Misgivings About The Synod On The Family

“The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” (Catechism, No. 2205).


The Synod on the Family is over and we have now had a few days to digest all that took place there and catch up with the reading of Pope Francis’ final speech to the Synod Fathers and many of the numerous articles in the media outlets and blogs that have been discussing the outcome. So what do we make of it all?

If I may be so bold to voice a couple of personal misgivings (and keep quiet about others), they would be these:

1. Why was established Doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage [i.e. the insinuating that those in illicit relationships be admitted to Holy Communion “under some circumstances”] even laid on the table for discussion? Or all this talk about homosexuals being made “welcome”? Is it being suggested that some sinful situations are “less equal” than others (h/t George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”) and can be wiggled out of? These ideas were not properly clarified at the Synod and have already caused great confusion among the faithful.

2. My second misgiving is that (as far as I can see) very little, if anything, was really discussed on “The Family” (i.e. one father, one mother, and the children born from their union) and the greatest duty parents have: to prepare their children for Eternity through the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church! Parents have enormous challenges and difficulties in imparting the Faith to their children in our anti-family, promiscuous Western society nowadays. It is a great heartache for dedicated Catholic parents to often see their cherished children abandon the Church as they get sucked up into the powerful secular whirlwind, sometimes even before they have “flown the nest”. I know so many cases where this has happened, some very close to my heart. Families in non-Western societies have added enormous problems to overcome; none of these were dealt with satisfactorily at the Synod either. There is also the problem of a spouse being abandoned by the other (through no fault of their own) and desperately trying to fulfill their parental duty single-handedly to bring up their children with true Catholic values – a very challenging task. Many of us were hoping that how to confront all these issues, and others related to real family problems, would be discussed in the Synod, but we have been left disappointed.

Finally, here are some excerpts from different sources voicing their own feelings of doubt about the outcome of the Synod:

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza

Excerps from Cardinal Mauro Piacenza 

The  Cardinal Grand Penitentiary of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, exhorts the Church: “If the Church does not maintain doctrine, it can not progress. The Church must constantly pay attention to two areas in particular. On one hand, it must keep the people in the faith and strengthen them that they remain in a state of grace on the inside, and on the other hand it must always go to the outside. If it were not strong within, it could not go out… If we had no healthy people, if the doctors would not be healthy, they could not heal the sick. Therefore, always remember that you can not have the one if you lose the other.  The priority (to always realise) is to be found in preserving the deposit of faith, unchanged through the centuries and millennia,” said Cardinal Piacenza. From this position, “the doctrine is therefore not an abstract truth, but a person, Jesus Christ, always and above all else.”

Excerpts from the Bones You Have Crushed

In his speech at the close of the Synod it is true that Francis talked of other temptations, but it is noteworthy that ‘traditionalists’ were first in the line of fire. So I guess that before the ‘liberals and progressives’ (Cardinals Kasper, Madriaga, Schoenborn etc) are punished, we can assume Cardinals Mueller and Napier as well as the already demoted Burke will be first for the chop.

The various temptations put forward by Pope Francis aside from one set, have always been temptations for the Church. It is only in the reign of Francis that to hold fast to the Magisterium of Holy Mother Church, to defend with one’s speech the Church’s teaching, as Cardinal Burke has done, on the Sacrament of Marriage and the institution of the family, that it has been posited, by the Pope himself, that to do so is a ‘temptation’. The Church, in her teachings and her law has never been ‘flexible’ with sin. It has always shown leniency to repentant sinners.

Excerpts from Pat Buchanan

But the synod meets again next year, and the stakes could scarcely be higher for the church and pope.

In his remarks at the synod’s close, Pope Francis mocked “so-called traditionalists” for their “hostile rigidity.”

That is one way of putting it. Another is that traditionalists believe moral truth does not change, nor can Catholic doctrines be altered.

Even a pope cannot do that… [ ]

The Catholic Church is not the Democratic Party of Obama, Hillary and Joe, where principled positions on abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage “evolve.” And when did flexibility in matters of moral principle become a virtue for Catholics?


These and many other worrying opinions from Catholics, loyal to the Church’s unchanging Magisterium, are being discussed around the blogsphere. We now have a whole year to “lick our wounds” and pray hard that the Cardinals and Bishops who will take part in the Synod on the Family next October 2015 will be truly enlightened by the Holy Spirit. (A few outstanding participants of the past Synod showed themselves to be truly that, yet will they be invited next year?)

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18 Responses to Misgivings About The Synod On The Family

  1. mkenny114 says:

    I agree with both points here – why even suggest that doctrine can be changed (which, despite the evasive language of those proposing admittance of the divorced-and-remarried to Communion, is exactly would be required) , given that it cannot? To suggest such a thing has only served to cause a great deal of confusion and fuel the fires of those who want to turn the Church into some kind of all-inclusive, feel-good social club.

