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ACI set to hold open forum on the family

By Sarah Mac Donald - 10 March, 2015

Extraordinary SynodThe Association of Catholics in Ireland is holding an ‘Open Forum on the Family’ later this month in response to Pope Francis’ call to the lay faithful to engage actively in the consultation process in advance of the 2015 Synod on the Family.

The ACI Steering Group is organising the forum in order to provide ACI members and supporters with an alternative approach to the consultation process.

In many dioceses and parishes around the country consultation is underway, mostly focused on the Lineamenta and the associated questions circulated by the Vatican.

The Open Forum will include a number of short presentations on the real ‘lived experiences’ of people surviving on the margins of the church as a result of marriage break-down, involvement in second relationships, and sexual orientation.

The programme, which will be facilitated by Dr Margaret Nugent from NUIM, will provide opportunities for detailed consideration of the key issues via small group discussions and a plenary session.

Dr Nugent is a staff member in the Adult and Community Education Department in NUIM and has extensive experience in working with community groups, statutory, semi-state and non-governmental organisations at home and in Africa, India and South America.

A report on the proceedings will be compiled and forwarded to the Conference of Irish Bishops and the Synod Secretariat in the Vatican.

Meanwhile members of We Are Church Ireland, in response to the Pope’s request, has reflected on some of the issues in the Lineamenta of the 2014 Synod of the Family and have published the consensus of the members’ views.

They are as follows:

  1. Structure of the Synod

1.1. The Synod of the Family as currently structured will only be fruitful if it is guided by the Holy Spirit as expressed through a wide range of Consultors, a majority of whom would reflect the complex reality of the many diverse family structures.

1.2. The very small number of women attending the synod and their exclusion from voting makes the synod a deeply flawed process which lacks in catholicity and therefore credibility and authority.

  1. Pastoral Challenges (Lineamenta Q 11)

2.1. Every diocese and every parish should have a broad range of educational, experiential and pastoral resources to help people in emotional growth, preparation for relationship and marriage, parenting and marriage enrichment. The reality of marriage breakdown must also be addressed. The persons entrusted with the delivery of these services must represent the broad Catholic consensus.

  1. Pastoral Care of Couples Civilly Married or Living Together (Lineamenta Q 32 and Q 33)

3.1. In view of the fact that different forms of loving relationships are widely accepted by the People of God, we assert the validity and holiness of the relationships of couples who are committed in love. The Synod of Bishops should recognise this reality as a sign of the times and call on the Christian Community to accompany these couples on their journey.

  1. Caring for Wounded Families (Separated, Divorced and Not Remarried, Divorced and Remarried, Single Parent Families) (Lineamenta Q 37 & Q 38)

4.1. People whose marriages have irretrievably broken down should be given pastoral support through a caring ministry to help them move through their loss.

4.2. Marriages which are entered into by both parties in good faith do break down. Either or both parties may enter a second marriage in good faith and this second marriage should be recognised.

4.3. In light of the primacy of conscience, divorced and remarried people are free to make their own decision with regard to receiving Communion. The community accepts remarried couples and does not judge them and official Church teaching should reflect this.

4.4. The annulment process should be shorter, inexpensive, transparent and without apportioning blame to either party.

  1. Pastoral Attention towards Persons with Homosexual Tendencies (Lineamenta Q 40)

5.1. An aspect missing from Sections 54 and 55 of the Lineamenta, is any reference to LGBT* couples.

5.2. A statement on marriage needs to acknowledge that within our Church the understanding of marriage as an institution has evolved over many centuries and changed in many ways. Such an evolution is evidenced in: “The well-being of the individual person and of human and Christian society is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family. Hence Christians and all people who hold this community in high esteem sincerely rejoice in the various ways by which people today find help in fostering this community of love and perfecting its life, and by which parents are assisted in their lofty calling.” (Section 47, Gaudium et Spes). As this understanding continues to develop, our hope is that one day all those who live this reality may find equal acceptance in our Church.

5.3. Pastoral care of LGBT* persons and their families requires that they be treated with the respect due to all God’s children.   Phrases such as ‘intrinsically disordered’ or refusal of Communion to those known to be in an LGBT* relationship are a block to such persons either receiving or offering ministry within our Church. Perceptions and language need to change to enable these persons to know themselves as equal, welcomed and valued members of God’s family.

  1. The Transmission of Life and the Challenge of a Declining Birthrate (Lineamenta Q 43)

6.1. The vast majority of the People of God in Ireland are open to life but do not accept the teaching of Humanae Vitae on the morality of artificial contraception. The primacy of conscience of couples must be respected: we therefore recommend that this teaching be changed.

Separately, some parishes are holding assemblies to discuss the Lineamenta and synod questions.

This week, members of Balally parish in Dublin met to consider a re-presentation of the Synod questions and Lineamenta “to help our parish get their teeth into it” Pádraig McCarthy said.

He added, “The Lineamenta document is also difficult, and when presented as a mass of text it is difficult to tackle.”

The parish have made their version of the Lineamenta and synod questions available for use. It can be downloaded here: Synod Discussion Questions Re-presented Rev 3:

The Vatican’s document is available SYNOD Lineamenta 2015:

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