Final Report of the recent Synod now available in English


The final version of the Relatio Synodi of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization” earlier in October is available now, in English, on the Vatican website.  HERE

Keep in mind that this document means exactly what the Holy Father thinks it means.  He can use it as a basis of his own document.  He can ignore it.  He can make paper airplanes or light cigars with it.

At the end, I have the voting results on the paragraphs I post here.

The two most controversial sections:

Caring for Broken families (Persons who are Separated, Divorced, Divorced and Remarried and Single-Parent Families)

44.       Married couples with problems in their relationship should be able to count on the assistance and guidance of the Church. The pastoral work of charity and mercy seeks to help persons recover and restore relationships. Experience shows that with proper assistance and acts of reconciliation, though grace, a great percentage of troubled marriages find a solution in a satisfying manner. To know how to forgive and to feel forgiven is a basic experience in family life. Forgiveness between husband and wife permits a couple to  experience a never-ending love which does not pass away (cf. 1 Cor 13:8). At times, this is difficult, but those who have received God’s forgiveness are given the strength to offer a genuine forgiveness which regenerates persons.

45.       The necessity for courageous pastoral choices was particularly evident at the Synod. Strongly reconfirming their faithfulness to the Gospel of the Family and acknowledging that separation and divorce are always wounds which causes deep suffering to the married couple and to their children, the synod fathers felt the urgent need to embark on a new pastoral course based on the present reality of weaknesses within the family, knowing oftentimes that couples are more “enduring” situations of suffering than freely choosing them. These situations vary because of personal, cultural and socio-economic factors. Therefore, solutions need to be considered in a variety of ways, as suggested by Pope St. John Paul II (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 84).

46.       All families should, above all, be treated with respect and love and accompanied on their journey as Christ accompanied the disciples on the road to Emmaus. In a particular way, the words of Pope Francis apply in these situations: “The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this ‘art of accompaniment’, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3: 5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting a closeness and compassion which, at the same time, heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life” (Evangelii Gaudium, 169).

47.       A special discernment is indispensable for pastorally guiding persons who are separated, divorced or abandoned. Respect needs to be primarily given to the suffering of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce or abandonment, or those who have been subjected to the maltreatment of a husband or a wife, which interrupts their life together. To forgive such an injustice is not easy, but grace makes this journey possible. Pastoral activity, then, needs to be geared towards reconciliation or mediation of differences, which might even take place in specialized “listening centres” established in dioceses. At the same time, the synod fathers emphasized the necessity of addressing, in a faithful and constructive fashion, the consequences of separation or divorce on children, in every case the innocent victims of the situation. Children must not become an “object” of contention. Instead, every suitable means ought to be sought to ensure that they can overcome the trauma of a family break-up and grow as serenely as possible. In each case, the Church is always to point out the injustice which very often is associated with divorce. Special attention is to be given in the guidance of single-parent families. Women in this situation ought to receive special assistance so they can bear the responsibility of providing a home and raising their children.

48.       A great number of synod fathers emphasized the need to make the procedure in cases of nullity more accessible and less time-consuming. They proposed, among others, the dispensation of the requirement of second instance for confirming sentences; the possibility of establishing an administrative means under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop; and a simple process to be used in cases where nullity is clearly evident. Some synod fathers, however, were opposed to this proposal, because they felt that it would not guarantee a reliable judgment. In all these cases, the synod fathers emphasized the primary character of ascertaining the truth about the validity of the marriage bond. Among other proposals, the role which faith plays in persons who marry could possibly be examined in ascertaining the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage, all the while maintaining that the marriage of two baptized Christians is always a sacrament.

49.       In streamlining the procedure of marriage cases, many synod fathers requested the preparation of a sufficient number of persons  —  clerics and lay people  —  entirely dedicated to this work, which will require the increased responsibility of the diocesan bishop, who could designate in his diocese specially trained counselors who would be able to offer free advice to the concerned parties on the validity of their marriage. This work could be done in an office or by qualified persons (cf. Dignitas Connubii, art. 113, 1).

