Friday, October 9, 2015

Synod - Week 1

I have no more idea than the next person what may be transpiring in the Synod's deliberations. As the very knowledgeable John Allen wrote only yesterday: "We’re not really covering the synod at all. For the most part, we’re covering people telling us about the synod, which is an entirely different enterprise."

That said, we do at least have the first reports from the small groups that have been meeting this week. Four of them have been English-language groups, each of which has issued its short report (relatio). Of course, without reading the reports of  the other language-groups, I obviously have no way of knowing how typical the concerns expressed in the English-language groups are of the concerns expressed by the Synod Fathers as a whole. But, based on the limited sample afforded by the English-language groups, some patterns have emerged.

Across the board there seems to be some dissatisfaction with the Synod's working document (Instrumentum Laboris). Circulus Anglicus A was concerned about "the overly bleak description of the contemporary scene" and called for more attention "to theological reflection on the faithful, loving married couple and family, who, so often heroically, live an authentic witness to the grace of the the family." Similarly, Circulus Anglicus B said "the analysis of the difficulties which the family faces was too negative," and likewise witnessed to families who daily "try to make god's dream their dream." Circulus Anglicus C called for "a less negative reading of history, culture, and the situation of the family at this time." Admittedly, that comment could be interpreted in more than one way, but the relatio also called attention to "remarkable families, many of them Christian, heroically so at times." Finally, Circulus Anglicus D suggested "the IL should begin with hope rather than failures because a great many people already do successfully live the Gospel's good news about marriage."

So, there seems to be some consensus (at least among the English-speaking Synod Fathers) favoring a more positive presentation focusing on the theology of marriage and family and how to live it in today's world. Circulus Anglicus A wanted a more scriptural and Christocentric presentation. Circulus Anglicus B insisted that "analysis should always look through the eyes of faith, and not remain simply sociological analysis." And, Circulus Anglicus D described the IL as "flawed or inadequate, especially inits theology, clarity, trust in the power of grace, its use of Scripture and its tendency to see the world through overwhelmingly Western eyes," (That last point was another common theme. Thus, Circulus Anglicus A was concerned about "an overly Euro-centric or Western mindset in the current wording.)

On the other hand, Circulus Anglicus C warned against "the danger of lapsing into an idealized, removed, and disembodied sense of family ... which can end up inhabiting a somewhat bloodless world rather than the real world of families in all their variety and complexity." And Circulus Anglicus B noted "the inadequacy of the pastoral support that families receive from the Church on their itinerary of faith." The various reports also called for greater attention to families with particular difficulties - e.g., disabled members and migrants.

So, overall, there seems to be a serious desire to see a greater emphasis on supporting families in their challenging vocation, even in spite of the many socio-economic and political problems families face, and a desire that such an emphasis should be more explicitly religious rather than sociological and less preoccupied with narrowly Western, "Euro-centric" concerns.

It should be an interesting next two weeks!

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