December 9, 2015

What Really Happened at Synod 2015

Synod on the Family 2015

In the January 2016 issue of First Things, Ethics and Public Policy Center Distinguished Senior Fellow George Weigel offers a close examination of this fall’s Synod on the Family in Rome. Here is an excerpt from Mr. Weigel’s essay:
The contest over the Catholic Church’s response to the sexual revolution, which involves basic questions of the Church’s self-understanding and the Church’s pastoral approach to mission, will continue long past the most recent Synod on the Family. Nonetheless, the arguments abroad in Rome during the meeting, and the way the great majority of them were resolved in the final report, reinforced the doctrinal and theological foundations on which that contest must be fought, claims to the contrary from those who lost most of what they were seeking in Rome notwithstanding. To put all of that into a clearer focus than was available in October through the smog of the mainstream media and blogosphere, attention must be paid to what actually happened.
Game Changers
Long before the synod fathers began assembling in Rome, it was clear that many of them were deeply concerned about the working document (the Instrumentum Laboris, hereafter IL) they had been given. In the months after it was made available last summer, the IL was severely criticized for numerous deficiencies. The first had to do with structure: Why did an ecclesial document begin with sociology— and not very good sociology — rather than the Word of God? Shouldn’t the latter be the first thing reflected upon, so that the kaleidoscopic crisis of marriage and the family today would come into a sharper and appropriately Christian focus?
Many synod fathers also found the language of the IL dull and uninspired, as if the Church, confronted with the cultural tsunami of the sexual revolution, had run out of intellectual gas and pastoral nerve and was mildly embarrassed by its teaching — especially the teaching of Veritatis Splendor and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, neither of which was prominently featured (to put it gently) in the IL. There were also thought to be dangerous ambiguities in its discussion of pastoral practice; on that front, more than a few episcopal eyebrows were raised by the fact that the synod general secretariat had ignored its own ground rules by inserting into the working document for Synod 2015 material that was not in the final report of Synod 2014.
Click here to read the full article.
During the synod, Mr. Weigel also wrote regular dispatches from Rome as part of “Letters from the Synod,” a partnership of First Things, the Catholic Herald in the U.K., and the Catholic Weekly in Australia. Click here to access the full archive of letters.

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