Thursday, October 16, 2014

Facing the reality that life is complex (Updated)


According to this article the first moves to walk back Monday's document are well underway with the issuing of a new, revised English translation of the original Italian document on Thursday. Go there and follow the links. #vaticanturmoil


Since posting this yesterday morning I have been reflecting on the amazing character of the interim report of the Roman synod (first link below).

We should not get too excited about the possibility that the document bears resemblance to the final synodical outcomes (it might, it might not) but we - Anglicans - can get excited by what the document reveals about the similarities and commonalities that actually, really, definitely exist between us as churches.

That is, after decades of presenting ourselves (in global terms) as a Communion of churches open to (apparently) unRoman developments, with ensuing and sometimes unseemly fights between conservatives and liberals and, truth be told, between Africans and European-Americans, all looking as though we are wishy-washy and/or hopelessly divided to an unhelpful ecumenical degree, we now find the synod document (along with its immediate reactions - see below) reveals that across the global Roman church there is a range of thinking going on at the episcopal level re the same litmus test issues concerning sexuality, marriage and family which is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, quite 'Anglican' in its width. (The obvious exception is the ordination of women, an issue not addressed by this particular synod).

Thus Damian Thompson (from a conservative-tending-in-my-view-towards-ultra-conservative perspective) has a go at Cardinal Kasper. Read here to find that Kasper is sorta, kinda an Anglican disguised in cardinal's robes, even to the point, recalling a famous if unfortunate statement by +Spong at Lambeth 1998, of casting aspersions on the capabilities of his African colleagues.

Now some Anglicans will be very excited by the liberal cast of mind of some Roman bishops, others very relieved by the sterner adherence to conservative values of the likes of Pell and Burke, but my particular excitement here is the simple sign that when it comes to facing the complex reality of human relationships, Romans and Anglicans are agreed that the reality is complex and the response leads to a range of points of view.

The future union of the two Communions will not be helped by the final document of the synod which, no doubt, will be more conservative than liberal (to summarise its general character) and thus will (incidentally) map out differences between official Roman and Anglican approaches to these matters. But what might help the future union is the revelation that beyond official documents, Roman bishops' thoughts - on at least some issues - have many commonalities with what Anglicans are thinking.

Who knows where thinking out loud might be taken by the Holy Spirit?


The fangs are being bared, the knives are out, and the fight is heating up. Yes, folks that is the synod in Rome this week as the debate continues. We have insight into what is going on because a 'mid synod' statement has been published and some of the bishops have been commenting adversely against it. Cardinal Pell, unsurprisingly, has a few words of damnation. And that is just one conservative bishop speaking out.

I urge you, dear reader, to read the whole statement, as I have just done. It is a remarkable document because it represents Rome facing the reality that life is complex. It is a document that with a few nips and tucks many Christian churches could have written, though perhaps a year or a decade or two earlier.

Now I am Mr RealPolitik and I am sure that the final document will be smarter, close to current doctrine, and, well, less realistic about complexity. But let's warm to the document we have before us.

Nevertheless even I have spotted a few things which raise questions - I raise one question about each but it is not rocket science to see that other questions follow!

Is socialism the key to successful marriage and family life?

"the excessive room given to market logic, that prevents an authentic family life" - see 33.

Is spiritual communion the same as material communion?

"if spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the sacrament?" - see 48.

What would happen if pastoral decisions were made on a case by case basis?

"the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances." - see 47.

How can homosexuality be a serious disorder if the church is thinking this?

"Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners." - see 52.

Is the Via Media being endorsed?

"It is not wise to think of unique solutions or those inspired by a logic of “all or nothing”." - see 40.

A commenter alerts us to the presence of Anglican blogging bishop, Paul Butler of Durham, who is present at the synod as an observer.


On the precariousness of 'annulment' (does it nullify an earlier marriage or is it just a hoop to pop through on the way to the Lord's table?) read this moving testimony, published in the Tablet.


Simon said...

Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, who is attending on behalf of the Anglican Communion, is blogging at

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Simon.
I will put that link in the main body of the post.

Father Ron Smith said...

Quote from the English R.C. 'Tablet' newspaper:

"“Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing them fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home,” the document, presented this morning by Cardinal Peter Erdo, the relator general of the synod, stated. “Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation (homosexuals), without compromising Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony?”

There can be little doubt that the Relator-General of the Roman Synod has much more of an insight into the goings on at the current Synod meetings than does Cardinal George Pell - the Aussie friend of former Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen, with whom he shared the same convictions on matters of gender and sexuality while serving as the R.C. Archbishop of Sydney.

It may well be that R.C. conservatives such as George Pell could be extremely disappointed with the liberal outcome of the Synod under the patronage of the present Pope Francis!

Bryden Black said...

I too have naturally been following this closely. And frankly we need to wait well regarding all this.

This is first of all an interim report from an interim synod; they are due to gather again in a year's time. And while there are important not to say crucial signals on the pastoral front, I personally would not expect a jot or tittle to move on the doctrinal front!

We've quite a long way to proceed here folks ... For it's well known Roma thinks and acts in decades even centuries, not mere years.

Father Ron Smith said...

I appreciate your caution, Bryden, on any expectation of immediate change in the official status of Gay people in the R.C. Church, Bryden. However, we have a new Pope, who is obviously concerned to bring his Church up to date with facts on the ground - on issues of sexuality and gender. Like good Pope John XXIII, his influence will be crucial to outcomes - despite the traditional conservatism of the Roman Curia. Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray!

Pope John XXIII famously championed the tenet of 'semper Reformanda'. I - and many other observers - believe that his intention for dogmatic reform may be being brought to birth, after long resistance by the institution.

It is hopeless to try to maintain resistance to the Wind of the Holy Spirit. "My ways are not your ways - nor my thoughts, your thoughts!"

MichaelA said...

Reading Fr Ron display his deep understanding of Catholic Church politics is indeed an amazing experience.

For those interested, here is a link to a video interview with the Cardinal-Prefect:

Father Ron Smith said...

I see the reactionaries have won - in the meantime. Pope Francis' movement towards justice for the disenfranchised has been thwarted, once again, by conservatives - and around the throne of Peter!

Jesu, mercy, Mary, pray!