Questions Aimed at a Response to
and an In-Depth Examination of
the Relatio Synodi
Preliminary Question Applicable to All Sections of the Relatio Synodi
The questionnaire has been simplified by the Diocesan Family Service Centre (DFSC), Goa, so as to make it more amiable for discussion at SCC/Parish/Association/Deanery/Religious Houses/various groups levels.
The original questionnaire along with the Preparatory Document (Lineamenta) is uploaded on www.familyservicecentregoa.org and our Facebook page, Dfsc,Goa
Does the description of the various familial situations in the Relatio Synodi correspond to what exists in the Church and society today? What missing aspects should be included?
Listening: The Context and Challenges of the Family
As indicated in the Introduction (ns. 1 – 4), the Extraordinary Synod was intended to address all the families of the world in a desire to share their joys, struggles and hopes. At the same time, considering the many Christian families who faithfully live their vocation, the Synod expressed to them a sense of gratitude and encouraged them to become involved more decisively, as the Church strives to “go out of herself”, and to rediscover the family’s vital character in the work of evangelization, primarily in nourishing for themselves and for families in difficulty the “desire to form a family”, which endures and underlies the conviction that an effective proclamation of the core message of the Gospel must necessarily “begin with the family”.
The path of renewal delineated by the Extraordinary Synod is set within the wider ecclesial context indicated by Pope Francis in his Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, namely, starting from “life’s periphery” and engaging in pastoral activity that is characterized by a “culture of encounter” and capable of recognizing the Lord’s gratuitous work, even outside customary models, and of confidently adopting the idea of a “field hospital”, which is very beneficial in proclaiming God’s mercy. The numbers in the first part of the Relatio Synodi are a response to these challenges and provide a framework for reflecting on the real situation of families.
The proposed questions which follow and the reference numbers to the paragraphs in the Relatio Synodi are intended to assist the bishops’ conferences in their reflection and to avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine, which would not respect the conclusions of the Extraordinary Synodal Assembly and would lead their reflection far from the path already indicated.
The Socio-Cultural Context (ns. 4 – 7)
1. Is the individual/family aware of the initiatives taken up by the Diocesan Family Service Centre, Goa, in relation to the challenges faced by the family – yes or no?
a. What initiatives do you know of?
b. Which initiatives are geared in your Parish to re-awaken an awareness of God’s presence in family life?
• Prayer life
• Sunday Eucharist – Sunday and weekdays Eucharist
• Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and visit to the Blessed Sacrament
• Importance of celebration of the Sacrament
c. Which initiatives are geared in your Parish/Diocese to teach/establish sound interpersonal relationship
• Knowledge of self
• Communication skills
• Conflict resolution
• Accepting differences
d. Which initiatives are geared in your Parish/Diocese to alleviate difficulties associated with attention given to children, the elderly and family members who are ill?
• Promoting culture of life – from natural conception to natural death (contraception, abortion, withdrawal, masturbation, euthanasia, suicide, surrogacy, rejection of girl child, rejection of deformed child.
• Care of the elderly and the sick
2. a. What are the interventions you are aware of in dealing with loneliness caused by:
• Opposing new life
• Dealing with the aged/sick population
• Parenting style
b. What are the interventions you are aware of as regards:
• Emotional problems (indifference, emotional outburst, insensitivity to emotional needs, lack of appreciation)
• Domestic violence (physical abuse, mental torture, verbal abuse, In-laws harassment, emotional problems, sexual violence)
a. How can the Church help families in difficult situations (spouses living for oneself, no self giving, extramarital affairs, difficult marriages, struggling with adolescent children etc..)? (cf. n. 7).
b. How can the Church seek to prevent these situations?
c. What can be done to support and strengthen families?
d. How can the Church support those faithful to the bonds of marriage in the presence of setting of unhealthy trends like infidelity, co-habitation, trial marriages etc..?
