John Smeaton on the Synod on the Family’s final report

John Smeaton, co-founder of Voice of the Family, was interviewed this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, about Voice of the Family’s deep concerns about the final report of the Ordinary Synod on the Family which has just concluded in Rome.

His interview can be listened to above or on Voice of the Family’s new YouTube channel.

Here are the concerns which Mr Smeaton raised about a number of issues in the Synod’s final report, including on the question of whether or not divorced and “remarried” Catholics could receive Holy Communion:

Catholic teaching on marriage and the Holy Eucharist and its reception

  1. Catholics believe, because Jesus Christ Himself taught, that marriage is indissoluble and, Jesus taught, if someone divorces or puts away their spouse and marries another, he or she commits adultery – which is considered a mortal sin, the kind of serious sin by which one cuts oneself off from God’s love. (Matthew, 19)
  1. Catholics believe, because Jesus Christ Himself taught, that in going to Holy Communion we receive the body of Jesus Christ, God Himself: we receive life and the promise of eternal life. (John, 6:54)
  1. Finally, Catholics believe the teaching of St Paul that if a person eats and drinks the body and blood of Jesus Christ unworthily, we don’t receive life or grace, we eat and drink judgement to ourselves “not discerning the body of the Lord”. (Corinthians: 1,11.29)


  1. Catholics believe that the whole of the teaching of Jesus Christ is about mercy including the demands of the Gospel: God’s commandments which Jesus announced or confirmed. Catholics believe that Christ’s message is not just for a select few. We believe that everyone receives from Christ the grace to live in the way God wants us to live.
  1. Catholic teaching is not that following Christ is easy. Christ taught that we have to carry our cross and He promises that He will give us the help we need to carry that cross.
  1. I know lots of ordinary Catholics both in my family life and through my work. I know women and men who’ve been deserted by their spouse for another person and either left alone with children or left alone without their children. If that deserted spouse were then to see their wife or husband with a new partner, receiving the Body of Christ in Communion, that sends the message to everyone, including the children, that marriage is not indissoluble after all. This is destructive of the truth about marriage. It’s also damaging psychologically and spiritually, not least for the children.
  1. Jesus Christ told the woman found in sin, who was perhaps caught up very deeply in a way of life which appeared to be impossible to escape: Go and sin no more.

The Pope

  1. I believe, as all Catholics believe, that the Pope is Peter, the rock Christ chose on which to build His Church. The Pope serves the unchangeable truth of Christ’s teaching. The Pope is not the master but the servant of the truth. The difficulty for Catholics with this particular document from the Synod of Bishops is that it doesn’t properly reflect Catholic teaching: It’s ambiguous and confusing.

Other aspects of the final report

  1. The Church teaches that certain actions are wrong in themselves – or “intrinsically evil” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it: such things as contraception or in vitro fertilisation. This is not made unambiguously clear in the Synod document. This shows a lack of mercy because it denies Catholics the truth about right and wrong. It denies Catholics the knowledge they need to exercise true freedom, freedom from sin.

Text agreed by the Synod on Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried

  1. Paragraphs 84 – 86 are not clear and the way is left open to bishops opposed to Catholic teaching in this area to give the green light to sacrilegious communion. The paragraphs refer to “exclusion” practised in liturgy and of priests accompanying interested parties on a path of discernment according to the teaching of the church and the orientations of the bishop. Catholic teaching, however, is that the truly merciful opening to Holy Communion with all mortal sins, not just sins against marriage, is repentance and a firm purpose of amendment. Confession does not provide Catholics with a license to sin: it provides grace to repent and amend one’s life.

Why is a pro-life leader engaging in work on the Family Synod?

  1. Many pro-life campaigners are Catholics, many are not Catholics. Whether or not we’re Catholics evidence indicates that two things most protect unborn children: those are laws against abortion and the institution of marriage. Goverment data show that unborn children are 4 to 5 times less likely to be killed by abortion if they are conceived within marriage. Catholic teaching, the teaching of Jesus Christ, upholds the indissolubility of marriage. We must defend our Catholic faith against all ambiguous or misleading representations in order to defend the human and Divine institution which most protects unborn children.