The Synod of Bishops on the Family opened with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, October 4, with an eloquent homily by Pope Francis, then began its actual work on Monday, October 5. At that first morning session, Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest, Hungary, gave a magisterial talk on the issues of the Synod. (On the next two pages, we publish the Pope’s homily in its entirety, and then, on the following four pages, about half of Erdo’s opening address, giving excerpts of the most significant parts.)
The central message of Pope Francis’ homily was in its final paragraphs. There he said: “The Church is called to carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a ‘field hospital’ with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.” So this was a message of reaching out to “hurting couples” and families “with the balm of acceptance and mercy.” Cardinal Erdo’s talk had a slightly different emphasis: that the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage, rightly understood and taught, already includes this “balm of acceptance and mercy” for families and married couples by offering the deep and saving truth of Christ’s teaching on marriage to all.
These two initial talks, therefore, provided an initial framework for the Synod’s discussions. And this seemed to many observers to set up an opposition between “two sides” at this Synod. As Father Nicholas Gregoris wrote in a piece in Catholic World Report on October 6, “There appear to be two main contingents at the Synod: one favoring the proclamation of the fullness of the truth to be taught with clarity and Christian charity; and the other favoring mercy at any and all costs.” Gregoris continued: “It seems as though Cardinal Peter Erdo’s presentation on the first day of the Synod, in which he reiterated the clear doctrinal content of the Instrumentum Laboris, struck a raw nerve among certain Synod Fathers, as well as among other participants, priests and laity alike, who favor a more progressive (and, dare I say, a more revolutionary!) approach to the fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church regarding marriage and the family, especially as concerns divorce and remarriage and homosexuality. Consequently, Pope Francis probably felt pressured to make his first direct intervention at the Synod in the course of the past two years.”
Pope Francis did directly intervene at the Synod on October 6, on the second morning of work, after Erdo’s remarks on the first morning had seemed to many to exclude the possibility that the Synod might change traditional Church teaching on communion for the divorced and remarried, and that this had irritated some “progressives.” And he did make it clear that this year’s Synod is in “continuity” with last year’s, suggesting that issues like “communion for the divorced and remarried” were still “on the table.” So it seemed clear that Pope Francis wished these matters to continue to be debated, though what precise pastoral proposals the Pope would favor in the end was still not clear. Gregoris summed up: “What is a faithful and orthodox Catholic to make of all this? Keep praying to the Holy Spirit, and stay tuned!”
On Solid Rock
“Cardinal Peter Erdo and Synod Fathers like him, who rejoice in the sensus fidelium (‘sense of the faithful’), and exercise their magisterium with a real sentire cum ecclesia (‘feel with the Church’), are to be commended for fighting the good fight of the Faith, despite the obvious push on the part of certain Synod members to transform the Church into some sort of nebulous entity — built not so much on the solid rock of St. Peter and his divinely inspired confession of faith made at Caesarea Philippi (cf. Matthew 16) as on the ever-shifting sands of time.”
—Father Nicholas Gregoris, commenting on October 6 on the first days of the Synod for the Catholic World Report website
So Much Power and So Much Loneliness
Pope Francis gave an eloquent homily on Sunday, October 4, at the opening Mass for the Synod. He spoke of human loneliness, of the love between man and woman, and of the family. Here is the full text:
“If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn 4:12).
This Sunday’s Scripture readings seem to have been chosen precisely for this moment of grace which the Church is experiencing: the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which begins with this Eucharistic celebration. The readings center on three themes: solitude, love between man and woman, and the family.
Adam, as we heard in the first reading, was living in the Garden of Eden. He named all the other creatures as a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power, over all of them. Nonetheless, he felt alone, because “there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:20). He was lonely.
The drama of solitude is experienced by countless men and women in our own day. I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture.
Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them; many sophisticated means of entertainment, but a deep and growing interior emptiness; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom… The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.
Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability. The image of this is the family. People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad. Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past. It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth-rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.
Love Between Man and Woman
In the first reading we also hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness. He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as the Psalm proclaimed today says (cf. Ps 128).
This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self. It is the same plan which Jesus presents in today’s Gospel: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24).
To a rhetorical question – probably asked as a trap to make him unpopular with the crowd, which practiced divorce as an established and inviolable fact – Jesus responds in a straightforward and unexpected way. He brings everything back to the beginning, to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus re-establishes the order which was present from the beginning.
