Gerard O’ConnellOctober 09, 2015
Prelates attend the opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Oct. 4 (CNS/Paul Haring).

The Vatican today released the texts of the 13 reports from the English, French, German, Italian and Spanish language groups that were presented to the plenary assembly of the Synod on the Family this morning, October 9.

Some early points that are worth noting: several groups said the presentation of the family in this first part of the working document (WD) is too negative, too bleak, because it “mainly highlights problems.” Without diminishing the challenges mentioned there, they propose that the final document should offer a positive, inspiring presentation of the family.

Several reports ask that the final document be written in a language that reaches ordinary people, not in “church-speak,” or as Archbishop Kurtz told the media at a Vatican press briefing today, a language that is “simple, understandable and inspiring.”

Some spoke about the need for a more biblical presentation of the family in the final document. Others insisted that this text should reflect “a global” perspective not just a Eurocentric or Western one.

A number of groups have raised the question of what is the concept of “family” that should be used in the text; is it the nuclear family, or the extended family, or what?

It is important to note that each of the 13 group reports are accompanied by a varying number of what are called “modi,” that is modifications in one form or other to the synod’s working document which is the basic text or “work instrument” that is being used at the synod. That text was drafted based on the conclusions of the 2014 synod and additional input from the local churches worldwide.

The “modi” take a variety of forms, ranging from proposals to re-write entire paragraphs of the original working document text, to proposing additions, amendments, the inclusion of a particular sentence, the deletion of some parts of the text, or asking for greater clarification in the use of the certain words.

The modi have been passed on to the special commission of 10 synod fathers, established by the pope to draft the synod’s final document. They have not been released to the media, and presumably will remain secret. There could be around one hundred of them, if not more—the Vatican has not yet said how many there are.

Report from English working group A

Report from English working group B

Report from English working group C

Report from English working group D

FRENCH NOTESThe following text seeks to identify the main points of the reports from the three French language groups. It is presented as an aid to the reader and does not pretend to be exhaustive.


Moderator: Cardinal Gérald Cyrpien Lacroix; Rapporteur: Archbishop Laurent Ulrich

The Group:

  • calls for “a text that is open which favors dialogue with our contemporaries.”
  • says the final document should not just focus on problems of families in the West.
  • is happy with the introduction to the working document that highlights and values “the beauty and profound sacramentality of marriage.”
  • says we must know “how to discern the seeds of the word in the experiences of today’s families.”
  • expresses great satisfaction that had the time in language groups to discuss in these issues in depth.
  • remarks on “the unique experience of Catholicity” that is being had in the synod.


Moderator: Cardinal Robert Sarah; Rapporteur: Francois-Xavier Dumortier, S.J.

The Group:

  • feels united by the church which walks with us “to read reality with the eyes of faith and the heart of God.”
  • learned to work better together after each session.
  • offers a suggestion by one father that bishops’ conferences be given certain power to allow their pastors to be Good Samaritans.
  • expresses support for families in the Middle East.
  • shares positive regard for families today which are “a school of humanity.”
  • calls for magisterial intervention to give coherence to the texts.
  • expresses two critiques of working document: some say analysis of family is too negative, others it highlights the problems
  • says WD has a too European perspective, others said certain models of family are generalized in it.
  • proposes as a "modi" start text with the family is fundamental and irreplaceable pillar of society
  • discusses ‘the theory of gender’ with some focus on its ‘ideological character’ that is pushed by some international organizations:
  • calls on public authorities to exercise responsibility to support families
  • refers to some societies where “old people” are considered “a blessing”
  • appreciates the WD’s focus on role of women, but says little about role of men in the family
  • discusses some challenges that require attention – such as those with handicaps, economic difficulties, migration, and situation of families in the Middle East and the dwindling presence of Christians there
  • presents 20 "modi" (including re-writing some paragraphs) to the special commission drafting the final document.


Moderator: Bishop Maurice Piat, C.S.S.P; Rapporteur: Archbishop Paul-André Durocher

The Group:

  • likes the WD’s approach of see-judge-act.
  • says our focus is on the family in our modern context, and especially on the Christian family. “We are men of families.”
  • says synod final document should not speak of families in the abstract, but of "our families" or "families" in concrete terms.
  • says we are “men of faith” and that is the perspective that should pervade also the analytical part of the text.
  • says we are pastors who have a mission from the church to be realized in the world, and that should be reflected in the synod as we ask who is the family (vocation) and what is its mission, and all this should be reflected throughout the final document.
  • states that “pastoral care of the family is not only the action of the church institution in favor of families, but the action of the church which is realized in and for the family.”
  • asks that Final Document should ‘encourage families, show our confidence in them and arouse their confidence in us.” And “avoid that some families feel ‘excluded’ because all families participate in the mission of the Church.” Remember often the families in the bible are dysfunctional.
  • recalls that the anthropology present in our modern culture is often far from the Christian vision, with its emphasis on the individual, freedom without limits, moral relativism, ignoring the transcendent horizon of human life. It is by true relations that the family can bring good news to this world.
  • focuses on two aspects of this ‘new culture’: (1) the emergence of a new ideology of gender which, if it becomes absolutized, can lead to a system of uniform thinking (“’pensée unique’) that leads to the denial of the relation between sexual identity and sexual beings we are in our bodies, and dismisses family, parenthood, human love in its most humanizing way. (2) “the development of bioethical technologies that allow us to decompose and recompose the living being itself.” Our capacity for manipulation surpasses our wisdom,” through cloning, surrogate mothers, genetic manipulation etc. “We must be vigilant and engaged in the face of these two realities.”
  • asks the synod’s editorial team for “a new overall introduction” to the final document, which should highlight the ‘see-judge-act’ methodology used in the text. It should show the link between the synod on evangelization, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) and this synod.
  • expresses appreciation for the short (3 mins) speeches in the plenary assembly, and for the much time given to the language groups. It asks the coordinators to ensure there’s a pro-active ‘back and forth’ between the editing team and the small groups, and says: “this is the challenge of synodality and communion.”

