Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Church we are in


Writing in 1935, in the interval between the First Vatican Council and the Second, Dom Anscar Vonier wrote in the Foreword to his book The Spirit and the Bride:
I have noticed with a feeling of pain how several recent books by Catholic writers of fame make a distinction that is a surrender to Protestant feeling between an ideal Church and the real Church. Being themselves very orthodox Catholics the writers in question abound, of course, in their encomiums of the beauty of the Church conceived ideally. But after that they seem to gloat on the Church's human infirmities, piling it on and letting the Protestant have it his own way with his century-old fault-finding. Different, indeed, was the mentality of the Vatican Council [ie the First] which considered the Church in her actuality to be a testimonium irrefragibile, a "witness that cannot be gainsaid", of her divine mission: The Church, through herself, on account of her admirable extension (propagationem), her exceeding sanctity (eximiam sanctitatem), her inexhaustible stability, is a great and everlasting motive of credibility and a witness to her divine mission that cannot be gainsaid (Vatican I, sess, III, cap. 3,7).
The Council means, of course, the actual living Church, not an ideal, or a mere system of the means of sanctification. To say the least, it is very bad taste on the part of a Catholic to represent Catholicism as a divine religion and to speak of Catholics as having been the world's worst sinners.... The eximia sanctitatis, "exceptional holiness", which the last of the General Councils perceived in the Church is the true portrait of what exists.
In a subsequent chapter entitled "The Great Metaphors", Dom Vonier insists that the titles used of the Church in the Scriptural writings of St Paul and of Revelation refer, not to an "ideal" Church of some kind, but to the actual living experience of the Church in the immediately apostolic period.

There is a limited parallel to the quoted passage from Vatican I in the constitution Lumen Gentium of Vatican II (nn.39-40, my italics added to draw out the parallel): the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification". However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others...
Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society.....  In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes the passage from Vatican I, though with slight difference in translation compared to Abbot Vonier (n.812), referring to the historical manifestations of the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the Church as speaking clearly to human reason of the truthfulness of her mission. Hans Urs von Balthasar, in a passage of The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church (p.196 ff in the Ignatius Press translation), suggests the figure of Mary as the point, theologically speaking, where the temptation to divide the Church into "ideal" and "earthly" realities is overcome.

Abbot Vonier was speaking to a very different ecclesial context than the one that pertains today; and clearly he was not denying the human frailties that must have been as much present in the Church of his time as they are in the Church of our own time. (If the Church of our own time has offered sorrow and repentance for failings of the past, then so to has the Protestant ceased from using those failings as an argument to denigrate the Catholic Church.)

But it is of value, I think, to take Abbot Vonier's fundamental insight - that there is no distinction to be made between a Church "ideal" in its faithfulness to Christ and a Church "real" in the vagaries of its earthly life - and use it to reflect on the Church during the papacy of Pope Francis.

