The Synod on the Family – What’s This All About? Part 2

MPope Francisedia attention has been given to the invitation of Pope Francis to Catholics worldwide for their thoughts and observations in preparation for the Extraordinary Session of the Synod of Bishops that will meet October 5 – 19, 2014 to discuss the “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.”  This invitation shouldn’t come as a surprise to people who have been watching and listening carefully to Pope Francis.

 Pope Francis was ordained a priest in 1969.  He is the first Pontiff to be ordained after the Second Vatican Council.  His entire priesthood has been lived out in light of the teachings of that Council.  An important concept introduced into the Church by the Second Vatican Council is that of shared responsibility in the decision making process of Church governance.

Father Robert T. Kennedy, a respected canonist, presented a paper to the Canadian Canon Law Society in 1979 on “Shared Responsibility in Ecclesial Decision-Making.”  Father Kennedy’s paper is still widely used to help people comprehend the concept of how decisions can best be made within the Church.  He explains that while the Church is not a democracy, the Church process of decision making is one in which the ultimate decision maker (in this case Pope Francis) chooses the best available path, in obedience to the truth, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in consultation with those affected by the decision.  Father Kennedy holds that everyone in the Church can participate in good decisions by praying for their leaders, speaking wisdom to those involved in the process, actively joining in the decision making process as invited, and communicating honestly and effectively with the ultimate decision maker.

Pope Francis regularly says that a pastor must “wear the smell of the sheep” if he is to be an effective shepherd.  A pastor can’t do that without walking with the people he is called to shepherd and actively listening to them.  Archbishop Bernie Hebda, in his remarks at his welcome Mass as the Coadjutor-Archbishop of Newark, spoke of a meeting he had with Pope Francis shortly after his appointment was announced.  In response to asking for any advice as he began his new assignment, Pope Francis told him: “Enter into conversation with the people of the archdiocese.”  I believe what we are experiencing by this invitation is Pope Francis entering into conversation with Catholics worldwide.  It is an exciting reality and a concrete example of the Holy Father’s commitment to shared responsibility in the decision making process.

Although preparations for the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on family will include an assessment of Catholics’ attitude toward relevant church teachings, the synod’s work will be based on Catholic doctrine and not on current opinion.   You can read over the 8 page preparatory document Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the context of Evangelization, as well as the questions being asked of Catholics worldwide by going to

Bishop Richard Lennon, Bishop of Cleveland, has invited the priests of the diocese to offer him their observations so that he can submit them to the Vatican.  I will be extending an invitation to the people of Saint John Bosco for their assistance in preparing my response to Bishop Lennon.   

 Question – Are you willing to take the time to carefully read the preparatory document for the synod and offer your observations?   If you are, I’d appreciate hearing from you.

Photo of Pope Francis- Attribution: Non-Commercial.




November 20th, 2013 |