The Synod on the Family has ended

Now that the Synod has ended there is great debate among the commentators as to who were the victors and who the losers, — while the official line is that type of talk is all wrong, that it is suited to the world of politics, not of meetings of Church leaders. I’m afraid it would take a lot of convincing to get some of us to believe that there is no politics among Church leaders. There seemed to be a good bit of it during the past three weeks, and some of it particularly nasty, examples being the letter to the Pope by the thirteen cardinals, and the rumour that the Pope has a brain tumour.

I was pleased with the final document, not that it had everything I would have wished, but that it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. It showed some degree of openness, and, more importantly, it left issues sufficiently alive for Francis to say further on them when he produces a document. And judging by his final statement to the Synod on Saturday evening, which I loved, his document could be really interesting, maybe even on the same scale as Evangelii Gaudium.

Maybe more important than any findings from the Synod was the process itself. Clearly many of the bishops were uncomfortable with open discussion, but Francis sees it as the way the Church needs to operate in the future, with Synod style gatherings happening at all levels, from parish up. This is another example of Francis stealing the ACP’s best ideas. We have been calling for a synod of the Irish Church for the past five years. And I find it ironic that the two Bishops Martin, who are now so enthusiastic about the process they have been through in Rome, showed no interest whatever in our proposal, and wouldn’t even meet and talk to us about it.

Of course the big problem with what happened in Rome for the last three weeks was the absence of women. All right, there were a number there as observers or consultors, but they did not have a vote. The official Church position has always been that only ordained ministers could vote. But it has now emerged that there was an exception to this. There was a man at the Synod who is the head of a religious community of Brothers. In Church terms, religious brothers come under the category of ‘lay’ person. There were also three women, who, like the brother, were heads of religious communities of women. The religious brother had a vote; the religious women had not. There was no difference between them in terms of status within the Church. So, the only difference was that he was a man, and they were women. It was a particularly blatant example of the Church keeping women in their place, subservient, and with no input into decision making.
Unfortunately, this is the one area in which Francis is particularly weak, and I have no doubt that the unequal position of women in the Church is going to be the big stumbling block for the foreseeable future. So there is still a lot of work to be done.