ITALIAN NOTES: There are three Italian language groups at the synod, which include not only Italians but participants from Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.


Moderator: Cardinal Francesco Montenegro; Rapporteur:  Fr. Manuel Joseph Arrobs Conde C.M.F.

The Group:

  • experienced some difficulty with the synod’s reformed process  at the beginning, and with the methodology used, but it soon adjusted.
  • affirmed continuity with synod of 2014 and sought to have unity in discernment.
  • wished to carry out its work “cum Petro and sub Petro” (with and under Peter, the pope).
  • wants final document “to maintain the style of approach to the challenges” of the WD but always highlighting positive data and affirming hope, and trust in the Lord, even amid the problems.
  • wants to expressly mention in the final document “the radical import” that some of the negative factors cited have for the reality of the family today.
  • wants to formulate the "Gospel of the Family" also as a proposal in cultural terms that is offered to everyone; it considers this very important at this time of epochal change.
  • unanimously approved all the ‘modi’ (amendments), after much discussion. 
  • many in the group affirmed the need to use formulae in the introduction that show beyond doubt that “the only model of family that corresponds to church doctrine is the one founded on marriage between a man and a woman.” They also wanted to include in the introduction the fact of the impact of the epochal change on the family and the cultural response which the church offers.
  • wants to highlight in Chapter 1 of the WD the risks of the ideology of gender in the present anthropological and cultural context. And to develop in a fuller way the challenge of secularism.
  • is satisfied with the socio-economic context in Chapter 2 of the WD, including the references to the challenge from children of separated parents, and the ‘throwaway culture’ linked to the ecological challenge
  • is satisfied with references to human trafficking, the pastoral care of migrant families in Chapter III, but would like to separate the themes of children and women, and include that of ‘the presence-absence’ of the father in the family
  • wants to affirm the ideal of chastity and the value of self-giving in Chapter 4.


Moderator: Cardinal Eduardo Menichelli; Rapporteur: Cardinal Mauro Piacenza

The Group:

  • examined the WD in detail, and concluded it needs to be streamlined somewhat, and improved stylistically.
  • says when speaking about anthropological changes the final document should specify that this refers “the cultural changes in society.” It should also expand on “The Gospel of the Family” and say more about the value of the person.
  • says final document (FD) should cite more the Bible and the Fathers of the Church, and should highlight the fact that the affirmation of the equal dignity of man and woman has roots in the Gospel.
  • says the role of woman should be relaunched in FD, giving value to the equality and differences (with man), but avoiding excesses.  It underlines “the limits of a feminism that only focuses on equality.”
  • calls for FD to emphasize the need for governments to support the family with its policies.
  • wants to include in FD the wish that international organizations do not condition their aid to the poorest countries with demographic policies.
  • wants FD to emphasize the need for “a conversion” of the contemporary mindset through a culture of “integral ecology” as the recent encyclical has called for.
  • wants FD to encourage Church to be close to families that are supporting people in last stages of life.
  • advocates that FD emphasize need for specific pastoral care of migrants through collaboration between the churches where they have come to and those from where they have come. It says respect for the culture and religion of the migrants is essential, and urges that both the rights and duties of immigrants be underlined.
  • says FD should emphasize the role of the family as educator, also in the emotional field, and the role of the family of the church as educator of the different pastoral operators
  • suggests FD should urge church to be close to those who cannot have children, and perhaps encourage them to consider adoption or taking children into care for a period.
  • calls for FS to denounce the exploitation of child labor, child soldiers and the body of woman in various ways (from prostitution and violence to infanticide.)
  • proposes that the FD should reaffirm that the church takes “a positive look at sexuality,” and also gives attention to bio-ethics.