Reform-minded Catholics

As an example of the movement that self-identifies as a "reform movement" in Catholicism we have ACTA. On 25th October 2014, they held a national conference at Liverpool Hope University. One of the talks was entitled "Remarriage and the Eucharist - after the Synod". You have to dig down to page 10 of the text on the ACTA website (it is the talk by Fr Buckley) to find the suggestion that indicates just how far away from an authentically Catholic position it is (my italics added):
....we have been willing to accept that we understand more about the psychology of human relations and therefore the possibility that the bond of marriage may not have been validly formed for many more reasons than hitherto thought possible, but we don’t seem willing or able to question a theological notion that has tied us up in knots and leaves us with little or no room for manoeuvre. If we are willing to accept the judgement of a tribunal on whether or not an indissoluble bond was formed, why can we not also accept that the very fact that two people subsequently become totally estranged and unable to live out their marriage commitment is itself a sign that the bond was never properly formed? I fail to see how such a judgement would mean that we had abandoned our belief in the sanctity and permanence of marriage. It would simply acknowledge that there is much that we will never know for certain on this earth, in spite of our best efforts.
Unfortunately, and somewhat inaccurately, Fr Buckley has earlier in his talk given the impression that Pope Francis appears to support his position, even though I am not aware of any suggestions that Pope Francis would accept the idea that marital breakdown is sufficient evidence for invalidity of the original marriage:
..... I sense that more and more people’s instincts now lead them to conclude as I did that the official position simply doesn’t add up and it is a relief to find that it would seem that the Pope himself thinks likewise.
It is Professor Mary Grey's comments on the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood - see pages 5-6 of the text of her talk at the ACTA website - that reveal how far she is from a truly Catholic position:
.... some Roman Catholic women of great courage have sought to authenticate their own call to ordained ministry. One group is the well publicised ordination on a boat on the Danube in 2002. These pioneering women are referred to as “The Danube Seven”. This event was swiftly followed by excommunication from Rome, even though technically speaking, the ordinations might be reckoned as valid. Dramatic consequences ensued: nine further women sought ordination in the Roman Catholic Church on July 25 2005, in the international waters at the mouth of the St Lawrence Seaway (known as the St Lawrence Nine). Two other women Catholic theologians, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger of Austria, and Gisela Forster of Germany, now bishops, came to the St Lawrence River to ordain these women. Other ordinations have followed, and now, as WOW (Women's Ordination Worldwide) attests, there are increasing numbers of women being ordained and practising ministry especially in the United States...
Fr Tony Flannery's blog reveals something of the extent of this latter development in posts during his tour of America: here  and here. Elizabeth Scalia posted recently on Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger here.

Traditional Catholics

But equally absurd in its distance from being an authentic Catholic position is the following, commenting on Archbishop Nichols pastoral letter after the October 2014 Synod on the Family (my italics added):
.... it makes for incredibly concerning reading in the wake of the Synod. Cardinal Vincent Nichols uses some striking language that prompt more questions over the 'mind' of Pope Francis and the safety, in his hands, of the Deposit of Faith.
 Or this, from the same source:
To Muslims, Jews, Evangelicals and other religions, Pope Francis has only good things and words of encouragement to say (though actual pagans could be offended by recent remarks).
Yet, I am beginning to wonder whether he believes in and prays to the same God as Cardinal Burke and many others. Where is the "fraternity" and "brotherhood" for those who uphold the Magisterium and defend Church teaching from pagans and the 'enemies of the Cross of Christ'? They don't seem to be terribly welcome in Rome.
Sitting in the background to these more explicit comments is an array of more discretely expressed antipathy towards the papacy of Pope Francis, which appears very rational and mature, until recognised as an incessant carping that undermines the office of the Successor of St Peter. Some blogs have a greater discretion than others - compare Fr Ray to Eponymous Flower, for example - but nevertheless maintain the same line of thought. Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote many years ago of an "anti-Roman attitude" or "anti-Petrine attitude" on the part of some Catholics. It is difficult to read the Traditionalist blogs today without being reminded of such an attitude.
Elizabeth Scalia has written tellingly of how both the Traditionalist and Reform-minded in the Church are creating idols of Cardinal Burke on the one hand, and of Pope Francis on the other.
It takes conceit to imagine that the Holy Spirit is not to be trusted, does not know what it is about, and needs the instruction and exhortation of liberal writers to sustain a direction — or of traditionalist bloggers to “turn the course” — of an event like the recent synod.
Yes, one might want to support the position of Cardinals Burke, Pell et al with regard to the controversies of the recent Synod (or, if one is so minded, the proposals of Cardinal Kasper), and to do so with the energy that questions of faith will prompt. But when the former are given adulation at the expense of the Office of Peter and the latter excoriated as encouraging the Church to accept mortal sin; or Pope Francis is adored for incorrect assumptions of radical change to come; then we are in the realm of idols in Elizabeth Scalia's sense of the term.

A conclusion: the Church we are in

To return to the reflection based on Abbot Vonier's notion that the Church should not be seen as divided into an "ideal" and a "real", but exists as a single entity whose beauty and holiness shine out to the world. If we look around us during the papacy of Pope Francis, we see the Church that we are in, and some of it - perhaps more on the reform-minded side than on the Traditionalist side - appears pretty far off the wall. But if we take Abbot Vonier's insight seriously, there is an abiding beauty and splendour that is there in all of it. And we need to trust that it is there and that it does still shine out.

