Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Synod on the Family – the Final Documents [2]

The final Relatio Synodi [2]
Commentary on Chapter II of Part I onwards and on the whole of Part II.

As already mentioned some of the clauses are inherited from the 2014 session whilst others were interpolated by the Secretariat in the Instrumentum Laboris (IL). Some clauses are completely new.

Chapter II on 'The Family in the Socio-Economic context' first emphasises the importance of the family as the basic unit of society and secondly insists on public authorities doing everything possible to support the family – clauses 11 and 12.

After a string of interpolated clauses no. 13 is inherited from the 2014 session and is entitled 'Loneliness and Insecurity'. Not much on the the first but quite a lot on the second and it has been revised to make it less Euro-centric dealing with the problems that arise from corruption and economic deprivation.

The next two paragraphs on the Economy and Growth and Poverty and Exclusion rightly draw attention to the problems caused by poverty and marginalised groups but to attribute these problems to some unique unspecified economic system is really an oversimplification.

Chapter II concludes with a clause on Ecology and how we should all try and protect our world. Correct but just how is another and somewhat controversial matter.

Chapter III is entitled the Family and Exclusion and first deals with the Elderly. This was first interpolated in the IL but has been rewritten and much improved. A further clause deals with widowhood. Clauses follow about the care of the dying and people with special needs. There is a new clause on the unmarried. All much improved in comparison with the IL.

Clauses on migration and refugees have been updated and made more positive in tone. Clause 25 is inherited from the 2014 session and mentions special challenges – polygamy, mixed marriages, cohabitation etc. Clause 26 is another inherited clause dealing with children which has been considerably shortened.

Clause 27 is an interpolated clause which has been rewritten with the subject of women again largely rewritten. An interesting difference between the IL and the new Relatio (RS) version is that in the former it is suggested that women should have a greater role in the Church whilst in the latter it is stated that women have a greater role in the Church already.

There then follow two completely new clauses on Men (28) and Young People (29) both of which gives much better balance to the document. That concludes Chapter III.

Chapter IV on Family, Affectivity and Life starts with an inherited clause 30 which thankfully has been rewritten with a couple of scriptural quotations. I do wonder why they use the word 'affectivity' which incidentally can relate to hatred as well as love. It is not a word many are familiar with; why not use the word 'affection'? The revision of the next interpolated clause 31 has had its title changed from 'Formation in Affectivity' to 'Formation in Self-giving' and has been improved although still somewhat obscure in what it is trying to say. In the next inherited clause 32 'Affective Fragility' has been changed to 'Weakness'.

Interpolated clause 33 'Technologies in Human Procreation' talks about IVF but only relates it to single persons and homosexual couples. Curiously no mention is made of the most common use which is for heterosexual couples unable to procreate themselves for some reason. No mention is made of more advanced techniques such as three parent embryos or genome manipulation.

The final clause 34 in this Part I is a brave attempt to rewrite an inherited clause and an interpolated clause the former of which is almost impenetrable in its meaning. The title is 'A Pastoral Challenge' changed from 'The Pastoral Challenge' – perhaps indicating a certain hesitation!

That concludes Part I which I understand is based on the See, Judge, Act paradigm. It is a very distinct improvement on the IL and the extent of the rewriting is impressive. However, the basic plan of the IL remains and it is still unduly pessimistic ignoring positive developments such as the Hospice movement or Pro-Life movements. In particular it ignores the almost total failure of the Church to teach anything about marriage at the local level coupled with the abandonment of proper catechesis of the young. This is as much a part of the reality of marriage for the laity as anything else.

Indeed, one wonders at the final clause of that section of the IL which says that those outside the Church or in irregular situations are referred to as 'excluded' or 'rejected'. People may feel such but I have never heard anyone refer to them as such. Perhaps there is some corner of the world where Jansenism still reigns? Or was this a prelude to saying their situation is really satisfactory and to be accepted? Or is it part of the liberal narrative that claims that traditionalists go round condemning people in that way? Perhaps this is all part of the victimhood culture. Thankfully the revision in the RS just says 'no-one is excluded'.

Part II is entitled “The Family in God's Plan'. Here we are into the 'judge' part. It is prefaced by two new clauses setting out the Church's view of marriage as based on scripture and the teaching of Christ.

Chapter I is entitled 'The Family in Salvation History'. The first clause 37 is a complete rewrite of the inherited clause and much expanded to describe the Sacrament of Marriage. There then follow three entirely new clauses entitled 'The Icon of the Trinity in the Family' (38) and 'The Family in Scripture' (39 and 40) – excellent teaching on the history of marriage replacing three muddled clauses in the IL. Clause 41 retains the same title as the IL – 'Jesus and the Family' but it is basically a rewrite and concludes the Chapter completely leaving out clause 42 to 46 of the IL although much of those clauses are included elsewhere.

Chapter II is entitled 'The Family in the Magisterium of the Church'. Clause 42 is a slight revision of the inherited clause dealing with teaching in the Second Vatican Council citing Gaudium et Spes. There then follow four new clauses each dealing with the teachings of Popes Paul VI (43), St John Paul II (44), Benedict XVI (45) and Francis (46) respectively. Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio are explicitly mentioned and thus the teaching of these two most important documents is confirmed. This is very significant.

From here there seems to be increasing divergence in this Relatio Synodi from the Instrumentum Laboris. Chapter III has the title 'The Christian Teaching on the Family'. Clause 47 has the title 'Marriage in the Order of Creation and the Fullness of the Sacrament' and mentions the 'Seeds of the Word' which is a phrase used in 'Ad Gentes' of Vatican II to describe worthy characteristics of marriage found in other faiths. There is nothing in the RS about finding the Seeds of the Word in irregular situations – an idea favoured by the KasperKampf – which appeared in clause 99 of the IL.

Clause 48 is entitled 'The Indissolubility and Fruitfulness of the Conjugal Union'. The word 'Indissolubility' or 'indissoluble' is used about a dozen times in this whole document and it is important to read the whole of the document to see it hammered home rather than just considering one or two clauses that have given rise to controversy. Again a vast improvement on the IL where we got such vague sentences as 'Some stressed that highlighting the teaching contained in Sacred Scripture can be of assistance' implying that others did not!

Clauses 49 and 50 deal with the the Goods of the Family in the sense of union and fruitfulness. Clause 51 is a very positive view of the Truth and Beauty of the Family.

Chapter IV of this Part II is headed 'Towards the Ecclesial Fullness of the Family'. Clauses 52 to 54 emphasises the need of the Church and the Family to be close together especially when marriages run into difficulties. It also talks about the need to try and persuade people to regularise their situations. Unlike the IL it does not talk about cohabitation as being a more or less legitimate step towards marriage. A final clause 55 end Part II and talks of the need to be merciful to those in difficulties or irregular situations but pointing out: “Proclaiming the truth in love is itself an act of mercy.”

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