After the Synod midpoint document, the Relatio, was released on Monday headlines around the world reported “earthquake” changes in Church pastoral practices toward cohabitation and homosexual unions. On Tuesday Cdl. Wilfrid Napier of South Africa told reporters that their headlines “sent out an untrue message. ” He added, “Whatever we say hereafter is going to be as if we’re doing some damage control.”
Several reporters pursued the question and the answers simply left more confusion about the Synod’s position on these tense issues. Pro-family press wanted a direct statement that cohabitation and homosexual acts were disordered and prohibited one from full communion in the Church. Liberal journalists pressed for a definitive statement that “welcoming” in the Relatio meant a new era in Church practice –whatever the nod to doctrine–where one’s sexual life was no impediment to full communion.
Again today, synod fathers answered more pointed questions about the “working document.” The urgent query, presented over and over to the panel, was about the document’s proposal to change the pastoral tone from “judgement” to “welcoming” and “accompanying” such persons in their journey toward God. Many remained puzzled as to how pastorally welcoming cohabiting pairs could support marriage, already in distress world-wide.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, pointed out that in this second week of deliberations the task was to “refine and improve” those original contributions reflected in the Relatio. He assured the press that on Saturday the final document would be more precise, more “clarifying” and set within the context of “sacred scripture and the teaching of the Church.”
Should that close the matter? It’s difficult to say. The Italian paper, La Republica reported that Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, described the the Relatio as “Undignified, Shameful, Completely Wrong.” At the very least, in the remaining three days the Synod has a lot of homework.
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