The touchstone of that shining out is, as it has ever been, the office of the Successor of Peter. Nothing is to be gained by excoriating - or mis-representing -  its holder.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Giovanni Battista Moroni at the Royal Academy

Another visit that Zero and I managed during half term was to the exhibition of paintings by Moroni at the Royal Academy.

The exhibition divides itself in two, with one part being the portraits and the other Moroni's religious work. Moroni was a literal contemporary of the Council of Trent, which took place within his home region, and of the counter-reformation in the Catholic Church. The religious work takes the form of altar pieces, some of which have a drabness about them that would be very much at home in the somewhat shabby pretend-baroque that one can find in a certain type of provincial Italian Church. One example, that showing the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, can be seen on the exhibition home page linked above. However, what is interesting about the religious work is that it usually shows a devout person in contemplation of the biblical scene shown - a representation in art of the use of imagination to place oneself "within" a Scriptural scene that is a feature of the contemplations of St Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises.

But it is really the portraits that are the high point of the exhibition - so much so that, rather than asking yourself as you leave which of the paintings you would like to take home, you instead ask yourself who it is that you would like to take home.

Sunday, 2 November 2014


Yesterday evening I was able to visit the display of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London. They form an evolving installation called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. There is an interview with the ceramic artist responsible for making the poppies embedded in this BBC news report of the large number of visitors to the Tower of London, drawn by the installation. It is worth watching the interview to gain some sense of what is going in to the making of the installation.


Even at 8 pm there were significant numbers of people visiting. It was very thought provoking and, whilst to an extent ordinary Saturday night life continued, there was a certain sense of the dignified among those who were looking at the poppies. It was certainly possible to find quiet places to stop and reflect.

This installation has captured the public imagination in quite a surprising way - as the artist says in his interview, it isn't really his work any more, but rather a work that belongs to everyone. Part of that capturing of the imagination arises, I think, from the way in which an iconic London landmark - the Tower of London - provides a unique backdrop to the sea of red.

All Saints

It seems to have become an unquestionable absolute that the homily at Mass should be based upon the Scripture readings - but the rubric actually reads (General Instruction n.65, with my italics added):
The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is highly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of Christian life. It should be an explanation of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.
So, for a feast like that of All Saints, it is quite legitimate to use the Liturgical texts other than the readings to explain exactly what it is that the feast celebrates. And this is an interesting exercise, and one that itself is not lacking in Scriptural reference.

From the Preface, which has a title in the Missal of "The glory of Jerusalem, our mother":
... today by your gift we celebrate the festival of your city, the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother ... Towards her we eagerly hasten as pilgrims advancing by faith ...
The proper prayers of the Mass also indicate an important characteristic of the Feast, namely that of our need for the intercession of the saints. The Prayer over the Offerings, for example:
May these offerings we bring in honour of all the Saints be pleasing to you, O Lord, and grant that, just as we believe the Saints to be already assured of immortality, so we may experience their concern for our salvation.
What is striking too is something that emerges from the hymns at Vespers and Lauds for the feast day. It is very apparent in the Latin hymns, rather less so but not absent from the hymns in the English "Liturgy of the Hours". These hymns refer in turn to the Virgin Mary, the angels, patriarchs and prophets, the apostles, martyrs and confessors, virgins and religious, in turn asking each category of saint to intercede for us.

I suspect that it is common place for the feast to be explained as a celebration of those who are in heaven but have not been formally declared saints by the Church - and it is certainly that. It may well refer to people whom we have known and who have lived their Christian vocation in a way that has inspired others - and I do feel that this "ordinary sanctity" of parish life can too often go unnoticed.

But the office hymns suggest challenging models of the road to sanctity followed by the saints. The celebration of the feast asks us to learn how these models can be lived in the contemporary world.  Those who live the married vocation in fidelity to Catholic teaching, for example, might well in future times be seen as confessors of the faith in their particular circumstances of life; current events in the Middle East also clearly show confessors and martyrs in the more usual sense.

All Saints is a good example of a feast day on which a homily limited to explaining  the Scripture readings will miss out important aspects of what the feast itself actually celebrates.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Auntie's advice ....

"Is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?"

