Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Tuesday 03 August |
Saint of the Day: St. Martin
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

American Auditor Reports: In the End, a Church United

AP Photo Gregorio Borgia

Alice Heinzen - published on 10/20/14

After a rocky week, the Synod closes on a high note

Paragraph 2034 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are “authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.” (quoting Lumen Gentium, 25). 
The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.

It is fair to say that this statement fell under intense scrutiny with the release of the mid-term report from the Extraordinary Synod last Monday. Catholics who love their Church and work tirelessly to promote and defend it within the public square voiced a collective groan of anguish as they read the text of the interim report. The question that likely burst into the mind of most people was: “What is happening to our authentic teachers in Rome?”

Understanding this Extraordinary Synod and its proceedings begins with an explanation of its purpose. This Synod was to clearly identify the pastoral challenges facing families across the globe. It was not the task of this Synod to advance an agenda of change or to offer a laundry list of fixes. Participants had to look into the messiness of human existence and bring light to behaviors that are easier to ignore or deny than to examine. The bishops’ task was to listen.  

Perhaps, this is part of the reason why observers around the world thought the process was becoming unconventional and democratic. It is true that the proceedings were less formal and that open dialogue between the participants was encouraged. Voice was given to all who were invited; from those bearing titles like Blessed or Your Excellency to those referred to husband or wife. Small group discussions were remarkably open and frank, inviting insights from everyone around the table.

This is not to imply that the assembly was without leadership or without decorum. Governance and protocols were instituted as needed. But, the leadership was not one of oppression or lordship. Rather, it was based on servant leadership; laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn  15:13) which is the model of Christian family life.

The variations noted between this and past synods did not signal the enactment of a "majority rules" mindset. People were worried that "the squeaky wheel would be the one receiving the grease" in this environment. The faithful became frightened that the change in modus operandi during the past two weeks would surely mean that a change in doctrine would be forthcoming. And that panic was fueled by the unending spin following the release of a working document with no doctrinal authority.

Let your hearts rest easy. The truth is still the truth, charity is still our mission and there is reason to remain hopeful in the Catholic Church.

At the conclusion of the synod Pope Francis rose from his chair to address everyone. In his humble way, the Holy Father thanked us. He spoke of gratitude for the tensions that seasoned the proceedings because they were proof of the “animation of the Holy Spirit.” He assured us that the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness and openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48) must not be put into question or doubt.

Two of his concluding comments addressed the core of the controversy. He said, “the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church” and that

(my) duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ … through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply."

Alice Heinzenis the Natural Family Planning Coordinator in the Office for Marriage and Family Life in the Diocese of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. She and her husband, Jeff, who directs the Office, have been in Rome, attending the Extraordinary Synod on the Family as observers (auditors) at the invitation of Pope Francis.

Pope FrancisSynod on the Family
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Saint Mary of the Angels
Bret Thoman, OFS
All your sins will be forgiven if you go to a Franciscan church o...
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
Ary Waldir Ramos Diaz
1st Feast of Our Lady of Silence is August 1
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.