Synod 'Gradualism'

Pope Paul VI featured at his desk in the Vatican.

On sexual and medical ethics, participants at the Synod of Bishops on the Family are giving emphasis to the concept of “graduality,” a way of thinking about morality that allows for human imperfection without compromising ideals. On the Synod’s first working day, Oct. 6, Cardinal Péter Erdö of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, said that “Humanae Vitae,” the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that reaffirmed the church’s prohibition of artificial birth control, “needs to be considered in light of the law of graduality,” suggesting it was unrealistic to expect immediate acceptance of the widely flouted teaching. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster told reporters after speaking at a session on Oct. 6 that the “law of graduality” is a “law of pastoral moral theology which permits people, all of us, to take one step at a time in our search for holiness in our lives.” Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, said that the idea of graduality could help the church develop a new way of speaking about sexuality.

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