How much consternation would be avoided if we were always to ask even the first of these questions before posting, linking or commenting ...?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Reacting to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. UPDATED

The title of the recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops was "Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelisation". What I find striking about the Synod is that, whilst the notion of evangelisation was implicit behind the concerns of the Synod fathers, it seems to have received little explicit attention from them, or from those who have subsequently commented on the Synod.

Vatican II's decree Ad Gentes (nn.11-12), Pope Paul's apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (nn.21-29) and, following them, the General Directory for Catechesis (n.48), identify different stages, or "moments", in evangelisation: (1) a presence in charity, or, if we use the title from Ad Gentes, (2) Christian witness; (3) explicit "primary proclamation" or as Ad Gentes terms it, preaching the Gospel; (4) initiation into the faith and Christian life, which Ad Gentes terms the assembling the people of God, and which would commonly be associated with catechetical activity; (5) ongoing nourishment of the gift of communion, or as Ad Gentes terms it, forming the Christian community; (6) the arousing of a missionary sense among the people of God (cf General Directory for Catechesis n.48).

The relatios of the recent Extraordinary Synod (the official English translation of the final relatio synodi is here) were structured in a different way than this, following an approach recognisable as the "see, judge, act" method associated historically with Cardinal Cardijn and the movement Young Christian Workers. But it is interesting to read the work of the recent Synod within the framework of the stages of evangelisation.

1. Presence in Charity
This moment can clearly be seen in three aspects of the Synod's work. The testimony at the beginning of one of the sessions during the first week of a married couple about how a Catholic family welcomed a same sex partner to their Christmas celebrations; the paragraph n.512 of the final relatio with regard to the divorced and remarried; and the paragraph n.55 with regard to the position of those in families who experience a same-sex attraction/homosexual orientation. Indeed, much of nn.41-59 of the final relatio can be understood as a call to implement a "presence in charity" towards those in the different situations considered. As the relatio says at one point, this exercise of charity implies no compromise in Catholic teaching. [As an aside, there is an aspect of the history of the mother-and-baby homes that is sometimes neglected in discussions today. It is the cultural context in which girls who were expecting babies but were not married came to be ostracised from their families. An appropriate "presence in charity" on the part of their families might have avoided much of the anguish that has followed.]

The primary agents of this "presence in charity" appear to me to be the lay faithful in their relations within their own immediate and extended families. The priest or bishop cannot replace the lay faithful in this, though they can help to create the ecclesial environment in which it occurs. I also suspect that many families will recognise that this is something they already undertake with regard to family members who might, for example, only enter into a civil marriage.

2. Christian witness
The decree Ad Gentes treats of the "presence in charity" and "Christian witness" under the same heading, whereas the later teaching of the Church separates theme into distinct moments. The famous phrase of Pope Paul VI, from Evangelii Nuntiandi, is of great importance here:
"Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."
The family that lives its witness to the beauty of the Gospel of marriage and the family will represent a visible sign to those who live around them, and not only within the Christian community. Similarly, those who remain faithful to the indissolubility of marriage even when separated or divorced are a sign to others around them. There is apparent in the work of the recent Synod a reaction to the concern for difficult family situations in wishing to see at the same time an offer of affirmation to those families who do remain faithful to the Church's teaching.

One might suggest that the custom among some of the new movements of offering testimonies during their celebrations might include testimonies of faithfulness to marriage.

3. Primary proclamation
This might also, in the context of the Extraordinary Synod, be described as teaching the beauty and splendour of God's plan for marriage, both in terms of original creation and in terms of the raising of marriage to a sacrament. The purpose of primary proclamation is to bring about a conversion of heart on the part of the listener, so that they will turn towards a life with Christ. It is an insight of the  "new evangelisation" to recognise that this moment of primary proclamation is not a once for all moment, as it might be for someone who previously did not believe in Christ. It is a moment that needs to be renewed among those who already follow Christ, and perhaps particularly so at our present time in the Church when her teaching is so little understood.

The idea of a primary proclamation of the Church's teaching on marriage is clearly represented in the second part of the final relatio nn.12-16. This duty of primary proclamation has a particular relevance to the charism of the priest and bishop, who are "teachers of the faith" to their people and to the world. Those who expect that the content of the primary proclamation is going to change are, I would suggest, indulging in wishful thinking of a very high order. This second section of the final relatio should make that very clear.

