16 October 2014, The Tablet

Synod must balance doctrine and mercy, cardinal says

The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, spoke today about the tensions in the Synod on the Family between the need to uphold the doctrine of the Church and at the same time to accompany people in the reality of their lives.

Asked at a Vatican press conference about the tensions among the Synod Fathers about whether doctrine could be changed on such matters as same-sex relations, cohabitation, and divorce and remarriage, Cardinal Schönborn said it was important to find a balance.

“We must not forget doctrine but we must do everything we can to accompany people in different situations,” he said.

Referring to a growing number of cohabiting couples, the cardinal said the Church had to respond to the development and to find new words for this new situation. 

Such couples, he suggested, were in a gradual process of living with the Church’s teaching step by step.

“It needs time and patience,” he said.

Asked about what St John Paul II would have made of the synod’s discussion, Cardinal Schönborn said he had been fortunate to know the recently canonised Pope very well. He praised Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body as a huge development in doctrine that talked about the "human body as an image of God" for first time.

These teachings were now being welcomed, said the cardinal, and he cited Blessed John Henry Newman, who said that "the Church has an organic development."

There were complaints from English-speaking journalists at the press conference about a new English translation of the mid-term relatio issued by the Vatican on Thursday morning which they claimed was inaccurate. The document has aroused controversy among the Synod Fathers for proposing radical changes to the Church’s pastoral approach to gays, divorced and remarried Catholics and those in civil marriages. The new English version said same sex couples should be “provided for” rather than  “welcomed”, as was stated in the original. The journalists complained that “welcomed” was a far more accurate rendering of the Italian word “accoglienza”.

Above: Cardinals Gerhard Müller, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with Schönborn. Photo: CNS

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