The Pastoral Challenges of the Family

The Pastoral Challenges of the Family July 18, 2014

I am grateful the Vatican has chosen a General Assembly to expound a Christian theology of family in the context of evangelism. I have clipped the opening paragraph to the document (only a working paper called Instrumentum laboris) and then the outline. The Catholic Church’s document on social work remains the finest study ever, and I suspect next year’s General Assembly findings will be a monumental achievement.

What would it take to get a Protestant version of such an endeavor?

On 8 October 2013, Pope Francis convoked the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to treat the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops began its preparation by sending the Preparatory Document, which generated significant reflection among the People of God. The results of that consultation are presented in this Instrumentum Laboris. The Holy Father has determined that the work of Synod of Bishops is to take place in two stages, forming an single organic unity. In the III Extraordinary General Assembly in 2014, the synod fathers will thoroughly examine and analyze the information, testimonies and recommendations received from the particular Churches in order to respond to the new challenges of the family. The Ordinary General Assembly in 2015, representing a great part of the episcopate and continuing the work of the previous synod, will reflect further on the points discussed so as to formulate appropriate pastoral guidelines….

Table of Contents




Part I
Communicating the Gospel of the Family in Today’s World

Chapter I
God’s Plan for Marriage and the Family

The Biblical Teaching on the Family (1-3)
The Family in the Documents of the Church

Chapter II
The Knowledge and Acceptance of the Teachings on Marriage and the Family from Sacred Scripture and Church Documents 

The Knowledge of the Bible on the Family (9-10) 
The Knowledge of the Documents of the Magisterium
The Necessity of Properly Prepared Clergy and Ministers
A Diversified Acceptance of Church Teaching
Some Reasons for the Difficulty in Acceptance
Fostering a Greater Knowledge of the Magisterium

Chapter III
The Gospel of the Family and the Natural Law

The Relation of the Gospel of the Family to the Natural Law (20)
Present-Day Problems Related to the Natural Law
Practical Objections to the Natural Law concerning the Union between a Man and a Woman
A Call for a Renewal in Terms of Language

Chapter IV
The Family and Vocation of the Person in Christ

The Family, the Person and Society (31-34)
In the Image of Trinitarian Life
The Holy Family of Nazareth and Learning to Love
The Differences, Reciprocity and Manner of Living as a Family
The Family and the Integral Development of a Person
Guidance in the Renewed Desire to Marry and Form a Family and the Related Crises
Ongoing Formation

Part II
The Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges

Chapter I
The Pastoral Program for the Family: Various Proposals Underway

The Responsibility of Bishops and the Clergy and the Charismatic Gifts in the Pastoral Care of the Family (50)
Marriage Preparation
Popular Piety and a Familial Spirituality
Support for a Familial Spirituality
Testimony on Behalf of the Beauty of the Family

Chapter II
The Pastoral Challenges of the Family

a) The Crisis of Faith and Family Life

Pastoral Action in the Crisis of Faith (62-63)

b) Critical Situations within the Family

Difficulty in Relationships / Communication (64)
The Break-Up and Breakdown of Families
Violence and Abuse
Dependence, the Media and the Social Network

c) External Pressures on the Family

The Impact of Work on the Family (70-71)
Migration and the Family
Poverty and the Struggle for Subsistence
Consumerism and Individualism
Counter-Witness in the Church

d) Special Situations

The Weight of Societal Expectations on the Individual (76)
The Impact of Wars
Disparity of Cult
Other Critical Situations

Chapter III
Difficult Pastoral Situations

a) Situations in Families (80)

Cohabitation (81-82)
De facto unions (83-85)
Persons Separated, Divorced and Divorced and Remarried
Children and Those Who Are Alone
Teen Mothers
Situations of Canonical Irregularity
Concerning the Reception of the Sacraments
Other Requests
Concerning Separated and Divorced Persons
Streamlining the Processing of Marriage Cases
Pastoral Care in Difficult Situations
The Request for Marriage by Non-Practicing Catholics and Unbelievers

b) Concerning Unions of Persons of the Same Sex

Civil Recognition (110-112)
An Evaluation of the Particular Churches
Some Pastoral Guidelines
The Transmission of the Faith to Children in Same Sex Unions

Part III
An Openness to Life and Parental Responsibility in Upbringing

Chapter I
The Pastoral Challenges concerning an Openness to Life

Knowledge and Acceptance of the Magisterium concerning a Mentality of an Openness to Life (123-125)
Some Causes of Difficulty in Acceptance
Pastoral Recommendations
Concerning Sacramental Practice
Promoting a Mentality of an Openness to Life

Chapter II
The Church and the Family in the Challenge of Upbringing

a) The Challenge of Upbringing in General

The Challenge of Upbringing and the Family Today (132)
The Transmission of the Faith and Christian Initiation
Some Specific Difficulties

b) Christian Education in Difficult Family Situations (138)

An Overview of the Situation of Upbringing (139-140)
Requests Addressed to the Church
The Response of the Particular Churches

The Time and Manner of the Christian Initiation of Children (151-152)
Some Specific Difficulties
Some Pastoral Guidelines

Conclusion (158-159)

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