Marriage and Family Life

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Media Coverage of the Synod on the Family

In recent days there has been much said in both secular and Catholic media concerning the Extraordinary Synod on the Family that is taking place in Rome from October 5th–19th shown great excitement or angst, depending on their point of view, about a recent document that was distributed to the participants of the Synod. The document entitled, relatio post disceptationem, which loosely translated means, “a report after discussion,” was distributed to the Synod participants and it serves to summarize the discussions held so far. The participants of the Synod will use the document as a basis for further discussions as they break into small groups.

It is important to remember a few things:

• That a Synod of Bishops is an advisory body to the Pope and it cannot settle matters or draw up decrees, unless the Pope decides to give the Synod such deliberative powers.

• The relatio post disceptationem is a working document meant to serve the internal workings of the Synod by summarizing the discussions that have taken place thus far. It does not have legislative or doctrinal authority.

• Another Synod on the Family is scheduled for October 2015. Only after that Synod is it likely that any authoritative documents will be published.

The present Holy Father, Pope Francis, is working to transform the operating practices of the Church so as to be more transparent. With that move to transparency comes certain responsibilities by those who are “let in” on the debates. It requires a certain discipline to be patient, wait for discussions to take their course and not jump to conclusions about working documents that are not meant to convey any final decisions or changes to Church teaching.

This Extraordinary Synod on the Family and the upcoming Ordinary Synod in 2015 will both be valuable tools to help the Church respond more pastorally to the challenges that families face today, as well as to the present-day realities that threaten the welfare of families. So far, the Synod has seemed to adopt a language that aims to invite more dialogue about how to address those challenges. Some believe the language is confusing and subject to misinterpretation; no doubt, some confusion has resulted. Language is important, but complicated; it must be used responsibly. The on-going discussions of the Synod participants will be aimed at refining the language so that subsequent documents accurately represent the recommendations of the Synod participants. As many observers have noted, these Synods will not change any doctrines taught by the Church, but they could usher in new methods of dealing with issues and new pastoral approaches to addressing challenges. But, we will all have to be patient and let the discussions take their course. Do not let media reports cause undue excitement or angst, because only official documents from the Holy Father, not likely to come until after the second Synod, will carry any authoritative weight.

Please continue to pray for the welfare of families and for wisdom for those participating in the Synod.

Click here for a good commentary on the Synod from Fr. Robert Barron.

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John Paul II referred to our families as "domestic churches", or places where our children first learn to love God and one another.  Our office is here to support parishes and individuals in Northeast Kansas in their efforts to form engaged couples, enrich married couples, help those experiencing difficulties in their families.