I have posted in the past on the idea that there is a "teaching moment" and a "pastoral moment" in the life of the Church. The two do not contradict each other, but are complementary. And, as far as the Gospel of marriage and the family is concerned, there is I think a complementarity between the office of the teacher, perhaps in the first instance a priest or bishop, and that of charity, exercised in the first instance by the lay faithful in their family circles. They each need to be exercised at the appropriate time, and with a respect for how a lay person might "speak" to an individual situation in a way that complements the way a priest might speak to that situation. Perhaps the challenge for primary proclamation of the Gospel of marriage and the family lies in recognising the appropriate moment and manner for that proclamation.

In the light of the (reported) extent to which Catholics fail to follow the Church's teaching on, for example, the openness to new life in marriage and divorce and remarriage, it seems to me that the "primary proclamation" of the Gospel of the family should be the most significant element of the discussions to take place in dioceses ahead of the Ordinary Synod in October 2015. The delineation of an appropriate content for this "primary proclamation" and a manner of exercising its distinctive character - what might be called a charism of teaching/evangelising - appears to me essential. Once a conversion of heart towards the Gospel of the family has taken place, then the embracing of what are seen as controverted teachings follows quite naturally.

4. Initiation into faith and Christian life.
In some ways this might well be the most important "teaching moment" in someone's Christian life. Clear catechetical teaching on marriage should follow the primary proclamation indicated above. If it does follow an effective primary proclamation, it will cease to be controversial and be experienced instead as a consequence following upon a conversion of heart. Again, the second part of the final relatio, perhaps particularly nn.17-20, gives indications for this. This is perhaps the point where the "teaching moment" should take clear precedence over a "pastoral moment", and precisely because it prepares the way for an effective "pastoral moment" in later circumstances. Once again, it is important to observe that those who are expecting a change in the content of catechesis on marriage and the family are sharing in wishful thinking of a high order.

5. On-going nourishment of the life of communion.
Under this heading we should perhaps recognise a need in the present time for a renewal of the "primary proclamation" as already suggested above. The passages of the relatio (nn.39-40) referring to preparing and accompanying couples as they marry and in the first years of their marriage relate to this stage of evangelisation.

What I have noticed, too, in the relatio are the references to the "vita affectiva" in the life of married persons. This might best be expressed in English as referring to a growth in the love between man and wife. It occurs in the paragraphs referring to openness to life (nn.57-59):
Occorre aiutare a vivere l'affettività, anche nel legame coniugale, come un cammino di maturazione, nella sempre più profonda accoglienza dell'altro e in una donazione sempre più piena. Va ribadita in tal senso la necessità di offrire cammini formativi che alimentino la vita coniugale e l'importanza di un laicato che offra un accompagnamento fatto di testimonianza viva. È di grande aiuto l’esempio di un amore fedele e profondo fatto di tenerezza, di rispetto, capace di crescere nel tempo e che nel suo concreto aprirsi alla generazione della vita fa l'esperienza di un mistero che ci trascende.[ "We need to help people to live their love, also in counjugal relations, as a journey of growth, in the always deeper welcome of the other and in a self-giving always more complete ..."]
The challenges in this regard are referred to in nn.9-10 of the relatio, and nn.18-20 indicate sources in the teaching of the Magisterium that develop this theme. I am also reminded of the "integration of the person in action" of Karol Wojtyla's The Acting Person. What is needed is the development of a practice of this growth in love in the life of people who are married, not just a teaching about it. This seems to me to be a key area for attention in the consideration of on going nourishment of the life of communion; it was reflected in the testimony at one of the Synod sessions given by a couple from the movement Retrouvaille.

6. A missionary sense among those who have been evangelised.
Families who have been the subject of an effective evangelisation in terms of the Gospel of the family are then able to become in their turn agents of that evangelisation, both to the world at large and to others in the Church. With a consciousness of the different moments in the evangelisation of the Gospel of the family they will be able to engage appropriately in each of those moments.

