“So the Synod—when speaking of the pastoral care of those who after divorce have entered on a new union—rightly praised those couples who in spite of great difficulties witness in their life to the indissolubility of marriage. In their life the Synod recognizes that good news of faithfulness to love which has its power and its foundation in Christ. Furthermore, the fathers of the Synod, again affirming the indissolubility of marriage and the Church’s practice of not admitting to Eucharistic communion those who have been divorced and—against her rule—again attempted marriage, urge pastors and the whole Christian community to help such brothers and sisters. They do not regard them as separated from the Church, since by virtue of their baptism they can and must share in the life of the Church by praying, hearing the word, being present at the community’s celebration of the Eucharist, and promoting charity and justice. Although it must not be denied that such people can in suitable circumstances be admitted to the sacrament of penance and then to Eucharistic communion, when with a sincere heart they open themselves to a way of life that is not in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage—namely, when such a man and woman, who cannot fulfill the obligation of separation, take on the duty of living in total abstinence, that is, abstaining from acts that are proper only to married couples—and when there is no scandal.”That puts things well, both doctrinally and pastorally. Catholics can take this clear papal teaching as a good point of reference in the current discussion.
Thanks to a priest reader who directed me to the excellent Catholic Household for the above quotation. Do see their post John Paul II’s Ignored Synod Speech: 3 Highlights You Need to Read for further commentary and for the full text of the address of St John Paul at the end of the 1980 Synod.
It is also well worth reading Ross Douthat's op-ed piece for the New York Times: The Pope and the Precipice which is an intelligent and well-informed commentary. In his article, he says,
In the week since [the Synod] many Catholics have downplayed the starkness of what happened or minimized the papal role. Conservatives have implied that the synod organizers somehow went rogue, that Pope Francis’s own views were not really on the table, that orthodox believers should not be worried. More liberal Catholics have argued that there was no real chaos — this was just the kind of freewheeling, Jesuit-style debate Francis was hoping for — and that the pope certainly suffered no meaningful defeat.In addition to the links provided, it will be of interest to readers from England that Cardinal Nicholls essentially offered the second of the above reactions in his Pastoral Letter on the Synod on the Family.