With a two-thirds majority vote, the more than 200 bishops gathered for the Vatican's synod on the family supported Church teaching on hot-button issues such as homosexuality and communion for divorced and remarried persons.
The Vatican's synod on the family was opened by Pope Francis Oct. 4, and it will close Oct. 25. This year's event follows the theme “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world,” and follows 2014's extraordinary synod on the family, which focused on pastoral challenges involved in family life.
This year's discussion tended to be reduced in Western secular media to two issues: communion for divorced-and-civilly remarried, and Church teaching and pastoral care regarding homosexuality.
However, actual topics brought up during meetings were much broader, with synod fathers touching on themes such as domestic violence, violence against women, incest and abuse within families, marriage preparation and pornography.
A closing news conference at the Vatican Oct. 24 reported a sense of collegiality among the global bishops. Only two of the 94 paragraphs showed a disparity in the voting, both of them surrounding the topic of pastoral care for divorced and remarried persons.
Despite the calls by some for the Church to change its doctrine by allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics without an annulment to receive communion, the synod’s final report upheld current Church teaching and practice on the issue.
“It’s therefore the responsibility of pastors to accompany the persons concerned on a path of discernment according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop,” paragraph 85 read.
While there was an overall support for the Church’s teaching and current pastoral practice to remain in place, the document also stressed that divorced and remarried couples are baptized persons who must be “more integrated into the Christian community,” while “avoiding every occasion of scandal.”
“The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral accompaniment,” paragraph 84 said, explaining that their involvement in the Church “can be expressed in different ecclesial services.”
Synod fathers emphasized a process of careful discernment in considering which of the areas of exclusion in the liturgy, pastoral, educational and institutional framework of the Church can be done away with for divorced and remarried Catholics.
In some countries, for example, divorced and remarried persons are not only asked to abstain from communion, but also from teaching catechesis and from being godparents.