“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mk 10:9).
This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centeredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan.
Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense.
For God, marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude! Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyzes the human heart.
Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving.
“Now that we have fully tasted the promises of unlimited freedom, we begin to appreciate once again the old phrase: “world-weariness”. Forbidden pleasures lost their attraction at the very moment they stopped being forbidden. Even if they are pushed to the extreme and endlessly renewed, they prove dull, for they are finite realities, whereas we thirst for the infinite” (Joseph Ratzinger, Auf Christus schauen. Einübung in Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Freiburg, 1989, p. 73).
In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love.
To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families which live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.
The Church is called to carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions.
The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centeredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 3).
And the Church is called to carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.
A Church which teaches and defends fundamental values, while not forgetting that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27); and that Jesus also said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17). A Church which teaches authentic love, which is capable of taking loneliness away, without neglecting her mission to be a good Samaritan to wounded humanity.
I remember when Saint John Paul II said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time” (John Paul II, Address to the Members of Italian Catholic Action, 30 December 1978).
The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock: “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11).
In this spirit we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide his Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.
From This Tenderness
Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest, Hungary, the Synod’s General Relator, opened the Synod with a discourse on key issues. His talk, widely seen as “conservative,” set forth the boundaries of the discussion. He began by speaking about the “gaze of Christ” on human beings, a gaze filled with compassion and tenderness. Here are excerpts:
Most eminent and excellent synod fathers,
Dear brothers and sisters,
Jesus Christ is our master, our Lord, and the Good Shepherd. When, according to the evangelist Mark, he saw a great crowd, he had compassion on them: “and he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). In this regard, Pope Francis has indicated the method and the program which in certain ways we too should follow in our work: “…to see, to have compassion, to teach. We can call them the verbs of the Shepherd… The first and second, to see and to have compassion, are always found together in the attitude of Jesus: in fact his gaze is not the gaze of a sociologist or a photojournalist, for he always gazes with “the eyes of the heart”…
From this tenderness is born Jesus’ wish to nourish the crowd with the bread of his Word, that is, to teach the Word of God to the people. Jesus sees, Jesus has compassion, Jesus teaches us.” (Pope Francis, Angelus, July 19, 2015). This vision corresponds with the three great themes of the instrumentum laboris, which is the fruit of an intense, collegial path.
I. Listening to the challenges to the family
I.1 The social-cultural context
In its first part, the instrumentum laboris speaks of a listening which is nothing more than “seeing” (…)
There seem to be in the world, in external circumstances, and in the discussions or in the mentality of peoples, at least two great sorts of problems. The first is traditional, seemingly constant, but which assumes in our globalized world new dimensions and new, unexpected consequences. These are the effects of climate and environmental change, and those of social injustice, of violence, of war, which push millions of persons to leave their homeland and try to survive in other parts of the world. If we look, for example, at the thousands of immigrants and refugees arriving daily in Europe, we see immediately that the vast majority is composed of rather young men, though they arrive, sometimes, with their women and children. Already from this picture it is evident that the migratory movement is disintegrating families, or at least makes it difficult to form them. (…) In not a few parts of the world persons work for a salary so low that it permits them to survive to continue to work, but it does not make it feasible to care for a family. (…) So the industrialization which began the 19th century, has arrived today to all parts of the world.
The typical form of labor becomes one of dependence. The employee, working outside of his family, is paid for what he does outside his family, while the most precious work done inside the family community, such as the education of children and care of the sick and elderly at home, are but rarely recognized (…).
