The Final Days of the Synod are Drawing In.

The Synod in Rome is well in to its final week. I am disappointed with the very limited coverage being given to the event by the Irish media in general. For ‘anoraks’ like myself there are numerous websites which give a blow by blow of everything that is happening. But for the average Irish person, I suspect there is very little awareness that anything at all is going on.
And that is a pity. Because I believe that the fall-out from this week – and it is too soon yet to be sure what that fall-out will be – will have implications for the Church for many a day and year to come. It is not quite on the scale of the Second Vatican Council, but in some aspects of Church life its implications could be equally dramatic, for better or for worse.
Because of the contentious nature of some of the topics being discussed at the Synod, a lot of guards have been dropped, and the mask of uniformity of views has been shattered, with deep divisions being publicly aired. It would seem also that personal animosities between senior Church people are coming out in the open. In other words, these cardinals and bishops are showing themselves up to be “like all other men”. That is healthy, and my hope is that the same tolerance of conflict and diversity of views will extend to the whole Church, and that openness to discussion and debate will be a regular feature of the Church of the future. But for that to be effective Church authorities will have to learn that attempting to limit the discussion, to exclude certain topics, will not work. Discussion has to be free and open or it does not work. In this Synod Francis is trying to model that type of Church, and his talk last Sunday at the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of Episcopal Synods as part of the governance of the Church, brought that out clearly. He wants this type of openness, characterised by ‘listening’ to be a feature of the Church at all levels.
Reading the speeches of some of the Cardinals at the Synod, it is clear that they are living in a parallel universe, a universe that is male, clerical and academic. Their language, and their way of thinking, is far removed from the reality of peoples lives. But that is not true of all. People like Mark Coleridge of Australia and Blaise Cupich of Chicago are refreshing for their openness and closeness to the lives of people. These are the ones most of all who are insisting that the Church needs to find a new language in order to really communicate with the people. Repeating the old formulas, using the old words and phrases is no longer effective. They realise that you cannot call homosexual acts “intrinsically disordered” without people hearing it as a judgment on themselves as persons. Equally that old chestnut – “hate the sin but love the sinner” – doesn’t work anymore, especially in the area of relationships and sexuality. Peoples’ actions are much more an expression of their inner selves that that sentence allows for.
The final action of this whole event — will there be a document or won’ t there, and if there is, what will be in it? — has yet to be played out. I await it all with great interest.