Germany’s Clout and Some Other Final Observations on the Youth Synod


National Catholic Register, 30 October 2018

COMMENTARY: Pope Francis desires a ‘poor Church for the poor,’ but in his papacy it’s the wealthy German Church that holds a privileged position.

VATICAN CITY — Unlike the twin synods on the family, where the refutation of doctrinal errors required vigorous disagreement, the recently concluded synod on youth proceeded amicably and without major confrontations, doing little good and little harm, though there is enough ambiguity in the final document for mischief-makers to make mischief.

Thus, there was no great drama at synod 2018. But there were notable moments along the way. Herewith some observations from being in Rome covering the synod.

  • For the third straight synod, there was a preferential option for the rich. Pope Francis famously dreams of a “poor Church for the poor,” but it remains only a dream in Rome. The best rule of thumb to figure out where the synod is headed is to follow what the German-language group says and compare it to what the French-language group with the African bishops says. There will be a lot of strategy and speculation, but the final result will favor the former and disfavor the latter. Such has been the case in this pontificate, even outside the synod, on Amoris Laetitia, liturgical translations and admitting Protestants to Holy Communion.

  • At the synod, the direction is provided by the wealthy and worldly Germans, and the drafting of documents is done by the slightly less wealthy Italians. So the Germans got what they always want in the final document, wiggle room on sex. Last time, it was divorce and remarriage; this time, it was homosexuality. The Italians craft texts with a certain artistry; the language can be given an orthodox reading, but with sufficient ambiguity to permit alternate readings.

  • Perhaps that it is why all the synod draft documents are circulated only in Italian, as that language permits a certain flexibility in meaning, as evidenced by how Italians understand such terms as vietato — “forbidden” — and subito — “immediately.”

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