During the Pope’s audience on Wednesday, 10th December, Pope Francis wanted to recount what the Synod on the family was and what had emerged from it.
“During the Synod – said the Pope- the media did their work — there was much expectation, much attention — and we thank them because their coverage was complete. So much news, so much! But often the vision of the media was somewhat in the style of sports events, or political coverage: often two teams were spoken of, for and against, conservatives and progressives, and so on”.
A few blogs I have analysed have often described the Synod as if it were a war with no bars held or an opportunity for presenting “campaign ideas”. Some even divulged news in bitter or mocking tones when they commented on opinions expressed by the bishops present at the assembly. Sadly, these Catholic bloggers had forgotten the sense of “communion” which should be felt on an occasion as delicate as this.
Before the Synod began there was already skirmishes: some blogs spoke of a “preventive war” when reporting about some books published by various cardinals. Then, as soon as the Synod was underway, there were insidious comments considering the possibility of their being “Antichrists” present at the assembly, insinuating or even naming certain cardinals in association to this hypothesis. I have found rather bold and even disconcerting conclusions such as “By now, the premise of second marriage has been fully accepted by the higher echelons of the Church”. Others even had the assumption that they could read the bishops’ minds and went as far as suggesting “an alternative way of innovation” because they viewed the campaign for a Catholic divorce as realistic”. The Pope had been given credit for giving his “full consent” on certain issues when he had not taken a position or aired his view at all. To add to this, there were provoking pictures like: “Even St. Paul speaks against the “ Relatio ante Discerptationem” or “in the ten linguistic circles, the Relatio ante Disceptationem is heading towards a massacre”. Others expressions were made really in football commentary style: “The bets are open on the next Synod”.
Nevertheless, the official documents from the Synod, as stated by the Pope, are only three and "there are no others to be found": The Final Relation , The Final message and The Final Speech (by the Pope himself).
Clearly, the bishops united together at a synod do not communicate as if they were in an electoral campaign. The aim is not to find a winner but to shed light on the revealed truth by Jesus Christ. There is no search for new principles, moreover it is a moment to understand, with the help of many contributions, how the unchanging principles that the Church has received by its Founder can be incarnated and applied to real situations. During his audience the Pope used the words cum Petro, sub Petro, that is, the guarantee of orthodoxy is in the presence of the Pope and under his authority.
On speaking of the Synod, the Pope stated: “The Synod Fathers were asked to speak frankly and with courage and to listen with humility”. Discussions, which arise within the Church, should not be feared, continued the Pope. He went on by saying: “The Apostles argued among themselves, because they were seeking God’s will about whether or not pagans could enter the Church. It was something new. Always, when God’s will is sought, in a Synod Assembly, there are different points of view and there is debate and this is not a bad thing! Providing it is done with humility and with the spirit of service to the assembly of brothers”.
In spite of the problems of communication which arose during the Synod either in the assembly itself (contrasts between the bishops) or outside (views, expressions and questionable declarations which could have wrong-footed or confused public opinion) it can be said that the dialogue, the collaboration and desire to shed light on certain issues (instead of opposing them) have prevailed. “All the Fathers were able to speak and all listened - continued the Pope- and that attitude of listening that the Fathers had was edifying. It was a moment of great freedom, in which each one expounded his thoughts with parrhesia and with trust”. According to the Pope, there were no clashes between groups like in parliament where everything is permitted but rather a discussion amongst bishops, the result of serious and constructive work which will continue for the good of the family, the Church and society as a whole”.
Men, as we know well, make up the Church, and it happens that some of them seek to be at the centre of attention, they do not accept the logic of God and act according to a purely human logic. The Church, however, is well aware of not being self-founded and is not guided through history by a few individuals who by merit, intelligence and prevarication impose themselves on others. The principles of the Church do not change with the times nor with the changing of members of her hierarchy, because the life of the Church has her foundations on the rock which is Christ (Mt 7, 24-2) and, in the words of John, it is “the Spirit of truth who will guide you into all the truth” (Io, 16,13). And it was on this very point that Pope Francis stated clearly that “no intervention has challenged the fundamental truth of the Sacrament of Matrimony that is: the indissolubility, the unity, faithfulness and openness to procreative life ” (Conc. Ecum. Vat II, Gaudium et spes , 48; Code of Canon Law , 1055-1056 ).This was not touched”.
The growing anticipation surrounding the Synod put some doubts among some Catholics on the future of the Church. Maybe what these Catholics were forgetting is that no person alone has the power to change or model the Church at will, that the Church does not belong to Cardinals, nor to opinion makers, to priests or even to the Pope but to Jesus Christ. And in light of this they should look at the current debate on the family as a “way” that the Lord has allowed, in its due course, to bring about what He really wants for the family.
The family is a precious entity which is important for the development of a more human society and which cannot escape the interest of God and the Gospel. It is important to place trust in the Synod (and future ones), which, according to the Pope, “are protected spaces where the Holy Spirit can work”. We must also place trust in the fact that the Disciples of Christ are never alone because Christ is and will be forever with them “to the very end of the age” (Mt 28, 18-20). Should we forget this, the holy purpose of defending the authenticity of doctrine may lead to rigidity or annoying views, and this could only result in clouding the minds and preventing a real dialogue to happen and thus compromising one fundamental aspect of the life of the Church i.e. Communion.
It is ironic to think that it is the very lack of communion what causes many family break-ups and that Holy Communion was one of the questions addressed at the Synod.