There are a few themes that seem to be emerging as important ones:
— Recognizing the “law of graduality,” which acknowledges that the Christian path toward holiness develops in steps and stages, and that immediate acceptance of church teachings (like the rejection of birth control) may be an unrealistic expectation.
— The church’s language on marriage and family issues should be welcoming and invitational, not absolute and off-putting.
— The annulment process needs to be simplified. There’s a strong case being made that many modern marriages may be invalid because couples lack the proper level of faith and understanding of the sacrament.
— Despite social changes, the nuclear family is not outdated and remains the ideal for societies around the world. In this sense, the synod seems reluctant to entertain the notion that the changing configuration of families may bring positive values and new opportunities.
— That no change in doctrine will be considered at this synod. We’ve already heard this proclaimed several times, though I’m not sure what it means. Doctrine develops in the church, just as people’s understanding of Scripture and revelation develop. I expect this point will be taken up more fully on the synod floor – but it’s too bad we on the outside may not hear much about it.
By giving journalists only a drip of information, the Vatican is clearly trying to give bishops the freedom to talk frankly and openly. It is also trying not to feed the media’s tendency to proclaim winners and losers, as if this were a legislative process with up and down votes.
Been thinking, how would this “gradualism” approach work, say, to priestly celibacy and chastity? If families can’t be expected to practice Natural Family Planning and adhere to the teachings of Humanae Vitae, but may be expected to come to this understanding gradually, how can we expect priests to accept fully the complete chastity and celibacy expected of them? Perhaps a gradual approach for them, too? (Just kidding, but you can see how “gradualism” can be misused.) Actually, not kidding, because perhaps some priests who have lost the faith but like the job do have sex lives and think that does not interfere with their being a “good bishop” or whatever.
A lot of the problem is a loss of faith. How does one impart a supernatural faith one does not have? How can this supernatural faith and the power of the Holy Spirit to live by the Spirit be transmitted?