Concluding remarks.
If we read the events of the Extraordinary Synod, and in particular the relatio synodi, as I have suggested above, then I think we can respond to those events with the tranquillity of which Pope Francis spoke in his address to the Synod fathers during the final session. Indeed, I would suggest that you read the first paragraphs of that address, including its observations on the different temptations that we might face in reacting to the events of the Synod, as you finish reading this post.

I was also struck by the coincidence of two meditations in Magnificat, those for the 18th and 19th October, the concluding days of the Extraordinary Synod. The first was from Madeleine Delbrel, of whom I have more than once been reminded when Pope Francis talks of a "missionary conversion" on the part of the Church (cf also relatio synodi n.32):
What the missionary parish has to propose to those who are indifferent or who don't believe is precisely what makes it most alien to the world formed by them: it proposes its faith.
But in order for the faith to be heard, for it's message to be understood, those that proclaim it must be willing to be separated from the world by their faith; they must desire to be united to the people of this world as brothers and sisters of the same blood and the same destiny; they must be aliens because of their faith but not because of anything that they themselves add to it....
If God has given his law to men, it is only a sign of God if we observe it with a solemn fidelity and not haphazardly. At the same time, if we show ingratitude in the way we live, if grace is something we take to be our due, it will be impossible for us to understand what it means to be without faith, without reference to God in a world that finds it has thereby become formless, random and blind. We will speak "naturally" about the single reality that can genuinely transform life, and when one makes faith into something natural, it becomes for the nonbeliever something absurd.
The second meditation, for the day that Pope Paul VI was beatified, was from the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi:
It is appropriate first of all to emphasise the following point: for the Church, the first means of evangelisation is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time give to one's neighbour in limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses"...
What is the state of the Church ten years after the Council?...Is she firmly established in the midst of the world and yet free and independent enough to call for the world's attention? Does she testify to solidarity with people and at the same time to the divine Absolute? Is she more ardent in contemplation and adoration and more zealous in missionary, charitable, and liberating action? Is she ever more committed to the effort to search for the restoration of the complete unity of Christians, a unity that makes more effective the common witness, "so that the world may believe"? We are all responsible for the answers that could be given to these questions.

UPDATE: This post is also a useful reflection on some of the reaction to the Synod: The synod, catechetical practice, and the elephant in the room. Does the addressing of those elephants really belong in the stage of "primary proclamation" rather than "catechesis", remembering that these two moments do not always neatly follow each other in terms of time? And would a greater awareness by catechists of the stages in evangelisation help them to rise to the challenge described in Hannah's post?

H/T to Aunty

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Thank you John ... UPDATED

... NOT.

Those who have labelled the Relatio post disceptationem (the French translation is here, and it is interesting to note the difference of nuance at points between the French and the English - between, for example, the philosophical implications of the term "vie affective" in French and their absence from the generally used English term "emotional life"; or between the French "la prise en compte" and the English "accepting the reality" in reference to civil marriages and cohabitation in n.22) a "betrayal" and argued that Catholics are "morally obliged to oppose the course being taken within the synod" .....

... have made it impossible to argue in the news media today that those pro-gay groups delighting in a "breakthrough" are in fact seriously mis-representing the content of the Relatio.

I think, for example, that it is to mis-represent the Relatio if one does not say that the recognition of the "seeds" of the truth about marriage that exist in civil marriages, cohabitation and in same-sex relations are to be seen in an orientation towards the fullness of the beauty of marriage that are referred to by the (unfortunate, because it suggests unreachable, when the context does not mean that) word "ideal", and that those seeds are very specifically defined in the Relatio. The "seeds" are recognised only as the stepping stones that might be nurtured towards the full beauty .... there is no denying anything of the "moral problems" that the Church sees in these situations, and indeed, in reference to cohabitation that has no direction towards marriage, there is an explicit indication that this does not represent a "seed" that can be nurtured.

Something of this is expressed in the Catholic Herald comment: The synod has a long way to go before it truly realises Francis’s vision.

The news item about the Relatio on the website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales: Second phase of Family Synod discussions to take place in Vatican from 4-25 October 2015

UPDATED: It is instructive to read the account of Debate of the Synod Fathers following the post-discussion Report, and to note the Declaration of the director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.