by Deb Rose-Milavec
I am getting ready to board the plane for Cleveland again, glad to be heading home (my arms are aching for my grandbabies) — knowing that although it wasn’t enough, the bishops did bend in the final relatio.
Moreover, I am profoundly grateful for Pope Francis’s strong final message signalling who “better watch out” and also the ways he will continue to bring reform into reality. As I read his message in the Holy See press hall, tears streamed down my cheeks. I tend to weep when I hear the Good News. Blame it on my Grandma who raised a whole brood of children (9), my father and uncles included, who could cry openly at the sound of joy.
The bishops bend and the Germans helped
A very high-ranking person in your Church said to me once, “My church develops in this way. First, something is prohibited. Then it becomes allowed but only as an exception. Then the bishops see that this works very well and then it becomes admitted. And then it becomes compulsory.
~Ulla Gudmondson, Former Swedish Amabassador to the Holy See at Voices of Faith 2015 panel discussion
They didn’t get the whole shebang, but the German contingent accomplished a lot in the final relatio in terms of sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. And they did it with Cardinal Mueller in tow. I still can’t get over it.
Good for them. Good for the Church.
In an October 14th statement, Cardinal Marx made their intentions crystal clear, “we should seriously consider the possibility – based on each individual case and not in a generalizing way – to admit civilly divorced and remarried believers to the sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion.”
There were doubts they could accomplish it but some spotted it coming.
Paragraphs 84, 85 and 86, by far the most controversial, reflect the extent of their success.
In conversation with a priest, according to the synod’s final summary text, a person can become “conscious of [his or her] situation before God”- through the “internal forum.” This process, according to the text, may help a person discern what “prevents the possibility of fuller participation in the life of the church,” and to figure out what can be done to “make it [the participation] grow.” (In 1991, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ruled out the internal forum as a pathway for the divorced and civilly remarried to return to Communion.)
On Humanae Vitae, Gaudium et Spes is cited in paragraph 63.
The choice of responsible parenthood presupposes the formation of conscience, which is “the most secret core and his sanctuary, where he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (GS, 16).
It also recounts that many considerations go into family planning.
As I reported yesterday, Bishop Bonny suggested that the synod wasn’t ready to talk much about homosexuality. The final relatio reflects that.
One prelate suggested this topic deserved a separate synod. Given the Church’s out dated framework for sexuality, that is probably a useful idea.
1. The Church is to model the attitude of Jesus and reaffirms the dignity of every person regardless of their sexual orientation.
2. The church rejects marriage equality and any international pressure to conform the laws of other countries to the standard of marriage equality.
While qualifying the end goals of the synod saying it was not intended to settle all the issues, in his final remarks he made it clear where he stands in relation to those who draw hard lines.
About the synod work he said
1. It is about listening.
2. It is about getting dirty — having lively and frank discussions.
3. It is about trying to interpret new realities.
4. It is about laying bare closed hearts which frequently hide behind the Church’s teachings…who sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, the difficult cases and wounded families.
5. It is about rising above conspiracy theories or wearing blinders.
He also directed some specific correctives to his brother bishops.
1. The true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit.
The Trajectory of Change
I don’t know about you, but I think we are finally getting a few prayers answered.
Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has been chipping away at stodgy structures, corrupt edifices and teachings that had begun to dry rot. With the initiation of the 2-year synod, he set in motion a force for new life.
Why you and not them?
I still have all my hair, but there were times during these press briefings that I wanted to pull it out. I am sure I am too American with my cut-to-the-chase, say-something-real impatience, but today I thought, “If I hear one more prelate say how wonderfully well everyone was getting along at the synod I’ll run from the room screaming.”
Yup. Its time to go home, lay on the floor and color with the grandkids and catch a few toddlers in my arms.
Still, I sat up straight when Fr. Tom Reese asked a question of Brother Herve Janson, P.F.J. the prior general of the Little Brothers of Jesus (Foucauld).
Reese: Brother Janson, first of all, congratulations on being selected to be a member on the synod with full voting rights instead of just an auditor, but I’m trying to understand the rationale behind your selection. You are not a bishop, you are not a priest, you are not a deacon, you are not ordained, you are not a cleric. So theologically and canonically you are no different from the superior of a women’s religious order, except for your gender. So how exactly did you get in? What is the rationale for you being admitted to the synod and women religious not being admitted to the synod?
Of course, this uneasy question was raised ten days ago by Mary Hunt.
Still, Brother Janson responded with refreshing honesty. His French was simultaneously translated so the choppy English is due to the translation. James Martin, SJ probably has a better translation in his article.
Pope was admitting me. It showed the distinction between men and
women. There were only three women religious and they did not have
I wondered whether to accept or not.
synod. The question you [Tom Reese] asked, I asked myself and a cardinal.
I said, ‘we are brothers, we are religious people.’ I am not ordained. Having a voting right is too much — in regard to
our sisters. I think they should have a voting right.
Maybe it is also better to ask the superior generals. synod.
Now the truth will set this Church free.
It was actually beautiful to see this fellow sitting on the panel without clerical garb and feeling no compulsion to engage in clerical-speak.
Maybe this is a tiny opening.
This Church needs women religious voting and shaping practice and teaching. This Church needs other women and men who are not ordained voting and shaping our collective guidance.
As a matter of fact, at a German Press Conference I attended on the final night, Abbot Jeremias Schröder said the ten male religious superiors have decided to write to the Vatican suggesting that female religious also will be included with a right to vote at the synods to come.
Let’s hope they have success.