Scientists tell us that
Microquakes are imperceptible earthquakes with magnitudes less than 3. Why should we be concerned with microquakes? They do not harm anybody, right? Nonetheless, just as an irregular heartbeat is not a heart attack, it can indicate imminent danger.
Hold on to that. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
I have – so far – been silent about the on-going Vatican Synod. As a recent revert, I’m still just trying to take it all in, still tying to put everything into context.
Plenty of expert voices in the popular media, on both the left and the right, have already spoken. Some may have even moved the debate forward in spite of themselves.
I’d guess that I’m a pretty average when it comes to the amount time that I’ve spent actually reading and thinking about the Synod. But some things do catch my attention. So it is today with the release of the Relatio Post Disceptationem – a sort of “this is what we’ve accomplished so far” press release (which remains, as yet, unofficially translated).
Quickly perusing it, I find myself mostly in agreement with Simcha Fisher: the Synod has produced no earthquakes. Rather, it appears to me to be mostly a mundane re-affirmation of basic Catholic doctrine:
The mid-term report described as an “earthquake” is nothing of the kind. It’s a reassertion of the constant, consistent teaching of the Church, and even the constant, consistent teaching of God the Father toward His wayward people: Come to Me. Please, come to me. Yes, I want you to change, and I will demand things of you. But we can’t get anywhere unless you come to Me.
Tom McDonald has written an overall review examining the entire document. It’s a terrific summary, so please read it. And bear in mind that, as Deacon Greg rightly points out, the release’s own conclusion places everything said in context. NO decisions have yet been made (emphasis added):
The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialog that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015. These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view.
But note: Elizabeth Scalia warns of a bumpy road ahead with another must read overview entitled “Catholics, Fasten Your Seatbelts!” filled with many more links. Please read it.
So no fundamental Church doctrines have yet been changed or even re-interpreted. Still, there are hints of things to come. Items, it seems, have been placed on the table for consumption, not just for decorative purposes (numbering added within):
1) Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? 2) Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony? . . . 3) Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. 4) Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.
Items 1) and 2) are, in my mind, really nothing more than the Catechism put into actual practice:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.
But the first two merely set the table for Items 3) and 4) – the microquakes.
Here we see hints of much bigger things to come: the ultimate acceptance of civil unions, and (whether with or without civil unions, it’s not clear to me) same-sex adoptions for the benefit of the children.
So here’s where the real dialog will begin. Here’s what will be the take-away from this Synod, no matter what else is discussed about the family, or about divorce. And here’s what the popular media will emphasize and thrive on.
None of this should surprise.
Cardinal Doan told us months ago that this door might be open. And it’s been reported more than a few times that, as a Cardinal in Argentina, Francis himself moved things in this direction given the political realities of the day:
However in 2010, the man who now serves as pontiff was evidently more flexible on the issue of same-sex marriage. As Argentina’s legislature debated President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s bill to allow gay marriage, Francis — then known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio — suggested to his bishops that the Church support civil unions as a compromise of sorts. At the time, civil unions were already legal in parts of Argentina ABC noted. Civil unions were the “lesser of two evils,” said Sergio Rubin, authorized biographer for then-Cardinal Bergoglio, according to The New York Times. “He [Bergoglio] wagered on a position of greater dialogue with society.”
A more thorough, and critical, analysis of today’s release is here by Father Longenecker. It’s a must read.
As I said, I’m taking this all in. I welcome all opportunities to make everyone feel at home within the Church. I myself was welcomed back with much warmth, with much kindness, and with abundant grace.
But note one thing.
Without going into very personal details, although I attend Mass most mornings, I purposefully do not receive the Eucharist. I am continually working towards making myself “right” spiritually within all of the requirements and rules set down for my situation. I fully and completely accept the limitations imposed, even as it causes me pain and discomfort.
But I find the discipline worthwhile; I find it wholesome; I find it altogether good. I believe that those limitations, requirements, and rules were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, meant for my ultimate good. So I acknowledge and gratefully follow all of them.
Some limitations, requirements, and rules remain in place for our ultimate good. May their rightful place and continued purposes always be thoughtfully and fully considered.
How to conclude?
I can make no judgments about today’s release. The Synod is, like me, a work in progress. Whatever finally results I trust will be similarly inspired by the Holy Spirit and thus beneficial for each and every one of us.
I trust, too, that any changes will be instituted and received with charity, with love, and, yes, with obedience.
At least that’s what I’ll be praying for.
Photo Credit: lbl.gov