    And yes, it is bizarre that a Synod on the FAMILY paid so little attention to the pastoral care of and provision for those who have been striving to be faithful to Church teaching on the family in difficult circumstances. Not only does this give the impression that to be faithful is to put oneself lower down the list of the Church’s concerns, but not paying attention to the preservation and re-presentation of the Church’s positive teachings on the family actually undermines any possibility of authentic engagement with those living outside of that vision. As Cardinal Piacenza said, ‘If we had no healthy people, if the doctors would not be healthy, they could not heal the sick.’

    Giving priority to irregular situations of whatever kind, without first attending to a clear understanding and presentation of what the Church stands for and offers the world, can only ever lead to an engagement with the culture that results in a compromise of the Church’s vision for humanity; something that is to the detriment of both parties. There is a good article here on this very topic:



  2. mkenny114 says:

    Another very good piece (by Fr. Dwight Longenecker) here, which outlines some of the problems created by the impressions that the Synod has given, and some of the impressions (as yet still to be qualified or corrected) given by the Holy Father himself:



  3. kathleen says:

    Thank you Michael for that insightful summary of the situation.
    And thank you very much for those two great links.

    Fr. Dwight Longneckers’ pertinent and very telling examples of people’s new confusion post-Synod underlines everything we have been discussing above. The “shepherd” of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, needs to be clear and concise about Catholic Doctrine… or the “sheep” will scatter. Leave the pastoral approach to the individual priests and their communities.


  4. Mimi says:

    Great post, Kathleen. I agree with every word you’ve written (and with every word of M. Kenny’s posts too). I feel that by the grace of God we dodged a bullet on this occasion, but I am very apprehensive about next year’s synod.

    God of hosts, turn again, we implore,
    look down from heaven and see.
    Visit this vine and protect it,
    the vine Your right hand has planted.
    Men have burnt it with fire and destroyed it.
    May they perish at the frown of Your face.


  5. toadspittle says:

    “May they perish at the frown of Your face.”
    And as painfully as possible.


  6. johnhenrycn says:

    “…it is bizarre that a Synod on the FAMILY paid so little attention to the pastoral care of and provision for those who have been striving to be faithful to Church teaching on the family in difficult circumstances.”

    Well put, Michael. Even though it was called a Synod on the Family, it was actually a Synod on Non-Families. This is a standard propaganda ploy: using cherished words that strike deep chords with people, but then hijacking those words and twisting them out of any resemblance to their real meaning so as to disguise the propagandist’s true objective.

    Michael, you say the synod paid little attention to real families. I did read the synodial pronouncements, including the draft and final versions, as well as the Holy Father’s final address. My recollection is that there was ZERO discussion about real families, but perhaps there was a sentence or two that escaped my eagle eye 😉


  7. mkenny114 says:

    Thank you Kathleen. Father Longenecker’s points really do show what the ‘Francis effect’ really is on the ground – i.e.; whilst it might have convinced a few more people to give the Church a try, they have been given expectations of what it means to live faithfully as a Catholic that eventually lead to them being disappointed (and probably more disillusioned with the Church than they were before) as well as making the lives of parish priests trying to uphold orthodoxy a lot more difficult.

    I agree JH – there has been a great deal of propaganda, and what in another context we would probably call electioneering. Luckily though, I think the overall effect has been to expose those seeking to subvert orthodoxy for their own ends and make it clearer for everybody to see who are the ones really looking out for our best interests, those who are really living out the life of a pastor of souls in the vein of 2 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 5. It will certainly be a lot harder for anyone to take Cardinal Kasper seriously when he claims not to be seeking any change in doctrine in the future!

    Yes, I am sure there MUST have been something said about real families in one of those documents or addresses, but for the life of me I couldn’t track anything down either 🙂


  8. mkenny114 says:

    Also, did anyone else find it a bit rich that after all the talk of open debate (from Pope Francis himself) and the lack of authoritarianism (from the media – contrasted of course with bad old John Paul and Benedict) in the Synod, that when things didn’t turn out to be going the way that the ‘progressive’ wing wanted them to, they exhibited a great deal of clericalism, loading the deck and that sort of thing. Apparently free and open democratic debate is only okay if it goes in your favour…


  9. toadspittle says:

    “Apparently free and open democratic debate is only okay if it goes in your favour…”

    Blimey, Michael, get a bleeding grip! Of course it is! Whatever did you expect?
    Do you need Toad to tell you that?
    What the heck do you expect on rotten old sinful Planet Earth, where we actually are condemned to live?
    Are you then, whenever, the idea of ” …free and open democratic debate,” is being kicked around – and, naturally, isn’t kicked your way – going to start snivelling about the outcome?

    Yes! You hate it! And why not? It’s all wrong! We all see that! It hardly ever goes my way on CP&S – but so what? Should I repine?
    What are we all going to do about it, I’d like to know.
    Become Muslims, maybe.
    Not me.
    I would rather be dead.


