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Robert Royal will post periodic updates here about the progress of the meetings. Dr. Royal is in Rome now, talking to Romans, countrymen, and friends, beginning to take the temperature of the Synod. EWTN will be covering the Synod, and Bob, with host Raymond Arroyo, will be part of the team.

This promises to be an important, perhaps historic, gathering. As he proved covering last year’s Synod, the canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII, and the recent American visit of Pope Francis, nobody explains it all better than Robert Royal.

As First Things recently commented, Bob’s 2014 Synod reporting was "required reading for anyone trying to understand the dynamics of that Synod amidst the reportorial and analytic fog..."

The Text and the Context

Robert Royal: The 2015 Synod on the Family is done; it produced several lights and not a few shadows. The Final Report, as it now stands, contains some strong spiritual reflections, drawing on the Sacred Scriptures and the traditions of the Church. It also deals realistically with many of the social and cultural and political situations of families around the world – situations that vary greatly: from the sex-saturated hedonistic culture of the West to conditions of war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. A few paragraphs would have been better left out. Taken solely as a general view of the family, it has value. But the context in which the text was developed is another thing entirely, and will be a sore point for years to come. Read more.

My Back Pages

Robert Royal: It’s very rarely pleasant to have to issue a self-correction, but I’m quite happy to do so today, especially since the error was to underestimate the workings of the Holy Spirit – and even of a Synod of Bishops. I’ve been a bit more optimistic than most observers here in Rome over these past weeks (as you may have noticed), and readers have chided me for everything from criminal naiveté to having drunk deep of the synodal Kool-Aid. But though I have not yet personally seen a copy of the Final Synod Report, those who have, and whom I trust, are, in two words, pretty happy. Read more.

Where Was Our Catholic Culture?

Robert Royal: Among the various puzzling things about the past three weeks is how small a role that deep, many-hued Catholic culture has played during the Synod on the Family. It certainly did not play much of a role in the creation of the Working Document, which instead relied more on a shallow sociology and anthropology to describe problems and on a thin rationalism for answers to them. And that, to say the least, is a sad state of affairs. Read more.

Circles within Circles

Robert Royal: First the good news: of the thirteen group reports, only three favor the Kasper Proposal on CDRs as such. And we may assume that even within those groups, some bishops would vote against it. The supporters are the Germans, French A, and Italian C (the last qualified its support by invoking the theological notion of the “internal forum,” an oddity since marriage is a public act). Off the record, people inside the Synod still believe the Kasper proposal would be rejected if it were put to a direct vote, which the drafters will probably not risk for that very reason. Read more.

Damage Limited, Outcome Unknown

Robert Royal: If you expected this Synod to be an inspiring endorsement of the Catholic vision of marriage and family, you will – to say the least – be dismayed (but kudos to you for your high level of hopefulness). If you expected that, given the rebarbative document the bishops have been stuck with and are laboring to fix, the best we can hope for at this point is damage control, you would be justified in – cautiously – being of some good cheer, at least as far as the final document of this Synod is concerned. What comes after will be another matter, entirely. Read more.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Robert Royal: Chicago’s Archbishop Cupich claims, as many do at the Synod, to want to reconcile mercy with truth. But he didn’t seem himself much troubled by what many would regard as getting the proper order backwards; Communion before repentance and reconciliation. After so many example of these “hard cases,” you start to ask yourself: are there none in which the Church’s firm teaching about people in irregular circumstances led to similar conversions? Read more.

Wisdom and the Synod Schedule

Robert Royal: The work that will be done this week has, to a great degree, already been started. . . . This work will mostly be completed in a very few days (if the schedule holds), too few in light of how, precisely, all the prior talk and editing will be translated into concrete paragraphs in the Final Report. Read more.

Pope Francis’s New Meanings for Synod

Robert Royal: There is no question that this is what the Holy Father wants “being synodal” to mean, and he even remarked that, “The journey of synodality is the journey that God wants from his church in the third millennium.” But that is a modern notion of synod, as a “walking together.” There is no such meaning to that word in ancient Greek and Christian usage. Read more.

Charity Requires Clarity

Robert Royal: Perhaps the greatest irony about the current Synod is that the bishops speak frequently and passionately and rightly about the need for clear and positive language. Yet what the process has produced so far is anything but clear and, therefore, evokes negative emotions like fear and confusion among the faithful Catholic who are following the deliberations, and perhaps among the bishops themselves. Read more.

Round Two Ends: Large Questions Remain

Robert Royal: With a couple of exceptions, the new Synod reports move things in a much healthier direction. The Germans are, as usual, most abstract when they are trying to be most pastoral: “The mercy of God is the fundamental truth of revelation, which does not stand in opposition to other truths.” Maybe so, but who knows what that means? Read more.

Musings at the Midpoint

Robert Royal: Tomorrow (Wednesday) we’ll receive the second set of small language circle reports on the relatively uncontroversial middle section of the Working Document, “The Discernment of the Family Vocation.” All signs are that these will be fairly straightforward in nature, cleaning up misleading wording and filling in gaps in the text. On the grapevine, there’s a recurrent complaint that there has been no clear definition of marriage, which is no small oversight given that this is a Synod supposed to be devoted to marriage and the family. Read more.

Impressions and Misimpressions

Robert Royal: There’s also a whole wild undergrowth of propositions that the bishops are debating, now that they have moved into considering the Second Part of the Working Document, which deals with the “Discernment of the Family Vocation.” This section is a bit better than the empty sociological analysis of Part I, but it’s curious how little the “vocation” described here says about procreation and the raising of children. Read more.

The Devil in the Details

Robert Royal on the end of the Synod’s first week: Are the bishops so divided that they fear even three weeks does not suffice for them to come to some conclusions together, or was the Instrumentum laboris so badly flawed that they are essentially now engaged in trying to rewrite it? Read more.

The Church Deserves Better – and May Get It

Robert Royal: Seeking to praise everything that shows some human value, as our contemporary politicians try to do, leads to absurd confusions between what normally works – tolerably well – and some of the most dysfunctional phenomena in the history of the human race. The Synod seeks to avoid this. Read more.

A Synod is not a Democracy

Robert Royal: Not all that many years ago, whenever a synod took place in Rome, almost no one noticed. If you went to the trouble, you could find perfunctory, brief accounts of a day’s speeches in one or another Roman publication, usually the Vatican’s own L’Osservatore Romano. No more. Read more.

Lost in Translation?

Robert Royal: Pope Francis and the bishops have set themselves a hard task translating the moral principles of the Church – and of most of the religious and ethical traditions of the human race – into a language that elites in the developed world will not declare “offensive” to the point of being beyond the pale. Read more.

The Cooked, the Crude, the Synod

Robert Royal: Many “positive” things during the Synod’s second day of work. But talk intensified about “pastoral solutions.” Read more.

A Good Opening Day for Catholicism

Robert Royal: There are three long weeks to go and much can happen between now and the end of the Synod. But as such things have gone recently, a good opening day for Catholicism. Read more.

Five Guiding Principles for the Synod

A synod, as I’ve almost grown tired of repeating to friends, is not a legislature, but a consultation. In spite of all the anguish and upset prior to the opening sessions (which begin today), a synod may tell us nothing – or everything. Read more.