Monday, November 2, 2015

The Synod of Bishops and the Church, Catholic and One, Apostolic and Holy

Jesus makes his friends and witnesses a gathering of people, catholic and one, apostolic and holy, His Church for His world, His brothers and sisters, past and present and future. The Synod of Bishops is a manifestation of this reality. Synod, etymologically from Greek, means "road together" (syn-odos).

The Church of Jesus is catholic and one. She is catholic, embracing people together and singly of each time and place, of each gender and race and color, of each nationality and culture and enslavement and language and history, of each age and ability and era and continent, of each originality. She is one, gathering and sending these people in the same way of Jesus for His world.

The Church of Jesus is apostolic and holy. She is apostolic, the movement of people hoped for and promised to Israel and the nations and started by Jesus Himself with Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene and Martha and Mary of Bethany, the apostles, especially Peter and John and Paul. His movement was begun at the time of the apostles and was guided by them and their successors, and is so now, the bishops with and under the bishop of Rome. She is holy, her goal is the family of friends of Mary and Joseph and Jesus, offering self for the others wisely and generously, trustfully and helpfully, humbly and mercifully, playfully and passionately and happily, to the image and likeness of the Family of Friends that is our merciful Father and His Child our Jesus and His Breath, that is our merciful Lover and His Beloved our Jesus and His Love. She is the gathering and sending of our Jesus from pentecost to the parousia. She is His movement of us people and angels with our earth and universe during our time and eternity, His bride with His word and sacrament and sacrifice for His world, crucified much by outsiders and often by us insiders.

The Synod of Bishops is a manifestation of the Church of Jesus, catholic and one, apostolic and holy. It was September 15, 1965, during the final period of Vatican II, when Paul VI created the Synod of Bishops as a way for the bishops of the world to advise the bishop of Rome in the future shepherding the church doctrinally and practically. Paul VI held four ordinary synods and one extraordinary synod, ordinary with members chosen primarily by the respective conferences of bishops, and extraordinary with members designated primarily as the acting presidents of their respective conferences of bishops. Their themes chronologically were the state of the church after the council, the relation between the conferences of bishops and the bishop of Rome cum et sub Petro (extraordinary), the servant priesthood and justice in the world, evangelization, catechesis.

John Paul II held six ordinary synods and one extraordinary synod. Their themes chronologically were the family, reconciliation, the interpretation of Vatican II twenty years later (extraordinary), laity, seminarians, consecrated and apostolic members, bishops. Benedict XVI held three ordinary synods. Their themes chronologically were eucharist, word of God, new evangelization. John Paul II gave the post-synodal apostolic exhortation on catechesis and Francis gave the post-synodal apostolic exhortation on new evangelization.

Francis has held two synods, extraordinary and then ordinary, on marriage and family. These synods follow the rhythm of see, judge, act (present practice, doctrine, future practice) during three weeks in October. We see the challenges of the present practice of people, we judge these challenges in the light of doctrine (the teaching of Jesus and His Church), in this light and fire we act to meet the challenges of people today. The doctrine of marriage and family is the teaching of Jesus and His Catholic Church for married couples and their children, for families. The practice involves language, words and deeds, symbols able to touch people today in their challenges.

The process of the synod is talks of members to the assembly and then the conversations of members separated into thirteen language groups. The members are guided by a working document prepared beforehand and translated into the needed languages. Press briefings are given each day in various languages. This process is completed with voting on a final report made from the deliberations of the language groups of bishops. Then sometime afterward, the bishop of Rome gives an apostolic exhortation responding to the synod advice provided by the bishops. In these last two synods, there are different views of whether the process has been open and free or controlled and manipulated. Concern has been expressed about the working document itself and about its various language translations or lack thereof, about the leadership of the synod and of the drafting committee of the final report and of the theologians doing the writing being appointed by the pope and not chosen by the members of the synod. The pope on his own streamlined the annulment procedures and formed a new central department of laity, family, and life.

A high moment at the end of week two was the listing of four new saints by Pope Francis. They include a priest from Italy, a consecrated woman from Spain, a married couple, the parents of St. Therese, from France. The last working day of the synod, the ninety-four paragraphs of the final report, given as advice to the pope, were approved by two-thirds of the 270 voting members, as needed for consensus. The largest number of negative votes was for the three paragraphs in the third part on the mission of the family today that deal with discernment and integration (§84, 85, and 86). The language of indissolubility was kept, of disorder not. We await as a result the response of Pope Francis to the advice of this two-period synod of bishops on marriage and family.

The revelation and grace of Jesus come to us humanly with our limits and in spite of our sins. We Catholic people and theologians and bishops and popes with our limits and in spite of our sins are blessed this human way that our merciful Father reveals to and graces us through His Child, our Jesus of Mary and Joseph, by His Breath, to make us His family of friends.

Father Don

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