On that “questionnaire” and the Synod on the Family

Sandro Magister’s latest column at Chiesa has some interesting observations about the expectations of change regarding Church teachings on marriage, communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics and so on.  Here’s an excerpt:

In presenting the questionnaire to the press last November 5, special secretary of the synod Archbishop Bruno Forte said that the synod “must not decide according to the majority or follow public opinion,” but also added that “it would be mistaken to ignore that a certain segment of public opinion has a certain expectation.”

The proponents of the “grassroots” expectations are however enlisting in their support two expressions that often recur in the preaching of Pope Francis.

The first is that the pastors of the Church must have “the scent of the sheep.”

The second and more explicit one is that pastors must be able to walk not only before and in the midst of the flock, but also behind, “because the flock itself has a good nose for finding the way.”


All of this demonstrates the growing expectations in public opinion, inside and outside of the Church. Expectations of a change of Catholic teaching and practice not only on the question of the divorced and remarried, but on other aspects on the agenda today such as homosexual unions, the means of generating or adopting children, etc.

It can be predicted that these expectations of public opinion will become even stronger and more pressing when the synod meets for its first session in October, with the sole task of collecting proposals, since the formulation of concrete measures to be presented to the pope for the final decision has been pushed back to the second session of 2015.

There is therefore happening with this synod, as if by the deliberate choice of the pope and the hierarchy, what unexpectedly happened with Vatican Council II: its duplication in an “external” council, highly active in the media and responding to other criteria, capable of having a decisive influence on the true council.

One year ago, in one of his very last discourses as pope after the announcement of his resignation, Benedict XVI evoked those two parallel councils, which he himself had dramatically experienced in person, with words of dazzling clarity.

He said among other things:

“There was the Council of the fathers – the true Council – but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council unto itself, and the world perceived the Council through these, through the media.


Do you think the sheep are good at finding their way?

Also, what should the Catholic Church do about the discipline of marriage regarding the Orthodox, should unity ever come so close as to make this an issue.  Should they be forced, the way we former Anglicans were, to have all our irregular marriages go through Roman Catholic tribunals?

Are there thoughtful ways of resolving this?




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4 Responses to On that “questionnaire” and the Synod on the Family

  1. EPMS says:

    It is my understanding that the Orthodox position on this subject is based on the assumption that the Church’s power to “bind and loose” gives the Church the power to release someone from his or her marriage vows, even if the marriage is a valid one. This is also the premise on which the Catholic church exercises the Petrine privilege. So perhaps there is room for flexibility here, should “Church reunion” become a realistic possibility.

  2. Rev22:17 says:


    You asked: Do you think the sheep are good at finding their way?

    Well, there are the sheep and there are the goats….

    The true sheep, endowed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of baptism and confirmation and fully yielded to the lordship of Jesus, find their way very well indeed because the Holy Spirit always leads the yielded believer on the path of righteousness and holiness. These, however, may not constitute a majority of the membership, or even a majority of the clergy, of any Christian denomination. Here, I’m mindful of the words of Daniel Defoe in True-Born Englishman:

    Wherever God erects a house of prayer,
    The Devil always builds a chapel there;
    And ’twill be found, upon examination,
    The latter has the largest congregation.

    You asked: Also, what should the Catholic Church do about the discipline of marriage regarding the Orthodox, should unity ever come so close as to make this an issue. Should they be forced, the way we former Anglicans were, to have all our irregular marriages go through Roman Catholic tribunals?

    Let’s back up a step, because there’s a major fundamental difference between the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Communion, and consequently in the manner of reconciliation. There’s no basis to dispute apostolic succession in the Orthodox Communion, which therefore possesses valid sacraments (including holy orders). Thus, the manner of reconciliation will be totally different — and we saw a foretaste of this in the reconciliation of the former Sacerdotal Society of St. John Mary Vianney, which became the Personal Apostolic Administration of St. John Mary Vianney with nothing more than the pope affixing his signature to a piece of paper in January of 2002. There was no confirmation or chrismation of its members because its members were already validly confirmed. There was no Catholic ordination of its clergy because its clergy, including its bishop, already possessed valid orders. In the same way, the churches of the Orthodox Communion will simply become a sui juris ritual church lead by the ecumenical patriarch with nothing more than the stroke of a pen. There was no reception of individual members of the Sacerdotal Society of St. John Mary Vianney, nor will there be a reception of individual members of the churches of the Orthodox Communion. The only organizational question that’s “on the table” is that of whether, and how, to restore the sui juris ritual churches of the Byzantine Rite to their historic places within the present Orthodox ecclesial structure.

    This reality puts the question of marriages within the Orthodox Communion in a different context than that of Anglicans or Protestants who are in “irregular marriage” situations. When members of a group are coming into the full communion of the Catholic Church as individuals, each must meet the requirements for reception — that is, adherence to Catholic doctrine and discipline — even if they will form a new pastoral structure upon their reception. The situation with the Orthodox Communion, however, is different: its existing ecclesial structure will simply become part of the Catholic Church, and one cannot expect its leadership to agree to a discipline that would bar its members from sacraments that they now routinely receive. Further, the Catholic Church now accepts and recognizes the validity of all of the sacraments of the Orthodox Communion — even marriages that otherwise might be deemed irregular under Catholic canon law. Thus, there’s no doubt that reconciliation requires recognition of the validity and acceptance of the present Orthodox discipline by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. The question before the present council, therefore, obviously is how far this recognition and accommodation should go; that is, whether or not to extend it into the Roman Rite. A refusal to extend such a discipline to the whole church might be very difficult to explain in a rational manner — but the other reality is that the present tribunal process, as foreboding as it seems to the uninitiated, is very pastoral, helping those whose attempts at marriage have failed to examine the failure and thus to have a better chance of success if they attempt marriage again.

    For those who are not aware, I should point out that the Orthodox Communion does not simply allow anybody to remarry after a divorce. Rather, there is a process — but it’s much simpler than the Catholic process (and probably a lot less thorough), occurring within sacramental confession.

    That said, the fact that this issue is “on the table” is a very good indication of the progress of ecumenical dialog with the Orthodox Communion.

    You asked: Are there thoughtful ways of resolving this?

    I’m sure that there are. The challenge before the upcoming synod with respect to this issue clearly is to figure out the best way to do so.


  3. Pingback: On that “questionnaire” and the Synod on the Family | Catholic Canada

  4. Victor Bonno says:

    The implosion of the faith says, “No”

    The state of the faith is like the Gordian Knot, and there are three typical ways Catholics respond to it: 1. They add to the knot. 2. They think they can un-knot and pray fastidiously to Our Lady Undoer of Knots, 3. My favourite, put a sword through it. Though this is extremely hated by the other two.

    It must be all these hirelings in cathedrals and their supporters. Oh, well.

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