ROME — A Hungarian cardinal set to play a key role in the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family suggested Thursday that no change will result from the summit, either on Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics or on broader matters such as contraception.
Cardinal Péter Erdő said that talk of revisions on those fronts is the result of “a pressure with no foundation to change Church teaching.”
Erdő was the relator — more or less the chairman — of last October’s synod, and will reprise his role this year. It’s an influential post, among other things giving him the chance to shape the synod’s final document.
Erdő said on Thursday in comments to reporters in Rome that the tough questions surrounding the family are being confronted “with love and sensibility,” but also with “responsibility toward the unity of the Church.”
Erdo called the synod a place for an honest discussion over the difficulties families face, and said that legal and theological efforts are being made to find answers.
He warned, however, that “all the possible solutions will be rooted in the faith.”
“We need to reason with a great sense of tradition, and a great sensibility toward the possibilities that are within the theological and institutional heritage,” Erdo said, adding that the theological foundations for the family and marriage are clear and “regarded as such” by Pope Francis.
Francis called for a three-year reflection on the family in the first year of his pontificate. Since January, he’s been using his weekly Wednesday audiences to reflect on the subject, addressing Church teaching on different issues such as the nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, indissoluble, and open to life.
The process as Francis envisioned it includes two synods and the participation of ordinary Catholics from all over the world. Laity have been invited to answer two questionnaires about marriage and the family.
Questioned about “the gap between teaching and practice,” specifically on the Church’s ban on artificial contraception and access to Communion for the divorced and the remarried, Erdo said it’s nothing new, and has already been addressed by popes Paul VI and John Paul II.
“These pastoral problems exist, and they deserve a very delicate attention,” Erdo said, insisting that a bishop’s work must be rooted in Church teaching and without disregarding the work done in the past.
“We need to make a list with the possible solutions that already exist, rooted in the faith,” he said, arguing that it’s possible to find “radical” measures without setting aside the Church’s traditional discipline.
Erdo also addressed a document published April 16 by Germany’s bishops’ conference, distributed in several languages, that summed up the opinion of German Catholics who answered the second questionnaire sent out by the synod to all the dioceses in the world.
In general, the document supported change on several points, including allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
In February, the president of the German conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, announced that the bishops might allow remarried divorcees to receive Communion even if the upcoming synod decides otherwise, stating that they’re not a “subsidiary of Rome.”
“Christians must follow the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who is our teacher,” Erdo said in reponse. “It’s him and his teaching that must lighten the steps of the Church and of individual Christians.”
Questioned about the possibility of making it easier to get an annulment, a declaration by a Church court that the sacrament of marriage never existed because the union didn’t meet one or more of the tests for validity, Erdo said he’s convinced the issue will be “adequately addressed.”
The traditional tests for the validity of a sacramental marriage include free will, openness to children, and proper form.