I assume it was a plan to release a mid-meeting document from the synod. Why was it a surprise? Josephine McKenna at RNS reports on admitted “damage control,” or at least that’s what it looks like to Cardinal Wilfrid Napier:
The message has gone out, it is not what we are saying at all. Once it is out there there’s no way of retrieving it. It is not a true position. Whatever goes out after looks like damage control.
It’s not the final word and we’re going to have a lot to say about it. And there were some that said we probably in our final statement need to be much more assertive about the timeless teaching of the church.
Wait. Don’t we already know “the timeless teaching of the church”? A lot of people are aware the Church also teaches about love and mercy. Are participants looking at catechesis as a whole, or just favorite teachings they like to repeat and feel comfortable repeating?
Maybe some of the rest of the Church will have something to say about it all, too.
My understanding is also that this month’s meeting is a preliminary event to the full synod which gathers next Fall. October 2015 will have a significant word. Whether or not it will be “final,” is likely not under the control of any prelate or group of prelates.
Personally, I think it would be good to take several years to explore marriage and family by the people who practice it. I think that lay theologians would also have some significant things to say. I’m sure the bishops would get somewhat nervous if lay people suddenly took over seminaries and diocesan vocation offices. Maybe I would too. I’ve worked closely with priests for over three decades. I might have something constructive to say here and there. But I’m largely content to let clergy take responsibility for recruiting their own.
FrMichael’s insistence on keeping lay Catholics as breeding stock points to the poverty of “traditional” understandings of marriage and family. That would be true whether he has somewhat misrepresented Catholic teaching–which I think he has–or if his writings here constitute the state of theology. There has to be something more, otherwise Church legislation is a tangle of misconceptions (so to speak) and tortured justifications and just plain incomprehensibility.
Some synod commentators have mentioned there’s not enough being said on the couples who have been fruitfully married for decades. I thought those were the token two dozen invited to present to the bishops. But otherwise, yes: I think it would be worthwhile to gather significant input, and not just surveys online.
My own suspicion is that many married couples, both troubled and fruitful, do not recognize competence or credibility in many clerics, especially bishops. As for the October 2015 ordinary synod, my suggestion is that no prelate be permitted to speak or vote unless he has prepared a non-relation for marriage and witnessed at least one marriage. And if the synod is really about families, I think it’s time for more lay people to speak. We might also have something to learn from spouses who were abused, abandoned, or otherwise harmed by a partner.
Meanwhile, I’m fine with an open discussion. I have no problem, even, with letting bishops and cardinals speak up, even if they struggle with a perception of the topic. Even their ignorance tells us something, and might point in a good direction.