As Deacon Greg Kandra reports at The Deacon’s Bench, Catholic News Service (CNS) today released matching videos purporting to summarize two sides of a hot-button debate on the eve of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. While only one thread in a tangled rope of issues facing families, Catholic or not, in the world today, the discussion of whether Catholics who marry after a civil divorce (but whose first marriage was validly sacramental and has not been declared null) might be admitted to Communion is the only issue the press wants to talk about—even the Catholic press, who should know better.
I’m not going to summarize the debate, which has been thoroughly reported and even incisively discussed elsewhere, including at the Patheos Catholic Channel where a symposium was devoted to the Synod. But I can’t resist pointing out how utterly unhelpful the CNS releases are in adding any light to the heat. The paired Burke and Kasper videos are, in fact, jaw-dropping examples of “the medium is the message” in stacking the argumentative debate.
The Burke video shows not a single married couple and almost no laity (one Communion scene at a Mass in St Peter’s Square): it is massed, robed, celibate hierarchical men, with Swiss Guards in royal defense. The Kasper video could be an ad for CatholicSecondMatch—all walks on beaches and happy families over dinner, with occasional closeups of grief over a failed marriage.
You don’t have to listen (and few will) to get the messages. Burke: THE CHURCH IS THE BISHOPS. ONLY THE ONES WE SAY ARE HOLY GET COMMUNION. EVERYBODY ELSE, BEAT IT. Kasper: C’MON, DO THESE PEOPLE LOOK LIKE ADULTERERS? THEY’RE HAPPY, AND THE CHURCH SHOULD BE, TOO. Neither one is of a single bit of help to those the Synod was called to address: families living in the “irregular situation” that is this world. And both do a deep disservice to the cardinals and the very highly nuanced positions they espouse, by reducing them to campaign ads.
Millions around the world are praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the Synod in its reflection on the Church’s teachings. Thanks, Catholic News Service, but no thanks, for trying to make this a popularity contest. Whose side am I on in this debate? The side of God’s will. I hope you are, too.