A healing Synod?
Catholic Herald, 27, October 2018
The Youth Synod has gone better than many thought – so far
As the youth synod draws to a close this week, it appears that some of the wounds from the synods of 2014 and 2015 on the family have been healed. Those highly divisive synods caused a widespread diminution of trust in the synod process. Trust destroyed is difficult to fully restore, but accounts from the synod participants indicate that it may have been recovered to some degree.
This synod on youth has been remarked by voices across the board as being a more joyful and more lively experience than in the past. This is usually attributed to the presence of some three dozen youth “auditors” in the hall alongside the bishops. Their enthusiasm – expressed in applause and cheering that would disturb prelates who snoozed through the interminable speeches in years previous – has been a decisive factor.
But there is more to it than that. Synods have been generally rather scripted affairs, often with disputed points obscured rather than aired in open discussion. Pope Francis changed that with his twin synods of the family, encouraging “parrhesia” – frank speech without fear or favour. Yet at the same time there was significant protest against the “manipulation” of the family synod, with its managers attempting to steer it towards changing the Church’s sacramental discipline on divorced Catholics living in invalid marriages. Eventually, led by a revolt by some of the most senior cardinals, the synod did not endorse that proposal. In the event, Pope Francis moved towards it anyway in Amoris Laetitia, albeit with careful enough ambiguity to make plausible an orthodox reading of the text itself, if not its intent.
It was the conclusion of the family synod though that rubbed salt in the wounds of conflict. On October 24, 2015, Pope Francis gave one of the signature addresses of his pontificate as the synod concluded. These were not off-the-cuff remarks, but came from a carefully prepared text, distributed to the media in multiple languages. And with some of the most senior bishops in the Church before him, he characterised those who disagreed with changing the teaching of St John Paul’s Familiaris Consortio and Veritatis Splendor as seeking to throw rocks at the suffering.
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