Updated: October 19, 2014 06:14 PM GMT
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, talks with Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, as they leave the concluding session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on Saturday (Photo by Paul Haring/CNS)
After several days of animated debate over its official midterm report, the Synod of Bishops on the family agreed on a final document more clearly grounded in traditional Catholic teaching. Yet the assembly failed to reach consensus on especially controversial questions of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and the pastoral care of homosexuals.
Discussions in the synod hall had grown heated after the October 13 delivery of a midterm report that used strikingly conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to church teaching, including divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, cohabitating couples and those in same-sex unions.
The final report, which the pope ordered published almost at once after the synod's conclusion, featured many more citations of Scripture, as well as new references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teachings of Pope Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict VI.
Synod fathers voted on each of the document's 62 paragraphs. All received a simple majority, but three failed to gain the two-thirds supermajority ordinarily required for approval of synodal documents.
Two of those paragraphs dealt with a controversial proposal by German Cardinal Walter Kasper that would make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion. The document noted disagreements on the subject and recommended further study.
The document's section on homosexuality, which also fell short of supermajority approval, was significantly changed from its counterpart in the midterm report.
The original section heading — "welcoming homosexuals" — was changed to "pastoral attention to persons with homosexual orientation."
A statement that same-sex unions can be a "precious support in the life of the partners" was removed.
The final report quoted a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: "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."
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters that the absence of a supermajority indicated a lack of consensus and a need for more discussion, but stressed that none of the document carried doctrinal weight. The synod's final report will serve as an agenda for the October 2015 world synod on the family, which will make recommendations to the pope.
Pope Francis said he welcomed the assembly's expressions of disagreement.
"Personally, I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn't been these temptations and these animated discussions," the pope said, "if everybody had agreed or remained silent in a false and quietistic peace."
Source:Catholic News Service
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