Cardinal Arizmendi: Synod and sensitive points

Instead of just judging people who seem to lead a life contrary to our faith, we must learn to respect them, understand their motivations, give them cordial affection, include them as much as possible and offer them the liberating and fulfilling message of Jesus Christ

Cardinal Felipe Arizmendi, bishop emeritus of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and responsible for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Mexican Episcopal Conference (CEM), offers the readers of Exaudi his weekly article entitled “Synod and delicate points”.



Before and during the recent first assembly of the Synod of Bishops, some were concerned that the traditional doctrine and morals we have upheld in the Catholic Church might be changed. Someone sent me the booklet The Synodal Process, a pandora’s box, in which many of the points that are already controversial are questioned, but asserting that the intention was to form another Church, different from the one willed by Jesus. Some brother cardinals even raised doubts in the same direction with the Pope, almost accusing him of being a heretic.

In addition to the issue of the female diaconate, which I discussed in my previous article, there are delicate points that are much discussed and imagined that everything would change; for example, the indiscriminate acceptance of homosexuals, communion for divorced and remarried people, etc. On these issues, the Magisterium of the Church has already pronounced itself, but they continue to doubt the fidelity to the Word of God and to the holy Tradition.

The Pope has insisted in many ways that our only way is Jesus Christ, and that from him we must learn how to be Church: more centred on Jesus, more adoring of the Father, more led by the Spirit, and therefore more Samaritan, more merciful, closer to people, independent of their moral condition, because Jesus came for sinners, not for those who think they are saints; this without losing fidelity to the Truth of the Gospel. Whoever meets Jesus is transformed. Sin is not legitimised, but people are loved. By the way, harmonising truth and love is a task already addressed by Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Caritas in veritate (29-VI-2009).

What was said about some of these points? I transcribe verbatim what seems to me to be the most salient:


In the section Ecclesial discernment and open questions, it was said:

Convergences on which all agreed:

1. “Freedom to express one’s own views and to listen to the other. This avoids moving too quickly into a debate based on the reiteration of one’s own arguments, which leaves neither space nor time to become aware of the other’s reasons.

2. This basic attitude creates a favourable context in which to delve into issues that are also controversial within the Church.

3. It is necessary to integrate, in the light of the Word of God and the Magisterium, a broader information base and a more articulate reflective component. Confrontation with the point of view of the human and social sciences, philosophical reflection and theological elaboration must be instilled.

4. Among the themes on which further reflection is important is that of the relationship between love and truth.

5. The pages of the Gospel show that Jesus goes out to meet people in the uniqueness of their history and situation. He never starts from prejudices or labels, but from an authentic relationship in which he involves himself wholeheartedly, even at the cost of exposing himself to misunderstanding and rejection. Jesus always hears the cry for help of those in need, even when it remains unexpressed; he performs gestures that transmit love and restore trust; he makes possible by his presence a new life: whoever meets him comes out transformed. This happens because the truth of which Jesus is the bearer is not an idea, but the very presence of God among us; and the love with which he acts is not just a feeling, but the justice of the Kingdom that changes history.

6. The difficulty we encounter in translating this clear Gospel vision into pastoral choices is a sign of our inability to live up to the Gospel and reminds us that we cannot support those in need except through our own conversion, both personal and communal. If we use doctrine harshly and with a judgmental attitude, we betray the Gospel; if we practise cheap mercy, we do not convey God’s love. Unity in truth and love implies taking on the difficulties of the other to the point of making them our own, as happens between true brothers and sisters. This unity can only be achieved by patiently following the path of accompaniment.

7. Some issues, such as those related to gender identity and sexual orientation, end of life, difficult marital situations, and ethical issues related to artificial intelligence, are controversial not only in society but also in the Church because they raise new questions. It is important to take time for this reflection and to invest our best energies in it, without giving in to simplistic judgments that hurt individuals and the Body of the Church. Jesus’ behaviour, assimilated in prayer and conversion of heart, shows us the way forward.

Issues to be addressed and analysed:

1. “We recognise the need to continue the ecclesial reflection on the original intertwining of love and truth witnessed by Jesus, with a view to an ecclesial praxis that honours his inspiration.

2. Synodality in this area is expressed as a readiness to think together in the service of mission, in diversity of approach, but in harmony of purpose.


1. “We propose to promote initiatives that allow for shared discernment on controversial doctrinal, pastoral and ethical questions, in the light of the Word of God, the teaching of the Church and theological reflection, and valuing the synodal experience.”

In the section for a Church that listens and accompanies, it was said:

“People who feel marginalised or excluded from the Church because of their marital status, their identity and their sexuality, also ask to be listened to and accompanied, and to have their dignity defended”. There was a deep sense of love, mercy, and compassion at the Assembly for people who are or feel hurt or neglected by the Church, who want a place to come ‘home’ to where they feel safe, listened to, and respected, without fear of being judged. Listening is a prerequisite for walking together in search of God’s will. The Assembly reaffirms that Christians cannot disrespect the dignity of any person.

Listening requires unconditional acceptance. This does not mean abdicating clarity in presenting the gospel message of salvation, nor does it mean endorsing any opinion or position.


Instead of just judging, condemning, rejecting and excluding people who seem to lead a life contrary to our faith, we must learn to respect them, understand their motivations, give them warm affection, include them where possible and offer them the liberating and fulfilling message of Jesus Christ. He transforms us, because he loves us.