VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican published the third reports of the small working groups of the Synod of Bishops on the family. The following is a sampling of what some of the groups had to say:
— English Group A, in a report read by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, emphasized the importance of religious freedom for families, the need for thorough marriage preparation and the role of parents as the primary educators in proper sex education.
While affirming the church’s teaching and practice that the divorced and civilly remarried may not receive the Eucharist, the group said that “pastors should accompany them with understanding, always ready to extend God’s mercy to them anew when they stand in need of it.”
— English Group C, led by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Northern Ireland, said the third part of the synod’s working document focuses heavily on families in trouble while “little is said of walking with families who persevere in the ups and downs of everyday life, especially perhaps those in the early years of marriage.”
The group also emphasized a pastoral approach to responsible parenthood that promotes the teaching of “Humanae Vitae” on openness to children and asked that the synod’s final document include a clear statement of church teaching that same-sex unions are in no way equivalent to marriage.
“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,” the group said.
— Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia read English Group D’s report, stressing that the working document “paid inadequate attention” to chastity formation not only for priests but also for families, couples preparing for marriage and for married men and women.
— Spanish Group A, led by Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, called for a pastoral itinerary for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and urged the church to “do everything possible to draw those who are far away.”
“It is not enough to speak about paths of mercy and closeness, rather it should lead to concrete proposals because if not, we will remain with very nice, but empty, words,” the group said.
— On the other hand, the report of Spanish Group B, read by Venezuelan Archbishop Baltazar Porras Cardozo, said that while access to the sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics is important, “the result and success of this synod does not hinge” on the question.
— Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Lille, France, read the report of French Group A, which said that in “situations that are considered irregular” the church must have a clear plan for receiving and accompanying couples and families.
Group members also insisted that “marriage preparation must have a catechumenal appearance,” a process of growing in faith, especially since many adults come to faith due to their marriage.
— French Group B, led by Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, discussed the formation of priests in their ministry to families, the importance of catechesis for marriage preparation, and helping couples “understand the long-term” commitment in marriage.
— Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher’s report of French Group C, using Jesus’ parable of the sower, said the group was struck by the diversity of the “fields” where families grow.
The group’s discussions were sometimes polarized, the report said, particularly regarding the issues of Communion for divorced and remarried couples and the role of women in “certain ministries of the church.” The archbishop had suggested the synod look at the possibility of women deacons.
Despite the differences, the report said, “we all have the same desire: to help these fields live and flourish so that they bear fruit.”
— Italian Group A, led by Cardinal Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, underlined the importance of seeing marriage and starting a family as “the fruit of a vocational discernment.”
“Marriage is the answer to a specific call to live conjugal love in Christ and in the Spirit, becoming a credible sign of the love of Christ and the church,” the group said.
— Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, read the report of Italian Group B, which focused on two issues: the courage of women who “eloquently witness” to respect for life and raising their children in often violent situations; and couples who are suffering due to separation.
Pastors, the group said, “must identify and find every valid doctrinal means to help those who have experienced failure to find the path toward the full embrace of the church.”
— Italian Group C, led by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, stressed the need for catechesis on the beauty of openness to life for families and society. The desire for a large family, the group said, often “clashes with economic-cultural conditionings that decrease the desire for a more generous birth rate and requires family policy that supports the fruitfulness of the family.”