Austen Ivereigh’s take on the extraordinary synod

263Interesting analysis by the founder of Catholic Answers in the UK.

What did we learn? That the final relatio had a lot more Scripture and Church teaching in it, and struck a more hopeful note, than the midway document; and that there were a couple of significant changes on contested questions (on which, more shortly). But mainly that the final relatio closely followed the earlier one in seeking for the Church a much more pastoral, nuanced, loving language in dealing with people and situations who fell short of, or outside, the Catholic Church.

That this isn’t just a shift in style, but involves, as I explain in the Guardian, the coming together of the doctrinal and the pastoral, the centre and the periphery, in such a way that whole face of the Church is changed. Francis puts it best in his masterful address to the Bishops after they voted: “This is the Church,” he says, “the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wounds, who doesn’t look down on humanity from a castle of glass in order to judge or classify people.”

We also learned that – with apologies for burying the lede – this new missionary, pastoral focus was massively endorsed by Bishops and Cardinals from 114 regions in every corner of the planet, who voted for all but a handful of paragraphs by majorities of 170:20, as a result of which the Synod has given a great green light for a year-long review of a huge range of complex and contemporary pastoral issues. Volonte commune? It would be hard to imagine a better example.

Yet, as Cardinal Vingt-Trois foresaw, the Synod has still been reported largely in terms of conflict, of winners and losers: the initially triumphant liberals making an early surge, only to be pulled back by an aggressive conservative counter-attack, leaving gays and the divorced disappointed. But there were never any liberals in this Synod, if by “liberal” is meant one who seeks to adapt Church teaching to modernity. All the Synod fathers were looking at different ways of promoting, not diluting, the indissolubility of marriage and its conjugal, open-to-life, faithful, sacramental nature.

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