7 Things to Know about the Synod on the Family’s Final Report

 Camillo Procaccini, Marriage of Joseph and Mary (1599)
Camillo Procaccini, Marriage of Joseph and Mary (1599)

The Synod on the Family’s final report is here!

After weeks (or really, over a year) of anticipation, the Synod on the Family is finally drawing to a close. Although the Synod won’t be officially over until the closing Mass tomorrow, the final report, called the relazione finale, has just been released. I’ve only begun exploring it, but a few things to note right away:

  1. Right now, it’s just in Italian. An English translation is likely forthcoming, but if you want a sneak preview, Google Translate will probably give you a rough sense of the text.
  2. At the end of the document, you can see the vote count. The Synod Fathers voted on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis.
  3. Interestingly, the only paragraphs that were unanimous were the first two introductory paragraphs, paragraph 62 (on  the importance of openness to life in the family), and paragraphs 66-67 (on bringing up children).
  4. Unsurprisingly, the most controversial paragraphs were paras. 84-86, on integrating the divorced and “remarried” into the life of the Church. Other controversial sections include para. 75, on access to Baptism to those in complex marital situations; and paras. 70-71, on cohabitation (while rejecting it as contrary to the Christian ideal, it recognized that a couple that lives together might be striving for something closer to what Christ calls them).
  5. With the exceptions of the above paragraphs, it appears that the Synod Fathers were in overwhelming (but generally not unanimous) agreement on the document. Even in the case of the controversial paragraphs, each one was approved by at least two-thirds of the Fathers. (The most controversial paragraph, para. 85, was approved on a 178-80 vote).
  6. While I’ve only skimmed, the document seems to do exactly what you might expect. It reaffirms the teachings of the Catholic Church, while acknowledging some of the particularly difficult situations in which people find themselves (sometimes, due to factors entirely outside of their own concern).
  7.  I recently chastised those who thought that the Synod on the Family would somehow lead the Church into heresy (which confuses the nature of the Synodal process, and more importantly, underestimates the power of the Holy Spirit). Given that, I’m happy to share this example of Robert Royal’s humility, in admitting that his prior panicking over the Synod was ill-informed and lacking in faith: “It’s very rarely pleasant to have to issue a self-correction, but I’m quite happy to do so today, especially since the error was to underestimate the workings of the Holy Spirit – and even of a Synod of Bishops.”  May he be the first of many!
  8. By the way, the Synod Fathers also released a statement on the situations in the Middle East, Africa, and Ukraine. Lagniappe!


  1. The document is not 100% Catholic. Therefore, it is not Catholic. And when did the Catholic Church become an NGO that determines Truth based on a super majority vote?

    1. Good evening Woody,
      I was just wondering what you mean by “the document is not 100% Catholic”? It would seem to me (an history bears me out) that what is considered “Catholic” is only so considered retrospectively. That is, we look back at what the Church of Rome has been doing and we call it “Catholic,” insofar as the activities of the Church of Rome spread out to the particular churches in communion with her.

      As a second comment, voting has been a major part of determining doctrine since the First Council of Nicaea (actually since the proto-Council of Jerusalem, recounted in the book of Acts). The fact that voting is a part of the truth-inquiry process, should not be worrisome. We know that when the bishops act as a college united with its head (the Supreme Pontiff) it is protected with infallibility (see Lumen Gentium paragraph 22). Ultimately, the only way to determine collegiality is to identify the common mind of the bishops, which is done (and has been done for centuries) through a vote.

    2. Woody,

      To put the matter a bit more bluntly:

      1. It’s not true that the document isn’t 100% Catholic, or at least, I have no idea how you’re coming to that conclusion.
      2. It’s not true that, if the document isn’t 100% Catholic, that it’s therefore 0% Catholic.
      3. Historically, the Church has engaged in voting in her Synods for roughly two thousand years, a bit longer than NGOs have been in existence. Given that, your question, “when did the Catholic Church become an NGO” is an illogical one.

      1. Woody is right, church is no democracy.
        That is why Vatican flag contains tiara (crown).
        Please read also what pre Vatican Counsel II Popes say about collegiality


    In a sad world where divorce and living together before marriage is rampant,
    may God in His mercy bring back families to Himself.
    May the evil one who is attacking families knowing rightfully
    that they are domestic churches, be completely ROUTED by the
    Holy Mass and the Holy Rosary.

    Vimala Padmaraj, Catholic for 76 years. San Thome, Chennai, INDIA

  3. Did the synod fathers mention that parents must get their children to holy mass every sunday and holy day of obligation?
    Just wondering.

  4. Doyle and Joe:
    How dare each of you question my comment which was based on my right formed conscience? Both of you lack mercy. But, I forgive you. I think.

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