clear: It is not the family that has to subordinate itself to economic interests, but vice versa."
G: "In accordance with God's order of creation, conjugal love of man and woman and the transmission of human life are directed to one another. God has called men and women to participate in his own creative work and speak to being interpreters of his love, and has placed the future of humanity in their hands. This creative mission is to be realized by man and woman through responsible parenthood. They should, in front of God, take into consideration their health, economic, psychological and social situation, their own welfare and the welfare of their children, such as the welfare of the whole extended family and of society to judge the number and temporal spacing of their children (GS 50). In accordance with the personal and humanly all-encompasing nature of conjugal love, the right way of family planning is the mutual agreement reached through conversation between spouses, the consideration of the rhythm and the respect for the dignity of the partner. In this sense, the Encyclical Humanae vitae (10-12) and the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (14, 28-35) should be newly developed [or presented - "erschlossen"] and readiness for children be reawakened in the face of a mentality that is often hostile to life and partially hostile to children."
IC: "The theme of generation ought to be the subject of a catechesis that promotes the beauty of an opening to the gift of life for the family and society. The desire for a large family clashes with economic and cultural conditioning practices that decrease the desire for more generous birth rates and require family policies in support of the fecundity of the family."
AA: "[W]e addressed the procreation and upbringing of children, affirming the rich teaching of Humanae Vitae, especially its affirmation that the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marital act are inseparable. Authentic pastoral accompaniment of couples proclaims this truth and also helps couples see that a well-formed conscience embraces the moral law not as an external restraint but, in grace, as a way of freedom. A pastoral approach is required that seeks to help spouses accept the full truth about marital love in ways that are comprehensible and inviting."
- Divorced and re-married.
G: "The first criterion comes from St. Pope John Paul II in FC 84 where he invites "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." It is therefore a task for the shepherds, to follow this path of distinction together with the concerned parties. Here it will be helpful to undertake steps together in an honest examination of conscience, of refelction and of penance. Like that, the divorced and remarried should ask themselves how they have dealt with their children, as the marital union fell into crisis? Were there attempts at reconciliation? What is the situation of the abandoned partner? What is the impact of the new partnership on the other family, and the community of believers? What impact in terms of being role models is there on younger ones who could decide for marriage? An honest reflection can strengthen trust in the mercy of God, which is denied no one who brings his failure and his need before God. Such a path of contemplation and penance, in the internal forum, in view of the objective situation in conversation with the confessor, can contribute to the personal formation of conscience and to clarify how far access to the sacraments is possible. Everyone must examine themselves in accordance with the words of the Apostle Paul, which apply to all who approach the table of the Lord: "A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. ... If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment"(1 Cor 11:28-31)."
HA: "Jesus shows closeness and as Christians, like Jesus, we must do the same because, as St. Augustine said, "become what you receive". There is a need, therefore, to integrate the divorced a re-married through a "via caritatis" that would allow for opening doors and be close to those who are injured. [...] The "path of charity" is a pastoral approach that welcomes is close, while the "judicial path" arouses suspicion and distrust in many and there is no doubt that many of our marriages are not true sacraments. It is not enough to talk about ways of mercy and closeness, we must arrive instead at specific proposals because we will, otherwise, remain at the level of nice words, but empty ones."
IC: "The Fathers have agreed on four points: remove some forms of liturgical, educational, pastoral exclusion that still exist; promote ways of human, family and spiritual integration by priests, experienced couples and counselors; in order to participate in the community, without prejudice to the current doctrine, discern individual situations in the internal forum under the guidance of the bishop and designated priests, with common criteria according to the virtue of prudence, while educating the Christian community to welcoming them; entrust to the Holy Father a deeper understanding of the relationship between the medicinal and communal aspects of Eucharistic communion, with regard to Christ and the Church."
IB: "Concerning the discipline regarding divorced and remarried, to date, it is not possible to establish general criteria covering all cases, which are sometimes very different from each other. There are remarried divorcees that walk according to the Gospel, offering significant witness to charity. At the same time, there is no denying that, in certain cases, there are factors that limit the ability to act differently. [...] Limitations and constraints then become a call to discernment, primarily by the bishop, that is to be accurate and respectful of the complexity of such situations."
IA: "Regarding the situation of those who have experienced the failure of marriage, members of the working group have agreed on the need to engage with them in a way that takes special care to distinguish among the variety of circumstances, however, while promoting paths of faith, of reconciliation and of integration into the ecclesial community. The importance of these paths including a careful and prudent pastoral discernment under the final authority of the Bishop was reaffirmed; Episcopal Conferences are called to mature common criteria adapted to the situations of the respective particular Churches."
AC: "With regard to those divorced and civilly remarried, we agreed that relationships of many kinds come under this heading. There was general agreement that we needed to provide more effective pastoral accompaniment for these couples, and especially perhaps for their children who also have rights. There was, however, little enthusiasm for what the Instrumentum Laboris calls "a penitential path"."
