Pope Francis spoke Wednesday about the recent Vatican Synod on marriage and the family, in an effort to correct the false impression that some may have had of what was really going on and to calm fears that things were getting out of control.
The Pope has changed the topic of his weekly addresses, and for the foreseeable future will take advantage of his Wednesday meetings to speak about marriage and the family, in preparation for next October’s Marriage Summit, the second in a two-part series.
In his first address on the family on Wednesday morning, Francis tackled the thorny question of the recent bishops’ meeting, and especially the way it was perceived.
The Pope began by acknowledging his appreciation for the abundant media coverage of the Synod, but immediately noted that the style of much of the reporting did a disservice to the Synod process. “Often,” he said, “the vision of the media resembled sports coverage or politics: they often spoke of two teams, pro and con, conservatives and liberals, and so on. Today, I want to tell you what the synod really was.”
Francis said that open debate was the original plan for the Synod, and a sign of healthiness in the Church, rather than an indication of a problem. He reminded his listeners that he had “asked the Synod Fathers to speak frankly and courageously, and to listen with humility.” He also noted that in the Synod there was no censorship, but “everyone could–and should–say what he had in his heart.”
There has always been debate in the Church, Francis noted, and even the earliest apostles argued and even “rebuked each other.” There are always different points of view and debate and “this is not a bad thing!” he said.
The Pope also gingerly mentioned the interim report that caused so much confusion and consternation, underscoring that the first important moment in the Synod was the discussion that followed on that text. Francis described the negative outcry following the reading of the hastily written report as “a moment of great freedom, in which everyone exhibited his thoughts with frankness and confidence.”
Francis also hit home that this provisional report carried no weight. “There are three official documents released by the Synod,” he said, “the Final Message, the Final Report, and the Pope’s Final Address. There is no other,” he said.
Pope Francis also said that during the Synod, “no action questioned the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of Marriage,” a statement that coincides with his declaration to the Argentine newspaper La Nación last weekend, where he said that nobody even “mentioned homosexual marriage at the Synod,” adding that “it didn’t cross our minds.”
Wednesday’s words seemed aimed at dissipating some of the confusion that followed the synod and contextualizing the differences of opinion expressed.
“Some of you may ask me, ‘Did the Fathers fight?’ Well, I don’t know whether they fought, but they exchanged strong words,” the Pope said. “And this is freedom; it is the freedom that exists in the Church.” The Pope also stressed that “everything happened ‘cum Petro et sub Petro,’ that is, in the presence of the Pope, who is a guarantee for all of freedom and trust, and a guarantee of orthodoxy,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.