A Message From Fr. Pat...
To my dear St. John Neumann Parish family:
There has been a lot in the news recently about the Third Extraordinary General Assembly Synod of Bishops on the Family. Much information (and mis-information) has been just about anywhere else you look. Some are saying, “Hurray! The Church is changing its teaching on divorced and remarried Catholics, annulments, and same-sex unions!” Others are crying, “NO! The Church is abandoning its tradition by changing everything it has always taught!” Neither statement is true. So take a deep breath, relax, and let me explain.
The Synod is an assembly of bishops from around the world who assist the Holy Father by providing counsel on important questions facing the Church in a manner that preserves the Church's teaching and strengthens her internal discipline. Meetings of the Synod occur every several years. The Synod of Bishops was created by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1965, after the Second Vatican Council, to foster collegiality among the bishops, allowing them to collaborate in guiding the Church in the modern world. The Church is not, and has never been, a dictatorship. The bishops of the world, together, lead the Church, led by the Holy Father, and guided by the Holy Spirit. An Extraordinary Synod is a meeting of bishops on issues that require a speedy solution for the good of the Church, and, since it deals only with urgent matters, it occurs less frequently than an ordinary synod. Given the declining respect for and changing nature of the family in our times, Pope Francis sees the Church teaching on the family to be of immediate importance.
Shortly after becoming Pope, the Holy Father announced there would be an Extraordinary Synod in 2014 and an Ordinary Synod in 2015. In preparation, a questionnaire was sent to dioceses all over the world, and bishops solicited responses from clergy and lay faithful to questions and issues affecting modern family life, including the increasing acceptance and/or tolerance of divorce, contraception, and same-sex attraction in society. Those answers were compiled, summarized, and analyzed in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod, at which bishops, married couples, doctors, and other theological and secular experts had open discussion and provided thoughts to be considered by the Pope and the Ordinary Synod to meet in the fall of 2015. No official Church teaching comes from the Extraordinary Synod. It is a discussion and a preparation for what is to follow. Some commissions or working groups may be formed, and, in fact, one is already at work looking at the annulment process.
The Ordinary Synod will meet next year, and will continue the discussion. A summary of their conclusions will be presented to the Holy Father and, following the Synod, the Holy Father will issue a document called a “post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation” that will direct the Church in approaching these important issues going forward. So, stay tuned, and pray for the work of the Synod. But, whatever you do, don’t believe everything that you read. Church teaching that is 2000 years old won’t change, but how the Church approaches certain pastoral situations most certainly will (and must!) Remember, the Church’s job is simple, but not easy...to get everyone...EVERYONE...to heaven.