Invited by the Seminary staff to give his own personal evaluation of the Synod on the Family as he experienced it during the three-week period between the 4th and 25th of October of this year, Bishop Mario Grech described the whole experience as “grace-filled” and personally “moving”. In his talk, held at the Seminary, the Bishop pinpointed three main breakthroughs in this Synod.
The first treated ecclesiology. Referring back to an intervention he himself made, the Bishop described the atmosphere in the Synodal Hall as a battle between two Churches. The first is a Church which Pope Francis has described as a hospital in a battlefield; a Church which doesn’t fear healing the wounds of a wounded humanity. The second is an auto-referential Church; defensive and interested in power, particularly power over people’s consciences. Indeed, the problem evident in the Synod was this clash between the pre- and post-Conciliar Church. It is a battle which the Bishop later described as a “make or break” situation for the Church, since if it embraces an ecclesiology distanced from the world, the Church risks dialoguing with a world that doesn’t exist. This problem becomes even more acute given that sociological Christianity is dead.
The second breakthrough in the Synod highlighted by the Bishop was the felt need for a renewed reflection on sacramentology. Even though doctrine doesn’t change, new contemporary realities necessitate a rethinking of the sacraments, particularly the episcopate, matrimony, reconciliation and the Eucharist. With respect to the episcopate, the Pope has expressed a clear vision of synodality and collegiality. Coupled with this is the need for a renewed understanding of the Petrine ministry. Similarly in need of redefinition is the Eucharist which is not only the bread of angels but an aid for those in need, even though it still necessitates conversion, repentance and restitution. Similarly, the sacrament of reconciliation is not a trophy for the elect but an aid for the weary pilgrim.
Tied to this is the third breakthrough which was also discussed in the first session of the Synod held last year – the need for a change in moral theology. Bishop Grech stated that even though the Church has the necessary casuistic tools at its disposal, it chooses not to use them for it favours certain, black-on-white answers to moral problems. There is a need for change from a morality of norms which makes it easier and quicker to find an answer, to a morality of virtue which entails discernment, patience, accompaniment, and the principle of graduality.
Apart from these three main points, the Bishop made reference, in passing, to other issues raised at the Synod such as the need of a direct experience of the family in priestly formation, the issue of divorced and remarried couples, the need for formation before marriage, accompaniment during the initial years of marriage, emerging types of families, the need for an inductive and contextualised theology, and the favourable methodology adopted in the Synod which encouraged open dialogue between the Synodal Fathers.