A Symposium on the October Synod for the Family!

There is nothing like a Symposium in Summer, or at least that’s the way Patheos sees it, and when we’ve undertaken them, they’ve been ambitious, thoughtful and fun.

This year, scaling back a little and trying something different, Patheos has devised a Summer Symposium utilizing the Public Square section of the site, and leaving each channel manager to choose a topic. Given the enormous (and it must be said, often unrealistic) expectations being placed upon October’s Extraordinary Bishop’s Synod on the Family, that topic — and some background on synods — seemed like a no-brainer our channel.

Despite the fantasies being propelled in secular media,
the Extraordinary Synod is not primarily a doctrinal event, but — as evidenced by the recently-released Instrumentum Laboris — a pastoral one. Since that’s true, and because the press seems intent on muddying up that distinction, we will spend the week addressing the pastoral methods of outreach we hope to see discussed and modified, and such reforms as might realistically be possible. We are not looking to break off into trot about things that will not happen. The fallout from the meeting may result in a “tweak” on the issue of divorce (with the “Orthodox Option”) and perhaps a “tweak” toward a “married priesthood” (again, along Orthodox lines) and those two tweaks will be monumental enough — if they occur.

The biggest part of the synod will be about identifying where the church has failed in teaching itself — the whys and wherefores of what she teaches, which she has literally blown for two generations — and how to pastorally, and clearly, and sensitively shepherd families that no longer look or think like Ozzie and Harriet. To that end, you will see pieces here that may surprise you. You will not like or agree with all of them, but that’s alright. Some of this is about wondering, and as St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “only wonder leads to knowing.”

Over the course of a week, individual writers will be anticipating the Synod by doing essentially what the Bishops will do, themselves, in October: taking the opportunity (as Calah Alexander does so well, here) to name particular issues that interest them, touch on their daily lives or engage their passions, and then express their hopes as to what possibilities exist within our theology and our teachings that will help the church to better meet people where they are, and help them to know Christ Jesus. In our writer’s cases, things will be more along the line of what they’d be grateful to hear during the synod.

In her book How the West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt writes, “The Christian story itself is a story told through the prism of the family. Take away the prism, and the story makes less sense. We men and women, whether inside the churches or not, are only at the beginning of understanding how the fracturing of the natural family has in turn helped to fracture Christianity.” Very true; as our Symposium is all about the family, we take the Holy Family as our patrons and feature them in a detail from from El Greco’s Holy Family with St. Anne, which you see above.

The image says something real and immediate about marriage and the family, and complementarity, which we suspect will be a prominent issue in the synod. The woman is literally food for the baby. The man is the necessary (and yes, valuable) figure of strength and fortitude who, importantly, frees the woman, enabling her to give the baby the unrelenting care and attention he both needs and deserves. This is a thing that matters, and we’ve gotten away from it.

The Symposium is going to be continually updated during the week, with pieces added by both guest writers and the channel bloggers, who are raring to go on this thing, so do continue to check the Symposium landing page here, but also our Catholic Channel features page, where you can find all of our blogger’s stuff updated continually at their thumbnail photos.

And of course, I’ll be pointing you toward all of the thoughtful, informed, concerned and realistic-yet-optimistic Synod Symposium reads, and responses, every single day, beginning within the hour. So, pray for me. :-)

But first, let us pray the prayer for the Synod, with which the Holy Father concludes the
Instrumentum Laboris:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer!


And happy reading!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • oregon nurse

    Can you write a little explanation of the “Orthodox Option” you mention above. I’m not familiar with their rules on divorce. Love this expanded forum on the family. Thanks.

  • MeanLizzie

    Thanks for asking! I tried to find someone with the time to write something for us from the Eastern Orthodox side, in order to help us understand this better; I couldn’t find a writer with free time, but several of them did give me information, and I plan on putting it together in a post, perhaps for tomorrow. It is very interesting, indeed.

  • oregon nurse

    Looking forward to it.

  • Victor

    ((( Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
    graciously hear our prayer! )))

    Anchoress, if you don’t mind after seeing that sexy picture of a child eating of what appears to be delicious food. Long story short, I can’t help thinking that The Symposium is also going to need help from, all of GOD’s Faithfull Angels, Saints, Martyrs and other gods who have managed to stay in GOD’s (Good Old Dad’) Trust since the Creation of Tomorrow’s Universe.


    I’ve got to give you an A+ for simply trying. :)




  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    One option that came from PEG already that I really like (though I’m not sure if he suggested it, or if I misunderstood him and then I suggested it in his comment box) is a new teaching on the Eucharist- and it becoming mandatory that every Mass start an hour earlier with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  • DaTechGuy on DaRadio

    The commentary on the Synod is all battlefield prep. The plan is to do one of two things:

    1. Spin the result like the MSM did after Vatican 2 in order that falsehood is taught as truth or truth is not taught, unfortunately for the left not only is there such a thing as EWTN & the net to counter this but the clergy & religious that are , shall we say “less faithful” to church teaching tend to be much older & dying out.

    2. Use it as a springboard for their Pivot on Francis. They dared not go after the 1st latino – non european Pope & risk alienating millions of latinos but they CAN claim he has been co-opted by the vatican. That is what we will see.

    Watching the media do this is like watching an old rerun