Publicador de contenidos

Back to 14_10_22_TEO_La verdad en la caridad, clave del acompañamiento a las familias

Ramiro Pellitero, Professor of Theology

The truth in charity, core topic of the accompaniment of families

Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:00:00 +0000 Posted in

Francis has said that the final document of the 2014 synod on the family is "the faithful and clear summary of all that was said and discussed in this classroom and in the smaller circles" (speech closing, 18-X-2014).

The introduction points out the purpose for which Pope Francis wanted this synod: to begin the reflection on the family, which will continue until the conclusion of the Synod of October 2015, of which we already know the degree scroll: "The vocation and the mission statement of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world". The Pope had indicated that the recently concluded synod should be kept in the double listening to the signs of God and of men and in the double fidelity that follows from it. We are therefore faced with a new document from work at the service of the synodal reflection process. Moreover, Francis wanted the text to be published together with the vows received by each of the points that compose it.

1. Listening (context and challenges for the family). The first part begins by considering the context partner-cultural, with its lights and shadows: the growth of freedom of expression, but also individualism. Loneliness, poverty and job insecurity affect many families who find themselves unprotected and with difficulties in welcoming nascent life, caring for the elderly and developing the affective framework that would correspond to them. To this are added difficulties from other cultural and religious spheres, from the polygamy present in Africa, to cohabitation not oriented to an institutional bond, the obscuring of the reference letter to God and faith, children as the main victims of these situations, problems in relation to the dignity of women, violence and its consequences.

Even now, the importance of the affective life is underlined, and at the same time, situations and dangers that devastate it are also noted: individualism, the commercialization of the body, an anti-natalist mentality, etc. All this makes us reflect: "The Church has the challenge of helping couples to mature in the emotional dimension and in the affective development through the promotion of dialogue, virtue and trust in the merciful love of God" (n. 9). As already mentioned, the pastoral challenge is to help people to look towards God from their deepest longings .

2. A look at Christ and the "Gospel of the family" must be preceded by a look at the divine pedagogy in the history of salvation. In the revelation and manifestation of his covenant of grace to humanity, God proceeded by Degrees, little by little, placing the sacrament of marriage in continuity with natural marriage, which was established from the beginning. Thus, this gradualness characterizes the pedagogy with which the Christian life, marriage and the family must be transmitted and lived (cf. Familiaris Consortio, n. 11). That is, to emphasize that Christian marriage is based on natural marriage and enriches it with sacramental grace; and also that those who live a natural marriage commitment in mutual fidelity have a good basis for attaining - if they desire it and ask God for the gift of faith - this richness of grace by contracting the sacrament with the proper dispositions.

Jesus taught the indissolubility of marriage first of all as a gift of God: "Jesus sample how divine condescension always accompanies the human journey, with its grace, heals and transforms the heart, directing it towards its beginning, through the way of the cross" (n. 14). Not only did he live in a family, began his miracles in a family framework - at the wedding feast of Cana - and revealed the meaning plenary session of the Executive Council of marriage; but he also put on internship the doctrine taught, through mercy and forgiveness (cf. Jn 4:1-30; Jn 8:1-11).

The Second Vatican Council described the family as a community of life and love (cf. GS, 48) and the family as the "domestic Church" (LG 11). In the same vein, Paul VI explained the necessary link between conjugal love and the transmission of life (encyclical Humanae vitae). John Paul II paid particular attention to families in his catechesis on human love, the Letter to Families(Gratissimam sane) and especially in the Exhortation Familiaris consortio, where he points out how spouses, living their mutual love to the full and welcoming divine grace, are called to holiness.

Benedict XVI has shown how married love is an icon of God's love for humanity at the same time that love for God is the measure of human love (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est, nn. 2 and 11); and he has emphasized the importance of love for social life, as a way of learning the common good (Encyclical Caritas in veritate, 44). For his part, Francis observed that faith leads us to discover that the vocation to love is based on fidelity to God, who is greater than our frailty (cf. Encyclical Lumen Fidei, n. 53).

