I am now home from Rome and want to try to summarize what I had learned while there and my overall impressions about the Synod.
Let me start with an anecdote.
Fifteen years ago, I was hosting my eight-year-old nephew on a vacation to my home in Pennsylvania. We were driving to Gettysburg and as we were crossing the Susquehanna river I said to him that the river is very beautiful and “wide and shallow”. To which he responded with an impish grin: “You’re wide and shallow.”
Those words came to my mind as a most apt description of the big Meeting on meetings that the Vatican has strangely decided to call a “Synod on Synodality”. I say “strangely” because we still do not know what synodality means in any specific theological sense. And the various synodal spokesmen have even insinuated that the very attempt to pin down a precise theological definition is a violation of the open-ended and wide-ranging dialogue that is the very essence of the thing.
Therefore, and quite literally, the organizers of the Synod view it as something “wide” insofar as it aims to include, as the Pope says, the opinions of “everyone” (Tutti!!) on a very wide range of hot-button topics. And this casting of a wide net of opinion gathering seems to be all that they mean by “synodality”.
Yet the Synod’s “wideness” is also strange in the sense that it seems engineered by the Vatican’s army corps of engineers to stay within certain well-defined parameters. Instead of the wide and free-flowing wildness of a river, it appears to be closer to a channelized irrigation canal with high concrete levees in place lest it spill over its defined boundaries. The majority of the Vatican’s hand-picked synodal voters lean in the progressive direction. The Relator General of the Synod, Cardinal Hollerich, is a public dissenter from Church teaching on sexual morality. The priest who led the pre-Synod retreat, Father Timothy Radcliffe, is a well-known theological progressive who dissents from Church teaching. Meanwhile, Pope Francis just granted a one hour private audience to Sister Jeanine Gramick of New Ways Ministry (itself a dissenting organization) knowing full well what the optics of that meeting imply. Fr. James Martin, SJ, has enjoyed his usual visibility and approval from Vatican apparatchiks.
So there is an apparent “wideness” to a progressive reading of LGBTQ+IAA issues, but not in the other direction. Where is a private papal audience with the leaders of the orthodox, outreach ministry “Courage”? Why are none of their leaders voting members of the Synod? The Synod was treated to heart-rending stories about the pain of LGBTQ people and how the Church’s “unwelcoming” teachings have inflicted incalculable harm on them. But there were no equivalent testimonies about the spiritual toxicity and death-dealing nature of much of the homosexual subculture in the West and how thousands of homosexuals have found their way out of that mess via the path of sanctification in the Church. Those “experiences” seem unwelcome in this Synod and the voices of those people are summarily ignored and suppressed as unhelpful. I have heard from many such homosexual Catholics who now think this pope has just thrown them under the bus as just a bunch of self-loathing neurotics who have imbibed the ideology of their oppressor. And in this case the “oppressor” is the Catholic Church and her traditional teachings on sexuality….
From Larry Chapp in Catholic World Report