50.       Divorced people who have not remarried, who oftentimes bear witness to their promise of faithfulness in marriage, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life. The local community and pastors ought to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when children are involved or when in serious financial difficulty.

51.       Likewise, those who are divorced and remarried require careful discernment and an accompaniment of great respect. Language or behavior which might make them feel an object of discrimination should be avoided, all the while encouraging them to participate in the life of the community. The Christian community’s care of such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but, precisely in this way, the community is seen to express its charity.

52.       The synod father also considered the possibility of giving the divorced and remarried  access to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Some synod fathers insisted on maintaining the present regulations, because of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church as well as the teaching on the indissoluble character of marriage. Others expressed a more individualized  approach, permitting access in certain situations and with certain well-defined conditions, primarily in irreversible situations and those involving moral obligations towards children who would have to endure unjust suffering. Access to the sacraments might take place if preceded by a penitential practice, determined by the diocesan bishop. The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735).

53.       Some synod fathers maintained that divorced and remarried persons or those living together can have fruitful recourse to a spiritual communion. Others raised the question as to why, then, they cannot have access “sacramentally”. As a result, the synod fathers requested that further theological study in the matter might point out the specifics of the two forms and their association with the theology of marriage.

54.       The problems relative to mixed marriages were frequently raised in the interventions of the synod fathers. The differences in the matrimonial regulations of the Orthodox Churches creates serious problems in some cases, which require due consideration in the work of ecumenism. Analogously, the contribution of the dialogue with other religions would be important for interreligious marriages.

Pastoral Attention towards Persons with Homosexual Tendencies

55.       Some families have members who have a homosexual tendency. In this regard, the synod fathers asked themselves what pastoral attention might be appropriate for them in accordance with the Church’s teaching: “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(.

56.        Exerting pressure in this regard on the Pastors of the Church is totally unacceptable: this is equally so for international organizations who link their financial assistance to poorer countries with the introduction of laws which establish “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

The page also indicates how the Synod Fathers voted on the paragraphs.  Alas, we don’t see how they voted by name, which I would very much like to know.  But here is how the voting went for the paragraphs I cited, above.

Votazioni dei singoli numeri della “Relatio Synodi”

Totale dei presenti: 183

(Non sono indicate le astensioni.)

44. 171 7
45. 165 15
46. 171 8
47. 164 12
48. 143 35
49. 154 23
50. 169 8
51. 155 19
52. 104 74 [! – simple majority, yes, super majority, no]
53. 112 64 [! – no consensus which is what the operators wanted]
54. 145 29
55. 118 62 [! – this is rejection]
56. 159 21

The battle will now be joined fairly intensely until the next Synod, next October.  Watch for relevant articles and books as well as attacks in the press on those who were key defenders of the Church’s teachings.

BTW… it sure took a long time to get those translations out.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. McCall1981 says:

    I was surprised to read that Card Wuerl has apparently affirmed the Church’s teaching:
    “The fact that there are Catholic couples and people who have re-married, and therefore can’t come to Communion, the fact that they would desperately like to do so, and the Church recognizes the good of that; the question is, ‘how do we do that while being faithful to the teaching of the Church concerning the bond?’ That brings us to the question of an annulment, the declaration that there never was a bond in the first place,” Cardinal Wuerl commented.

  2. Clinton says:

    “BTW … it sure took a long time to get those translations out.”

    Yes, and it’s … fascinating … how the more controversial first version of the Relatio
    was compiled, collated, edited, translated and available for the press to broadcast all
    within about 48 hours.

    If I were more cynical, I’d think that it had been written well before the synod had convened.

  3. Charlie Cahill says:

    Makes one wonder who is running affairs at the Vatican.Could be the basis for a really good novel.
    Naturally it would be first telecast on Fr De Souza’s channel .
    Is he not trying too hard for the purple?

