OTTAWA (CCN) — The kind of broad consultation that preceded the two synods on the family is “part of the reality of the church now,” Gatineau Archbishop Paul-André Durocher told a conference here Nov. 21
The most recent synod in October has provided the pope with a text for the process, which is a “work in progress,” the archbishop told The Synod My Family conference at Dominican College Nov. 19-21. “We need to give space for Pope Francis to speak,” the archbishop said.
The process involves three stages, he said. The first involved consultation with the People of God; the second involved the bishops building on that consultation and speaking with each other with honesty and listening with humility; and the third will involve “listening to the pope,” Durocher said.
Durocher took part in last year’s extraordinary synod as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and this year’s ordinary synod as a delegate for the CCCB’s French sector.
Initially the bishops did not know how the first synod would connect with the second, he said. Only on the last day of last year’s did they find out the document they produced would become the working document of lineamenta for this year’s, he said. “If I had known that I would have approached it differently.”
“I had the feeling they were feeling their way in this,” he said.
He also wished there had been more time in between the two synods for study groups to gather and deepen their reflection in between sessions, as theologians and bishops did in between Vatican II’s sessions. But the archbishop was pleased with the shorter length of the bishops’ interventions and the greater amount of time devoted to small group discussion. Bishops spent 36 hours in their small groups, time Durocher described as fruitful. Instead of listening to five or six minute talks one after another; there were talks on each section, followed by small group discussion.
The working document and the structure of the synod was divided into three parts based on Catholic Action’s principles of See; Judge; Act he said, noting it was used in Argentina as part of a “theology of liberation” that “shaped the pope’s way of approaching pastoral action in the synod.”
The pope spoke during the synod about the “principle of synodality” of “walking together” that involves bishops and priests listening to lay men and women “to discern the Spirit” and encouraged this approach at all levels of the church, from the diocese, to the region, to the universal church, and how the hierarchy must be exercised in service not power, he said.
Durocher spoke during the first session about violence against women, pointing out one third of all women worldwide “experience violence at the hands of their husbands.” One line in his three-minute talk mentioned ordaining women to the diaconate. “It was not the heart of my intervention,” he said. “The media blew it up out of proportion.”
Salt and Light TV CEO and Vatican press office English language assistant Rev. Thomas Rosica and Salt and Light TV Producer Sebastian Gomes shared their experiences of being inside the synod.Rosica stressed the synod fathers approved all 94 paragraphs of their final text by a two-thirds majority, including the texts on communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and on the treatment of homosexual persons.
“To be clear, the report makes no explicit mention of absolution and the return to communion, it seems to leave some possibility for such a solution by quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s affirmation that ‘imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified’ because of different conditions,” Rosica said. “Just as the degree of guilt will differ, the report said, ‘also the consequences of the acts are not necessarily the same in all cases.’ ”
Rosica said the synod’s affirmed the pastoral approach must include: “Accompaniment, a readiness to listen, a gift of time and attention to one another.”
Gomes spoke of the difficulty of changing the practice of giving communion to the divorced and civilly remarried because it touches so closely on doctrine, but he said the document seemed to open the door to a change.
Rev. Peter Galadza, a Ukrainian Catholic priest, and his wife Presbytera Olenka Galadza, also addressed the conference on living out the vocation of married life. Both spoke of how married couples need Christ to help them with their personal brokenness.