Pope Francis opened the Synod on the Family on October 5. It’s a two-week meeting (some 252 participants: mostly bishops, some experts and 14 married couples) about making the Church’s official perspective on family life—marriage, sexuality, single sex unions, contraception, divorce--relevant to today’s Catholic family.
In light of findings in a Vatican questionnaire, most Catholics seem to be “out of sync” with Church teaching on marriage. If participants in the Synod follow Pope Francis’ advice to speak up clearly and honestly, the debate will .be lively.
Already some participants have weighed in on opposite sides about questions on whether divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to take Communion and whether annulments should be easier to obtain.
One Cardinal stated publicly he’s in favor of revisiting the rules of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. In Cardinal Kasper’s book, “Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life” he makes his case: in short, the Church cannot simply condemn but must understand first and then accompany and help people.
Another Cardinal is arguing publicly that the Church must continue traditional Church teaching.
How these tensions will be resolved remains to be seen. An overriding question is whether ordinary Catholics think the bishops are a credible moral guide with regard to the topic.
Whatever the synod participants recommend, someone will be disappointed, whether it’s Catholics hoping for a more forgiving Church or Catholics who like the Church just the way it is.
The good news is that this is phase one of the process. The synod is scheduled to end October 19 with the beatification of Pope Paul VI, the Pope who oversaw the completion of the Second Vatican Council and also promulgated “Humanae Vitae” which enshrined the Church’s opposition to artificial contraception.
The synod will reconvene in October 2015 to finalize formal family proposals for Pope Francis to consider.
My question to you is: if you had a chance to speak at the Synod, what would you advise? Let me know what you’re thinking.