Sunday, 26 October 2014

Synod on the Family Fail

Well, the Synod on the Family concluded last week and not everyone is happy.  Perhaps least of all Pope Francis; although I think he is a very courageous individual left sparring almost alone with some of the ghosts left by his two immediate predecessors. This week the UK Catholic weekly The Tablet gave readers the much anticipated summary of its findings and recommendation. No doubt many Catholics were primarily focused on the three most contentious issues facing Catholic families today. The article can be found below:       

Bishops pass synod document but fail to agree contested measures
19 October 2014 by as reported by Elena Curti in Rome
The final document articulating the thinking of the bishops' Synod on the Family was passed – minus three sections relating to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and to the pastoral care of gay men and women.

The three paragraphs failed to get the two-thirds majority required for them to be counted as the official conclusions of the synod. Support for the sections was insufficient to be passed, even though the wording was significantly diluted after the mid-term synod document that was published last Monday proposed a radical revision in the pastoral care of same-sex couples, cohabiting heterosexual couples and those in civil unions.

The Vatican Press Office published the final document known as the Relatio Synodi in its entirety on Saturday evening together with the voting figures for each of the 62 sections. Press officers made light of the apparent defeat for those Synod Fathers who supported Pope Francis’ agenda for reform. One, Fr Thomas Rosica, described the final document as a “work in progress” and said the matters in the three defeated sections remained on the agenda and would be discussed at the much bigger Ordinary Synod on the Family next October.

At the end of the voting Pope Francis gave a speech in which he castigated those tempted into an attitude of "hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God".

The first of the defeated sections suggested that some remarried Catholics could eventually be allowed to receive the sacraments after a penitential journey overseen by the diocesan bishop. The paragraph was carefully worded setting out stringent conditions that the individuals would have to fulfil, but 74 of the Synod Fathers voted against it and 104 in favour.

Another struck out section, also about divorced and remarried Catholics, looked at the issue of their admission to spiritual and sacramental Communion. A hundred and twelve voters were in favour and 54 were against.

A paragraph about gay men and women stressed there could be no analogy whatever between same-sex unions and God’s plan for marriage and the family. It added, however, that men and women with homosexual tendencies should be welcomed with respect and sensitivity. This too failed to get the requisite two-thirds majority, with prelates voting 118 in favour and 62 against.

The earlier mid-term relatio said that gay Catholics’ orientation should be valued and that they have “gifts and qualities” to offer parishes. The small working groups produced 470 modifications to the mid-term document.

Pope Francis won a lengthy standing ovation for his speech at the end of the synod yesterday in which he said he would have been very worried if there had not been animated discussions.

“I have heard with joy and recognition speeches and interventions full of faith, pastoral and doctrinal zeal, wisdom, frankness, courage and parrhesia [courage],” he said.
 Read Francis' address in full here.

   Based on this document families with gay sons or daughters and those involved in same-sex unions can now take solace from the latest Synod concession that gays should be welcomed into the church with respect and sensitivity.  Remember this contradictory and meaningless offering was made despite that fact that gays will still have to suffer from the brutal language contained in the present Roman Catholic Catechism.  Could it be that some of the bishops at the Synod felt the stern presence of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI? Was it not he who stripped Sister Jean Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent of their pastoral ministry to the LGBT community?  Was it not he who referred to gays, even those among his own clergy, as the ‘filth in the church’?  Where do we find the mercy and compassion of God in all this?

Similarly the defeated motion concerning the status of some remarried Catholics was simply deferred and abrogated to the diocesan bishop.  While the divorced and other remarried Catholics will still be denied access to the God How considerate, how distant, and how political?  But where do we find God’s presence in this?   Were some bishops at the Synod still locked in on an angry unforgiving and punishing God who turns his back on sinners?

In his own words Benedict stated that his theology originated in the view that God speaks to us through the Church today and not just through the Bible.  Since the Church consists of both laity and clergy where do we find the words of the ‘People of God’ in this latest Synod on the Family?  Perhaps we should ask ‘what families, if any, were consulted in preparation for this synod?

For those of us who are left with unanswered questions following this Synod perhaps we need to reconsider our relationship with God.  Are we bound to church doctrine and dogma or can we find a more direct and personal Creator who stands by as close as our heart.  A God who meets us where we are and not where others would have us by!   I find it rather amazing to think that all the bishops at this would claim that they were led by the Holy Spirit yet were unable to reach a workable consensus.  Were some inspired and guided but others not so?  Vatican II clearly acknowledged that an informed conscience will always take precedence over religious doctrine and dogma.  Are we still afraid to take full personal responsibility for God’s gift of faith?

I continue to salute Pope Francis and those who continue to support him. May the church of tomorrow embrace a God who accepts ALL within and as part of the total diversity of his magnificent Creation. 

See also:

                  Pope Francis and pastoral care of divorced . . . . 

                  Living in sin - divorce and remarriage . . . .

                  Catholic family values survey . . . . 

                  concerns about 2015 survey . . . .   

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