The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family closed this past Sunday, Oct. 19, and pundits inside and outside the Church are now considering the synod’s ramifications. The most significant occurrence for the Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® was the synod’s process of listening, openness to all points of view and transparency.
We see hope for the future input of lay voices, which are essential if the Church is to speak meaningfully on family life and other matters in the 21st century.
The synod certainly took the Church “out of its comfort zone,” as a German family counselor there is reported to have said. The bishops heard “about real life for families around the world.” They discussed each issue openly and freely to a degree not seen publicly in the Church for quite some time.
We do not know who said what during individual sessions, but the Pope made the unexpectedly transparent move of publishing the vote counts in the document that closed the synod. Controversial issues did not receive two-thirds majorities required for acceptance, but they received significant majorities.
Bishops are expected to continue discussions with clergy and laity in their home dioceses as they prepare for the second synod on the family in October 2015. Pope Francis warned the bishops that, during this year-long process, they must avoid camping at either end of the spectrum, showing neither “hostile inflexibility” nor “deceptive mercy.” We hope all lay faithful will now raise their own voices to provide the bishops with ideas and realities consistent with the lives of modern families in today’s world.
The bishops listened to each other. Let us hope they heed Pope Francis’ call to hear the voices of all the faithful before next October.
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.