The ” relatio post disceptationem” document read to the synod yesterday by Cardinal Erdo has made the headlines and inspired extensive commentary worldwide. LGBT and other progressive Catholics are enthusiastic, the conservative, rule – book and holier than thou blogs are enraged. It’s important to remember though, that in its content, this is only a preliminary document. The final version, which must still be agreed by a majority of the synod, could be very different – or could vary only in detail. Even that will not be final. That will be distributed worldwide for further discussion, and then considered again at next year’s synod.
But beyond the detail and what is said, even if it is changed, there’s another reason to be excited about this remarkable document, and that is the entire process behind it.Unlike the previous synod, where JPII effectively told the bishops what to think about marriage and family and brooked no dissent, Francis has taken the opposite approach. He has contributed little to the proceedings directly, and encouraged openness and frankness. The detail of the procedures of the synod changed substantially from previous practice, to encourage full and free exchange of ideas. 15 married couples spoke to the synod, introducing each session. Many of the bishops described how valuable this was – one news report even claimed that the married couples were “stealing the show”. In the same way, the relatio itself suggests at one point, that in future, priests in training should be learning from married couples.
32. The need was jointly referred to for a conversion of all pastoral practices from the perspective of the family, overcoming the individualistic points of view that still characterize it. This is why there was a repeated insistence on renewing in this light the training of presbyters and other pastoral operators, through a greater involvement of the families themselves.
As the final version is sent out into the world, the clear expectation is that a similar openness to full and frank discussion should apply, in the church as a whole. That will most certainly include lay Catholics – LGBT people among them:
26. Evangelizing is the shared responsibility of all God’s people, each according to his or her own ministry and charism. Without the joyous testimony of spouses and families, the announcement, even if correct, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words that is a characteristic of our society
Let us add to that, the “joyous testimony” of same – sex spouses and our queer families. It becomes more important than ever for us to identify openly in our congregations and other faith communities, to participate fully (and where denied, to demand the right of full participation), and to join in the debate wherever we can: engaging with our local bishops, speaking frankly to our parish priests, and in discussions with our co-parishioners.
Two words frequently used by Pope Francis to describe the operation and atmosphere of the synod, are “collegiality” , which should have been standard practice since Vatican II but in practice has been moribund, and “synodality”, which takes us to the derivation of “synod” itself, from two common Greek words:
syn- = together
odos- = way, journey.
“synod” = journeying together!
Let us then, LGBTQI or straight, married or single, deeply involved in our local parishes or on the fringes of the Church, participate with joy in this new experience, of journeying together with the Church as a whole, in digesting and working through the implications of this synod, in thoughtful, prayerful preparation for the next.