We are into the final days of the synod and the presentations at the press briefings are beginning to run together.
Folks continue to sing, “Everything is beautiful.”
I’m not buying it.
But I also hope I am way off base in my assessment in the end.
In the beginning of October, there was a promise of a new order — a church that received wisdom from the People of God — a new listening church.
Pope Francis had implemented pre-synod listening processes and the voices of young people were heard in the pre-synod document as well as the working document, the Instrumentum Laboris. The real promise of this particular synod was that Pope Francis set in motion a more synodal process, one more open to and inclusive of people who don’t wear pointy hats.
And bishops at the synod vowed to listen. They were genuinely inspired by the candor and energy of the 30+ young people among them.
The stories of mutual admiration were beautiful. Who wouldn’t love to be around people like Yadira Vieyra, Pope Francis, Rev. Martina Viktorie Kopecká, Cardinal Tagle, Brother Alois, or Sr. Sally Hodgdon?
Bishops and young people alike hailed the rise of the listening church, an accompanying church, a learning church — a synodal church.
It was exciting. It was inspiring. It was hopeful.
I thought, “this is the genius of Francis. Where prelates might be dismissive of older adults, who could resist vivacious and faith-filled young people filled with bold ideas about how the church could be renewed?”
There was talk of a Pontifical Council made of young people. I was so excited because as an advisor for Voices of Faith, we had made a similar proposal to a number of cardinals with regards to women.
I thought the youth might actually be able to accomplish what their older counterparts could not.
I was practically dancing with anticipation.
Bishops’ voices trump
But as the days wore on, there were hints that the promises made were not going to be honored. The honeymoon that had lit a fire in the hearts of so many began to lose its light.
And some bishops’s voices began to drown out, to call into question, to trump the voices of young Catholics.
And my own heart, with its almost 63 years of living, began to break a bit — for the young people there and everywhere — for the whole People of God who need a renewed, bold, Gospel infused church more than ever — for those bishops who are in some ways hopelessly lost in the clerical world they inhabit.
So my prayer today is that I will be wrong about how this will turn out. Very wrong.
How’s your Italian?
The final draft document was handed to participants on Tuesday. It has been debated in the synod hall. As a result, more revisions are being added today and tomorrow. Everyone will be back at 4:30pm on Friday for a reading of the final document.
The draft document was distributed in Italian only. The final document that receives votes from bishops around the world will be available only in Italian.
On Friday, it will be read in Italian with simultaneous translation.
The reading will occur once.
It astounds me that this crucial document — the end product of months and months of work — will not be translated in the same way much of the preparation, the discussions, the negotiations, and the proposed amendments were transacted — according to and within the major language groups; Spanish, Italian, German, French, and English.
Now that is an absurd way to make policy.
On Saturday, the bishops, cardinals, and male religious superiors will vote, paragraph by paragraph.
Then Pope Francis will decide how he wants to use the document. Given his new document for synods, Episcopalis Communio, it is possible the document could become part of the ordinary magisterium of the Church.
And maybe, the unintended consequence of Pope Francis’ new directive is that it sharpened the battle lines within the episcopate.
Maybe that is why the draft document is reported to have had language and an emphasis that did not actually come out of the synod talks.
Cardinal Oscar Gracias of India, a member of the C9 council, and a member of the drafting committee for the final synod document told John Allen and Ines San Martin that the language on “synodality” and “discernment” in a draft distributed to bishops on Tuesday came from neither synod discussions nor the committee.
Gracias believed it was inserted by officials appointed by Pope Francis to run the event including Synod head Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, and special secretaries Father Giacomo Costa and Father Rossana Sala.
Gracias presumes that Baldisseri and his aides were trying to capture the mind of the pope, even if it wasn’t a major theme of the summit itself.
Gracias said, “They’ve very heavily stressed, discernment and synodality, which really were not very much prominent in the discussions. It wasn’t very prominent in the minds of the synod fathers, but it’s come out very strongly.”
Further, Gracias told Crux, that acronym, LGBT, first adopted in the Instrumentum Laborisbecause it came from youth at the pre-synod meeting, will not show up in the document. Instead language about “sexual orientation” won out. And that language did not result from input at the synod hall, according to Gracias.
When the bishops received the document on Tuesday, there was some pushback, according to Gracias.
So after more discussion, the committee worked on revising the draft on Thursday.
That final document, will be presented on Friday for a final reading and a vote on Saturday. Gracias believes it will sail right through.
What’s in a name
I am truly saddened by the news that LGBT — the self-chosen nomenclature of the young people at the synod and the pre-synod — who may be gay or lesbian but are without doubt advocating for and standing in solidarity their sisters and brothers around the world — has been excised.
Naming is one of the most sacred acts in our church. God names us. We name God. We name ourselves. We take a new name at confirmation. We name each other, sometimes nicknames, a sign that we are known well and intimately to another. We name our children. They name themselves. These are all sacred acts.
When my husband and I divorced many decades ago, we had a ceremony. We had tried to make the marriage work, but it would not hold. I had legally taken my mom’s first name, Rose, as part of my last name – a sign of who I was becoming as I grew into a new and sometimes terrifying awareness of my own strengths and gifts.
We set up three candles, with the middle candle lit, as we had done together on our wedding mass before Mary’s altar. That evening we wept as we took the flame from the middle candle and relit the two separate candles. During that ceremony, I asked him to rename me as I wished to be called – Deborah Rose. Generous man that he was and is, a few weeks later he gave me a watch with my new name at the top and all our children’s names on the watch face.
It is still one of my most prized and precious treasures.
The give and take of naming is an act of love.
So, for me, I wouldn’t care what four letters our young people chose. And I don’t care if some consider the political import of the acronym too controversial for the church to handle.
I just know that four letters did not win out — LOVE.
Reporting from Rome