• Family level
• Small Christian Community level
• Small Human Community level
• Parish Level
a. How could the Church protect the model of family formed by a man and woman united in the marriage and open to life in the midst of no pain philosophy?
b. What should the Church do in emphasizing the preparation for celebration of sacraments vis-a-vis preparations done for the external celebration, keeping in mind the instant gratification mentality, lavish spending at the celebrations, competiveness, financial burden etc.. that hampers the openness to life?
The Importance of Affectivity in Life (ns. 8-9)
a. In our Christian families, what is the level of emotional/affective maturity of the spouses in the following areas (cf. ns. 8-9).:
• Positive Level
• Affirming each other
• Accepting each other
• Admiring each other
• Appreciating each other
• Negative Level
• Selfish Individualism
• Online gaming
• Mentality against having children
b. In this regard, how might the formation of ordained ministers be improved?
c. What qualified persons are urgently needed in this pastoral activity?
Pastoral Challenges (n. 10)
a. How is Pastoral Care of the families to be offered in the following situations:
• Wounded marriages (Persons who are Separated, Divorced and Not Remarried, Divorced an and Remarried and Single-Parent Families)
• Mixed Marriages
• Inter-religious marriages
b. How can the Church make prevalent the idea of natural marriage and the desire to form a family, among the young?
Looking at Christ: The Gospel of the Family
The Gospel of the Family, faithfully preserved by the Church from the time of Christ’s Revelation, both written and transmitted through the ages, needs to be proclaimed in today’s world with renewed joy and hope, continuing all-the-while to look at Jesus Christ. The vocation and mission of the family is fully configured to the order of creation which develops into that of redemption, as summarized by the desire of the Council, “let the spouses themselves, made to the image of the living God and enjoying the authentic dignity of persons, be joined to one another in equal affection, harmony of mind and the work of mutual sanctification. Thus, following Christ who is the principle of life, by the sacrifices and joys of their vocation and through their faithful love, married people can become witnesses of the mystery of love which the Lord revealed to the world by his dying and his rising to life again” (Gaudium et Spes, 52; cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1533-1535). From this vantage point, the questions arising from the Relatio Synodi are devised to prompt a faithful and bold response from the Pastors and the People of God in a renewed proclamation of the Gospel of the Family.
Looking at Jesus and the Divine Pedagogy in the History of Salvation (ns. 11 – 13)
Accepting the invitation of Pope Francis, the Church looks to Christ in his enduring truth and inexhaustible newness, which also sheds light on the family. “Christ is the ‘eternal Gospel’ (Rev 14:6); he ‘is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb 13:8), yet his riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is for ever young and a constant source of newness” (Gaudium Evangelii, 11).
7. In difficult situations, what measures families should take to have a personal relationship with Christ?
• Through Sacred Scripture
• Church Documents
• Religious Devotions
• Catechism of the Church
a. What marriage and family values seen, need to be highlighted in the life of young people and married couples? (cf. n. 12)
b. What sinful aspects are to be avoided and overcome?
9. In your Parish, is the pre-marital preparation maturing a couple’s life from Baptism to a good Christian marriage in the future at each level? (cf. n. 12)
10. What is being done to demonstrate the greatness and beauty of the gift of indissolubility (living together forever), not as a yoke but as a gift, so as to prompt a desire to live it and strengthen it more and more? (cf. n. 13)
11. How can people be helped to understand that the graces in the sacrament of matrimony (relationship with God) assist couples in overcoming weaknesses in marital relationships? (cf. n. 13)
The Family in God’s Savific Plan (ns. 14 – 15)
In creation, the vocation of the love between a man and woman draws its full realization from the Paschal Mystery of Christ the Lord, who, in his total gift of self, makes the Church his Mystical Body. Christian marriage, in drawing on the grace of Christ, thus becomes, for those who are called, the path leading to the perfection of love, which is holiness.
