George Weigel has a great post-synod analysis for all those of us who have not become tired of how extraordinary it was in so many ways, not all of them good.
The Process. Throughout the synod, concerns that synod process was being manipulated by the general secretary, Cardinal Baldisseri, in league with Archbishop Bruno Forte, the Italian theologian who was the synod’s special secretary, were routinely dismissed as conservative conspiracy-mongering, even by typically sensible Vaticanisti (and there are a few). That was not the tale told by numerous synod fathers, however, and it was clearly their frustrations with the process that led to the blowup of October 16 and the subsequent release of the reports of the debates in the synod’s language-based discussion groups, which revealed sharp and extensive disagreement with the line taken in the interim report prepared by Forte.
What was defective with the process? Numerous things. The pope had called, appropriately, for an open and freewheeling debate, which was not altogether characteristic of Catholicism’s experience of synods since the institution was established during Vatican II. But the synod secretariat declined to release the texts of the synod fathers’ interventions during the first week when the fathers, auditors, and observers spoke to the entire assembly. Summaries of the debates released by the Vatican Information Service (presumably under the direction of the synod secretariat) and more than a few of the synod’s daily press conferences were criticized for being exercises in spin rather than accurate renderings of the breadth of the discussion. Those who suggested that more-honest reporting was in order were slapped down, and more than a few synod fathers came to the conclusion that, as one put it, manipulation of the proceedings was both “manifest and inept,” in the sense of being both obvious and, so to speak, stupidly obvious.
But it was Forte’s interim report that really put iron into the spines of many synod fathers. That report was supposed to be a snapshot of the principal themes of the first week’s debates in the general synod assembly, which were to be further explored and refined in the language-based discussion groups during the synod’s second week. But Forte crafted it as a draft final synod document, highlighting issues that would be of greatest interest to an international media eagerly awaiting the Great Catholic Cave-In to the sexual revolution—and found himself, and the interim report, essentially disowned by Cardinal Péter Erdő, the synod’s relator (or official summarizer), at the press conference at which the interim report was presented.
As one language-based discussion group began its deliberations, one member asked the others, with respect to the Forte-crafted interim report’s language on pastoral approaches to persons with same-sex attraction, “Did you hear any of this last week?” He got a unanimous negative reply. The interim report’s adoption of the language of the LGBT insurgency also came in for serious criticism, with synod fathers insisting that the Catholic Church does not describe human beings by their desires, whatever they are, and that doing so contradicts the rich Catholic anthropology of the human person, most recently articulated by John Paul II in his inaugural encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, and in his theology of the body.
That’s just a tiny taste. Go on over and read the whole thing.