Excerpts below the links, but well worth reading in full both commentaries.
George Weigel, writing in First Things
The Relatio Finalis [final report] of Synod-2015, adopted this evening by the Synod Fathers, is a massive and encouraging improvement over the Instrumentum Laboris [working document] that was the baseline for the Synod’s work. The tremendous difference between the two documents illustrates just how fruitful a path the Synod walked over three sometimes-challenging weeks.
The working document was virtually silent on the gift of children. The final report describes children as one of the greatest of blessings, praises large families, is careful to honor special-needs kids, and lifts up the witness of happily and fruitfully married couples and their children as agents of evangelization.
The working document made something of a hash out of conscience and its role in the moral life. The final report does a much better job of explaining the Church’s understanding of conscience and its relationship to truth, rejecting the idea that conscience is a kind of free-floating faculty of the will that can function as the equivalent of a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
The working document was full of ambiguities about pastoral practice and its relationship to doctrine. The final report, while not without some ambiguities, makes clear that pastoral care must begin from a bottom-line of commitment to the settled teaching of the Church, and that there really is no such thing as “local-option Catholicism,” either in terms of regional/national solutions to challenges or patish-by-parish solutions. The Church remains one Church.
The working document was also ambiguous in its description of “family.” The final report underscores that there can be no proper analogy drawn between the Catholic understanding of “marriage” and “family” and other social arrangements, no matter what their legal status.
Mercy and truth sometimes seemed in tension in the working document. The final report is far more theologically developed in relating mercy and truth in God, and thus inseparable in the doctrine and practice of the Church.
From Crisis magazine -
The day before the synod ended Pope Francis announced that he was dissolving both the Pontifical Council for Family and the Pontifical Academy for Life. The Pontifical Council for the Laity will absorb them as subordinate departments in a structural demotion within the Roman Curia of the status of the Church’s pro-family and pro-life ministry. Maintaining the Council for the Family and the Academy for Life, both created by Saint John Paul II, were clearly lower papal priorities than the drive to downsize the Roman Curia.
the final report of the synod made vast improvements over the relatio synodi, the working document, from last year. Abortion went from zero mentions to five. Condemnations of the “contraceptive mentality” and the fear of overpopulation were included in the final report. The synod fathers insisted on a firm statement of indignation at the financial blackmail used by international organizations to pressure countries into legalizing “homosexual marriage.” There was also a very strong denunciation of the gender ideology that denies the fundamental differences between men and women and their essential complementarity. The final report laments a “sharp drop in the birthrate” and calls for “unconditional openness to life” among married couples before citing Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae.
Some participants from the former-communist nations found it unfortunate that terrible problems, such as alcoholism, received only passing mention in a document that went to 95 paragraphs. At the same time, so many themes were broached, from grandparents to the family in Sacred Scriptures, that no one topic could expect more than cursory treatment. The document writers definitely tried to cover a great deal of ground while proclaiming the needs of couples and children and the challenge to evangelize through the family.