Moderator: Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco; Rapporteur: Bishop Franco Giulio Brambilla

The Group:

  • felt the WD’s perspective was Western (Europe and North America) and needs to be revised to reflect other viewpoints, and give a more positive presentation of the reality of families today.
  • wants FD to reflect that the see-judge-act approach should be presented as intimately interlinked, and to emphasize that the family as the subject of evangelization is at the heart of the church’s care.
  • wants to reframe in a more positive way the section on “the family and inclusion” in the FD, and suggests it be titled, “The family: the challenges of inclusion,” and to view the church also in this light and context.
  • presents several amendments to the WD that it would like to see taken on board in the FD. The group has re-written sections regarding: the strength and the fragility of the family; the anthropological change; the theory of gender, emphasizing its ideological character, and affirming the right of families to educate their children in responsible dialogue with other educators; the new forms of poverty to include new forms of exploitation ranging from prostitution to selection of girl children before birth, child labor and various forms of dependence; disability and the Christian community, emphasizing the need for the church to give greater attention here; the reordering of the section on the importance of the affective life, and the support of the church in this field.

SPANISH NOTES: There are two Spanish language groups at the synod. They included not only Spanish speakers but also Portuguese speakers from Europe, Latin America and Africa.


Moderator: Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., Rapporteur: Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuan, O.A.R.

The Group:

  • highlighted the beauty of human love open to life.
  • asked to explain more fully the expression that the family is a “school of humanity” given that often there is violence against women and children in it.
  • pointed out the challenge of the renewal of the church, and said that while it is certain that ‘external factors’ are strong and have impacted on the church, the question is how the church itself has responded. Have we failed in ‘Christian formation’ and in ‘the education in the faith’ and as a result people arrive at marriage lacking much (in their formation)? We should ask ourselves what have we left undone, and are we to blame for the situation of the family in many occasions?
  • said the working document (WD) has not focused enough on grandparents. The final document (FD) should call grandparents to be involved in the formation of their grandchildren, and urge them to fulfill this mission with joy.
  • called for a discovery of what the family truly is, and see how to help and strengthen it. Many secular commentators say we are medieval in our thinking. Maybe we have been too monothematic, and remained in the pure norm, but we should now adopt a more integral vision of the family.
  • asked, how did the crisis start? Certainly it had something to do with the type of catechesis we gave, a more profound preparation is necessary now. Also we have sought to resolve problems, without knowing their origin.
  • said there is a need for a great renewal, not only of persons but also of communities, paying attention to the language and the way of presenting doctrine.
  • thought the FD should expand the section on ‘anthropological change’ and highlight the fact that it hides the presence of God, and therefore that of ‘the other; it questions and casts suspicion on the institution. We lack an analysis of the influence of the technologies linked to solitude, individualism and the lack of communication. We seek to sow the Gospel of life in the culture, but we don’t know the culture.
  • believed couples marry without knowing where they are going: what is their identity as a married couple, as a family? Many priests don’t know this either. The whole process of formation must be supported.
  • noted it’s not said what the family is. It is not just a question of preparation because many are happy and faithful without preparation, while many with preparation have ended up separated.
  • said there has been a rupture in the unity between love, sexuality and procreation. The educational dimension has also separated this relation between love, sexuality, marriage, family and the education of children.
  • approved and submitted a total of 54 ‘modi’ (amendments to the text of the working document).


Moderator: Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega; Rapporteur: Archbishop Enrique Porras Cardozo Baltazar

The Group:

  • looked very positively on the methodology being used in this synod, and the great freedom and fraternity with which participants can discuss the themes. The fact that most members had also participated in the 2014 synod facilitated the work of the group.
  • did not discuss Chapter 4 for lack of time.
  • called for greater attention to the translations, as the text contained words that are neither Spanish nor Portuguese.
  • thought the agreements outweighed the differences, and so it was possible to reach consensus or unanimity on the ‘modi’ (amendments to the text of the WD)

The following are the ‘modi’ on which there was greater consensus:

1. Reaffirmation of the methodology adopted in the WD; it is adequate and should be kept.

2. The challenge: to link the 2014 synod to the present one. To give continuity. (Adopt) the language of hope, and ‘the Church of yes.’

3. At the pastoral level

  • Do not speak of family in the abstract, without the distinct realities of the same; the anthropological changes are deeper than we imagine (biotechnology, gender). It’s a net full of hope.
  • Ask ourselves what we are doing and what we should do. Let us evaluate this in the style of Pope Francis.
  • The family as the subject of all pastoral work. The need for formation.
  • We should not feel ourselves as owners but rather as servants of the family. To change anti-family laws into dead laws.
  • Lack of Christian initiation and fragmentation of the pastoral (care).
  • Point to positive experiences: movements, domestic catechumenate, families that are formed and give formation, support programs on the family and bioethics in universities and colleges.

4. The relation between seeing and acting. The seeing of the WD has an ethical-theological dimension. To start from how God sees it.

5. Intercommunicating realities.

  • The faith is weak and cannot take up the challenge. Fragility and immaturity, healing of affections.
  • Ignoring God, indifference, so there is no capacity to enlighten.
  • National and international legislation respond to the same master and pretend to impose themselves.
  • To pass from an individual spirituality to one of communion, otherwise the problems of the family cannot be overcome.
  • To revise authority and obedience as fraternity and service.
  • To see the family as a cultural challenge (the ideology of gender, new world order, ambiguous language).

NB: There is no translation as yet for the one German language group at the synod.

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