6 Things I Hope the Synod on the Family Does That It Doesn’t Seem to be Doing Now

6 Things I Hope the Synod on the Family Does That It Doesn’t Seem to be Doing Now October 15, 2014

I had high hopes for the Synod on the Family.

I had hope that it would find ways for the Church to support and strengthen traditional marriage, that it would address the real problems of children of divorce who grow up with half their souls amputated by the constant roiling.

I had hope that it would take a look at ways to help people who are trying their best to follow Catholic teaching in a hostile world where one McJob won’t support a family, so both parents end up with with two or three jobs, leaving the children to raise themselves.

I had hope that the Synod would address the clanging juxtaposition of overprivileged kids in too-expensive Catholic schools staging walk-outs from their fine educations while inner city kids are forced to share textbooks and don’t even feel physically safe.

I had hope that the Synod would find ways to strengthen the family, not abandon and destroy it.

In truth, I not only had hopes for the Synod, I had trust in it. I believed in it and in the men who were participating in it. Now, I’m afraid of what they may do.

Here are 6 things I wish the Synod on the Family would consider that it doesn’t seem to be considering now.



1. Poverty and its deleterious effect on families. As I mentioned above, even here in America, poverty grinds families to bits. American children aren’t forced to scavenge in garbage dumps for food. But they spend most of their lives being raised by everything and everybody except their parents.

There is such a divide between the elites and the rest of this country that I honestly don’t think they know or believe what their policies are doing to ordinary people. Low wages and a stagnant economy caused by exporting our industrial base has led to the need for mothers and dads to work two or three jobs apiece, just to put a roof over their kids’ heads.

There’s no nanny or au pair for these kids. They end up raising themselves, and being raised by other kids and the second-rate schools they must attend. As soon as the law allows, they get McJobs of their own, often working long hours to help support the family. The resulting exhaustion often ends their education.

Too many of them opt out altogether. Their real family, their real parents, are the gangs and the other kids. They have no moorings to make decisions, so they fall into early and promiscuous sex, babies without dads, drugs and gangs.

That’s in America.

I’m sure it’s much worse — by powers of ten — in developing countries. After all, the reason our corporations shipped our industrial base overseas was to be in places where it could treat people any way it wanted.

Divorce among the working class and lower classes in America is a plague; as is shacking up and having kids out of wedlock.

It destroys families. And the destruction of families destroys lives.

Perhaps the Synod should look at what it can do to help Catholics who want to have families and raise them well but are crippled by poverty that makes living out their vocation a desperate and losing fight. How can the Church support families in the face of poverty and corporatism? I wish they’d look at that.

Catholics praying

2. How the Church can actually teach its teachings to the people in the pews. Re-writing the Gospels to fit the times is not the correct pastoral answer. The correct pastoral answer is to take a look at why the Bishops have been such abysmal failures at teaching Church teaching.The arguments these men are having now are a direct result of their failure to teach in the past.

The Church leadership has gotten soft and disengaged. It has lost its missionary fervor. Its operating ethos is build-a-church-building-then-wait-for-the-parishioners-to-come. Follow that by preaching fine homilies that are nonetheless removed from the fact that ordinary pew-sitting Catholics are out there without ammunition or support on the front lines of a cultural war.

I don’t think that Catholic clergy really “get” what the Catholic laity is facing every single day. I don’t believe they understand the many social martyrdoms that many devout Catholics endure.

My hope is that the Synod could address this failure as it applies to the family and actually talk about how to help Catholic laity be the Light of the World that Jesus calls them to be.

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3. Stop speaking in indirections and obscure language. I would love to see our religious leaders take the marbles out of their mouths and actually communicate in a straightforward manner. The flap over the relatio is a case in point.

I’ve heard comments that people are “stupid” for not understanding that the document is just basically minutes of the previous meetings and nothing official. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my dealings with the public, it’s that if you say it, and they don’t get it, it’s on you to fix that. Leadership is mostly a matter of being understood.

This inability to speak in simple declarative sentences may be a large part of why the bishops have failed so disastrously these past decades in their job as teachers of the faith. If I could make one reform of Catholic clergy it would be to teach them to talk to people about the faith from the heart.

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4. Bring Catholic education back in line with Catholic belief, and provide it to the poor. Catholic education is losing its Catholic savor. It is also more and more the inaccessible privilege of the privileged. It smacks of hypocrisy to preach about “the poor” while shutting the doors to a good Catholic education in the “the poor’s” faces.

Catholic families of every social strata need the Church’s help in raising their children to be Catholic. If Catholic schools fail in this mission — and many of them are demonstrably failing horribly — then what are parents to do? By the same token, if access to a Catholic education is denied to parishioners who are trapped in the McJob syndrome, that will only quicken and deepen the destruction of their children.

Teen drug abuse

5. Address the plague of drug addiction that destroys our families. Drug addiction destroys the personalities of the people who suffer from it, and it also destroys the homes and happiness of everyone they love. It is a plague that is filling up prisons, destroying families, leaving children damaged and too bereft to become functioning adults, and hollowing out whole societies.

It leads to corruption and massive violence on a governmental scale. If the Synod wants to help families, it needs to discuss ways the Church can aid them in their anguished fight against drug addiction.


6. Talk about Jesus, not one another. The priesthood is not supposed to be all about the priests. From the sex abuse scandal to some of the things I’m hearing from this Synod, the trouble stems, not from a lack of leadership, but a lack of followership.