I. 2 Anthropological change: fleeing from institutions
In the more wealthy regions of the world, there is another elementary phenomenon, not independent of the first, and present now in other parts of the world, that is the so called “anthropological change.” (…)
The person, in seeking his freedom, often tries to be independent of any link, at times even of religion, which constitutes a link with God, or of social links, especially those which relate to the institutional form of life. (…)
So it seems we can explain the growth in the number of couples cohabiting seemingly stably, but without contracting any kind of marriage, neither religious nor civil. In certain countries the high percentage of this kind of choice shows a correlation with a high percentage of those who do not wish to bury their parents with any ceremony. Where the law allows it, they prefer to bring home their ashes, or to spread them without any formality. (…)
Current anthropological change touches on the deepest layers of the human being. It comes in among planning the smallest details of a wedding, providing everything — the music, the menu, the tablecloths. You see young engaged couples totally preoccupied with these details, while at the same time neglecting the true significance of marriage. (…)
I. 3 Institutional instability
In addition to the flight from institutions, there is growing institutional instability which is manifest also in the high rate of divorce. That people are getting married at a later age, and youths’ fear in assuming the responsibility of definitive commitments such as marriage and family, are seen in this context. Indeed, if one’s sole objective is to feel good in the moment, then neither the past nor the future have any importance; indeed there appears a certain general fear of the future, for one might not feel good anymore then. Thus it seems too perilous to make a definitive choice regarding career and family. (…)
I. 4 Individualism and subjectivism
Thus, as Pope Francis reiterated in his discourse at Strasbourg: “Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights — I am tempted to say individualistic; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts, as if the person were a ‘monad’ (μονας), increasingly unconcerned with other surrounding ‘monads.’ The equally essential and complementary concept of duty no longer seems to be linked to such a concept of rights. As a result, the rights of the individual are upheld, without regard for the fact that each human being is part of a social context wherein his or her rights and duties are bound up with those of others and with the common good of society itself. I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the ‘all of us’ made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society.” (Pope Francis, Address to the European Parliament, November 25, 2014)
Therefore the current tendency to pass off those things which are simply desires, often selfish ones, as true and proper rights, while denying the basic objective of all law, must be avoided. (…)
I. 5 Biological and cultural aspects
With the development of the natural sciences, new possibilities have appeared regarding the biological relationship between persons and cultures. Consumer society has separated sexuality and procreation. This too is one of the causes of the falling birth rate. It stems at time from poverty, and in other cases from the difficulty of having to assume responsibility.
While in developing countries the exploitation of women and the violence done to their bodies and the tiring tasks imposed on them, even during pregnancy, are oftentimes compounded by abortion and forced sterilization, not to mention the extreme negative consequences of practices connected with procreation (for example, a womb ‘for rent’ or the marketing of embryonic gametes). In advanced countries, the desire for a child at any cost “has not resulted in happier and stronger family relationships.” (Instrumentum laboris 30)
Immaturity and affective fragility are of great relevance here. (…) Of prime importance in this context is pornography and the commercialization of the body, helped by a distorted use of the internet. Do not forget, however, that this more of a consequence than a cause of the current situation. Thus the crisis of couples destabilizes the family and weakens family links between generations. (cf Instrumentum laboris 33)
“Finally, there are theories according to which personal identity and emotional intimacy ought to be radically detached from the biological difference between male and female. (…) ‘The removal of difference […] creates a problem, not a solution.’” (Instrumentum laboris 8)
II. The discernment of the family vocation
II. 1 Family and the divine pedagogy
The gaze of Jesus is that of mercy, of the mercy which is based on truth. Jesus’ teaching on marriage and family are from creation (cf Mt 19:3). The life of the human being and of humanity is part of a great project: that of God the creator. As in all aspects of life, we find our wholeness and our felicity if we can insert ourselves freely and consciously into this great project full of wisdom and love. (…)
II. 2 Jesus and the family: the gift and task of indissolubility
“Jesus himself, referring to the original plan of the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, though saying to the Pharisees that ‘for your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so’ (Mt 19: 8). The indissolubility of marriage (‘what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ Mt 19:6), is to be understood not as a ‘yoke’ imposed on persons but as a ‘gift’ to a husband and wife united in marriage. Jesus was born in a family; he began to work his signs at the wedding of Cana and he announced the meaning of marriage as the fullness of revelation that restores the original divine plan (Mt 19:3). At the same time, however, he put what he taught into practice and manifested the true meaning of mercy, clearly illustrated in his meeting with the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:1-30) and with the adulteress (Jn 8:1-11). By looking at the sinner with love, Jesus leads the person to repentance and conversion (‘Go and sin no more’), which is the basis for forgiveness.” (Instrumentum laboris 41) (…)
II. 3 The family, image of the Trinity
Marriage and the family express in a special way that the human being is created in the image and likeness of God. In this context, Pope Francis recalled that: “… man alone is not the image of God nor is woman alone the image of God, but man and woman as a couple are the image of God. The difference between man and woman is not meant to stand in opposition, or to subordinate, but is for the sake of communion and generation, always in the image and likeness of God.” (General Audience, April 15, 2015). (…)
