Thursday, October 22, 2015

Three Things Thursday - Synod on the Family

The Catholic Synod on the Family ends on Sunday. Nobody knows what's going to come out of it; people are either excited or worried about the results.

1. Several people at the Synod say that the church needs to update its language. For example, "indissoluble" is too harsh and legal-sounding. We should replace it with "unbreakable". That sounds like a good idea, provided that nobody makes any bone-headed mistakes about which words to use. "Strong" is a synonym for "indissoluble", but it means something totally different when you say "a marriage is strong" and "a marriage is indissoluble".

Also, as you can see in politics, whoever controls the language controls the debate. It's possible the church might weaken itself, by using different terms. For example, if they use divorce terms to speak about annulments, everyone's going to falsely assume annulments and divorces are the same thing.

2. Archbishop Culpich of Chicago gave an interview about the role of conscience, saying that "the conscience is inviolable" in matters of gay marriage and divorce. This generated a huge response, and it resonated with a lot of Catholics who agree that the conscience is supreme in all moral matters.

The problem is that too many people today abuse conscience rights, and they use conscience as a blanket excuse to justify their bad behavior. I also see a lot of people use conscience as a "loophole" to go against the church. "I don't have to go to church or pray or anything, because I feel like I'm a good person, and that's all God cares about." In the case of divorce, Culpich's insistence that conscience is more important than church teachings comes dangerously close to saying, "If you think divorce is okay, then it's okay."

3. People keep bringing up the idea of decentralization. That is to say, they want to take power away from Rome and give it to either local Bishops or local Bishop's conferences. I don't think this will happen completely. The Catholic Church has a long memory, and there have been too many times where a particular country's Bishops have "gone rogue", so to speak. Just like with any government bureaucracy, there needs to be a healthy balance between the local authority and the centralized authority.

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