I was very interested to read in the current NZ Catholic a variety of views on the Synod on the Family. On page 8 the editors had asked several New Zealanders for their thoughts. I've summarised them below for you…
Steve, a Non-Catholic Christian: has always admired Catholicism's strong, moral teachings and feels the synod put this in grave danger. Feels that valuing and accepting, for example, homosexuality, would be the same as approving of it. Believes that the attitude of some Bishops is ostracising those who have always remained staunchly faithful to what the Church teaches. Hopes that the "clear moral teaching of the Catechism is not revised".
Agnes, parishioner from Avondale: wants the Church to be more open and thinks what the Pope is doing is "excellent". "Times are changing and we should not be so judgemental".
Another parishioner from the Avondale parish: is from a Pasifika culture and is encouraged that the Church is discussing gay issues. Homosexulaity has always been accepted in her culture.
Richard, member of National Catholic Maori Council of NZ: believes the Synod reflected Maori values well in the way it was conducted – reflects the Maori process to "listen, listen, but we see it as all compassionate". Feels it has garnered a lot of positive press for the Catholic Church. Was touched by the discussion about whanau and that "Pope Francis recognises families are made up of all sorts of different people, and that we need to include all different members of family."
Dorothy, mother, grandmother and writer from Auckland: compared Bishops meeting to discuss family, to lay people meeting to discuss limiting the power of Bishops – believes that Bishops and priests are only "observers" when it comes to family life and so are not truly qualified to make Church decisions about family. Was surprised by how well the Bishops did and encouraged by the way Pope Francis ran things with total transparency and allowing all to speak up and have their say. Believes most remarried and gay Catholics are ignoring the communion ban anyway. Feels annulments are important but should be simplified. Thinks "laypeople, married couples, single parents, the widowed, gay parents and other "family" groups – those involved in raising children – could also be invited to have more input , and dare I say it, voting rights, in the final documents."
Bill and Jenny, Catholic couple married for 43 years: encouraged by the openess of the Synod. Think these issues need careful and considered debate and that it will be difficult for Pope Francis to find a consensus – especially considering the hugely diverse cultural mix of the Catholic Church. Believe that "with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the willingness of the Church to embrace and debate these issues, there is hope that the Catholic Church can find a way to embrace those from all walks of life who seek to walk in the Light of Christ."
Interesting right? And how clever is our Pope that in his closing address he warned against "hostile inflexibility" and "destructive do-goodness".
Out of all the commenters I'm perhaps most closely aligned with Bill and Jenny. They are right that we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is our guide in all of this. And that it is certainly not an easy thing to do – to unite a Church globally where cultural differences alone are vast before we even think about socio-economic differences, gender etc. But I'm hopeful because at least the conversation has been started. It's got people talking and thinking and questioning and I think that's a great thing.