Friday, October 09, 2015

At the Synod, The Moment of Truth... Part I

Since its opening early Monday, this climactic Synod on the Family hasn't just met strictly behind closed doors, but mostly away from the Aula in its 13 circuli minores, the small(er) discussion groups divvied up by language.

A stark change from the prior methodology – in which each member's set-piece speeches before the entire gathering dominated the first week and beyond – while several prelates in attendance have taken to either giving interviews on their impressions or made their (three-minute) interventions public, the overwhelming bulk of the 300-person assembly hasn't, leaving much to be desired as a result. That ends this Friday morning, however, as the circuli – four English groups, three each for French, Italian and Spanish-speakers and one for Germans – each present their feedback on Part One of the Instrumentum Laboris, the Synod's "baseline" text, providing by far the most comprehensive snapshot to date of where consensus exists... and, in particular, where it doesn't.

(SVILUPPO: Each in their language of origin – and featuring a host of viewpoints on the Instrumentum, including a remarkable share of frank critique – the complete circuli reports were released by the Holy See shortly after 1pm Rome Friday. In addition, a summary of the reports across languages has likewise been prepared.)

As previously reported here, another marked shift from the usual procedure has seen this ordinary assembly essentially broken up into three "mini-Synods," with each week being dedicated to one of the three parts of the Instrumentum. In that light, even as some Fathers – most prominently Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap. – have taken early aim at perceived lapses in the opening segment's cultural or anthropological sense of the contemporary family, the biggest "fireworks" are bound to come in the Synod's final leg (slated to begin Wednesday, the 14th), as the working paper's third piece on "the mission of the family" contains the heavily-charged consideration of the issues which have commanded immense attention and frenzied levels of anticipation among the media and wider audience alike.

Signaling the import of the Instrumentum's loaded final section to the entire venture, the circuli discussions on Part III are scheduled to extend for a full week, through Wednesday the 21st. At the close of the group discussions on each of the three segments, the edits submitted by the groups – each comprising around 30 participants, including the lay delegates – will be given to the ten-prelate commission assigned to draft the Relatio Finalis, the final text to be voted upon by the body for its ultimate presentation to the Pope. (Indeed, the days of Synods providing their members a relaxing junket of leisurely meals and ample opportunity to doze in the Aula – all while rubber-stamping proposals manufactured from on high – are well over.)

Chosen by the Synod Secretariat with Francis' approval, the drafting committee includes several crucial figures, among them this assembly's Relator-General, Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdö, whose opening report on Monday was widely seen as a move to short-circuit any discussion on changes of pastoral practice toward the civilly remarried and other hot-button fronts; Erdö's de facto counterpoint, Archbishop Bruno Forte, the gathering's Secretary cited as the hand behind the contentiously "open" paragraphs on homosexuality and cohabitation in last year's (in)famous "midterm report"; Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the ever-meticulous theologian likely to be a key architect of fleshing out the Pope's merciful intent in doctrinally sound form; the Pope's most trusted ghostwriter from home, the Argentine Archbishop Victor Fernandez, who was spontaneously elevated by Francis within weeks of the Conclave (both to highlight the papal protege... as well as to embed Fernandez in their homeland's episcopal conference), and the Synod's Secretary-General, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who has been dogged by claims of the process' manipulation which, in a sudden intervention on Tuesday, the Pope himself saw fit to slam as fomenting an unwarranted "hermeneutic of conspiracy."

Even beyond the tensions evident on a number of fronts, the drafters face a herculean task: the team will have all of 24 hours between receiving the groups' Part III findings and presenting their first version of the final text for debate in the Aula, the finished product slated for a vote just 48 hours after that.

With the first round of the group reports slated to be publicly released by the Holy See after their presentation (time unknown), more to come when they do. (Again, full reports in their original languages... and their English summary.) But as a word to the wise, the more than a few already in hysterics over all this – whatever the opinion might be – will have knocked yourselves out by the time the core of these days is at hand.

If that's your choice, have at it... especially amid a time like this, though, at least some of us need to know better.

All that said, it seems a good moment to reprise the prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod written by Francis in late 2013, as the long process now at its culmination was just beginning to take shape:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.