Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 66(1) February 2016

The Family Synod:
Plenty of Mercy but Keeping the Truth.

Dr Adrian Treloar

St Peter's BasilicaThe family synod saw what was portrayed by the international media as a real fight between those who wanted to see divorcees and homosexuals admitted to the Sacraments and those who defended the Church’s teaching on family life and morals.

As front line doctors and nurses, many of us work daily with broken families and with patients who live outside of the the Church’s teaching on family life. We know that in her teaching on family life the Church proclaims a truly beautiful vision of marriage that is permanent, 100% committed, exclusive to the married couple and open to life. During the Synod the world longed to see a weakening of that position. But the Church demanded of herself a deep commitment to mercy as well.

As doctors and nurses we have all faced situations where, a patient seeks some­thing that we believe to be objectively wrong (eg having an abortion) but we also see, in mercy, that objectively wrong decisions are not made with clear understanding of the real evil of the action taken (see [1] for discussion of this with regard to abortion). Therefore we must be, and are, merciful. We do not judge. We are privileged to work with people towards a vision of a truth and joy which may not be theirs now. But at the same time, we cannot assist an action which is objectively wrong. From what we can read, many wanted to see the Synod weaken Church teaching. While many people wanted to see things change with regard to marriage and homosexuality, truth is not changed by fashion or public opinion.

The blessing for us as health workers is that the Synod Church preserved objec­tive truth, while emphasising a merciful approach to those in difficulty.

That model of proclaiming the truth and beauty of the Christian message, while at the same time being merciful must be right. On the Mount of Olives a woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus. Our Lord restated the truth and with supreme mercy said “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” ( John 8, 1-11).


  1.  How can I advise a woman who comes to see me asking for an abortion? Discussion from the ethics committee of the CMA (UK).
    Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 63(1) February 2013.