A Tale of Two Synods | Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, SVD | CWR
In a sense, there were two synods taking place earlier this month, one inside the Synod Hall and the other in the media
Last Saturday, the synod closed with the voting on the final report and with a final address by the Pope, which was greeted with a prolonged standing ovation. The week of high drama ended with a great sigh of relief: schism, which seemed imminent, had been avoided.
On most issues, a near unanimity had been established. The final report, with the exception of three paragraphs out of 62, had been approved by an overwhelming majority. The report is a impressive document, considering that is was the product not just of one but of several committees. Even more impressive was the closing message from the synod fathers to families, which is almost poetic at times. It is Franciscan in tone. Both it and the main content of the final report were almost totally ignored by the media.
Instead, the secular media highlighted the three paragraphs that did not achieve the required two thirds majority: in particular, the one dealing with same-sex relations (number 55). Some media coverage gave the impression that the extraordinary synod was primarily devoted same-sex relations. The one paragraph that did mention the topic rejected discrimination, as could be expected, and rightly called for sensitivity in dealing with persons in such relationships, but it also reiterated Church teaching on the matter, including the rejection of any attempt to equate same-sex unions even remotely with marriage.
What the media ignored was paragraph 56, which was approved by an overwhelming majority. It rejected, in effect, the attempt to intimidate Church pastors with regard to this question, as well as taking international organisations to task for linking aid to poor countries with legislation for so-called “marriage” of people of the same sex.
In a sense, there were two synods taking place over the past week, one inside the Synod Hall and the other in the media. And the media, whether secular or Catholic, cannot be entirely blamed for this. They had to interpret the selectively leaked information from what should have been an open synod – and naturally each side chose whatever fitted their own particular agenda or concern. Catholicism and sex is a heady mixture that fascinates the western media.
Media coverage can be like a hall of distorting mirrors.