John Thavis on the Synod

Veteran Vaticanista John Thavis blogs on the synod:

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— Despite social changes, the nuclear family is not outdated and remains the ideal for societies around the world.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?



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to John Thavis on the Synod

  1. Will Roper says:

    I think what people might be overlooking is that “gradualism” is an observation, not a goal.

    From Kempis to Kolbe, our spiritual tradition speaks often in terms of “don’t be surprised by your failures, God sometimes allows you to fall to teach humility, harshness towards self works less well than patience, etc.”

    If that is what is meant by the “law of graduality” then it is nothing new, and should be more clearly proclaimed by the Church.

    What cannot be proclaimed, however, is an idea that one can be content with a perpetual stop at one stage in the gradual growth in holiness.

    “God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.”

  2. EPMS says:

    It’s my observation that people “gradually” see positive elements in the Church’s teaching on birth control once they get past reproductive age. Up to that point rejection is well-nigh universal.

  3. Macy says:

    Well said, Will Roper.

    The point is accepting the Church’s teaching as good, not how well one conforms to it. No one conforms to it fully. But what would be the point of taking communion if you disagree with some aspect of the teaching and have no intention of confessing related sins.
    There seems to be some suggestion around that the “law” (?) of gradualism allows one to take communion without confessing sins. Perhaps there should be more emphasis put on the fact that taking communion is a declaration of believing Church teaching. A divorced and civilly remarried person presents himself for communion? One can only assume that he is striving to live chastely with his spouse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s