You may have opened your MSN homepage recently (because, like me, you still haven’t changed your default homepage) to see a headline or two about how the Roman Catholic church has radically changed its beliefs on everything and has decided its easier to jump in and follow the culture rather than lead it. I got curious, and wanted to know what had happened, so I went to the source.
The Synod (a gathering of bishops, and in this case non-clergy, too) that has been gathered for around a week and a half now, released a relatio, which is a document that describes what was talked about in the gathering. In other words, all the headlines about doctrine changing are exaggerated at best, and at worst ignorant posts by desperate news outlets and bloggers. The document itself carries no weight and does not reflect anything actually happening. Rather, it simply outlines the conversations taking place behind closed doors. (Which is interesting, because in this closed-door meeting, they released more information than our own government is willing to release after its own closed-door meetings.)
So why does this matter to other denominations of Christians? Considering that Catholicism is how many people (including the media) decide their opinions on Christianity in general, I think it’s safe to say it matters at least a little what comes out of this. Also, this particular gathering was convened to specifically cover marriage and family.
After reading the document, the phrase that stood out to me the most was not the section about homosexuality, or divorce, or pre-marital preparation, but rather one that talks about the state of the modern family.
“5. […] It is necessary to be aware of the growing danger represented by an exasperated individualism that distorts family bonds and ends up considering each component of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the prevalence of an idea of the subject formed according to his or her own wishes, which are assumed as absolute.
The idea that individualism has become so strong that we are compartmentalizing the family… This one struck me. That the unity of the family often takes a backseat to one individual within the family or another seems like a crazy statement, but how many times have we seen it in action? How often do we see families have power struggles without mutually beneficial compromise? How often are families broken because one member or another desires their own “freedom” over the beautiful responsibilities of familial life? (Not to say that so many other factors also boil down to create difficult situations.)
I do wonder what would happen if families here in America began seeing themselves as units rather than a collection of individuals. What would happen if families made decisions based on what was best for the whole unit rather than one individual? How would life be different if kids saw their families working together to mutually benefit one another?
If you’re curious, you can read the document here: http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2014/10/13/0751/03037.html