This year from October 4-25 the Vatican held the second session of the Synod on the Family. This years’ session, originally called by Pope Francis in October of 2013, was a meeting of the general assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss different issues facing families, as well as Catholic teaching regarding these different issues. The central issue the Synod was trying to address was ‘the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world,” as a continuation of the discussion of last year’s session, centering on challenges to Catholic families in our time.
According to CNA, most of the conversations at the Synod were focused on communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, and Church teaching and pastoral care regarding homosexuality. Topics discussed also included domestic violence, contraception and abortion, and marriage preparation. According to the BBC, during the Synod bishops voted on 94 total topics about the Church and the way She treats the family.
One of the more hotly contested issues at the Synod was the ability of divorced and remarried Catholics to play a full role in the Church. While it was eventually agreed upon that the Church teaching be upheld, there was a large contingent of bishops present who advocated for a change in Church doctrine that would allow these believers to receive Communion at Mass. This was one of the only issues discussed that inspired such disagreement, both of which related to the role of this group of believers in the Church. The other was regarding how integrated this group should be in the Church community. According to CNA it was noted that the bishops did agree upon the fact that no matter what, these people were baptized Christians and deserved respect from the Church.
Another issue that was discussed, which has been a very controversial one for quite some time, was the Church teaching on homosexuality. According to the BBC, the Synod reaffirmed the current Church position on homosexuality. The final document said that “every person, independently of their sexual tendency, must be respected in their dignity and welcomed with respect,” but, “there is no foundation whatsoever to assimilate or establish analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and God’s design for marriage and the family.” These were the only statements from the Synod regarding gay unions.
The Synod also addressed controversial issues regard life, such as abortion and contraception. On both topics the current stance of the Church was reaffirmed, with the Bishops saying life “is sacred because, since its beginning, it involves the creative action of God.” They also added that being open to children was an “intrinsic requirement of married love.” This is a sentiment that has been echoed by Pope Francis who believes strongly in the importance of the family and children. Last month at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia he said, “And where did God send his Son? To a palace? To a city? To make an impression? He sent him to a family. God entered the world in a family.”
The Synod concluded with the Church position on multiple issues being clarified and strengthened, but also with an open dialogue on some issues that Pope Francis hopes to carry into the future. The final text approved at the synod will provides the Pope with the recommendations of the Bishops, and the direction that the Church takes on these issues will now be up to Pope Francis.