UPDATE: Here is John Allen’s summary of the day’s happenings at in Rome. He says the synod is turning out like a high drama soap opera…Go here.
Whew! has there ever been such a furore amongst the faithful!
We’ve got the clash of cardinals, a bash up among bishops and vitriol in the Vatican!
The secular press are ecstatic over the idea that the Catholic Church has capitulated to the spirit of the age while conservatives are furious.
Many Catholics are upset about Monday’s relatio suspicious of the process, believing that the whole thing was written beforehand, slanted towards the progressives in a back room deal and engineered by powerful forces behind the scenes. All the usual rumors of Vatican intrigue and politicking are buzzing like flies over a corpse.
It’s not very edifying, but maybe it’s all part of what we have to go through in the church.
So here are ten things to remember if you are one of those who is feeling skittish about the Synod on the Family.
- The relatio is not church teaching – As Fr Barron points out here and the fathers of the synod said yesterday, this is a discussion document. It is not a papal encyclical or pastoral letter. It is not a teaching document or a definitive statement. It is a summary of what the bishops discussed. That the discussion has ruffled feathers both among the bishops and the faithful is no bad thing. This is how we clear the air, express our views and move to a conclusion. It’s my feeling that the language of the relatio was incredibly vague, often misleading and confusing. Let’s hope things improve, but the main point here is that this is not the final word.
- This is part of a process – The Synod of the Family starts with this extraordinary synod. This gets the ball rolling. There are two weeks of discussion left at this stage. You can bet that there is going to be a vigorous tug of war as the synod fathers continue the debate. Today’s news is that the bishops and cardinals who opposed this document are speaking out. Good. That’s part of the tug of war. As Fr Barron points out, this is the way the Spirit works in the church. It is the old “thesis-antithesis-synthesis” struggle. You make your point. I tear it apart and make my point. You tear that apart and make your point. Then we find what was true about both sides and come up with the Catholic “both-and” solution. After this extraordinary synod everybody goes home and the debate continues for a year. Next Autumn they all gather again for the Ordinary Synod. More arguments and counter arguments will be made, then after another elapse of time the Pope will write up the Post Synodal Exhortation which will be the definitive teaching that has come out of the process.
- This process is very necessary – Have you taken a look at the state of the family in the world? For many, many complicated reasons the old model of the family is broken. It is broken by human sin, but it is also broken by economic factors, cultural and social factors like increased mobility, disastrous wealth inequality, advanced medical technologies, artificial contraception, weird reproductive technologies, sexual identity confusion, feminism, homosexualism, etc. etc. etc. When we consider the global picture, the variety of different cultures in the church from primitive tribal people to sophisticated Westerners, what are we to do? This debate must be done. It’s painful but necessary so buckle your seat belts.
- The synod is not an attempt to change church teaching – It comes across that way, and I’ve done my own bit of head scratching to figure out what is going on, but despite the confusion, lack of clarity and mess, the main attempt is to discover just how the timeless teaching of Christ and his church can be applied in the situation we are now faced with. The breakdown of the family and the moral morass we are now in must be faced. No good putting our head in the sand. How on earth do we uphold Christ’s teaching and help people understand it and live it? This is the huge challenge that the Synod fathers are facing. Will they make mistakes as they struggle through this swamp? No doubt. We must walk with them and pray for them.
- This challenge involves everyone I think I can honestly say as a pastor that I do not know a single family in my parish who have not, in some way or other, faced some aspect of the problems the synod fathers are discussing. You know what it is like. Here a mother tells me her son is gay. There a man tells me about his impending divorce. Here a young woman asks defiantly why the church hates lesbians. There a schoolteacher wonders what on earth to do about the homosexual couple who want their kid in our Catholic school. Here a Catholic family struggles with their kids cohabiting, there an old couple tell me about infidelity and betrayal. These discussions involve everyone. They are messy. They are heartbreaking and we have to wade through the mess together.