Catching Up on the Synod

Millennial’s primary focus is not on internal Church issues, the focus of this month’s Synod on the Family. But with the Synod touching upon topics that affect the overall mission of the Church, we wanted to give our readers a few resources for catching up on the latest news and analysis from the Synod.

For extensive coverage, check out: Crux’s coverage, featuring John Allen, Michael O’Loughlin, and Inés San Martín; Austen Ivereigh’s updates at Catholic Voices; NCR’s coverage of the Synod from Joshua McElwee and others; Gerard O’Connell’s posts for America; David Gibson’s articles at RNS; Grant Gallicho’s posts at Commonweal; Fr. Thomas Rosica on social media; Rocco Palmo’s tweets; CNA and CNS.

Here are some recent articles that may be of interest:

Pope Francis creates Vatican office combining laity, family, life issues: “Pope Francis announced Thursday to the Synod on the Family that he has chosen to establish a new office in the Roman Curia that will deal with issues of laity, family, and life, as part of his reform of the curia.”

Pope Francis’ Speech on 10/17/15: “Our gaze also extends to humanity as a whole. A synodal Church is like a standard lifted up among the nations (cf. Is 11:12) in a world which — while calling for participation, solidarity and transparency in public administration — often consigns the fate of entire peoples to the grasp of small but powerful groups. As a Church which “journeys together” with men and women, sharing the travails of history, let us cherish the dream that a rediscovery of the inviolable dignity of peoples and of the function of authority as service will also be able to help civil society to be built up in justice and fraternity, and thus bring about a more beautiful and humane world for coming generations. (32)”

How Synods Work: 21 Questions for John W. O’Malley, S.J. by Sean Salai, S.J.: “In 1965, just as the fourth period of Vatican II was about to begin, Pope Paul VI created the Synod of Bishops. He introduced a new definition of synod in that he stipulated that it was a strictly consultative body for the pope, whereas previously synods were councils, which are not consultative assemblies but decision-making bodies. The many synods/councils over which Saint Charles Borromeo presided in the 16th century are, for instance, a striking example of how synods traditionally functioned.”

Bishops divided on pastoral response to family by Austen Ivereigh: “Although the synod has taken place within a broad doctrinal consensus — these are, after all, bishops appointed by the last two popes — the unresolved theological tensions between justice and mercy lie at the heart of Christianity itself and will not be resolved by the synod. But then its objective, as Pope Francis has made clear, has not been to negotiate a deal between opposing parties but to hear the Holy Spirit. Few doubt that, as a Jesuit spiritual master, he will not hesitate to move the Church in the direction he hears God calling.”

Internal Forum: A Common Ground Solution for the Divorced and Remarried by Julie Hanlon Rubio: “The German-speaking group of bishops at the Synod in Rome is proposing a solution to the seemingly intractable question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The fact that this theologically diverse group was able to come to agreement makes this proposal especially worthy of consideration. This could be the game changer that allows the synod fathers to preserve the Church’s commitment to the enduring one-flesh union of sacramental marriage while also upholding the inclusive and healing nature of the Eucharist.”

A Vatican Insider interview with Cardinal Donald Wuerl: “We are not a small Church made up exclusively of the pure and faithful, the rule followed by the Christian community is the rule of love.”

God meets you where you are. And why that can sound threatening. by Fr. James Martin, SJ: “One of the big surprises in the Vatican’s Synod on the Family, where Catholic bishops have gathered to discuss an immense variety of issues related to the family, is how often a particular phrase keeps cropping up. It’s a saying we heard often in my Jesuit novitiate, because it was beloved by the assistant novice director. “God meets you where you are,” David Donovan, a marvelous Jesuit who died several years ago, used to say.”

The Synod and the “great et, et” by Michael Sean Winters: “The task is not one of choosing moral doctrine over pastoral solicitude, but forging a synthesis between mercy and teaching, between the clarity of doctrine and the messiness of life. That can only happen when the “we” to which a synod father attaches himself consists of those who falter and those who fail, not only the heroic and morally upright.”

W.W.F.S.S.? Some thoughts on Ross Douthat and doctrine by Brian Flanagan: “Distinctions of magisterial authority and doctrinal teaching, therefore, are not an attempt to weasel out of the hard truths of the Gospel, nor a capitulation to modern relativism – they preceded that phenomenon and will long outlast it. Rather, they are an attempt by the church to be clear about the limits of human theological knowledge, or, more positively, about the freedom that Christ gave his church to deepen in its knowledge of the truth under the guidance of the Spirit. Douthat may even be correct in his conviction that such a change would lead the church into error. As lay Catholics and not synodal Fathers, that is neither my, nor his, wheelhouse. But a change in the church’s teaching on an issue not infallibly taught, including the changes in pastoral practice in relation to divorced and remarried Catholics some bishops have suggested, need not threaten one’s belief in the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, unless one understands magisterium as a brittle, rigid defense mechanism called “church teaching” rather than the flexible skeleton of the Body of Christ.”

Dear Synod Fathers: You missed a step by Helen M. Alvaré: “I’m suggesting a drastically improved “facing-the-world-as-it-is” preparation for the maelstrom of bad laws and advice, and sexually exploitative entertainment and advertising that shape the sex, mating, and marriage marketplaces today in the United States.”

What the bishops aren’t talking about during the Vatican synod by Inés San Martín: “Yet based on the daily press briefings and interviews with participants, there’s been considerably less attention to the impact of forced migration on families, the difficulty the poor have in forging a good family life, and what Francis has said is society’s abandonment of the elderly. While those topics have been mentioned sporadically, they don’t seem to have found much traction.”