The Synod On The Family – Where Do We Go From Here?

Extraordinary Synod of bishops on the familyLike many of you, I carefully watched the reports regarding the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that concluded on October 19. It was an interesting two weeks.

Much of what I have followed from major Catholic sources appeared balanced and fair. Credible writers attempted to help people understand what the synod was all about and the impact of the honesty that Pope Francis invited the participants to speak from as they presented pastoral challenges on the family.

Pope Francis was present for all of the plenary sessions of the two week assembly. He observed carefully what had happened without ever saying a word. That was, until the final day when he was given a five-minute standing ovation after he delivered his address to the 253 participants.

Looking ahead to the October 2015 Synod, Pope Francis told his audience that “We still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.”

The Final Report of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, (here is an Unofficial English Translation of Final Synod Document since the document currently is only available in language of the assembly, Italian) as Gerard O’Connell wrote in America Magazine, “Has closed no doors, all the main questions are still on the table, and an absolute majority of the synod fathers are with Pope Francis, in favor of a Church that like the Good Samaritan reaches out to care for all her ‘wounded children’”.

Breaking with the 49-year tradition of the assembly of a synod, in a move in favor of transparency in the synod process, Pope Francis decided to publish the votes for each of the paragraphs of the Final Report so that the local churches, the Bishops Conferences throughout the world, and the Catholic clergy and faithful can see the level of support or opposition on each question.

Yet, it is obvious that some people are determined to write whatever they deem to be appropriate and/or true; regardless of factual accuracy or genuine Catholic theological foundation. A writer has an opinion and off that writer goes in an attempt to get readers to agree, or at least think that is what happened within the assembly.

Two very different perspectives have jumped out to me. Both pieces made me wonder if either writer took the time to read reports that were presented by the Vatican – or has a Catholic understanding of pastoral leadership in the Church. One was an editorial cartoon and an accompanying piece by Jeff Darcy of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, and the other was a letter to Pope Francis by Father Dwight Longenecker, a priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Greenville, South Carolina. I hope you take a few minutes to read both of them. I find both writers, at the very least, to be pretty arrogant and irresponsible reporting.

It is important for all of us to remember, as Cardinal Daniel Wuerl points out in his blog: “This assembly is part of a much larger process, which will continue with a Synod next year and beyond. Pastoral solutions to intractable problems are not going to come easy. Yet, we are going to try to do what Jesus has asked us to do, listening to one another, talking to one another and remaining open to the Holy Spirit.”

In the days ahead – keep praying as the Synod work continues. And just as important, continue to seek out information from credible Catholic sources regarding progress that is being made along the way.

Question – Are there any observations you are willing to offer about what impressed you during the two week Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod?


October 22nd, 2014 |