It is now one week into the Synod of the Family. Those attempting to stay attuned to updates day-to-day may be easily disheartened by the direction of the reports. The Synod opens the box on a lot of so-called hot button issues surrounding the family that culture warriors have fought hard to ensure a clear message from the Church. The participating bishops are going to be considering all these areas identified to lay the framework for a follow-up Synod in 2015. Those who have strived hard to raise holy families in accordance with Church teaching and uphold those views may feel slapped by the number of issues that Pope Francis is allowing to be discussed – co-habitation, communion for the divorced and remarried, etc.
I would try to take this occasion to remind us all that we are Catholics not because of the human achievement of maintain doctrinal consistency for 2000 years, but because of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and protection from error. It’s simply impossible for the Church to err and so we should prayerfully applaud our shepherd’s willingness to take on these challenges so that Church teaching can find its right footing in the context of the realities of 21st Century Western lifestyles. All the framing remarks and actions made by the Holy Father in the lead up have been clearly aimed not at boosting church membership, or enforcing doctrine, but to strengthen the Christian family. This means defining the Christian vision against all other proposals in the global intellectual marketplace.
Even the most “liberal” positions being voiced at the Synod have made clear that they have no intention of changing doctrine and are asking whether any disciplinary shifts need to be made to welcome and lead the flock toward a more practical and grander vision of Christian family life. The bishops will be obligated to work within the continuity of the teachings of Christ and His Apostles so no decision can be made which reverses what Jesus would do. The discussions are also somewhat sequestered from the media so there shouldn’t be much interference from outside voices at this time. Nonetheless, the media can interfere by setting the wrong expectation that somehow the Church will change her teachings. We saw this happen to Pope Paul VI at the issuing of Humanae Vitae. Ironically, the same Pope will be beatified at the closing of the Synod. Thus let’s take heart in the powerful guidance of the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, the intercessions of the Holy Family, and Pope Paul VI that this Synod will build the foundation for a stronger vision of the human family.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.