07 October 2014, The Tablet

Synod Fathers see place for 'graduality' on moral matters

by Christopher Lamb in Rome

Participants at the Vatican’s Synod on the Family acknowledged that accepting the Church's moral teaching can be a gradual, not overnight, process. 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who is attending the synod as President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, told journalists that the law of “graduality”, the theological idea that people can come closer to the fullness of Church teaching during their lives, was discussed. An example of graduality would be a couple who decide to get married after living together.

“I think it’s a law of moral and pastoral theology that permits and encourages people, all of us, in our search for holiness in our lives,” he said, although he pointed out this was not about saying there were different moral laws for different points in a person’s life.

“There is a pathway by which we all walk and I think some of the foundations for the development of that notion have been mentioned already in the first days.”

He stressed that a number of the 70 interventions from cardinals and bishops were based on “pastoral perspectives rather than academic studies”. He also pointed out the importance of laity addressing the synod, noting how they spoke at the beginning of each session

Asked whether there was likely to be any development of church teaching, he said the synod is “waiting to approach pastoral care for divorced and remarried”. The Church’s prohibition on civilly remarried Catholics receiving Communion has been fiercely debated in the run-up to the Synod.

Nichols was asked whether weddings in the West had become too materialistic through a focus on a beautiful church building, a lavish reception and a luxury car.

Cardinal Nichols said: "It's ridiculous to see how much money people want to spend on a wedding." He added that he advises couples “to spend money on each other, not on the wedding” for example by putting a deposit down on a mortgage for a house.

Above: Prelates leave this morning's session of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican. Photo: CNS

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