Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Synod: Does Austen misrepresent?

I have not shared the criticism that others have at times offered of Austen Ivereigh of Catholic Voices.

I do, however, feel that his second post at Catholic Voices Comment From the synod (2): Erdö speech seeks to frame the debate misrepresents two aspects of the Extraordinary Synod.
Under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, synods were conceived more as talking shops than deliberative bodies, intended to reaffirm existing doctrine and practice while bonding bishops to Rome and to (each) other. Attempts at debate were stifled, and displays of disagreement frowned on.
This is certainly grossly unfair towards Benedict XVI, who himself introduced changes to the way in which the Synod of Bishops worked, changes which laid the ground for what Pope Francis has now done in this regard. I recall, for example, Pope Benedict attending the meetings of the Synod on the Eucharist much as he might have attended many a conference in his previous role as an academic, even apologising to his fellow participants for missing one session as he needed to visit the dentist!. He also introduced a period of "free speeches" at the end of each day, during which Bishops could put down their names to share their thoughts with the whole body of the Synod. Summaries of these contributions were then published each day in the bulletin of the Synod. I think it is also fair to say that Pope Benedict's Apostolic Exhortation after the Synod on the Eucharist reflected much more the contributions made during the Synod than perhaps the Exhortations of Pope John Paul II, which had the form of a synthetic presentation of teaching.

It should also be pointed out that the nature of the Synod of Bishops was not "conceived" by either John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Its nature goes back to Pope Paul VI; and the process of preparing and circulating a Lineamenta ahead of a meeting of the Synod is not a novelty of Pope Francis.
In the afternoon, the synod heard from an Australian married couple who criticized church documents as complex and abstract.
This last sentence of Austen's post gives an impression that this couple "criticised" the Church's teaching for its complexity and abstractness. The full text of the couple's testimony is here (scroll down to find it, in English). What they actually said was:
Occasionally we looked at Church documents but they seemed to be from another planet with difficult language and not terribly relevant to our own experiences.
A footnote to this part of their testimony cited an example of re-writing the Pontifical Council for the Family's Charter of the Rights of the  Family in terms common to secular society in order to make it pertinent to that society. Later on in the testimony, there is a not dissimilar suggestion with regard to the teaching of Humanae Vitae. It is totally out of the context of the full testimony to give the impression that they are a couple critical of Church teaching. To get the full intent of this testimony, it is important to read the whole.

If I had been going to take one paragraph from their testimony to post, it would not have been the one Austen chose, but this one, from the end of the testimony:
....we resonate with the suggestion of one of our daughters regarding the development of what she calls a nuptial paradigm for Christian spirituality, one that applies to all people, whether single, celibate or married but which would make matrimony the starting point for understanding mission. It would have a solid biblical and anthropological basis and would highlight the vocational instinct for generativity and intimacy experienced by each person. It would remind us that each of us is created for relationship and that baptism in Christ means belonging to his Body, leading us towards an eternity with God who is a Trinitarian communion of love.

No comments: