The U.S. bishops who attended the recent Synod on the Family have emphasized that while the media painted a picture of conflict, the synod fathers were actually united in support of Church teaching. “This synod, brothers, was one of consensus. Rather remarkable consensus, faithful to the authentic understanding of matrimony revealed by God,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York. Cardinal Dolan addressed the U.S. bishops at their annual fall conference in Baltimore on Nov. 10. He spoke about the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, a two-week meeting of bishops from around the world that took place last month, focusing on pastoral care around issues involving the family. This year’s synod was the beginning of a bigger process, which will continue with a longer synod next year. The bishops who attended the synod in Rome reported that despite confusing media portrayals, the event was actually marked by unity. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said the synod’s final document was a “clear affirmation that the teaching of the Church is unchanging.” “I think we can say abstractly at least, the teachings of the Church remain timeless,” he re-affirmed later during the afternoon press conference. Cardinal Dolan similarly defended the unity of the gathering, skewering what he saw as the media’s false interpretation of what occurred. From following media reports, he observed, the synod appeared “divisive, confrontational, partisan, it dwelt only on same-sex attraction, cohabitation, divorced and remarried Catholics.” But in reality, he said, it was “hardly as spicy, juicy, interesting.” Pope Francis’ leadership of the synod was characterized by “a radiant charism for attentive listening,” Cardinal Dolan said. The Pope did not guide the direction of the discussion, preferring instead to remain largely silent, apart from leading the Angelus, the cardinal said, adding that the pontiff “clearly trusts that the Holy Spirit works in a kind of fraternity, trust, and give-and-take.” Cardinal Dolan acknowledged that the synod “was exhausting, as listening usually is,” and “admittedly at times frustrating since yes, there was some impatience with procedural snags, a few miscues in communications, and an untimely release of a draft, unapproved document.” However, he reiterated that the gathering ultimately was one of “consensus.” Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C. also highlighted the unity of the synod’s participants. “This really was, for a two-week period of time, an extraordinary effort at bringing together all of the bishops at the synod to get a document that well-crafted in such a short period of time reflecting so much of the teaching of the Church and then to get everyone to agree to it,” he said. “I think it was a wonderful, wonderful example of bishops coming together, of synodality, of working together out of the understanding that the givens are our faith, and how we are going to apply that.” Although the media functions with sound bites, Church teaching is rich and complex, requiring greater depth to explain, Cardinal Wuerl cautioned. “We’re learning to speak a little bit more crisply, but most of our documents are not reducible to sound bites,” he noted. The synod was only the first step of a long process, reiterated Archbishop Kurtz, and the summary released at the end of this year’s synod is not a final document. Patience is necessary to correctly understanding the synod, he underscored. “It’s a two-part synod. We’re Americans. We want answers now. And yet if we do agree that this process of synodality is two parts, anything we say now is very interim, isn’t it?” he said. “People were eager to bring things to some conclusion,” he said, but “we are still engaged in the process which at least half, if not more, of the process is yet to unfold. So let’s give ourselves the opportunity to allow it to unfold.”
Catholic News Agency was founded in 2004, in response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization." It is an apostolate of EWTN News.