12. How can people be made to understand that Christian marriage corresponds to the original plan of God? (cf. n. 14)
• Wellbeing of spouses
• Procreation and upbringing of children
13. How can the family as a “domestic Church” (Lumen Gentium, 11) build kingdom of God?
• Witnessing a life of love
• Witnessing a life of communion
14. How can this idea (Answers to Q.13) be promoted in the Parish/Diocese?
The Family in the Church’s Documents (ns. 16 – 19)
The Church’s Magisterium in all its richness needs to be better known by the People of God. Marital spirituality is nourished by the constant teaching of the Pastors, who care for the flock, and grow through their continual attentiveness to the Word of God and to the sacraments of faith and charity.
15. What measures need to be taken to bring the teachings of the Church Documents to the family? (cf. n. 19)
• Parish Associations
• Diocesan Centers level
The Indissolubility of Marriage and the Joy of Sharing Life Together (ns. 20 – 21)
“Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may effectively lead the spouses to God and may aid and strengthen them in the sublime mission of being father and mother. For this reason, Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfill their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God” (Gaudium et Spes, 48).
16. What initiatives can lead people to understand the value of an indissoluble and fruitful marriage as the path to complete personal fulfillment? (cf. n. 20)
17. In what ways can you, in your family, manifest the joy of sharing life together?
The Truth and Beauty of the Family and Mercy Towards Wounded and Fragile Families (ns. 22 – 27)
After having considered the beauty of successful marriages and strong families and shown appreciation for the generous witness of those who remain faithful to the bonds of marriage, even when abandoned by their spouses, the Pastors at the Synod asked themselves — in an open and courageous manner but not without concern and caution — how the Church is to regard Catholics who are united in a civil bond, those who simply live together and those who, after a valid marriage, are divorced and remarried civilly.
Aware of the obvious limitations and imperfections present in many different situations, the synod fathers assumed the positive outlook indicated by Pope Francis, according to which “without detracting from the evangelical ideal, they need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively occur.”(Evangelii Gaudium, 44).
a. How are the sacraments of Healing (Confession and Anointing of the Sick) made easily available from the side of the Priest and from the side of the Laity?
b. How can we catechize and reach out to those living in irregular marriages (couples civilly married and living together persons who are Separated, Divorced and Not Remarried, Divorced an and Remarried and Single-Parent Families, widows) (cf. n. 27)
19. How can we help families to arrive at the fullness (call to holiness) of Christian marriage? (cf. n. 24)
Confronting the Situation: Pastoral Perspectives
In examining Part III of the Relatio Synodi, it is important to be guided by the pastoral approach initiated at the Extraordinary Synod which is grounded in Vatican II and the Magisterium of Pope Francis. The episcopal conferences have the responsibility to continue to examine this part thoroughly and seek the involvement, in the most opportune manner possible, all levels of the local Church, thus providing concrete instances from their specific situations. Every effort should be made not to begin anew, but to continue on the path undertaken in the Extraordinary Synod as a point of departure.
Proclaiming the Gospel of the Family Today in Various Contexts (ns. 28 – 37)
Because of the needs of the family and, at the same time, the many complex challenges that are present in the world today, the Synod emphasized making a renewed commitment to proclaiming the Gospel of the Family in a bold and more insistent manner.
20. Given the current threats to authentic family living leading to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence, suggest topics for priests formation in order to make families a source of evangelization?
• In the Seminary
• Ongoing formation of Priests
21. Are people aware that it is required of the priests to speak of the threats to the family as mentioned above? How can the people be made aware of the consequences to their authentic family life due to the various threats?
a. How can a Priest create conditions in his Parish so that each family might actually be as God wills and that society might acknowledge the family’s dignity and mission?
b. What further steps he should take towards an in-depth examination of familial situations (to smell the sheep-knowledge of each family) under his care?
a. What do you think the government and society is doing for the family?
b. What do you suggest that the government and society should do for the family?
c. In this regard, what role can be played by family associations in this regard?
