I am trying to make sense of the end of the Synod in Rome. Yesterday's post linked to a conservative commentator concluding it was a conservative victory. Ditto Damian Thompson here.
Today I point you to Archbishop Cranmer, to a post which has many links to commentators of varying hues.
I suggest that a wider reading of commentary on the concluding document of the Synod leads to a fuzzier conclusion about the meaning of the document and the question - if we might put it this way - of 'who won?'. (Update: see now Catholic Herald and the RNS. I think Francis will be well satisfied with the outcome.)
(Very conservative) Rorate Caeli, for instance, feels quite bleak about the document as he offers citation of the most controversial passages and critical comment.
The concluding document in Italian is here. As best I can tell the English version is not available in full though clearly commentators are making available English versions of some paragraphs. (So also here).
Currently I am working on a project concerning Scripture as God's gracious truth. So I am slightly more interested in the outworking of 'mercy' in this document than I might ordinarily have been.
It beggars belief for this bear of small brain that the appearance of mercy nudging the door to communion for remarried-without-annulment Catholics brought such forceful opposition during the Synod proceedings, as characterised in these paragraphs in America- the National Catholic Review:
"Indeed, the most heated discussion in the synod revolved around one theme in this chapter: the controversial question of whether Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried could, under certain circumstances, receive communion. A sizeable group of synod fathers, including three cardinals heading Roman Curia Offices (Ouellet, Sarah and Pell), sought to totally exclude this possibility from the text but in the end they failed.
This key word—“discernment”—appears in several paragraphs, three of which (83-84-85) encountered very strong opposition from a group of synod fathers that wanted to totally exclude the possibility that the divorced and remarried could ever be allowed to receive communion."As I understand the 'controversial' paragraphs of the final document, they are not controversial because they change the substance of Catholic teaching on marriage but because they open the door a crack (and only a crack) to some variation around the world as to how individual bishops guide their pastors in responding pastorally to people in new marriages after divorce.
As I also understand life itself, this possibility of variation via 'discernment' fits with life. Some sacramental* marriages breakdown because of wilful destruction (e.g. one partner embarks on an affair and subsequently marries that new partner); it may be (relatively) easy to discern the 'wrongdoer' and the 'wronged'; and it may be (relatively) easy to maintain an application of Jesus' teaching which permanently refuses to give communion to the wrongdoer. But what of the wronged person who then remarries? And what of other breakdowns in marriages which are not as straightforward as 'broken-by-unfaithfulness'?
Is the way of Jesus in these situations best captured by the 'group of synod fathers that wanted to totally exclude the possibility that the divorced and remarried could ever be allowed to receive communion'? Or is it better captured by the fathers who voted for the controversial paragraphs?
*I specifically refer to 'sacramental marriages' because I think it a distraction to keep referring to possibilities of 'annulment' as a way forward for some marriages/remarriages which (on Roman reckoning) never were a sacramental marriage. Sacramental marriages can and do breakdown. As I understand things, those situations are the 'interesting' ones because they do not admit of the theologically simple solution of annulment. (Most such situations are, of course, pastorally complex.) Mercy might apply even to these situations!
From an Anglican point of view it is refreshing to see open debate emerging through mainstream and social media within world Catholicism. This debate should restrain any temptation to cast Anglican anxieties and contretemps as somehow ill-befitting a global church with claims to catholicity. The Archbishop Cupichs and Cardinal Kaspers of the Roman Catholic church have demonstrated that thinking Christians of all persuasions are likely to engender controversy when they articulate the mind as well as the heart of Christ, when they voice the tension between doctrine and practice. They have our Anglican sympathies.