Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin defend Synod document

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Both men reject criticism that document does not lay enough stress on role of women

Archbishop of Armagh Dr Eamon Martin said that he travels home to Ireland a “changed” person after three weeks of listening to so many different experiences.

The Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin and the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin have rejected suggestions that Saturday’s final document from the Vatican’s Synod on the Family will be bland and anodyne.

Both men were speaking in Rome as the Synod was concluding its three week long assembly.

Given the well-defined, different viewpoints within the Synod in relation to issues such as the pastoral approach to gays and the Church’s ban on allowing divorced Catholics receive the Eucharist, many believe that the final document, which will be released on Saturday evening, will present a neutral position that offends no one.

Having studied the final message over the last two days, both Irish Archbishops defended the Synod document, with Eamon Martin saying:

“I don’t think so, (that it will be a dull and bland document)....I think it has a new tone, it is strong on the big theme of pastoral accompaniment and this is something that fits in entirely with Pope Francis’s whole agenda...putting everything into a missionary key.

“...The idea that the Church can stay within its own ways of doing thing pastorally and not be with people who are in very difficult circumstances, in many cases living lives which are not fully in accordance with Church teaching, the idea that we could sit there and be away from those people, I think Pope Francis is saying that we’ve got to get out there...”

Dr Diarmuid Martin said that the Synod had “very clearly” attempted to arrive at a consensus, adding:

“It shows that doors that seem to be closed can be opened and that there is a way forward...It keeps saying that each situation has to be examined individually...but it gives the idea that there is an internal forum where individual cases can be dealt with, in discussions with the priest or the bishop, again always saying that this should be based on universal Church law as well...”

Both men argue that tonight’s document will leave the way open for Pope Francis to come up with an open-ended document when he makes his post-Synodal Exhortation.

“It leaves things open for the Pope although I don’t think he will go much further than this...”, said the Archbishop of Dublin.

The Archbishop of Armagh said he expected the Pope to bring “the Francis touch” to the Synod’s work, capturing “the gems of that new pastoral imperative”.

Eamon Martin said that he travels home to Ireland a “changed” person after three weeks of listening to so many different experiences. He also said that the Synod document represents an ideal preparation for the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in 2018, a meeting which Pope Francis is expected to attend.

Both men rejected criticism that the document does not lay enough stress on the role of women arguing that, whilst it does not deal with the role of women in the Church, it acknowledges their vital role in all families.

As for the other controversial Synod issue, namely the Church’s pastoral approach to gays, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn today warned people not to expect much, saying:

“You won’t find much on homosexuality in this document, some will be disappointed...”

The fact that Cardinal Schonborn then added that “certain behaviour is seen by the Bible differently to the way it is seen by many today” would suggest that this internal Church debate is by no means over. Archbishop Eamon Martin confirmed this impression when he said:

“This final document proposes a pastoral imperative, not just an extra, that we reach out to gay people in their families and to gay people themselves but it does not in any way change the church’s teaching on homosexuality...”

Irish Times; 24 October 2015