Yesterday during day two of the Synod, a number of topics were discussed. Unfortunately, there seems to be a discontinuity between what the official Press Conferences are emphasizing and what is actually being discussed. Edward Pentin at the National Catholic Register did a great job of taking what the Press Conference reported and what the Synodal Fathers shared in order to provide a full summary of the topics in his article, Questions Raised Again About the Official Synod Briefing [Emphasis and comments in blue are mine]:
- A number of synod fathers spoke in support of Cardinal Peter Erdo’s introductory speech [This is a great speech and a must read!], including one who underlined the importance of keeping fidelity to truth about marriage, the family and the Eucharist.
- A synod father asked “What are we doing here?” and stressed the synod is about the family, not other relationships such as homosexual ones [Except that here in the US we are dealing with same-sex unions which are attempting to legally redefine the family]. He also stressed that if the synod accepts the divorced-remarried issue, the Church effectively “supports divorce”.
- Another said the emphasis should be the sacrament of marriage, so the spiritual beauty of marriage is brought to the fore. Often the Church is not united around the “positive vision” of marriage and family. He said instability around marriage is “against its nature”.
- A synod father referenced St. Augustine, saying some of the baptized living in “irregular situations” don’t want to approach the Sacrament of Penance; he said the crisis of the family is a crisis of faith. He quoted 2 Timothy 4:2-5 [St. Paul’s solemn charge to preach in season and out]
- Another intervention noted the flock are too few, and that one should show respect for families which battle and try to remain faithful, those who in particular remain faithful to their marital vows given before God, although there are controversies and difficulties.
- A further intervention stressed that the Church has to defend that which God revealed about marriage and family and that the work of prelates is to support healthy families. A danger for families are “certain cultural currents,” as well as a sociological approach. In order to serve the family one has to take as the point of departure the word of God.
The Holy Father used his Petrine office to offer a rare intervention (speech) amidst the discussion. The Catholic World Report shares that:
In doing so, Pope Francis made clear two key points: the “continuity” between the work of the Extraordinary Synod and that of the Ordinary Synod; that thus far the only official Synod documents which enjoy full ecclesiastical approval are the two discourses he himself delivered at the opening and closing of the Extraordinary Synod last October, as well as the “Relatio Synodi” or final document of the Extraordinary Synod which he approved.
Translation: 1. All speeches that the Holy Father gives are considered official teaching with the final report and will be included in the documents of the Synod; and 2. The 2014 Extraordinary Synod and the 2015 Ordinary Synod should be seen as a continuous discussion and taken together in the Synodal Father’s considerations and discussions.
Closing Thoughts to Consider:
- The issue of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion, though doctrinally clear, seems to be a contentious subject among the Synodal Fathers who wish to offer real pastoral assistance to those who are unable to receive communion due to the irregular state of their marriage. Cardinal Péter Erdo reiterated the doctrine, quoting Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on the family, Familiaris Consortio, to close the discussion but that seems to have only stirred the pot.
- There is a fear among the faithful that the Holy Father may be a puppet or using his position to promote his own agenda and not that of the Church (I find that very hard to believe). It is important to remember though, that as Catholics, we have a very strict and clear definition of what papal authority is and what it may be used for:
Vatican I makes it clear that papal authority can really only be used for one purpose: unity…Papal authority cannot be used to promote favored papal causes, no matter how noble. It is to be used to keep the Church one and focused on the one true God. Vatican I is extremely clear on this point.
- It is important that we continue to pray for the Synod and its participants. I have no doubt that truth will triumph but how we hear it will be important. One of the great public affair disasters concerning the promulgation of Church teaching happened with the news frenzy related to Humanae Vitae…and that was before the internet. Be careful with the media and how they are reporting, regardless of the source. St. Thomas More, ora pro nobis!
Not for the Faint of Heart
Want more information on papal authority and how the synod is supposed to work? Check out these two documents:
 “Full Text of Cardinal Erdo’s Introductory Report for the Synod On the Family,” Cathlic News Agency, October 6, 2015, accessed October 7, 2015, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-cardinal-erdos-introductory-report-for-the-synod-on-the-family-67404/.
 John L. Allen, Jr., “Pope Francis Is Playing with House Money in Betting On the 2015 Synod,” Crux, October 7, 2015, accessed October 7, 2015, http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/10/07/pope-francis-is-playing-with-house-money-in-betting-on-the-2015-synod/.
 Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille, “’The Church has no authority…”: On the Limits of the Pope,” The Catholic World Report, October 5, 2015, accessed October 7, 2015, http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/4234/the_church_has_no_authority_on_the_limits_of_the_pope.aspx.