Today at noon, Rome time, the Instrumentum Laboris – the text that will guide the second half of the Synod this October – was released in Italian. Some highlights, courtesy of Whispers in the Loggia:
Stacking out at 147 paragraphs – some 20,000 words – the text is arranged around three pillars: the challenges families face, the “discernment of the family’s vocation,” and “the mission of the family today,” each of them slated to take up a week of the discussions at the 4-25 October assembly.
Among other highlights, the final portion of the framework deals with the proposed changes of practice cited by their supporters as necessary for the church to better respond to families in challenging situations amid current pastoral practice.
On the assembly’s most hot-button issue of all, the instrumentum speaks of a “common accord” among the world’s bishops toward “eventual access” to the sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried couples, but only following “an itinerary of reconciliation or a penitential path under the authority of the [diocesan] bishop,” and only “in situations of irreversible cohabitation.” The text cautions that the proposal is only envisioned “in some particular situations, and according to well-precise conditions,” citing the interest of children born in a second union. On a related front, ample treatment was given to the state of marriage tribunals, with calls for a “decentralization” of the annulment courts and the floating of the “relevance of the personal faith” of spouses in terms of their understanding of the marital bond as a means for declaring the nullity of a marriage.
Elsewhere, three paragraphs were devoted to pastoral ministry to families “having within them a person of homosexual orientation.” While reaffirming the 2003 CDF declaration that “there exists no foundation whatsoever to integrate or compare, not even remotely, homosexual unions and the design of God for the family,” the text urges that “independent of their sexual tendency,” gays “be respected in their dignity and welcomed with sensibility and delicateness, whether in the church or society.”
The news about the continued push for the divorced and remarried to be admitted to the sacraments under certain circumstances is unsurprising. We have known that this wasn’t going to go away quietly, and there are always certain angles that can be pushed, leaned on, or used to apply leverage to move an agenda which should be immovable forward.
The part about homosexuals, on the other hand, surprises me. That’s strong language, particularly considering what we saw come out of the Relatio Post-Disceptationem (the mid-synod report) last October. That said, I’d be willing to bet the bottle of bourbon I’m itching to pop open that this isn’t the last word on this topic. Attacking the Sixth Commandment has a distinct advantage to those who favor sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance: break down the meaning of marriage, and “same-sex marriage” begins to make more sense.
As regards this whole Synod business — which is about to go back into full swing — I saw a comment on social media today that really struck me:
“Pope Francis operates according to a very clever, Jesuitical dialectic. By denouncing the most obvious, “old school” sins in the most bombastic way at times, he puts other more “complex” sins on a spectrum of dialogue and compromise. Such sins literally “pale in comparison” with the hardcore sins that he likes to target. This also explains why he invokes the devil so much. It not only connects him to “the people” in a charmingly homely way, but also, more importantly tares the moral scale so drastically on one end that all lesser “human” evil becomes less taboo and thus more amenable to dialogue and pastoral compromise. This is precisely how the debate about communion for the divorced living as remarried has operated: since we all agree that some things are just wrong/evil (e.g. child sex trafficking, slave labor, organized crime, abortion, etc.), then we can discuss more amicably how to “solve” problems generated by less flagrantly evil sins. The chief mechanism is to flatten the gravity is some sins by putting them all on a seamless spectrum of moral nuance (viz. implicitly putting abortion and less than absolutely open immigration policies on a par), while still validating his moral earnestness by thundering about the devil and mobsters. The added bonus is that, if anyone opposes his earnest, sensible, pastoral, humane, considered, etc. proposals on behalf of the God of Surprises, he can quite literally demonize the opposition as pharisaical minions of the devil’s work.”
Such an agenda would clearly entail a great deal of cunning. It is not my purpose here to attribute this agenda to Pope Francis, but rather to highlight one possible rhetorical device by which the issues that have been on the table at the Synod could have been pushed to the fore. We are left to ponder the reasons why Roman Catholic Prelates are openly discussing moral issues long-since settled as though they can simply be nuanced into contradiction.
The problem this presents is not merely the concern of lowly Catholic writers like myself. As regards the mid-synod relatio from last October, we recall to mind the words of Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who said, “This is the first time in Church history that such a heterodox text was actually published as a document of an official meeting of Catholic bishops under the guidance of a pope, even though the text only had a preliminary character.” He went on, “This document will remain for the future generations and for the historians a black mark which has stained the honour of the Apostolic See.”