AA: "The majority without full consensus affirmed the current teaching and practice of the Church regarding the participation in the Eucharist of those who are divorced and civilly remarried. We acknowledged that this pathway may be difficult, and pastors should accompany them with understanding, always ready to extend God’s mercy to them anew when they stand in need of it. A majority without full consensus also affirmed that pastoral practice concerning reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist by those divorced and civilly remarried ought not to be left to individual episcopal conferences.To do so would risk harm to the unity of the Catholic Church, the understanding of her sacramental order, and the visible witness of the life of the faithful."
- Joy and the cross.
HB: "Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, we must remain alert, scanning the horizon to offer hope, joy and commitment to Jesus and the Church, in the face of the complaints of the eldest son who was hurt and upset that his father cared for the lost son and celebrated [his return]. In Jesus crucified and forsaken all the pains of humanity flow together. In communion with Him we all feel welcomed."
- Marriage preparation.
IC: "There is a need to move from "courses" of preparation to a "path" of involvement of the couple in the Church's life and of the Church in the path of the couple, translating it into a real journey of "initiation". [...] Here the future is dedided of the Church and society that requires a real change of mentality, to which are called not only believers, but all those who care about the future of humanity. Especially in the formation of priests, present and future, and all those who love the family (from couples with experience to all with a variety of relevant skills) we will require a more focused preparation for the new challenges."
IA: "[I]t is the task of the ecclesial community to offer a permanent journey of catechesis that accompanies all stages of life and involves families, without being limited to the immediate preparation for the sacraments. What is being proposed, with the help of associations and movements, are formation programs that introduce a person gradually to the life of grace, that teach how to find the center and unifying principle of the meaning of life in a relationship with the Lord Jesus and that give witness to the Gospel in daily commitments."
- Civil marriage and cohabitation.
IC: "Cohabitation and civil marriages: the Fathers, while critically assessing these different experiences, have strongly reaffirmed the need to lead them to maturity, with a closeness that takes away the allure of trial relationships, favoring ways that promote human development, of growth of faith and working, housing and cultural conditions fit for arriving at a definitive matrimonial choice."
AC: "We also agreed that cohabitation, though very widespread in many cultures now, could not be considered a good in itself. We were prepared to recognise that there may be good in the relationship of those cohabiting rather than in cohabitation in some quasi-institutional sense."
AB: "Care should be taken to identify elements that can foster evangelization and human and spiritual growth. Attention should be given, for example, to find those aspects of relationships established by civil marriage, traditional marriage, and with obvious differences co-habitation, which might then lead to growth towards a full celebration of sacramental marriage with the completion it brings."
- Homosexual persons.
IC: "The Fathers recommend to focus pastoral care on families that include homosexual persons, and on the formation of competent pastoral workers. They call for a deeper understanding of the anthropology of the topic."
AC: "The group was also divided on the question of support for families with homosexual members and for homosexual people themselves. Some wanted to delete any reference to homosexuality, but this won little support in the group. We opted for a briefer treatment, but also asked that the final document include at an appropriate point a clear statement of Church teaching that same-sex unions are in no way equivalent to marriage. We were clear, however, that in this Synod we were not addressing homosexuality in general but within the context of the family. We were equally insistent that we address this issue as pastors, seeking to understand the reality of people's lives rather than issues in some more abstract sense."
AA: "We spoke of the importance of pastoral attention to persons with homosexual tendencies, with special attention to families in which a person with same sex attraction is a member. The Church as the spouse of Christ patterns her behavior after the Lord Jesus whose all-embracing love is offered to every person without exception. Parents and siblings of family members with homosexual tendencies are called to love and accept these members of their family with an undivided and understanding heart."
- Affectivity and sexuality.
IB: "It is also necessary to announce the positive meaning of corporeality, the language of love that has mutual donation as its grammar and, at the same time, to point out the value and beauty of continence and chastity."
IA: "Particular attention should be paid to emotional growth, teaching a love capable of self-giving and relationships that are not compromised by a desire to possess, without fear of exploring the Christian virtues able to regenerate relationships and make them shine, first among them being chastity - the positive principle of a way of acting that looks after the other and oneself in the truth of love."
AB: "In sexual loving, the married couples experiences God’s tenderness. The Church’s teaching on sexuality – including the meaning of chastity – must stress the beauty, joy, and richness of human sexuality and the place of sexual love in a committed, exclusive, and permanent relationship. The rich Christian vision of sexuality is in many places being undermined by a narrower and impoverished understanding."
- Apology for lack of mercy.
G: "In a misconceived effort to uphold Church teaching, pastoral care has repeatedly lead to harsh and merciless attitudes that have brought about people's suffering, in particular single mothers and illegitimate children, via people in pre-marital and non-marital partnerships, via people with a homosexual orientation and to the divorced and remarried. As bishops of our Church we ask them for forgiveness."
- Comments on the working of the Synod:
G: "We have observed the public statements of individual Synod Fathers regarding the people, content and course of the Synod with great dismay and sadness. This contradicts the spirit of walking together, the spirit of the Synod and its elementary rules. The images and comparisons used are not only coarse and wrong, but hurtful. We distance ourselves from them categorically." [Cardinal Marx said in the press conference today that this was provoked by Cardinal Pell's comments about Cardinal Kasper.]