An overview from CNS:
The working document for the October 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops offers a picture of the Catholic Church today struggling to preach the Gospel and transmit moral teachings amid a “widespread cultural, social and spiritual crisis” of the family.
The 75-page “instrumentum laboris,” published by the Vatican June 26, is supposed to “provide an initial reference point” for discussion at the synod, whose theme will be the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”
The document is based principally on comments solicited in a questionnaire last November from national bishops’ conferences around the world. But it also reflects comments sent directly to the Vatican by individuals and groups responding to the questionnaire, which was widely published on the Internet.
Topics in the working document include some of the most contested and controversial areas of Catholic moral teaching on the family, including contraception, divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, premarital sex and in vitro fertilization.
Bishops’ conferences responding to the questionnaire attributed an increasing disregard of such teachings to a variety influences, including “hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; individualism; (and) the growing secularism.”
Recognizing that most Catholic couples do not follow the church’s teaching against the use of artificial birth control, the document says that “for many Catholics the concept of ‘responsible parenthood’ encompasses the shared responsibility in conscience to choose the most appropriate method of birth control.”
The document says the use of natural family planning, condoned by the church, encourages responsible decisions about family size while respecting human fertility and “the dignity of the sexual relationship between husband and wife.”
Bishops expressed particular concern with the “ideology called gender theory, according to which the gender of each individual turns out to be simply the product of social conditioning and needs” without “any correspondence to a person’s biological sexuality.”
The bishops see a need for better teaching of “Christian anthropology,” the document states. Noting that contemporary culture dismisses or misunderstands theories of “natural law,” which seek to “found human rights on reason,” bishops increasingly prefer to invoke Scripture in support of Catholic moral teaching.
Read the full text of the working document.