Perspectives on the Synod

By The Beacon | November 18, 2015 5:25pm
Senior Madeleine Boyle.

by Madeleine Boyle |

The Synod on the Family (a gigantic meeting of world bishops) has recently concluded, and the recommendations are out. It is far too long to summarize in one Beacon article, so I've broken it down into a chart of stuff people are probably most interested in. (If I missed something, I'm sorry: check out the official document by searching for “Relatio Post Disceptationem.”) This is not official church dogma, but the recommendations from the Synod represent a shift in how the church thinks about its ministry. Here is what got everyone into such a tizzy:


Old Stuff

  • Focus on teaching people doctrine.
  • Cohabitation is bad.
  • People who have divorced and remarried may not receive the Eucharist.
  • The sacrament of matrimony applies only to the union of one man and one woman, therefore the church can never support gay marriage.
New stuff
  • Present doctrine alongside with mercy, so that instead of making people feel that they are wrong we can guide them.
  • Cohabitation is still far from ideal, but parish priests should work with cohabitating couples to hang on to what's good in their situation and encourage them toward commitment and marriage.
  • We must make them feel like they are still part of the community. Additionally, bishops can work with people on a case-by-case basis to determine if they can receive sacraments.
  • This is still true. But there are many positive aspects of non-heterosexual relationships. We should appreciate these positive aspects and explore how people in non-heterosexual relationships are also called to holiness.
Reactions to these conclusions were mixed, and I can imagine that everyone reading that short list experienced different feelings. Not everyone is going to like this list, for various reasons. No church teaching has changed, which may disappoint some. However, church attitude has changed and I can't stress enough how important that is. We can no longer hide behind doctrine, as we have done in the past. We can no longer expect our values to be taken for granted across the board, because the world has changed since the Middle Ages. Doctrine means less to people now, but compassion, mercy and love are still as important as they always were. These are the tools with which we need to spread the Gospel, and this is the main point of the Synod.

Read the Synod's conclusion for yourself: Search for “Relatio Post Disceptationem.” You will also find various analyses of the Synod, ranging from how it's the best thing ever to proof that the Gay Mafia has successfully infiltrated the church. If you want to discuss the Relatio, I highly encourage you to talk to a friendly, knowledgeable priest (of which we have many on campus) and not refer to self-appointed Internet theologians.

Madeleine Boyle is a senior philosophy major and a member of Campus Ministry’s Servant Leadership Team. She can be reached at