These lines confirm the idea that the working out of the pastoral tension between law and grace via mercy is precisely what the Synod is up to. In this light, one could propose an analogy of the following sort. Just as Vatican II proposed a posture of ecumenism after centuries of religious wars, perhaps this explicit "accent on mercy" is meant to address the real and painful culture wars of the last several decades – the "coming apart" which corresponds to patterns of family life more than to any other political or ideological factor. (See Lesthaeghe and Neidert for evidence on this.)
It could be that the Holy Father is a revolutionary after all, in search of a new kind of ecumenism to heal the division between left and right. We’ve grown so used to it that all we can do now is squint through our tired lenses of division –and we see the Synod itself through the same tired glasses. But this isn’t a wise path. The Church cannot be understood through categories of human chaos. She is rather the only lifeline out of the chaos – the only institution that can credibly promise a path to unity.
Catherine Ruth Pakalukis an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ave Maria University, a Faculty Research Fellow at the Stein Center for Social Research, and a Senior Fellow in Economics at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. Her research is focused in the areas of demography, gender, family studies, and the economics of education and religion.She also works on the interpretation and history of Catholic social thought. Dr. Pakaluk earned her doctorate in economics at Harvard University (2010). She lives in Ave Maria, Florida with her husband Michael and seven children.