  4. Toan says:

    On 52, I wonder what a vote of “placet” implies. Does it mean, for each and every vote: “I agree that a penitential practice would suffice to readmit divorced and remarried persons to communion even though they’re still living in sin”, or, “We should study the matter more because the idea sounds interesting”, or, “We should study the matter more because clearly some of us are confused about reality and need to have illusions dispelled”, or, “A penitential practice that involves having divorced and remarried persons live like brother and sister until the declaration of nullity, if there is one, would be OK”, or, “I don’t think a penitential path should be considered, but this paragraph accurately represents the discussion of the synod”?

  5. JesusFreak84 says:

    So…we’re supposed to let adults in adultery receive the Eucharist in objective mortal sin because it might upset their children if we don’t? That’s what I got from that… The Bishops forget that we’re not the Church of Feeling Good About Yourself. Read any of the desert Fathers and that becomes painfully obvious.

  6. Lorenz says:

    It is important to keep in mind that with the voting the representation is very much skewed. The church is very much Eurocentric. With its large amount of bishops (many little towns in Western Europe have their own bishop despite few church goers) Western Europe carries the heaviest voting weight. Another reason why Kasper can laugh and scoff how he does not need to listen to Africans and Asians.

  7. Sonshine135 says:

    Paragraph 52 really bothers me. “Some synod fathers insisted on maintaining the present regulations, because of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church as well as the teaching on the indissoluble character of marriage.”

    Was it really just regulations? This is a dogmatic and doctrinal concern. It is not a simple regulation. I have a hard time believing this even passed with a simple majority. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and I see some serious issues with this statement. Lord help us!

  8. Rob22 says:

    For converts out there just a heads up. Ross Douthat, an evengalical convert who se writings in part led me to convert, is seriously struggling now and publicly, on his blog, expressing his bewilderment, my word not his, at all this. He came into the church because of the nature of the papacy and the Church. Its continuity on core doctrines. He has writtwn that, if the rules/dogma on remarriage outside the church are changed by the Pope, even if it is done as a finesses, a difference w/o a real distinction, his understanding of the nature of the Church will forever change. He is not saying he will leave just pointing out how revolutionary such a change would be.

    Follow his blog to see what some (many?) converts might go through if the Pope changes the heretofore unchanging understanding on this.

    Douthat sums it up perfectly with the following:

    “Let me sketch a hypothetical that might help clarify this point. Suppose that a new pope were elected and immediately began elevating bishops and theologians who preached in favor of making more room for alternative Christologies within the Catholic Church, and particularly more room for Arianism, the famous fourth-century rival (periodically revived since) of the orthodox understanding of the trinity and Jesus Christ. These bishops and theologians argued that so long as the church didn’t technically change the language of the creed, there was no reason not to allow Arian ideas to be taught in seminaries, preached from the pulpit, and accepted as a kind of younger brother of orthodoxy, lesser in authority but equal in respect. They claimed (plausibly) that if you press them on theological questions about Jesus’s nature, many American Catholics are effectively Arian already, and deserve a church that’s more open to their perspective; they argued that many Christological debates now seem like theological nitpicking, and that a Catholicism that seemed a little more flexible on such points would be opening itself to fruitful ecumenical dialogue withthe Oriental Orthodox Churches; they noted that versions of the Arian position were endorsed by ecumenical councils, and surely those endorsements should carry at least some weight notwithstanding their later repudiation; they plucked out scriptural passages and post-Nicene theological speculations that seemed to incline in an Arian direction, etc. This argument led to a vigorous debate at a synod in Rome, which produced a divided vote, and a proposal to study the question further in advance of another, larger synod … in advance of which the pro-Arian party consistently insinuated, not without evidence, that the pontiff himself was on their side.