Guiding Engaged Couples in Their Preparation for Marriage (ns. 38)
The Synod recognized the steps taken in recent years to facilitate an effective preparation of young people for marriage, stressing, however, a need for a greater commitment of the entire Christian community in not only the preparation but also the initial years of family life.
a. How in marriage preparation and catechesis, regarding the relationship between Baptism, Eucharist and Marriage done, in order to highlight the vocation and mission of the family in the following structures?
• Parish (Pastoral Instructions)
b. Is it proposed as an authentic ecclesial experience?
c. How can it be renewed and improved?
Accompanying Married Couples in the Initial Years of Marriage (n. 39)
25. Are spousal couples, in their initial years of marriage, accompanied by
• Parental Families
• Neighbourhood families
• Priests in the Parish
• Family associations/movements
If yes, how? If no, what would you propose?
Pastoral Care of Couples Civilly Married or Living Together (ns. 40 – 42)
The Synod discussed diverse situations resulting from a multiplicity of cultural and economic factors, practices grounded in tradition, and the difficulty of young people to make lifetime commitments.
26. What do you propose for pastoral care to those civilly married or living together and not canonically married in light the Church’s teaching?(unity/monogamy, indissolubility and openness to life)
Caring for Wounded Families (Separated, Divorced and Not Remarried, Divorced and Remarried, Single-Parent Families) (ns. 43 – 53)
Synod discussion highlighted the need for a pastoral based on the art of accompaniment, “the pace of [which] must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life”(Evangelii Gaudium, 169).
27. How can the Christian community engage in removing the social and economic factors which often contribute to wounded families?
28. How can the procedure to determine cases of nullity be made more accessible, streamlined and possibly without expense?
29. With regard to the divorced and remarried, pastoral practice concerning the sacraments needs to be further studied, including assessment of the Orthodox practice (no access to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist) and taking into account “the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances” (n. 51). What are the prospects in such a case? What is possible? What suggestions can be offered to resolve forms of undue or unnecessary impediments?
Pastoral Attention towards Persons with Homosexual Tendencies (ns. 54 – 55)
The pastoral care of persons with homosexual tendencies poses new challenges today, due to the manner in which their rights are proposed in society.
30. How can God’s will be proposed to those persons with homosexual tendencies?
The Transmission of Life and the Challenge of a Declining Birthrate (ns. 56 – 58)
The transmission of life is a fundamental element in the vocation and mission of the family: “They should know they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love in the task of transmitting human life and to raising children; this has to be considered their proper mission” (Gaudium et Spes, 50).
a. What is being done (Parish/School/Village/Government/Diocese) to effectively promote the beauty and dignity of becoming a mother or father, in light, for example, of Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI?
b. How can you create awareness about medically assisted reproductive technology (test-tube baby, artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood and other such measures) that goes against the respect the human ecology of reproduction?
a. How is the vocation of motherhood and fatherhood being fostered and supported in your Parish and at socio-political level (panchayat/government)? Suggest measures to be undertaken.
b. What formation is offered to effectively guide the consciences of married couples towards this vocation?
c. How can adoption and foster-parenting be encouraged as a powerful sign of fruitful generosity?
d. How can the care and respect of children be promoted?
a. Are people aware of the grave consequences of demographic change (declining birth rate, fertility rate, growth rate)? Can you list some of the consequences on the family, parish, society and world economy)
b. How do you propose to create awareness to spousal couples to be open for large families?
34. How does your Parish denounce withdrawal method, contraception, abortion, family planning operation (vasectomy/tubectomy) and foster an effective culture of life and the practice of Natural Family Planning? What steps would you take to create more awareness of the same?
Upbringing and the Role of the Family in Evangelization (ns. 59 – 60)
a. Fulfilling their educational mission is not always easy for parents. Do they find solidarity and support from the Christian community?
b. What suggestions might be offered in formation?
c. What steps can be taken to acknowledge the role of parents in raising children, even at the socio-political level?
36. How can parents and the Christian family be made aware that the duty of transmitting the faith is an intrinsic aspect of being a Christian?