Somehow, these things are transpiring. Somehow, this agenda is moving forward, although the pope himself is overseeing the proceedings. With the release of Instrumentum Laboris today, we are on the cusp of a whole new round of discussions, interviews, revelations, and assessments in the leadup to October, not a few of which, because of the global media coverage that will no doubt accompany them, will begin once again to shape the perceptions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike about what we believe and what can be changed. With the recent “Shadow Council” and the continued forward motion of the German bishops, unhindered in their opinions or defiance, what we can expect from the Synod itself is anyone’s guess.
But as Pope Francis is so fond of saying, God is a “God of Surprises.” The unexpected can certainly happen, even in a Synod with a stacked deck. We will be watchful and prayerful, and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.
DOCTRINE of the FAITH –
CCC: ” 1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions.
In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ – “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”
the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was.
f the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law.
Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists.
For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities.
Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ,
and who are committed to living in complete continence. “
CCC: ” 1415 Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace.
Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance.”
CCC: ” 1451 Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place.
Contrition is sorrow of the soul
and detestation for the sin committed,
together with the resolution not to sin again.”
Condemnation for Receiving Holy Communion unworthily – 1 Cor 11:27-30
It is NOT Pastoral, Merciful, or Charitable to ignore, confirm or appear to condone the Mortal Sins of anyone.
If you love your neighbors as commanded by Christ, you will want him and her to get to Heaven for eternity, not Hell.
Even if every Church teaching is ultimately reinforced, the end result of three years of speculation on long settled matters of the Faith nevertheless remains that long settled matters of the Faith need to be periodically depicted as unsettled and open to further development. And thus the relentless progressive drift toward practical apostasy continues.
All these begin and end with the pope.
This proposal is devious and destined to drag many souls to Hell for it is all about allowing the divorced and remarried receive the Holy Eucharist while still engaging in adulterous sexual relations.
Whereas, in fact, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics already may receive the Holy Eucharist under the following clearly defined circumstance:
Pope John Paul II wrote:
“Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.
This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.” (Familiaris Consortio, 84)”
On 14 September 1994 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the CDF issued a letter to all of the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the Faithful within which letter Cardinal Ratzinger stated:
“The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only “to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that
is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.
This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples'”(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists.
For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities.
Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those
who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity
to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.”
On June 24, 2000 Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts published “Concerning The Admission To Holy Communion Of Faithful Who Are Divorced And Remarried”
The Pontifical Council stated:
“c) the manifest character of the situation of grave habitual
Those faithful who are divorced and remarried would not be considered to be within the situation of serious habitual sin who would not be able, for serious motives – such as, for example, the upbringing of the children – “to satisfy the obligation of separation, assuming the task of living in full continence, that is, abstaining from the acts proper to spouses” (Familiaris consortio, n. 84), and who on the basis of that intention have received the sacrament of
Penance. Given that the fact that these faithful are not living more uxorio is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, they will be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only remoto scandalo.”
Mike, all of your points are very well taken. My parents were united in a civil marriage. My mother had been previously married sacramentally in the Church. My father was called to eternity when I was only eight years old and my parents were obliged to make an heroic decision by the hospital chaplain in the name of Holy Mother Church…to renounce their civil commitment and, if he recovered, to live as brother and sister. In return, my father was offered eternal life, all of the sacraments of the Church and a Christian burial. They chose correctly and their decision had a great impact on the spiritual life and faith of their eight year old daughter. I learned very early that the words of Christ, while sometimes difficult, do indeed require an heroic commitment.
Thank you for your testimony and that of your parents. God is never outdone with generosity. And it is for ever and ever and ever … the opposite what can one give in exchange of their lives?
When you truly love someone, it is of the utmost importance that you help him/her get to Heaven.
Everything else lacks in importance, and is not true love.
the instrumentum speaks of a “common accord” among the world’s bishops toward “eventual access” to the sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried couples how selective and most likely not true. What about the petitions e.g. from priests and laity to the pope asking that he uphold perennial Church teaching?
Feels like the “door in the face” technique. Maybe the homosexuality part, one of the things that need not have been discussed at all, was there to make this all so outrageous, that when taken out of it, things will not seem so bad by comparison. And communion for those living in adultery will look more palatable!
Attacking the Sixth Commandment has a distinct advantage to those who favor sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance: break down the meaning of marriage, and “same-sex marriage” begins to make more sense.
In one commbox someone wrote [I paraphrase]:
PS I have been looking for the quote again to as to give the commenter credit but have been unable and i would be grateful for anyone who share a link to it.