The Table

Over the weekend I attended the meetings for a group called, “Council 50” – which is hoping to host a gathering in Rome in November 2015 to bring together representatives from all over the world to share their particular political and social contexts, and their positive experiences of being church. It sounds exciting but the irony of meetings about meetings is not lost on me…


For a second I sympathized with the bishops and cardinals, meeting to discuss issues on marriage and family life the next two weeks, and really to plan for the Ordinary Synod in the fall of 2015: meeting about meetings.

The Council 50 group is unique for our work because of the large involvement with Italian reform groups and base communities. Again I put myself in the Synod hall as our meeting flickered between Italian, English, French, German, and half translations of each.  Words, intentions, and humor get lost and found around the table (try drafting a mission and vision statement simultaneously in several languages!) as we hope to understand each other. Again, a small semblance of sympathy for the bishops here, despite their professional outfitting and translation services, international meetings can be a bit of a circus.

However, while the bishops are meeting to discuss family and marital life, the obvious lack of families is a particularly embarrassing situation. While, it may be in the minds’ of bishops and cardinals, they think they are being inclusive and welcoming by hosting several couples, it cannot be stressed enough that these “decision makers” have actively chosen to not pursue married life, and presumably a reproductive life. I just think, are bishops not embarrassed at the sight and structure of their meetings?  Reports that married couples are “stealing the show” demonstrate the very lack of experience of family and married life in the Synod. And while Cardinal Nichols may have said the sexual lives of couples is not something bishops talk about much… they certainly talk a lot about the reproductive lives of women.

Deb Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch

Deb Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch with our report

As sometimes comical or scattered our meetings felt over the weekend, we were always discussing how we are Church and how to invite other people to tell us about how they are creating and building church communities, with some of these people shockingly in the room. The lack of diversity of who will actually contribute to the working document for the Bishops is one example of the painful separation of power in the Catholic church. The opaque selection process for lay couples and the layers and layers of interpretation, summary, and analysis of what is discussed in the synod halls indeed must partially explain the growing distance between orthodoxy and orthopraxis, the theological and the pastoral for many Catholics.

Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see the process of the bishops’ meetings starting with the stories of couples and families, and even in these first few days, the tone and topics seem encouraging. This morning Deb Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch and I were able to hand several copies of our collaborative report, “Voices of the People” to Archbishop Kurtz, president of the USCCB, who thanked us both and shook our hands, and Jeffrey and Alice Heinzen from La Crosse, Wis. (who each hugged us!) on their way into the synod hall. All three were gracious and warm, thanked us for our work… before going behind gates and closed doors.   

Recommended reading so far:

Sex and Social Justice at the Synod on the Family

You’ve Got Male: Synod on the Family Slideshow

Cutback of information makes this synod harder to read