Well, I’m home and it feels wonderful! My head is still buzzing from the experience…I had just moments to look at some of the media commentary about the Synod and it certainly is mixed. I want to comment on that.
There can be no mistake that what happened in the last couple of weeks was DRAMA! Part of it was improvised and part of it was scripted but it seems to me that those who are negative on the synod missed some key points:
- It was designed not to be a conclusive moment on issues. It was designed to initiate a process that might yield an agenda for the 2015 synod. Therefore, those looking for answers must either not have understood the process or expected something that was not in the script.
- Secondly, Pope Francis brilliantly put the bishops on a petrie dish and asked them to dialogue and really encounter one another. They were asked to be authentic and by golly, they were, which rattled many people who then drew conclusions from the infighting. I guess that was easier for some than others.
This is what I saw, felt and experienced:
We all come from families and experience the good, the bad and the ugly at different times in our lives. So old Uncle Ray comes to many family gatherings and he likes the attention of being center stage. In this one-act play of the last two weeks, Uncle Ray really had a hissy fit and had his 15 minutes of fame but his agitation came prior to the event as his job is changing and considered a demotion at that so tensions were high. In the past family members would politely listen to some of his rants, this time it seemed different and I’m sure he left our gathering somewhat hurt and bewildered.
Then there is our great uncle, Gerhart, who some wondered if he was suffering from some malady because his rancor was at an all time high. Was this behavior catchy? The negativity coming out of him some of us felt was over the top but maybe he is getting angrier in his old age. It was interesting that when he spoke, others stopped to listen and the moment he stopped, other family members simply went on with their original conversation as if he’d not spoken prior.
Then our “youngest uncle”, Timothy seemed to try to fit in with the other two. He was always the most entertaining and seemingly positive the majority of the time. Poor Timothy, he’d been stepping in it recently–saying the wrong things to the wrong people and of course there was that enormous lie he told and continues to deny when he lived in Milwaukee. That event was embarrassing and because of it, he doesn’t seem so funny any more.
Even though that play caused some of our family to get concerned that all three uncles were acting strangely and there was talk after the event about their behavior causing such a ruckus. This is my take: these bishops were asked to be authentic and they have never been before and we saw these characters on a world stage as they tried to get comfortable with their boss’ request so they acted out to make the pain of their discomfort and different opinions get the best of them. We all do it. When life throws us a ringer, we all act in different ways than the norm and when the stakes are high, we may overreact. It’s natural. Their humanity was on stage and It was to a degree bewildering but it was “one small step for man” but one giant step for our Church.
I say it all too often but we are in a relational Church. Jesus developed relationships because he was open to others and building relationships eventually builds community.
Rome is the backdrop in all its splendor to this drama and it helped to ground us to the untold story of becoming human, truly alive in a real Church where people are authentic, open and truly engage with one another on multiple levels. It may be that we are all family in this Church no longer with some acting as if they were nobility in a rigid caste system but we are flawed individuals seeking relationships that can ease the sting of hardships as well as celebratory moments with one another.
This synod for me was a respectful nod to the history of what we once were as family with the uniqueness of seeing some of our family members changing as they age. Some make the transition well and accept the inevitable with grace and dignity; others, however, become hostile and unaccepting of change while others, yet, move into another state of denial that disconnects them from reality.
This one-act play was cleverly produced by our global strategist, Papa Francesco, who knows intuitively that change is messy but he was charged with this responsibility as the world watched. To release the negative energy, always predictable by some in change, Francesco invited all to speak transparently, to speak openly and not hold back. He got what he expected and he watched and listened but as any good facilitator knows, he did not engage and let the communication play out.
Within the chaos created was some level of unity as all became uncomfortable so even those watching this one-act play began to call for Francesco to speak, to step in, to give black/white answers to bring order to chaos. “Rome is burning” many yelled to Papa but the wisdom of this Jesuit knew that this play was staged in Rome, the “Eternal City” after all, it’s not toast.
Fundamentally, as a family, we have been told to grow up (I never thought this could happen in my lifetime…), to understand what Jesus has called us to…to love one another (it does not get any simpler than that) and while it is a simple call, it is never totally easy because we are each different. There’s the challenge!
For those of you reading this blog, I pray that you look at our time in Rome as informative and energizing. We spoke to many people, got many opinions about what was going on in the Synod and these opinions were quite varied but we all interpret from our own experience and understandings of people. So while I leave you to make your own decisions about the Synod which will no doubt be interpreted through your unique lens given your own experiences, Act Two of this synodal process is ours to produce, to staff and to act as adult Catholics taking our role seriously to potentially celebrate the birth of a Church that is healthy and open to full participation of all. If we all work together, it is possible in our lifetime. I sincerely hope that we can continue to dialogue about these issues, share them respectfully and reap the benefits together.
We in Catholic Church Reform Int’l will study the summary document produced by the bishops and assertively engage people globally in a templated process to gather information to begin to write Act Two. Please stay tuned.