An In Depth Review of the Midterm Synod Report

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This week was fairly busy with the huge news of a settlement for the Archdiocese in the priest sex abuse case here in the Twin Cities, combined with Pope Francis’ groundbreaking comments in the Synod on the Family midterm report. I applaud my journalist colleagues on excellent reporting on both of these stories, a few of which I was honored to contribute to including Eric Lyman’s piece for USA Today and our local CBS affiiliate’s news report (where you can see the beautiful weather we had!)

I wanted to provide my own analysis of the midterm report, now that the news cycle is over. Here is a detailed analysis of the report, as well as a link to the rest of the piece, in my Huffington Post column published today.

This Changes Everything

The Vatican report issued Monday, October 13, is a preliminary document, intended to mark the halfway point of a synod convened to discuss the family. Documents like that aren’t supposed to excite passions. They’re supposed to be sleepy, soporific, committee-crafted documents meant to reveal little. They are not usually earthquakes that rattle the foundations of the Church.

This document, however, is different. It is, as John Thavis wrote, an earthquake. It is worth extended study, and since it is meant to be a template for further discussions, it will undoubtedly be carefully scrutinized in the months ahead. I shall certainly return to it in my future writing. For I truly believe that nothing since the close of the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago has the potential of this document to change “business as

usual” in the Catholic Church.

I’d like to indicate four areas where I think this document breaks new ground:

(1) The report opens by powerfully asserting a dynamic understanding of the human person and the human condition. That is the meaning of the declaration in paragraph five that “anthropological and cultural change today influences all aspects of life.” The word “anthropological” is particularly important. That is a term of art reserved in Catholic moral writing for what is understood about human nature. By speaking of “anthropological change,” the report suggests that our awareness of the human person is capable of growth and change as history and the sciences reveal new vistas for discovery.

This may seem self-evident but in fact it marks a crucial shift in Catholic thought about the human person.  Click here for the rest of the column

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