Will the Synod Final Report Twist 'Familiaris Consortio'?
BY EDWARD PENTIN
As the synod fathers vote on each paragraph of the final report this afternoon, there are concerns that a proposal to admit civilly remarried divorcees to holy Communion will be subtly voted through, based on what many believe is a false interpretation of Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio.
The paragraph of the final report in question allegedly doesn’t explicitly mention the Eucharist, but sources inside the synod say there are concerns that if passed, the word “discernment” will be interpreted differently according to where one stands on the issue.
“If I had to guess, my sense is that it will go through and be passed,” a synod source said, “though one wonders what the fallout will be if it does, given that it leaves room for many interpretations.”
The part of Familiaris consortio article no. 84 referring to discernment states:
"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."At a press conference today, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, moderator of the German language group at the synod, said that “discernment” is the “key word”, adding that situations with regards divorced and civilly remarried persons are “different”, not always “black and white” and so require this discernment. Citing the “practices of St. Ignatius,” he even suggested such an approach would be Jesuitical.
Critics say such an interpretation would still retain the “internal forum” idea that has apparently been dropped in the report, and amount to a “twisting” of Familiaris consortio as a means to further the possibility of admitting remarried divorcees to holy Communion.
Article 84 of Familiaris consortio, they point out, explicitly states holy Communion cannot be given to remarried divorcees, although this is not cited by those pushing the proposal. The paragraph states:
"The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage."A source told the Register that initially some synod fathers wanted the whole of Familiaris consortio No. 84 in the final report because it "has to be read in its integrity and with reference to the whole of ecclesial teaching". After amendments following opposition from those supporting the Kasper proposal, the paragraph retains the part of 84 that mentions “discernment” but added that it must be “according to the teaching of the Church”. One observer said it is “weaker but still a step in the right direction” (i.e. preserving the true intent of FC No. 84).
But others still feel it leaves it open to interpretation. "What they are doing is a hara-kiri with the article, bringing forth something that doesn't exist and getting rid of the part they don't like."
It's worth noting that this paragraph notwithstanding, overall the final report will be good, according to comments from a variety of synod fathers.
All shall be revealed at around 6pm Rome time when the final report is published. I'll update this post with the relevant paragraph as soon as it's known.
Relatio Finalis (Italian only) - Paragraphs 84-86 deal with divorce remarriage. English translation of those paragraphs to follow.
Pope's closing speech (English)
Relevant paragraphs relating to divorce-remarriage:
Discernment and Integration
84. The baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried should be more integrated into Christian communities in the various ways possible, avoiding every occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral accompaniment, so that they know now only that they belong to the Body of Christ which is the Church, but that they may have a joyous and fruitful experience of this. They are baptized, they are brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit pours into them gifts and charisms for the good of everyone. Their participation can be expressed in various ecclesial services: it is therefore necessary what are the various forms of exclusion currently practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional areas can be overcome. They must not only not feel excommunicated, but they can live and mature as living members of the Church, feeling that she is a mother who always welcomes them, takes care of them with affection and encourages them in the walk of the life of the Gospel. This integration is also necessary for the care of Christian formation of their children, who must be considered the most important. For the Christian community, taking care of these people is not a weakening of its own faith and witness regarding the indissolubility of marriage: indeed, the Church expresses her charity precisely in this care.
85. St. John Paul II offered overall criteria which remain the basis for the evaluation of these situations: “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.” (Familiaris Consortio, 84). It is therefore the task of pastors to accompany interested persons on the way of discernment in keeping with the teaching of the Church and the guidance of Bishops. In this process it will be useful to make an examination of conscience through times of reflection and penitence. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves how they behaved toward their children when the conjugal union entered into crisis; if there were attempts at reconciliation; how is the situation with the abandoned partner; what consequences the new relationship has on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; what example it offers to young people who must prepare for marriage. A sincere reflection can strengthen the trust in the mercy of God which is never denied to anyone.
Furthermore, it cannot be denied that in some circumstances “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735) for reasons of various conditions. Consequently, the judgment of an objective situation should not lead to a judgment about the “subjective imputability” (Pontifical Council for legislative texts,Declaration of 24 June 2000, 2a). In specific circumstances people find great difficulty in acting a different way. Therefore, while upholding a general norm, it is necessary to recognize that the responsibility regarding certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking account of the rightly formed conscience of persons, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of the acts carried out are not necessarily the same in all cases.
86. The process of accompaniment and discernment directs these faithful to an awareness of their situation before God. Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and the steps that can foster it and make it grow. Given that for the same law there is no graduality (cf. FC, 34), this discernment can never prescind from the demands of truth and charity of the Gospel proposed by the Church. For this to happen, the necessary conditions of humility, confidence, love for the Church and her teaching, in the sincere search for God’s will and the desire to achieve a more perfect response to it, must be secured.
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