    In this scenario, would it be reasonable to suggest that Catholics who consider themselves orthodox should put aside any and all anxieties, refrain from public criticism of the drift of the ecclesiastical authorities, and simply prepare to submit themselves with docility to the authority of the church? I don’t think the answer can be yes, and indeed I think that to answer yes is to basically vindicate a common Protestant critique of Roman Catholicism: That it’s just a purely sola ecclesia communion, in which Rome could say that black is white tomorrow and Catholics would have to tug their forelock and start repainting crosswalks outside their churches.”

  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    I see that the Italian translated “present regulations” is “disciplina attuale”. Perhaps ‘ disciplina’ conveys a stronger sense than ” just regulations” – but I am not experienced enough in Italian to say.

    I think Toan gives a good sense of the difficulty of interpreting a vote without any further explanation by those voting.

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Interesting that in 55 “orientamento omosessuale” (twice) and “tendenze omosessuali” are all translated “homosexual tendency/ies”.

  11. kpoterack says:

    Toan wrote:

    “On 52, I wonder what a vote of “placet” implies. Does it mean, for each and every vote: “I agree that a penitential practice would suffice to readmit divorced and remarried persons to communion even though they’re still living in sin”, or, “We should study the matter more because the idea sounds interesting”, or, “We should study the matter more because clearly some of us are confused about reality and need to have illusions dispelled”, or, “A penitential practice that involves having divorced and remarried persons live like brother and sister until the declaration of nullity, if there is one, would be OK”, or, “I don’t think a penitential path should be considered, but this paragraph accurately represents the discussion of the synod”?”

    KP: If even 16 bishops voted with the last explanation in mind (and were put on the non placet side), then the paragraph wouldn’t have even received a simple majority. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some bishops who are curious and want further study – particularly because the Kasper proposal is worded so ambiguously in the final draft.

    My suggestion: let’s start sending copies of “Remaining in the Truth of Christ” to bishops. Pick one (or more) bishop and just send him a copy. Do it now, so that he has a whole year to read it.

  12. Nancy D. says:

    I was surprised that in the recent Synod, in regards to reception of The Holy Eucharist, that there was no discussion on why it is permissible for the multitude of persons who deny The Sanctity of Human Life from the moment of conception and/or The Sanctity of Marriage and The Family as God intended, to present themselves to receive The Holy Eucharist, when they are no longer in communion with Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

  13. Nancy D. says:

    kpoterack, with all due respect, why would any Faithful Cardinal or Bishop attend a Synod that is premised upon the belief that The Word of God, is merely a matter of opinion?

    God created us male and female, not heterosexual and homosexual.

  14. Nancy D. says:

    Thank you, Holy Father Benedict, for exposing The Great Falling Away.

  15. Nancy D. says:

    Thank you, Holy Father Benedict, for exposing The Great Falling Away.
    “Behold your Mother.” – Jesus The Christ

  16. noldo66 says:

    The battle has started for sure. Just look at this tweet by a renowned Jesuit who clearly is making his position known:

    Now go to the Archbishop’s page whom he speaks about and look at the retweets he makes of the person challenging this Jesuit priest:

    Certain people are starting to twist people’s words in order to make their case.

  17. Mojoron says:

    During our process of Annulment, we had unbelievable support from our parish family. Part of the process and penance, was attending Mass every week and even joining the church choir. Even if our annulment had not been successful, we still would of continued that habit of attending services and being involved in our church events and ministries, primarily due to the support of the parish family, deacons and our priest. Those days, we will always cherish as a period of penance preparing our way back “home.”

    The support we had should be a part of every parish and could also be extended to the homosexual in their success to remain chaste.

  18. Juergensen says:

    It has occurred to me that it is not out of the question that Cardinal Burke, as a result of his courageous defense of the Faith before, during, and after the synod, might NOT be demoted as reported. To demote him now would be seen as nothing but punishment for defense of the Faith. Can a Pope really do that?

    [Of course he can. He can di it for no other reason that it is Saturday.]

  19. AndyMo says:

    I’m probably just missing something, but could someone explain to me what the problem is with #55? It seems like a pretty good take on the matter, from my reading. Or is it problematic that so many objected to it?

  20. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    I just read something that seems to give at least part of the background. Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, answering questions from journalists on 21 October (as published in an article by Inés San Martín on 22 Oct.): “So when the time came for accepting the final document, you didn’t vote against the paragraphs that referred to homosexuality because you didn’t like what those two points said, but because they were included?” The Archbishop: “Absolutely, I didn’t want them there. We’re supposed to discuss homosexuality as an anthropological issue next year. So why was it there this time?”

    He also has a striking comment about the reaction to the interim ‘Relatio’ and the second part of the Synod: “Our small group had some outstanding personalities: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, as well as Cardinals [Walter] Kasper, [Leopoldo] Sandri, and [Mauro] Piacensa. We were really disappointed by the Relatio post disceptationem because we thought it didn’t reflect the discussions held during the first week. It’s hard to say how it was created, but we all felt it didn’t represent us.” Saying “we all” seemed to provoke a following question: “Even Cardinal Kasper?” To which the Archbishop replied, “Even Kasper.”

  21. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    A couple points:

    45. The flow of ” separation and divorce are always wounds which causes deep suffering” is not as smooth as it could be: it can look like a lack of agreement between plural noun and singular verb, when in fact it is saying something like ‘which circumstance/fact causes’ or ‘the which causes’

    48.The clause “all the while maintaining that the marriage of two baptized Christians is always a sacrament” is less clear than it could be on account of omitting the adjective ‘valid’, present in the Italian clause translated: “tenendo fermo che tra battezzati tutti i matrimoni validi sono sacramento.”

  22. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Another sort of point – about document rather than translation:

    Is it curious that, following the attention to the ecumenical and interreligious in 54 and the civil in 55, this was not resumed in the first clause of 56? “Pastors of the Church” could easily had been followed by some sort of reference to “Churches or ecclesiastical communities” (Lumen gentium 15) and to civil functionaries who “strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience” and their perception of Natural Law (Lumen gentium 16). Such an explicit extension would be in keeping with the general point behind the specifics of the second part of the sentence about exerting unjust pressure on “countries with [respect to] the introduction of laws”.

  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr Z says, “Alas, we don’t see how they voted by name, which I would very much like to know.” I just ran into a glimpse of how it went, which was new to me (thanks to Paul Butler’s 19 Oct. blogpost on his “fraternal guest” experience): “So at the end it all came down to 62 minutes of secret electronic voting on the text of the Relatio minute for each paragraph. All the talking and debating done; simply Synod Fathers ‘is this paragraph Placet or Non Placet?’. Two thirds needed for it to be Placet. It was a strange experience sat there watching all these men quietly and studiously voting. No reaction at any point, even when a paragraph did not receive the necessary two thirds (3 paragraphs did not do so). The previous day’s cheerful lively discussion on the Message, and the morning’s equally cheery simple majority vote on it seemed a long time past. When all was done there was a stillness; work done.” (Also interesting was this note with respect to Pope Francis: “In the morning I had spoken with him again. He spoke of the Ugandan martyrs, made saints 50 years ago that day. He wanted me to be clear that he knew that Anglicans were martyred too, and that we are bound by the blood of martyrdom.”)

    (I do hope the Vatican electronics were more reliable than those of some voting machines in the U.S. lately… though, how would anyone – including any given Synod Father – ever know?)

  24. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr. Robert P. Imbelli has noted a striking discrepancy between Italian text and English translation in Relatio Synodi 3:

    and note further his comment of November 4 at 7:25 a.m. below this post of his.

    Also interesting in the comments there is attention to an upcoming Vatican ecumenical and interreligious conference on 17-19 November on “Complementarity of Man and Woman”.

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