Thursday 8 October 2015

A Synod to speak freely and to listen without reservations

English: A Roman Catholic priest baptizes an i...
A Roman Catholic priest baptizes an infant as his parents look on. what about baptisism of children of gay people or same sex marriages? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Often referred as the "Pope John Paul II generation," or now the "Benedict XVI generation," the younger leaders today are often far more receptive to the principles articulated in twenty years old Apostolic Constitution that defined Roman Catholic colleges and created guidelines to assist them in fulfilling their missions, Ex corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church) issued by Pope John Paul II.

Coming together in Rome conservatives and more progressive cardinals do have to find a solution for the changes in our society and how the world today looks at marriage and gender relations. They can not ignore the changes that took place in civil society the last three decades. Several gender-problems did find the light but haven't yet find solutions.

We can see that the Roman Catholic church like always has found 'temporarily' local solutions. Yesterday in 'Koppen' on Canvas we could see how homosexual men are working as pastoral-workers in Belgium. Belgium has the problem that there are not only many homosexual priests, there are not  enough priests in the diminishing parishes. For that reason the Catholic Church accepted the transfer from other denominational clergy into their community and when those pastors were married they could keep their wife and family as a Catholic priest. Male who did not want to take on the priesthood no matter their gender feelings could become a pastoral co-worker and take office in parishes.

In the Ex corde were laid out rules for academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission but also the parish its intentions. Several Catholics in Belgium do find Pope Francis I his main interest in preaching the Gospel. Though many also urge Roman Catholic institutions to abide by traditional church teachings.

The Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family taking place on the theme "The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World" as the continuation of last year special synod on the family, may wind up in a situation similar to that one.

Many Cardinals made it already clear that no one should have to expect new church teachings or some changes in church doctrine. Though others expect that this time key leaders can not go around the agenda to emphasize "innovative" pastoral practice..

Pope Francis I wishes for an open discussion yielding a well-grounded unity, but it could well be that this synod may result in even more confusion and dissension.
To prevent this, some are looking upon the synod as a summons to return to the established teachings of the Church, to revert to Scripture and tradition, which were largely sidelined at the last synod. Critics of last year's meeting believe that, after years of poor catechises, doctrine must be reasserted and proclaimed, ending the false dichotomy underlying the notion that upholding the Church's teaching and practice somehow means being unpastoral. Jesus, they point out, took pity on the crowd, who were "like sheep without a shepherd," not by affirming them in their worldly thinking and values, but by first "teaching them many things."

There are several clergy who warn about false doctrine cloaked under the seductive guise of "innovative" pastoral practice. This is not new, of course, and no shortage of scriptural passages warn against it. Also not new is the passion shown during a synod, which can, at times, be wearying....

In the Catholic church today doctrine and pastoral theology seem to stand irreconcilably against each other never being able of reconciliation.  One reads about “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod?” and alleged manipulations and the now famous Cardinal Burke stated that the final report of the extraordinary Synod produced a
“gravely flawed document that does not express adequately the teaching and discipline of the Church and, in some aspects, propagates doctrinal error and a false pastoral approach” {Ideology or Faith?}
Being a Roman - Catholic priest and working in the fields of HIV and AIDS in Africa, the blogger of

God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE writes:
Pope Francis encouraged the participants of the Synod to speak freely and to listen without reservations. These are the basis of deliberation and discernment to find consent, to build bridges, to see realities, to encourage dialogue and to give Pope Francis the tools to extract what is needed for the development of the church. Synods are advisory boards – they are not a parliament and they should have the openness to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who – in my humble opinion – can’t work freely if there is nothing to reflect or to develop as everything must remain as it is. {Ideology or Faith?}

Lots of discussions have gone on the last few months about laity in church and gender issues. since the clergy sex-scandals in Belgium "Mercy" has been a much uttered word, though for many civilians this seems to work only from one site for the Catholic church. Many divorced people who wanted to stay in the Catholic Church and wanted still to be partakers of the sacraments, are often refused to take them.

Concerning the theology of marriage a lot of discussions found their way into the community. The government accepting gay marriage brought also forth that from those wanting to seal their bond of marriage, they asked for a marriage ceremony in church. Most churches refuses such actions but gay people still could find their way out by renting a priest and having a sacramental services in their own environment, which made it even cosier.

The above mentioned priest warns:
There is no need to build up theological barricades or fortresses to defend yesterday – look at Abraham and Moses and be aware that faith always means to set out trusting that God is in the lead. If one only holds firm what one knows already there is the danger that faith turns into ideology and that would be the worst outcome of any such church assembly.


Additional reading:

  1. Two synods and life in the church community
  2. A synod not leading to doctrinal changes because it is about pastoral attention
  3. Different assessment criteria and a new language to be found for communicating the faith
  4. 72 Synod Fathers on the topic “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world”


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