In short, Christian revelation considers the sacrament of marriage, rooted in baptism, as the fullness of natural marriage. The synod appreciates certain positive elements and values that can exist in non-Christian marriages, interpreting these elements as "seeds of the Word" that need to mature to fullness, thanks to Christian life (cf. n. 22). He exhorted to consider together the "truth and beauty of the family" together with "mercy towards wounded and fragile families" (cf. nn. 23 ff.). He applauded the witness of Christian families who, following the model of the family of Nazareth, are an image of the Holy Trinity. At the same time, he proposed that the Church, following the example of Christ, should look upon and treat with love and mercy civil marriages, remarried divorcees, situations of simple cohabitation, etc., "recognizing that the grace of God is also at work in their lives, giving them the courage to do good, to care for one another with love and to be at the service of the community in which they live and work" (n. 25).

Regretting the distrust of so many young people towards marriage and the breaking of their commitment on the part of others, order asked that consideration be given to whether certain situations of civil marriages and cohabitation could not be used as pastoral paths, starting from the values of love and fidelity that can be contained in them and, at the same time, distinguishing and clarifying what is necessary in each case. "Aware that the greatest mercy is to speak the truth with love, we go beyond compassion" (n. 28).

3. Perspectives for pastoral and formative action. The third section points out possible lines or paths for pastoral and educational action, and proposes "means" to attend "with patience and gentleness" to the different situations. It stresses the importance of the witness of families and the life of grace. It insists on the "missionary conversion" (that is, the one that goes beyond a advertisement detached from the real problems). It warns about the care of language and encourages the proposition of values, rejecting that which is limited to transmitting or exposing only norms. It exhorts to the biblical training , above all for pastors and educators, as well as to the promotion of an authentic religious experience (prayer and sacraments) and the strengthening of faith. It calls for the promotion of the cultural and political commitment of the lay faithful in the defense of the family, and special attention to engaged and married couples in their early years. It points out the need to educate spirituality (prayer, sacraments, appropriate devotions), to discern the positive values that may be present in civil marriages and cohabitations, and to educate for forgiveness in marriage.

All this must be accompanied by the wisdom to establish differentiated paths according to possibilities (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 84); by a closeness capable of healing, liberating and encouraging towards maturity in the Christian life; by special attention to children and women in difficulty. It is also proposed that the processes of nullity be prudently endowed with agility and that careful attention be given to the divorced and remarried, including the possibility, which some Synod Fathers have pointed out, of allowing access to the sacraments in certain cases and under very specific conditions.

It also suggests further deepening the theology of marriage with attention to ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. It reaffirms the ecclesial doctrine on homosexual unions, a doctrine that at the same time calls for respectful attention to persons with homosexual tendencies. It asks that married couples should encourage the unconditional acceptance of new life and the Education of children in the faith, and advises that, in cases where it is not possible to have children and they wish to do so, they should turn to adoption.

Finally, as it could not be less, the synod wishes the families to be supported in all these aspects, with the hope of moving forward in the coming months, until the synodal process of finding of "paths of truth and mercy for all" is completed; for from the beginning Francis has invited us "to the courage of faith and to the humble and honest acceptance of the truth in charity".


This third and last relatio of the synod remains a document of work that, at the same time, points out lights and possible paths for the continuity of the work until the second and final synodal session.

Let us list some of its particularly significant orientations:

  • To help to look towards God from the deepest longings of the people.

  • To learn from divine pedagogy, especially from the attitudes of Christ.

  • To deepen the link between truth and mercy, especially with regard to financial aid for marriages and families in difficulty.

  • Recognize certain positive values in unions that cannot be considered marriages in the sense of plenary session of the Executive Council.

  • Emphasize the importance of the witness of Christian families who faithfully live their vocation and the need for a "missionary conversion" to mercy, and for an anthropological, spiritual and theological-pastoral training on the beauty of marriage and the Christian family, beginning with pastors and educators.

Francis said that everyone collaborated in the synod in a constructive spirit (cf. Closing Mass, October 19, 2014), despite attempts by certain commentators to present the synodal work as a field of litigation. As we noted at the beginning, the Pope has recognized that this final document is "the faithful and clear summary of all that was said and discussed in this classroom and in the smaller circles."

Among the statements made to the press by the Synod Fathers during these days, the words with which the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Angelo Scola, concludes an interview with the Synod, could be considered as quite representative of the work synod:

"An intellectual response is not enough. It is necessary to regenerate the people of God from below, with a new Education in love, starting from adolescence, and with the awareness that the family is the subject of pastoral care, and not the object. Our parishes, associations and movements must be above all dwellings that show the beauty and goodness of the Gospel, that enter into the necessary discussion of a pluralistic society, with frankness, aiming at the maximum possible recognition" (Interview to the magazine "Ecclesia", October 16, 2014).