Thursday 9 July 2015

The Synod on the Family: the Instrumentum Laboris

The General Council just heard Archbishop Bruno Forte, of Chieti-Vasto, on the Instrumentum Laboris for the second part of the Synod on the Family (2015). Forte is one of the leading Italian theologians, having studied under Hans Kung, Ratzinger and Kasper at Tubingen, besides obtaining a philosophy degree from Paris.

In his informal sharing this evening, he made observations first of all about the new methodology of the Synod. Pope Francis says that the synods of the future will probably be all like this, in two parts, because this provides time for reflection, consultation, and wide sharing. He has wanted the synod to adopt the See - Judge - Act methodology, and gave full freedom to all members to express themselves, without fear of being told that "the pope might not like it" - and some probably took this very seriously, even to the point of telling the boss where to get off.

The point to the synod on the family is to be faithful not only to doctrine and to law, but also to the law of mercy and compassion which is the central point of the incarnation. (If in the past the great challenges were on the level of doctrine - how to reconcile the oneness of God with his threeness, the one person of Jesus with his two natures - this time the challenge is how to reconcile doctrine / law and mercy.) A great principle is that of graduality: something that is applicable not only to childhood, but to human beings all through their lives. Another great principle is the respect for the diversity of contexts (what Lonergan would call the shift from a classicist to an empirical notion of culture).

The church is made in the image of the Trinity: it has to learn how to be one and yet many: a symphony of differences.

Forte ended by asking us to pray for the pope and the church, and to support the synod by encouraging discussion and championing the cause of mercy. No wonder the pope has thought of calling for a Year of Misericordia.

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