Catholic bishops vote to soften stance toward divorcees, but stand firmly against gay marriage

Andrea Vogt, The Telegraph
Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015

Pope Francis raises the book of the gospels during a mass for the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at St Peter’s basilica on Oct. 25, 2015 at the Vatican. ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

BOLOGNA, Italy — Roman Catholic bishops have softened Vatican doctrine toward divorcees but strongly rejected gay marriage at the end of one of the most divisive synods of recent times.

By a single vote over the two-thirds majority necessary, the synod agreed to allow divorcees to take communion, from which they were banned, after consideration on a “case-by-case” basis.

The issue has been one of the most sensitive issues in recent times for the church, as Roman Catholic countries liberalize divorce laws. Many people who see themselves as unwilling victims of divorce have found themselves unable to take what they see as a full part in the life of the church.

The results are seen as a victory for Pope Francis, who has called for the church to be more merciful, as he prepares his own document on family issues.

“A faith that does not know how to root itself in the life of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts,” he said Sunday, as the synod came to a close.

The 270 Catholic bishops and leaders gathered in Rome had sat through more than 90 hours of debate over the last three weeks as they considered how to update guidelines for providing pastoral care to Catholic families.

Pope Francis had raised expectations of change in previously hard-line positions after initiating the thorny process of updating Catholic teachings two years ago. He had urged transformation of the church into more of a “field hospital for wounded souls.”

The final document agreed to on Saturday night reflects the continuing deep rift that remains between conservative and progressive factions within the church hierarchy.

The language describing same-sex marriage as “not even remotely analogous” to heterosexual marriage marked a victory for the conservative camp.

Approval of “case-by-case” approach for divorced and remarried Catholics who want to take communion was hailed as a historic step forward by those in the progressive wing. The new text allows pastoral consideration of the fact that both parties in a marriage don’t necessarily bear the same responsibility for the preceding divorce.

“The key word was ‘discernment’,” Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Schoenborn said. “Discernment depending on the situation that is before you, because every situation is different from another.”

However, the conservative Voice of the Family coalition issued a statement saying that the opening to divorcees had caused “crisis of trust regarding the family between faithful lay Catholics and those in authority at the highest levels of the Church.”


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