ROME — The Vatican’s top official for the family says that October’s Synod of Bishops will debate altering church rules barring divorced and remarried Catholics from communion, but considers its emphasis will probably be on practical strategies for helping couples rather than changing doctrine.
Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, said that with regard to divorce and remarriage, the synod is more likely to look at better marriage preparation and wider access to church courts for requesting annulments, a process that declares a marriage invalid, rather than changing the current discipline.
Paglia spoke in a September 2nd interview with Crux. He stressed that while the synod will touch on the debate over divorced and remarried Catholics, its real agenda is much broader, including a wide range of ‘profound human problems’ concerning the family.
“We’re focusing on this issue that, though extremely important, isn’t really crucial. We have to consider the children, the elderly, the sick, adoption processes, [and] the lack of intergenerational dialogue.”
Paglia told Crux that, even though Pope Francis wants to have an honest debate on every issue concerning the family, those expecting a radical change should keep in mind that the Synod’s aim is to discuss the pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization, not redefining the institution.
“Problems will be addressed, but any change in doctrinal teachings would be hard, considering the diversity and complexity of these issues.”
From Paglia’s perspective, this doesn’t mean the Synod of Bishops will sustain the status quo: “I do believe bishops will find real pastoral alternatives, profound human problems deserve profound solutions.”
According to the Italian archbishop, the triplet of a man and a woman getting together, open to the possibility of having children and forming a family conform the beauty of a solid nation. Paglia quoted Cicero, who defined family as the foundations of a city, and the cities the foundations of a strong country.
“Instrumenting a policy of everything goes would be misleading.” The monsignor believes that simply changing the rules wouldn’t solve the problems either.
He expects the Synod to come up with real solutions, comparing the debate that will take place in Rome to a doctor who’s treating gangrene. “If he does a superficial cleansing, then the illness would get much worse.”
According to Paglia, the Church has to help families in every way possible, including those broken or hurt.
“Reaffirming the principles of what constitutes a family isn’t enough. But we can’t redefine those principles either.”
Paglia also stated that the World Meeting of Families, that will take place in Philadelpia next year and will presumably mean Pope Francis first trip to the U.S, will be crucial in the Synod’s outcome.
“I predict Philly will bring a new spring of the family. We’re living in a historical-and tragic- moment: we have the nuclear power to destroy it all, the climate change has placed the world at stake and men have the power of creating life.”
For Paglia, the Church shouldn’t focus solely on defending a position. It should be re-launching its teaching about marriage, family and the meaning of life.
“More importantly, we should be talking about the need of coexisting”.