In Monday’s posting I mentioned that the Synod’s proposed statement that “men and women with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy” won a simple majority (118 in favor; 62 opposed) but fell just short of the required ⅔ to pass and be included in the relatio synodi. We need to look at the other two proposals that also won a strong simple majority but failed to win the required ⅔ majority and so did not pass. The first was paragraph 52. It read:
The possibility for the divorced and remarried to accede to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist was considered. Several Synod Fathers insisted in favor of the current discipline, in consideration of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church and her teaching on indissoluble marriage. Others expressed themselves in favor of a non-generalized welcoming to the eucharistic table, in certain particular situations and in very specific circumstances, especially in cases that are irreversible and linked to moral obligations towards children who would [otherwise] be subjected to unjust suffering. The eventual access to the sacraments should be preceded by a penitential path under the responsibility of the diocesan Bishop. The matter should still be deepened, taking into consideration the distinction between an objective situation of sin and attenuating circumstances, considering that the "Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified" by several "psychological or social factors." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735)]
This proposal suggested that the Church’s ban on the divorced and remarried receiving the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, should be reexamined and pastoral alternatives devised not for general use but for specific situations determined by the Diocesan Bishop. It explicitly does not change the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble. It passed 104 to 74, but failed to reach the required ⅔ majority
A parallel and somewhat more vague proposal suggesting that couples in a divorced and remarried situation avail themselves of “spiritual communion” and a response by some synod members that further study be given to the topic of the divorced and remarried being given access to both “spiritual communion” and sacramental communion also passed with a strong simple majority but not the required ⅔ majority. The statement reads:
Some Fathers maintained that divorced and remarried persons can fruitfully accede to spiritual communion. Other Fathers asked why they cannot accede now to the sacramental one. A deepening of this question is hereby demanded so as to make clear the particularity of both forms and their connection with the theology of matrimony.
The proposal carried 112 to 64.
I don’t see quite how this is seen as a “defeat” for Pope Francis, Cardinal Kasper or others who favor a change of policy. Granted, without the required ⅔ majority they are not part of the synod’s proposals for the follow up meeting in 2015, but the very fact that they have a strong support among the bishops makes it much more likely that the more progressive agenda will carry in next year’s synod. At the very least, it is an indication that the bishops are buying into Francis’ view of Church and not anxious to succumb to the fear of change and put on the brakes for genuine reform and renewal of Catholic pastoral life. I am not saying that it is a done deal. The krazies—including several with miters and even the occasional scarlet galero—are doing the old Gideon trick of making enough noise to create the illusion of a phantom majority, but they are clearly out numbered. The more serious threat is some action against Francis personally and I think he is playing a somewhat dangerous game. The anger being expressed against Pope Francis by once loyal Catholics is frightening and we live in a society in which violence is endemic. I think we will see increasing polarization over the next year until the 2015 Synod meets and if next year’s meeting follows in the direction of this year’s I will not be surprised if some sort of a schism follows. We will monitor this ongoing and deepening division over the course of the year, but watch Pope Francis both for his appointments to the hierarchy and for his homilies and messages where I think he will even more aggressively argue for change.