  10. mkenny114 says:

    Wow. Only you could turn this into a tirade about how terrible the world (and everyone in it) is Toad! Have you considered that perhaps one reason the debate ‘hardly ever goes’ your way is that you keep repeating the same tired old nonsense about our living in a cesspit of iniquity that would have been better not to have been created, whilst steadfastly ignoring any response (no matter how reasonable) to the contrary?

    As your comment above seems particularly excessive, I’ll just put it down to your having got out of the wrong side of bed yesterday. I’m presuming that you wouldn’t actually ‘rather be dead’, for instance, and that when you’ve calmed down you will remember that the world isn’t completely evil (whatever that word might mean to the relativist) and sometimes things do go your way after all.


  11. Brother Burrito says:

    Toad, after all the time you have spent here, has it not yet dawned on you that the Faith-filled commenters here are speaking as from another, other-worldly, higher, dimension?

    I diagnose you as being someone whom God has not yet touched intimately, yet I am sure you are not far from this experience, as you seem inexorably drawn to our company.

    May I recommend the prayer a Jesuit gave to Anthony Hopkins who asked him for “a prayer suitable for someone like me”.

    “Sure”, said the Jesuit. “O f*ck it!”

    Hopkins expressed surprise. The Jesuit explained:

    “As in, O f*ck it, it’s in the hands of God, anyway”.


  12. Few people have described the situation at the Synod better than JH in his comment:

    “Even though it was called a Synod on the Family, it was actually a Synod on Non-Families. This is a standard propaganda ploy: using cherished words that strike deep chords with people, but then hijacking those words and twisting them out of any resemblance to their real meaning so as to disguise the propagandist’s true objective.”


  13. toadspittle says:

    You are right, of course Michael.
    A touch of sunstroke, very likely. Indian summer.
    All is for the best – in the best of all possible worlds.


  14. kathleen says:

    Yes Michael, I agree, faithful priests are now having a hard time of it in imparting the truth of Catholic teaching, thanks to the muddled ideas post-Synod! As I have just said on another thread of comments, our worst fears are being played out. 😦

    I second Robert John’s remark above, referring to JH’s insightful and revealing comment at 17:57 yesterday.
    Dear Lord, St. Michael the Archangel, protect us from the wickedness and snares of the Devil.


  15. mkenny114 says:

    Well Toad, I certainly hope so. If however (God forbid) you are insinuating that the only alternative to painting it black is an unthinking sunny optimism, then I would remind you there is a (very viable) third option – that the world is good, but something’s gone wrong with it. This allows us to affirm the reality of evil (and to present it with a robust resistance), as well as affirming the existence of goodness, truth, love, hope. Best of both worlds if you like 🙂

    By the way, to refer back to the initial cause for your comment, I should clarify that I wasn’t merely complaining about the fact that things didn’t go the way I wanted them to, but was making a point about the disjunct between the sort of vision (free and open debate) that had been lauded prior to the Synod, and the contrary behaviour of the same people who had supported that vision. It was hypocrisy, not authoritarianism, that I was drawing attention to.

    Kathleen, I haven’t seen your comments on the other thread as yet, but can imagine what sort of thing you might be talking about. The issue of reconciling traditional views of the family with modern divergences from it, without alienating the latter and compromising the former, is a complex and seemingly almost intractable one, but I really do think that ultimately a long term solution can only come from faithfulness to the truth that there are certain things (and ways of being/behaving) about humanity which are known to be for our benefit, and certain things that aren’t.

    That certain people ‘of good will’ (leaving to one side those who just don’t give a damn) are caught up in patterns of behaviour that do not lead to the full flourishing of human potential and can never therefore lead to a well-integrated life is a tragic thing, but I really do not think we can help such people by confirming them in their misdirection. If someone is walking the wrong way, it does not help them to tell them to keep on going. The question of how one offers the advice is of course possible to refinement, but the central issue cannot change, not can compassion be confused with affirmation or avoidance of reality.


  16. Brother Burrito says:

    My greatest concern is people receiving Holy Communion unworthily, and that includes my self.

    I would love to see an increase in availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation before all Masses. This should become normative.

    The SoR cleanses us of even forgotten or repressed sins.

    It should be more a Catholic’s honour to be seen visiting a confessional, than being seen to join the queue for HC.


  17. mkenny114 says:

    Amen to all of the above Brother Burrito 🙂


  18. kathleen says:

    The great Archbishop Charles Chaput seems to be of like mind to much of what we have been discussing! 🙂

    In a lengthy address in New York on Monday, Archbishop Charles Chaput spoke of his concerns about the atmosphere of “confusion” that appeared to surround the recently concluded Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. He said he had been “very disturbed” by the conflicting reports coming from the Synod, adding an old axiom of Catholic spiritual writers that “confusion is of the devil.



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