II. 6 The indissolubility of marriage and the joy of living together
The teaching of Christ on the indissolubility of marriage was very demanding, to the point of provoking a certain confusion among his own disciples (cf Mt 19:10). The Gospels and St. Paul confirm equally that the repudiation of one’s wife, practiced first among the people of Israel, does not render possible a new marriage for either party. This affirmation, so unusual and so demanding, has continued through the course of centuries in the disciplinary tradition of the Church. (…)
II. 7 The project of the Creator and natural marriage
The Church, it should be remembered, has always recognized the existence of true, natural marriage between two unbaptized persons. Since the beginning of humanity such an alliance between a man and a woman has corresponded to the creative plan of God, and was blessed (Gen 1:27-28). So, among true marriages, even today there are in the world many natural marriages, and other marriages sacramental, contracted between the baptized, which involves a special grace (cf Instrumentum laboris 57). (…)
II. 8 Mercy for wounded families: mission of the Church
(…) The organic insertion of marriage and the family among Christians in the reality of the Church, requires also that the Church community pay realistic and merciful attention to the faithful who cohabit or who live in civil marriage only, because they do not feel prepared to celebrate the sacrament, given the difficulties that such as choice to result in today. If the community can prove to show itself welcoming to these persons, in the varied situations of life, and presents articulately the truth about marriage, it will help these faithful to arrive at a decision for sacramental marriage.
II. 9 Mercy and truth revealed
From this intimate connection between the sacrament of marriage and the reality of the Church it follows that the Church community has a vocation to help even those Catholic couples and families who find themselves in crisis. It has a duty to care for all those who cohabit or are in marital or family situations which cannot become a valid marriage, much less a sacramental one. “Conscious that the most merciful thing is to tell the truth in love, we go beyond compassion. Merciful love, as it attracts and unites, transforms and elevates. It is an invitation to conversion (cf John 8:1-11)” (Instrumentum laboris 67).
III. The mission of the family today
III. 1 The family and evangelization
(…) Marriage preparation, which often engages the attention of engaged person at the exterior and emotional level, should be enriched by placing a proper accent on the spiritual and ecclesial character of marriage. In pastoral preparation for marriage we have to go deeply into the aspects underlining the essential properties of marriage at the natural and supernatural levels. (…) Thus it is very useful for Catholic families to be involved in the preparation of engaged couples. The newlyweds can come to know a community of true friends, and from these encounters there can be born human relationships of enrichment, support, and help in difficult situations or in problems within the couple. (…)
III. 2 Family, formation, and public institutions
In the preparation of both clergy and pastoral workers, and in their continuing formation, we must bear in mind that fact that their affective and psychological maturation is indispensable for the pastoral accompaniment of families. (…) Christians ought to try to create economic structures to support those families who are particularly affected by poverty, unemployment, job insecurity, lack of social and health care, or who are victims of usury. All of the Church community should try to assist those families who are victims of war and persecution.
III. 3 Family, accompaniment, and ecclesial integration
The mission of the Church is delicate and demanding regarding those who live in problematic marital or family situations. First are those who could be married in the Church but who are content with a civil marriage or simple cohabitation. If their attitude comes from a lack of faith or religious interest, it is truly a missionary situation. (…)
Regarding the separated and the divorced who have not remarried, the community of the Church can help those who live these situations in a path of pardon and possibly of reconciliation, and can help the children who are victims of these situations and may encourage those left alone after such a failure, to persevere in faith and in the Christian life and also “to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life” (Instrumentum laboris 118).
Regarding the divorced-and-civilly-remarried, a merciful, pastoral accompaniment is only right – an accompaniment, however, which leaves no doubt about the truth of the indissolubility of marriage taught by Jesus Christ himself. The mercy of God offers to sinners pardon, but demands conversion. The sin in this case does not lie first and foremost in whatever comportment which may have led to the breakup of the first marriage. With regard to that failure it is possible that both parties were equally culpable, although very often both are to some extent responsible. It is therefore not the failure of the first marriage, but cohabiting in the second relationship that impedes access to the Eucharist. (…)
With respect to a way of penance, this expression is used in diverse ways (cf Instrumentum laboris 122-123). These ways need to be deepened and specified. It can be understood in the sense of St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio (cf n. 84) and referred to those who are divorced-and-remarried, who because of the needs of their children cannot interrupt their common life, but who can practice continence by the strength of grace, living their relationship of mutual help and friendship. These faithful will also have access to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, avoiding the provocation of scandal (cf Instrumentum laboris 119). This possibility is far from being physicalist and does not reduce marriage to the exercise of sexuality, but recognizing its nature and purpose, is applied coherently in the life of the human person. (…)
The integration of the divorced and remarried in the ecclesial community can be realized in various ways, apart from admission to the Eucharist, as already suggested in Familiaris consortio 84.
