Aidan Hart, a married layman, reviews Pope Francis’ latest gift to the universal Church. He sees it as “a papal document like no other; its underlying tone of God’s compassionate mercy for all human failure and its understanding of the realities and messiness of many peoples’ lives are outstanding.”
Pope Francis -
“No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!”
“Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.”
"not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth.”
"We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them."
Massimo Faggioli reports on the outcome of the synod in http://www.globalpulsemagazine.com/news/life-begins-at-50/2070
"Yet the final document, which received the quorum of the two thirds for all its paragraphs, is more cautious than the text of 2014.
It is also silent on some important issues, namely the attitude of the Church towards gay people (except a weak passage on families with gay members)."
"But in this sense the final relatio of 2015 is a document that gives us a picture of the Church – more accurately, of its bishops – that is closer to reality,"
"The Synod also showed that much of the Catholic debate today is the expression of a debate between American bishops. The fact that they disagreed in public ... is in itself surprising. It is the symptom of the extremism and sectarianism of some ... but also the sign of Francis’ breakthrough in the American Catholic hierarchy."
"The Synod’s final document is important, but it says less about the future direction of the Church than Francis’ great speeches of October 17 (a new ecclesiological framework for a synodal Church) and October 24 (against the ideologues in the Church). This is why the Synod of 2015 will disappoint some liberals, but it is clearly a victory for Francis."
Time will judge the impact of the synod. The Pope's closing comments stand for themselves but perhaps many will read as much into what he left unsaid as what he said.
"Surely it was not about finding exhaustive solutions for all the difficulties and uncertainties which challenge and threaten the family, but rather about seeing these difficulties and uncertainties in the light of the Faith, carefully studying them and confronting them fearlessly, without burying our heads in the sand."
"It was about trying to open up broader horizons, rising above conspiracy theories and blinkered viewpoints, so as to defend and spread the freedom of the children of God, and to transmit the beauty of Christian Newness, at times encrusted in a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible."
"The Synod experience also made us better realize that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness. This is in no way to detract from the importance of formulae – they are necessary – or from the importance of laws and divine commandments, but rather to exalt the greatness of the true God, who does not treat us according to our merits or even according to our works but solely according to the boundless generosity of his Mercy "
"The Church’s first duty is not to hand down condemnations or anathemas, but to proclaim God’s mercy, to call to conversion, and to lead all men and women to salvation in the Lord (cf. Jn 12:44-50)."
Nicole Sotelo has a very interesting article in NCR.
Can we not learn from history?
No matter how many statements are made about the dignity of women, the status of Mary vis a vis apostles and saints, the use of feminine pronouns when referring to church, the fact that women are totally excluded from decision making roles poses huge questions and problems about the credibility of statements coming from the synod and church authorities.
At the synod women were allowed observe and make some statements but had no role is decision making or voting. Can and should the world take seriously any statement resulting from such a process in the 21st century?
Mark de Vries in his blog 'In Caelo et in Terra' comments on and provides a translation of the third commentary of the German language bishops’ group at the Synod.
Perhaps we can all learn from the German speaking bishops when they ask for forgiveness;
"Here, a confession was important to us: wrongly understood efforts to uphold the Church’s teachings time and again led to hard and merciless attitudes, which hurt people, especially single mothers and children born out of wedlock, people living together before or in place of marriage, homosexually oriented people and divorced and remarried people. As bishops of our Church we ask these people for forgiveness."
No white smoke at synod
Jesuit Thomas Reese writes a fairly gloomy report in NCR on the possible outcome of the synod.
"The bishops are currently trapped in the old theology they learned in the seminary. They are afraid of new ideas and are not consulting with theological experts who could show them other options. As a result, it is unlikely that new pastoral approaches will be coming forth from this synod."
"Never in my lifetime have I heard of bishops and cardinals being so disrespectful of a pope, challenging his organization of this synod, even a few referring to him as a Protestant and threatening a fractured church if he goes against their wishes."
Doctrine does Develop
Joshua J. McElwee, NCR Vatican correspondent, reports on the German language group report from the Synod.
The group, which includes Cardinals Walter Kasper and Gerhard Muller, says in their report “The mercy of God reveals to us in this way the reason and the entire purpose of the work of salvation. The justice of God is His mercy, with which He justifies us.”
Joshua J. McElwee says that as a consequence of this understanding of salvation, the German speaking group write, "there cannot be one universal principle that accounts for all particular situations."
A church quartered?
Brendan Hoban in his weekly column in the Western People writes of a fragmented church in Ireland.
"The plain, simple and difficult truth is that the Catholic Church is very divided."
"Pope Francis is trying to keep all sides going. And that’s what he has to do because, whatever camp we might place ourselves in, we’re all Catholics – albeit with different attitudes and perspectives "
We carry two reports about the Synod on the Family.
Gerard O'Connell in America Magazine gives an account of the first week and the reports of various language groups.
'The first week revealed not only the ethnic but also the theological and cultural diversity of the synod fathers, which French language group "A" described as “a unique experience of Catholicity.” '
In the second article Sandro Magister, comments in www.chiesa.it on a letter reputed to have been sent to Pope Francis from 13 Cardinals who are said to be a little disgruntled by proceedings at the Synod.
One of their objections is that members of a committee to draft a final document at the Synod "have been appointed, not elected, without consultation." Interesting they think people should be elected, not appointed, to important positions and that there should be consultation!!