The Vatican released a document June 23 to help direct its future interpretation of controversial family issues. Topics raised in the document include divorce, remarriage, acceptance of gays, and couples living together out of wedlock.
The document, “instrumentum laboris,” will serve as the basis for Pope Francis as he addresses more than 200 bishops and attendees from various organizations at the second of two synods on family values to be held this coming October.
The recent document, which is currently awaiting translation from Italian, is divided into three sections, the first of which details the initial meeting’s deliberations. The second and third sections focus on creating a more contemporary understanding of the family vocation and its mission now.
With growing worldwide changes in perceptions about divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, and gays, the church has encountered increasing difficulty in recent years as it struggles to adapt its traditional teachings to modern times.
Last week, Francis acknowledged divorce is sometimes “morally necessary.” Though the Catholic faith doesn’t recognize divorce as a whole, Francis elaborated by explaining certain situations in which protection of women and children is necessary could call for it.
Two years ago Francis sent shockwaves through the Catholic community as he questioned, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”
The first synod called for by Francis was held at the Vatican this past October. During the meeting Francis referenced the creation of a more “welcoming home” for gays and lesbians, suggesting the church could be changing its former position concerning these groups.
The document emerging from the meeting stated unequivocally that gays have “gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community,” a tempering of previous language which described gay couples who lived together as “living in sin.”
At the conclusion of last year’s synod Francis warned bishops of the “temptation to a hostile rigidity which forces to lock ourselves into the letter of the law and not allow for God to surprise us.”
In anticipation of the second upcoming synod, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire highlighting the most pressing church-wide issues needing attention.
Other possible discussion topics at October’s meeting, which will continue to build on the foundation laid at the first, include pregnancy, gender theory, economic insecurity, and environmental degradation.
The three-week long synod will follow the Eighth World Meeting of Families Congress scheduled for September 22–27, 2015 in Philadelphia. The theme for the meeting is: “Love is our mission. The family is fully alive.” This trip will mark Francis’s first visit to the U.S. as pope.