Side by Side Comparison of Mid-term (Relatio post disceptiontatem) and Final (Relatio Synodi) documents with comments

CLICK HERE to see a sidebyside comparison of the mid-term and final documents from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. CLICK HERE for a quick summary study of the differences between the mid-term and the final documents. Many passages in the final document were word smithed, but the content and tone was remarkably unchanged.

  • Overall, the final document retained much of the mid-term’s text and conciliatory tone. It starts by preserving Pope Francis’ beautiful conciliatory prayer spoken at the the prayer vigil on the eve of the synod. It keeps the accompaniment language “which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (#46).” It describes “the necessity for courageous pastoral choices (#45).  And it retains the language about the Church being “welcoming (#61).” although some of the language is omitted in the section on homosexuality.
  • Paragraphs #21 and #22 are additions in the final that reinforce the indissolubility of marriage, YET, on the topic of civil marriage the final retains much of the tone and language from the mid-term about the positive aspect of civilly celebrated marriages (#41).  In #5 the final continues to hold up the ideal, but also retains the language of care for those who participate in church life in “an incomplete manner, recognizing God’s grace…to care for one another in love.”  Paragraph #42 in the final attempts to give the benefit of the doubt to those who do no live in regular marriages.
  • In the final document, many of the mid-term passages are retained but encircled by more paternalistic texts meant to assert the authority of the magisterium as the teaching authority of Church.  This often has the effect of toning down the more conciliatory language of the mid-term by reinforcing traditional Church teaching.  The insertion of more Christological language is also used as a buffer against any perceived secularism in the mid-term tone and to support that Church authority.
  • Paragraphs #13 and #24 of the final document try to spell out what the “law of gradualness” means.  The additions have the effect of neutralizing the full impact of the pastoral concepts.
  • Paragraphs #17 through #20 of the final document show an intentional shifting of foundational documents supporting Relatio from Vatican II documents to include more of John Paul II’s teaching along with Benedict’s.
  •  The document uses the sexual sins of biblical women as the sole examples of how the Church should respond to those who have not lived up to the Church’s teachings.  It touts the Church’s paternalistic understanding of itself as the exemplar of truth using biblical stories of women caught in adultery.  The moral is that an easy mercy is not enough.  The Church must go “beyond compassion” and “tell the truth” as the ultimate mercy.  The final document supports this with the story of Jesus telling the women caught in adultery to “sin no more.”  There are no comparable biblical stories of wayward men in the document.
  • The final document actually improves the mid-term by drawing specific attention to
  1. Violence against women
  2. The ill effects of pornography
  3. The ill effects of commercialization of body
  4. The epidemic of explotation of women/children
  5. The importance of the father’s role and the problem of absent fathers (qualified as those who are not forced into migration or other such circumstances)
  6. Deleted specific references to Africa removing a blatant western bias

Finally, there is much speculation about why three paragraphs did not pass with a variety of opinions about what it means. Paragraphs #52 and #53 of the final focus on sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics.  Obviously there were plenty of bishops who were not inclined to substitute “spiritual communion” for Eucharistic communion and it has been suggested that this did not pass because many felt the need for more study that would include the work undertaken by a special committee assigned by Pope Francis. Paragraph #55 was really a slash and burn of the mid-term language.  It omits welcoming language and reasserts current Church teaching substituting language from the Catechism and a CDF text.  It is interesting that Cardinal Vincent Nichols (Westminster) said the reason this paragraph did not pass is because it didn’t go “far enough (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/21/britain-vincent-nichols-synod-_n_6022364.html).” Along the same lines, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher (Canada) remarked, “Why did some Bishops choose not to approve a text which only repeated the Church’s received teaching? I have the impression many would have preferred a more open, positive language. Not finding it in this paragraph, they might have chosen to indicate their disapproval of it (http://singandwalk.blogspot.com/2014/10/synod-day-11.html?spref=tw). While there was a tragic stripping away of key pastoral passages, ones that would have been deeply embraced by millions of Catholics, young and old, it is also important to see how the document retained much of the mid-term tone and language and how, in some cases, improved the mid-term. Moving forward, there is great hope. As Cardinal Reinhard Marx recently said, “This pope knows exactly what he is doing, let no one doubt that. Francis wants us to move. His frequent use of the word avanti — ‘get moving’ — is ample proof of that. He is convinced that one doesn’t need clever tactics if one is not afraid. In his final, forceful address to the synod he also for the first time describes how he sees his own office. ‘As long as I am with you, you can discuss everything without being afraid. I’ll see to it that we stay on the church’s track.’ That was certainly a strong emphasis on his primacy (http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/cardinal-marx-pope-francis-has-pushed-open-doors-church).”

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