In the traditional practice of the Latin Church the penitential path could have signified for those who were not ready to change their living conditions, but who tried to communicate the desire for conversion, that confessors could hear their confession, giving them good advice and proposing penitential exercises, in order to direct them to conversion, but without giving them the absolution which was possible only for those who actually intended to change their lives (cf RI 5 in VI; F. A. Febeus, S. I., De regulisiuris canonici Liber unicus, Venetiis 1735, pp. 91-92).
For what regards the reference to the pastoral practices of the Orthodox Churches, this cannot be properly evaluated using only the conceptual apparatus developed in the West in the second Millennium. It should be kept in mind (that there are) great institutional differences regarding the tribunals of the Church, as well as the special respect for the legislation of the States, which at times can become critical, if the laws of the State are detached from the truth of marriage according to the design of the Creator.
On the search for pastoral solutions for the difficulty of certain divorced and civilly remarried, it must be kept in mind that fidelity to the indissolubility of marriage cannot be linked to the practical recognition of the goodness of concrete situations that are opposite and therefore irreconcilable. Between true and false, between good and evil, in fact, there is no graduality, even if some forms of cohabitation bring in themselves certain positive aspects, this does not imply that they can be presented as good. (…)
There may be a difference between the disorder, ie. the objective sin, and the concrete sin realized in particular conduct that also implies, but not only, the subjective element. “The imputability and responsibility of an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, duress, violence, fear, habits, inordinate attachments and by other psychological or even social factors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1735). This means that in objective truth good and evil are not given gradually (gradualness of the law), while at the subjective level the law of graduality can take place, and therefore the education of conscience and in the same sense of responsibility. The human act, in fact, is good when it is in every aspect (ex integra causa).
Both in the last synodal assembly and during the preparation of the present general assembly the question of pastoral attention to persons with homosexual tendencies was treated. Even if the problem doesn’t directly affect the reality of the family, situations arise when such behavior influences the life of the family. In every case the Church teaches that “‘there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Nevertheless, men and women with a homosexual tendency ought to be received with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided’” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, 4, Instrumentum Laboris 130).
It reiterates that every person must be respected in their dignity independently of their sexual orientation. It would be desirable that dioceses devote special attention in their pastoral programs to the accompaniment of families where a member has a homosexual tendency and of homosexual persons themselves (Instrumentum Laboris 131). Instead, “Exerting pressure in this regard on the Pastors of the Church is totally unacceptable: it is equally unacceptable for international organizations to link their financial assistance to poorer countries with the introduction of laws that establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex” (Instrumentum Laboris 132). (…)
III. 6 Human Life, an Intangible Mystery
“Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading” (Evangelii gaudium 53). “In this regard, the task of the family, supported by everyone in society, is to welcome an unborn human life and take care of human life in its final stage” (Instrumentum Laboris 140).
Regarding the drama of abortion the Church reaffirms the inviolable character of human life. She offers advice to pregnant women, sustains teen mothers, assists abandoned children and is a companion for those who have suffered abortion and become conscious of their mistake. Equally the Church reaffirms the right to natural death, at the same time avoiding both aggressive treatment and euthanasia (cf Instrumentum Laboris 141). Death, in reality, is not a private and individual fact. The human person is not and should not feel isolated in the moment of suffering and death. In the world today, when families have become small and at times isolated and broken or headed by a single parent, their ability to care for their for their members has diminished, including the elderly, disabled and dying. (…)
III. 7 The challenge of education and the role of the family in evangelization
A special challenge the family must confront is that of education and evangelization. Parents are and remain the first ones responsible for the human and religious education of their children. (…)
(…) To face the challenge of the family today, the Church must therefore convert and become more alive, more personal, more communitarian even at the parochial and small community levels. (…)