Two big problems facing the Synod on the Family

I believe that next October’s second session of the Synod on the Family will go a good way towards defining Francis’ papacy, either as a time of real reform in the Church, or alternatively a major disappointment for those of us who think that reform is necessary, indeed essential. But it will not be easy to bring any coherent, meaningful changes out of the Synod. There are two areas in particular that will be central to the success or failure of the event.

The first one is the question of the Church and the LGBT community. The first session of the Synod promised much in this area, but then pulled back. It is good to look at the current teaching of the Church. This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which present homosexual acts as acts of great depravity, Tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered’. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can be be approved.”
It goes on to state that: “Homosexual person are called to chastity”.

It seems to me that, while this teaching remains in the Catechism as the official Church position, it is hard to see how much progress can be made. If the result of the Synod amounts to a statement along the lines that, while we regard your expression of love as intrinsically disordered, in our kindness we welcome you into our community, but not to our Eucharist unless you are celibate, this will amount to little or no change, and will probably be seen as patronising, or even insulting, by the LGBT community.

But if the Synod initiated a process of taking this offensive language out of the Catechism there would be uproar from the traditionalists.

The second problem has to do with Humanae Vitae, and the Church teaching on the use of artificial contraception. Francis broke new ground in this Synod process by consulting the faithful. The answer that came back from people on this subject was clear and decisive. The consensus of the faithful is that they do not find this teaching credible. If the Synod makes no move to change the teaching, and if Francis continues to say that Paul V1 was prophetic, then a great many of the faithful will react by wondering what was the point of asking for our opinions if you blatantly ignore them.

But again, if the Synod decides to, for instance, set up a commission to review that encyclical, the traditionalists would be up in arms again.

These are two of the issues that I anticipate will cause major problems when the bishops gather in October. We still do not know if there will be much or any lay participation. A strong lay voice, maybe especially a strong female voice, would be the best chance of change happening.