Now that some time has passed since the end of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, I must admit that I am still somewhat perplexed by what happened, and how the Church’s public image panned out before, during, and after it. The topics discussed were, in my mind, all pretty much settled issues with regard to Church Teaching. That does not mean that people’s lives are settled or lived totally in line with that Teaching, which is why I thought the Synod was called. In my mind, there was no reason to be debating the Teaching, but only how we can present that Teaching to a broken world. The Grace entrusted to the Church is the source of healing that the world needs.
I have to admit that my dismay began in the weeks prior to the gathering when certain statements contrary to Church Teaching were being as a possibility, and by prelates of very high rank. The statements being made were not of the ilk, “This is our Teaching so how do we pastorally apply it?” Rather, it seemed the Teachings were open for debate. Of course, being a good academe, I realized that healthy debate is required in order to arrive at healthy pastoral practices. The problem in my mind was that it did not seem to be ordered toward healthy discussion and debate, but toward egoistic division. Rather than seeing a move toward unity, as time passed it became clear that what could have been healthy debate resulted in divisiveness.
When the participants arrived in Rome, my hopes were, now that the cantankerous and divisive part of the discussion had occurred, the troops would unify around the Teachings that already existed regarding Marriage and Family. It was a perfect opportunity to present those Teachings because the world was watching. In this regard, our secularly dominated world needs an infusion of strong pastoral leadership in the ways of Jesus Christ. As I mentioned in a post on September 12, Catholics, and people in general, are thirsting for authentic leadership and direction, and, in the absence of legitimate leadership, will listen to whoever is speaking.
Unfortunately, as the Synod unfolded, the cantankerous continued, division ensued, and the participants allowed the secular media to shape the public image of the gathering. The image of a divided leadership is now entrenched in the minds of people around the world, and many do not believe we can be clear in what we Teach. Indeed, people will listen to whoever steps up to the microphone, and in this case it was the secular voices. Even though the Church did speak in the end, it was not presented as something settled, and that the divisions would continue. At some point in the near future, we need a unified and strong presentation to signal that the Church is One and Catholic in Her Teaching. We need an image that presents this Teaching as a source of healing for what is broken in our world. Hopefully this process will begin before the next gathering in Philadelphia in September 2015 and at the full synod next October.
As a sign of hope, Archbishop Chaput, who will be hosting the next gathering, recently stated that he “was very disturbed by what happened” at the Synod. He continued his remarks by reminding us that “confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion.” I applaud his honesty and his political incorrectness, which more in the Church hierarchy will have to begin espousing if we are to have any chance at healing broken families. We are not the Church of political correctness, but the Voice of Christ speaking to a broken world. We must remember that to fix what is broken requires those who do the fixing to know what the fixed item should be like. The secular world has been actively trying to normalize our brokenness, which only makes the task for the Church all the more urgent. We can no longer pretend the secular onslaught is not happening, which means we must not present ourselves as being concerned with being politically correct.
Anyone who followed the secular spin as the Synod unfolded was presented an image that the Church was finally getting on board with the modern way of thinking, that is, She was ready to normalize broken families. The image painted was that this out of touch, medieval institution finally had leaders who were ready to update their antiquated way of thinking. When the final statements did not support that image, the participants were portrayed as black hats vs. white hats, and the black hats prevailed – for now. St. John Paul II, throughout his pontificate, gave the Church the blueprint for healing families, and there is no need to change that blueprint. From this point forward, we need to be discussing the best way to implement the blueprint. Because the secular want to divide and conquer, there can be no division. With each passing day, all the leaders in the Church need to let the world know that Jesus Christ is the answer and the Splendor of Truth He has revealed is immutable. The Mother and Teacher of that Truth is the Roman Catholic Church. May the Healing and Sanctifying Grace entrusted to Her as the source of healing be the salve for our broken world.