A key moment in Church history: Your voice is needed
While our media headlines here have been full of the Oscar Pistorius sentencing and the Dewani trial, the Synod on the Family has been creating headlines worldwide.
This Synod grabbed the attention of the world for several reasons. It dealt with matters which impact all of us in one way or another; it gave us a window into the way the church operates and into the different worldviews which exist within the magisterium of the church; it allowed ordinary Catholics (and indeed the world) to see that the Bishops have different views and that we have embarked on a journey to try and collectively discover and respond to God’s leading in the context of our faith and the society in which each one of us has to live it.
Many people are disappointed that the final Synod document did not go nearly as far as the summary report (relatio) midway through the process had suggested it might. The “earthquake shifts” in relation to the church’s attitude and pastoral response towards divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, and same-sex relationships that seemed a possibility mid-way through the process did not happen. The progress so far in relation to issues such as allowing people who have remarried to receive the Eucharist, or welcoming homosexual people and recognising the value of their relationships, has in the end been slight, as the most helpful paragraphs proposed did not make it into the final document itself. Nevertheless the Synod gives great reason to hope. Francis (breaking with 49 years of tradition), insisted that all the paragraphs proposed, even those which were not voted into the final document, be published along with the votes of how many cardinals had voted for each. The tallies show that three controversial articles, including two which dealt with the remarriage and communion issue and one which concerned the welcome and valuing of homosexual people, were voted for by more than half of the cardinals but did not get the two thirds majority required.
The Synod document is not the end. This is a starting place for further dialogue. The Pope reminded all in his speech at the closing, “Now 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.” In a year’s time the Synod will convene again. In the meantime, we as the worldwide church are being invited to continue the journey of dialogue, reflection, and prayer. From the initial survey questionnaires, where for the first time laity were broadly consulted before a synod, this has been a different kind of process, one in which our voices are needed and invited. All of us, especially laity who through personal experience know the joys and pains of family life of many varieties, must take up the challenge now. If we do not we cannot complain in a year’s time if the outcome of the Synod does not help us in the living of our faith. The coming year is critical. We need to continue to pray but also to take responsibility to find practical ways to contribute the fruits of our prayer and dialogue to the process of communal discernment the whole church is now officially engaged in.