The Vatican announced yesterday that Pope Francis has called an extraordinary synod of bishops to take place Oct. 5-19, 2014, and will focus on the topic “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”
According to Robert Mickens in The Tablet:
“The announcement comes less than a week after the 76-year-old Pope held three days of inaugural meetings with his eight-member Council of Cardinals, a group he has assembled to advise him on governing the universal Church and reforming the Roman Curia. . . .
“Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, said on 2 October that Francis was interested in looking at the ‘anthropological theme’ that dealt with ‘the human person and the family in the light of the Gospel.’
“Today’s announcement of the Synod on the family – only third time that an extraordinary gathering is be held since the Synod of Bishops began meeting in 1967 – came as the permanent council of the Synod finished two days of regular meetings.”
John Allen, Vatican observer for The National Catholic Reporter, noted that he thinks at least one controversial issue might be raised during the meeting:
“Given the topic, the thorny pastoral question of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics is destined to arise. On other occasions, Francis has hinted at openness to a greater degree of flexibility on the issue, perhaps along the lines of the Orthodox tradition.”
While that is certainly an important topic and one likely to arise, I also wonder how the synod will address the topic of same-gender marriage and families headed by same-gender couples. While it is true that Pope Francis has asked bishops not to be obsessed with the topic of marriage equality, I can’t imagine that such a current and politically charged topic will not come up in such a forum.
Not only do we have Pope Francis’ recent “Who am I to judge?” comment and his positive remarks in theJesuit magazines interview, but earlier this year Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, called for protection of families headed by same-gender couples through the passage of civil union laws. So did Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, and Fr. Federico Lombardi, the pope’s spokesperson.
So, I turn to you, our faithful Bondings 2.0 blog readers, with some questions that I hope you will answer in the “Comments” section of this post:
- How should the bishops in synod address LGBT topics in this synod on marriage?
- How can bishops best prepare to discuss these topics in the context of the themes of family and evangelization?
- Would it be better if the bishops did not even discuss LGBT topics in this synod?
- Do you think that Pope Francis’ recent positive statements about lesbian and gay people will have a positive influence on the synod?
- If you were asked to address the synod, what would you tell them about marriage equality, LGBT people and families, and Catholicism?
- What are your hopes, dreams, fears concerning this synod?
Answer one, two, or more of these questions in your “Comment” for this blog post.
A synod will have a long-lasting effect on the future way that the Catholic hierarchy will address such issues because it will set firm policy about the way to handle these topics. Elizabeth Dias, writing in Time magazine, described the role of the synod:
“The Synod of Bishops is a general assembly gathering that was created as part of the Vatican II reforms, and regular (ie, non-extraordinary) synods meet every couple years. The synod’s role, Pope Paul VI said, is to examine ‘the signs of the times’ and ‘to provide a deeper interpretation of divine designs and the constitution of the Catholic Church’ in order to ‘foster the unity and cooperation of bishops around the world with the Holy See.’
“For Francis, issues of family and marriage are the ones that require deeper interpretation given the signs of the times, and dedicating a synod to the topic suggests he wants to unify church teaching about them. When local church offices around the world make their own decisions about marriage and family—especially about serving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics—the global church as whole becomes divided. ‘It is very important that an extraordinary Synod has been convoked on the theme of the pastoral of the family,’ Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi said. ‘This is the way in which the Pope intends to promote reflection and to guide the path of the community of the Church, with the responsible participation of the episcopate from different parts of the world.’ ”
With such an important mission, it will be important that the bishops hear from many Catholics, including those who support LGBT people and issues, so that all the voices of God’s people will be heard.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry