Sunday marked the end of a three-week-long synod; led by Pope Francis, this assembly of more than 200 bishops discussed and made decisions on issues involving the church. After 90 hours of debate, the bishops decided to affirm a traditional, conservative stance among Catholic leaders, but with an increase in acceptance. This comes after the pope’s two-year process to initiate a more modern, accepting Catholic church.
On Saturday, a majority voted against allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. However, it was not mentioned in the synod’s final report, which opens the issue up for potential future discussions. In the Catholic church, a divorced man or woman is considered an “adulterer” after their second marriage if the first marriage wasn’t annulled. Unless the remarried individual abstains from sex with their new spouse, they cannot receive communion.
On a positive note, the synod’s final report calls for a more inviting church, which should give divorced individuals a greater opportunity to participate in worship and church-related activities. As well, two-thirds of the council voted for a case-by-case approach when it comes to allowing divorced people to take communion.
Pope Francis is known for his liberal views on various issues – including how the church treats divorced or homosexual Catholics. While the synod was meant for discussion and advisory purposes – meaning Pope Francis still has the power to make unilateral decisions – he is unlikely to go against the majority with minimal support.
According to The Telegraph, the pope revealed his disappointment with conservative bishops in his final speech, complaining of “closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the church's teachings and good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families." Pope Francis mentioned the differences in the world today and “what seems normal for a bishop on one continent is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop from another.”
Another issue that was brought up at the synod was homosexuality. While the report states gays should not be discriminated against, it denounces same-sex marriage.
The bishops also discussed couples who live together but are not married, suggesting a positive approach of encouraging couples to take the next step into marriage.