Synod’s Working Document Cites Need to Educate Faithful and Clergy

by Andrea Gagliarducci, Register Correspondent 

VATICAN, July 8, 2014 (National Catholic Register) --The Synod of Bishops’ June 27 instrumentum laboris (working document) for the upcoming Synod on Marriage and the Family contained no doctrinal surprises, but it noted that neither the faithful nor the Church’s ministers are fully aware of the teaching of the Church.

Participants at the synod will use this document to prepare for the Oct. 5-16 gathering. Divided into three parts and based on the responses to the 38-question questionnaire sent to bishops’ conferences all over the world, the instrumentum laboris is a snapshot about the realities Catholics face in society today.

“The synod will represent an analysis of the pastoral and social situation,” said Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and general relator for the synod, on June 26. “It is the first stage of a wider process. After this extraordinary synod, there will be another one, which will provide a more in-depth reflection on how to address the numerous challenges to families and, at the same time, how to evaluate the family as the active subject of evangelization.”

Better Education

Education is the first issue the synod fathers have to address. According to the instrumentum laboris, the documents on the magisterium of the family issued after the Second Vatican Council (that is, elaborating on the new approach provided by the Council) “do not seem to have taken a foothold in the faithful’s mentality” (11). The information underscores that “some responses clearly state that the faithful have no knowledge of these documents, while others mention that they are viewed, especially by laypeople with prior preparation, as rather ‘exclusive’ or ‘limited to a few’ and require some effort to take them and study them.” The problem is “that, oftentimes, people without due preparation find difficulty reading these documents.”

Connected to the faithful’s lack of formation is the formation of the clergy. The synod’s paper said that in the judgment of some of the faithful, clergy “are not sufficiently familiar with the documentation on marriage and the family, nor do they seem to have the resources for development in these areas” (12). The shepherds “sometimes feel so unsuited and ill-prepared to treat issues regarding sexuality, fertility and procreation that they often choose to remain silent.”

The responses from the questionnaire also voice “a certain dissatisfaction with some members of the clergy who appear indifferent to moral teachings. Their divergence from Church doctrine leads to confusion among the people of God.”

Paragraphs 20-30 deal with natural law and its relation to the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life. The text states, “In a vast majority of responses and observations, the concept of natural law today turns out to be, in different cultural contexts, highly problematic, if not completely incomprehensible.” 

In addition, the document said, “The responses very often stress the need for a family ministry, which provides systematic and ongoing formation on the value of marriage as a vocation and the rediscovery of parenting (fatherhood and motherhood) as a gift” (49).

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