The Synod on the Family

Maybe I am being over-optimistic, but I am greatly encouraged by what I am reading about the first two days of the Synod.

Clearly Francis has created a very different mood and atmosphere from previous Synods. His encouragement to all speakers to speak their truth without fear, or without concern about what people might think of them, or if the Pope might be offended, is a great help. And it seems to me that it is already working.

Also, the contributions from the married couples so far have been way better than I had expected. I was afraid that they might have been carefully chosen to stoutly defend Church teaching. But this is not the case.  There is a groundedness and a closeness to reality that is refreshing. And the fact that they speak at the beginning of each session would appear to be helping the clerical speakers to also talk in simple language about life as it is lived, rather than parroting doctrine.

I am also encouraged by the appearance of the notion of what they are calling ‘gradualness’ — the idea that coming to a full understanding of Church teaching is a gradual process, and demanding that everyone live out the fullness of doctrine at every stage of life and in every circumstances is unrealistic,  It is great to see that idea re-emerging.  It was central to the moral theology that I was taught all those years ago, and also to our confessional practice in my younger days of priesthood. We were told not to expect perfection from people, not to lay impossible burdens on them, to listen carefully to the reality of their lives, and to encourage any signs of growth and development. As time went on, and as Church teaching began to be presented in more rigid and intolerant ways, it became harder to implement this approach to pastoral practice.  If it is restored as the normal pastoral approach, it will take a lot of the conflict out of Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.

Maybe there is hope for all of us yet, and most of all for the future of the Church