As the last week gets underway, it’s time for everyone to take a breath
That isn’t an actual news headline, but it might as well be. As I follow the events of the synod in Rome, now beginning its third and final week, I am amused, amazed, and confounded at the hype and speculation some observers have heaped upon us sincere bystanders. Depending on whom you listen to, it seems the gates of hell just might actually prevail against our beloved Mother Church.
We’ve already heard the alarms of extremist agendas forcing a predetermined outcome—“lettergate”—and other warnings of impending doom that have even resulted in a call for conservative bishops to walkout of the synod in protest of the “confusion and scandal” Pope Francis has allegedly created.
I propose we all take a deep breath, step back for a moment, and remember what the purpose of the synod is to begin with.
The goal of a synod is not to be a harmonious love fest where everyone agrees on everything. What would be the point?
A synod, due to its very purpose, will result in uncomfortable debates as problems are discussed, because in order to reach the right solutions, all sides must be heard, even the most extreme ones. St. Thomas Aquinas would test philosophies in this very manner, calling for the best arguments his opponents could provide and holding them in contrast to the light of truth and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit works this way. He guides us and inspires us, despite our imperfections and disagreements with each other. This has happened throughout the history of the Church, even in regard to deciding which books would become the Bible as we know it today. Two of our greatest and first saints, Peter and Paul, preached the same good news but did not always agree on procedures. In fact, they disagreed quite a bit.
It makes sense, then, that in this current synod the participants are pushing each other out of their comfort zones as they listen to proposed ideas for solutions and contrast those ideas against the light of truth.
It all reminds me very much of the work marriage requires. Ever have an argument with your spouse? A lot of times they’re not pretty. They might get really tense and uncomfortable, but the only way to resolve the issues is to talk about them. If you ignore them, they get worse. Marital challenges are not meant to drag the couple down or cause deep divides; they are supposed to be a springboard to a new level of married love. Each spouse states his or her opposing opinion, and they debate and resolve the problem together. In doing so the couple grows in love and appreciation for each other. I think that’s precisely what’s going on in Rome.
We Catholics are a motley crew, a collection of sinners and saints who have to live with each other. We know and understand that the teachings of Christ upheld by the Church cannot be changed, and we are all called to follow those teachings as closely as we can.
Calls for different language regarding our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction, or discussion on communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics will make some people bristle and wince before the conversation even starts. But remember, it’s a discussion. We’re trying to resolve our problems, so we have to talk about them.
My bottom line? Let’s step back from assuming we know what’s going to happen and let the Holy Spirit do his work. Instead of demanding things go as we believe they should, let’s give the synod fathers some breathing room. And keep them as close to Christ in prayer as we can.
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