The 2015 Synod of 270 Bishops is now underway and it began with the Holy Father setting the stage for the next three weeks. It is no secret that there have been a number of pre-Synodal skirmishes among the Synod Fathers attempting to politicize the meeting. So what are the issues that have raised the blood-pressure of so many?
John Allen of CruxNow.com summarized the most controversial topics in his article (Pope Francis faces an uphill climb to get the synod he wants) this weekend as such:
- Should the Church’s traditional ban on Communion for Catholics who divorce and then remarry civilly be relaxed?
- Should the Church adopt a more welcoming posture to same-sex couples?
- Should the Church take a more positive view of couples who live together outside marriage, along with other forms of what have traditionally been called “irregular” relationships, acknowledging some moral value to them even if they fall short of the ideal?
In an effort to keep the proper focus, Cardinal Peter Erdö, Archbishop of Budapest and Synod Rapporteur (General Relator), used his introductory 7,000 –word opening address before the first working session, to provide a proper context and boundaries for the Synod Fathers. He shared the following during today’s press conference,
“I tried to systematise all the data which was received from the Church around the world, including families and individuals who wrote to us, following the themes already in Instrumentum Laboris.”
He seemed to direct some of his comments during the address towards those supporting cardinal Kasper’s proposal to allow divorced and second marriage couples to be admitted to communion:
“The reason remarried divorcees cannot partake in the Eucharist is not because of the “failure of their first marriage” but because of “the cohabitation in their second relationship.”
The Cardinal also combatted the issue of same-sex couples and marriage by stating,
“There is no basis for comparing or making analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and God’s plan for matrimony and the family.”
With this statement though, he also declared the need to end discrimination against those who suffer from same-sex attraction (SSA) and to provide the assistance need for wholeness and holiness.
He continued his argument against those who proposed admission via the “law of graduality” which proposes that as long as there is a trajectory of growth in moral truth they should be included in communion rather than excluded until their life reflects a person in good standing with the morals and teaching of the Church. His argument was summed up in the line,
“Between truth and falsehood, between good and bad, there is no graduality.”
This seemed to include not only divorcees but also those cohabitating outside of marriage.
Lastly, an argument that Mr. Allen did not note in his article but which is true nonetheless, is an admission of contraception into marriage thereby reaffirming Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae.
How this Synod progresses is very much up to the interactions among the Synod fathers. The Holy Father reminded them that the Synod is,
…neither a convention, nor a parlor, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises. The Synod is rather an Ecclesial expression, i.e., the Church that journeys together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God; it is the Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.
The Holy Father then shared the three qualities needed for a successful synod which included:
- Apostolic courage: Courage that is needed because the Church’s attitudes can, “despite good intentions, distance people from God” and make “Christian life a museum of memories.”
- Evangelizing humility: The humility bishops need to empty themselves of “their own beliefs and prejudices to listen to their brother bishops and fill themselves with God …. A humility that doesn’t point the figure against another to judge them, but to extend a hand to help them up without ever feeling superior to them.”
- Trusting prayer: Prayer to hear the “soft voice of God that speaks in silence.”
Needless to say, there will be much to observe and watch over the next several weeks. But, here is a start so let’s continue to pray for the Synod and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Want a blow-by-blow on Synodal procedure? Check out EWTNs article, Synod of Bishops: Origin and Procedure.
“Synod On the Family: Press Briefing Day 1,” Vatican radio, October 5, 2015, accessed October 5, 2015, http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/10/05/synod_on_the_family_press_briefing_day_1/1177020.
 John L. Allen, “On Day One of Synod 2015, Conservatives Strike First,” Crux, October 5, 2015, accessed October 5, 2015, http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/10/05/on-day-one-of-synod-2015-conservatives-land-the-first-blow/.
 “Pope Francis: Full Text of Remarks at Synod Opening,” News.VA Official Vatican Network, October 5, 2015, accessed October 5, 2015, http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-full-text-of-remarks-at-synod-opening.
 Ines san Martin, “Francis Tells His Bishops: The Synod Isn’t a Parliament,” Crux, October 5, 2015, accessed October 5, 2015, http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/10/05/francis-tells-his-bishops-the-synod-isnt-a-parliament/?p1=Trending.