Releasing a 75-page working document for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, Synod Secretary General Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri called for a world day of prayer to prepare the event, The Catholic Herald reports.
The day of prayer will take place on September 28, days before the extraordinary Synod on the family begins on October 5.
Vatican officials made the announcement at a press conference on the Synod's instrumentum laboris, or working document, which will be released today.
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri also disclosed the theme for the ordinary Synod on the family, which will take place in 2015. The topic will be 'Jesus Christ reveals the vocation and the meaning of the family.'
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, Catholic News Service adds.
It 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.'
Recognising 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 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 document also points to economic factors behind Catholics' disregard of that teaching: 'Cohabitation without marriage can be driven by financial need; youth unemployment; and a lack of housing.' A widespread 'contraceptive mentality' reflects, in part, a shortage of 'child care, flexible working hours (and) parental leave.' Long working hours and commuting times 'take a toll on family relationships.'
Vatican announces world day of prayer for family synod (The Catholic Herald)
Synod document cites cultural and economic threats to family (Catholic News Service)