Many of our religious leaders seem to think that their world is the whole world and that they have no need for the humble reliance on Christ that is the mark of true Christians the world over. My hope for this Synod is that its participants will follow Christ, and not each other. My number one wish is that our religious leadership would preach Christ. If they would do that, everything else would follow.

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21 responses to “6 Things I Hope the Synod on the Family Does That It Doesn’t Seem to be Doing Now”

  1. YES. Don’t forget porn addiction. I am not looking forward to the final document anymore. I usually devour them.

  2. regarding #2, the ‘people in the pews’ need to understand they are the ‘rich’ of the world…none of us are poor or even remotely middle class. What is the road to salvation for our rich families?

  3. It appears from what you have written, that the leaders are indeed too far away emotionally from the folks who attend the Church. Guess they are too intrenched in the past where they may have expected the congregation to know the basics. That is sad, if the Church wants to continue to have members it has to have leaders who actively do something besides offer Communion each day.

  4. Amen.

    Re #3, part of the motivation, I surmise, for much of the direct and even caustic criticism is the perception that some bishops simply don’t believe in the teachings they are called to teach and defend. While without doubt this issue was more serious 20 years ago, neither do I doubt it has gone away. So when teachings are waffled on, some assume right away that the speaker is really gaming to undercut them.

    Of course, the Cardinal teaching things contrary to the Faith might actually have a silver lining, as there is no mystery at all what he really thinks.

  5. Top notch stuff!

    So much of these issues are being unconsciously framed for Catholics using terms and concepts of the New Pagans/Secularists: in other words “tolerance”/”inclusiveness” babble, the idea that humans are only moist bags of rights, the oh-be-careful! ethic of never saying “no” to anyone or anything.

    We can’t talk straight anymore.

  6. Perhaps “in the past” this kind of avoidance of issues was felt to be—in the 1950s-1970s, the era in which this leadership came of age—was nonconfrontational. . . all the better to be ecumenical.

    The funny thing is that contemporary secularists believe, in the end, that political force is what matters in the end. So any nonconfrontational leadership will just be swept aside.

  7. First off, contrary to what the popular media (including Catholic media) say, this is NOT the Synod on the Family. That will not gather until 2015.

    Whatever this pre-Synod meeting or the real Synod says, neither is an Ecumenical Council and has no dogmatic, moral, or legislative force.

  8. I think it’s the rare Church leader who is entrenched in the past. When I was in seminary back in the late 1970s the rectors and novice masters visited leather bars on the weekends, got rid of straight seminarians and novices, and encouraged gay seminarians and novices to stay and experiment. There are very few leaders who are as conservative as the mythology would make us believe.

  9. That last part was just said to me today by a good friend. Well, at least everyone knows where he is *really* coming from.

  10. I am pretty angry with all of this. I am a younger mother of many and I need support from my Church as I try to lead a Christian life. Why is the Synod on the Family primarily about the divorced and homosexuals?! What about, oh I don’t know, families?! What the Synod says to me is that the people in the trenches who are trying their best and need guidance and direction don’t matter.

  11. Great list 1,2,3 are so powerful – if they only did those then the remaining list would fall in place. But I have my doubts that they will.

  12. I had high hopes for the Synod on the Family.

    Well, I didn’t, and so I’m neither shocked nor disappointed (if by disappointment one means a failure of expectations to be met). Rather, everything seems to be unfolding quite predectably.

  13. What is the effect of number 1 in developing countries? As a Filipina I can give you an idea. Poverty means many lower class until middle class families are seprated. This is because parents resort to working in other countries in order to provide a better life for their families. Children are raised by relatives or nannies. Parents and children may be separated for years before they are reunited. That is why Cardinal Tagle wants to discuss immigration during the Synod. This is a concern of many developing countries.

    And these are already considered “fortunate” compared to the truly poor who resort scavenging, begging and selling odds and ends on the streets. Though based on experience, sometimes it is these poorest of families who are closest.

  14. Didn’t you know? Cardinal Kasper has decided that this is the synod on the divorced and remarried. To hell with families. Gays are much more important than families. They run the world now, and they are letting us know it. From the start, all of the media attention has been away from families and towards bizarre obscure situations. They world needs help for families and this lot of morons is flapping their gums about gays and divorced people. it’s sickening. They lied to us and told us they were going to have a synod on families and it turns out they just wanted to fool us so they could play in their sandbox some more.
    And when it looked like the synod would actually focus on families. Pope Francis appointed six liberals to the committee to make sure that would not happen.

  15. Then why is the name of the meeting the “Extraordinary Synod of the Family in the context of Evangelization? Of course this is the synod on the Family. It’s just the extraordinary one, the ordinary one comes next year

  16. I thought Cardinal Dolan did a fairly clear job of explaining things on CBS This Morning yesterday. It does seem perplexing right now. This list would really help.

  17. I am assuming you didn’t become a priest. I wish I was surprised by what you wrote about your experience . Guess appearing to be conservative is an act.

  18. Even though some of the “open” discussions have created a confusion, I think it would end in good and on a positive note. The best part is, the Synod now has the attention of the world. Had it been done in a tightlipped environment with bishops reiterating whatever has been documented earlier, the Synod would have gone unnoticed to the outside world.