The 2015 Synod Background & Reflections by Fr. Fred Scinto, CR

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Father Fred Scinto

September 25, 2015

Over the next few weeks Fr. Fred Scinto, CR will post a series of short reflections and information on this vital topic.


Fr. Fred Scinto, CR



            As Catholics, most of us have heard about the two recent synods (solemn meetings in Rome) in October 2014 and the one coming up in October 2015.  These synods are changing and will really change the Church for the better.  The following information and reflections are intended to inform you so that you can position yourself to see them as grace-full events for the Church and for yourself as a member of the Church and as one undertaking a life journey.

            Over the next few weeks, you will be given a series of short reflections and information to help you do this.  May the Holy Spirit help us all individually and as member’s of Christ’s Church to become more renewed and committed to our gift of Faith.  Please study the materials carefully and reflect on what they mean for you in terms of growth in Faith; and also please use the materials in prayer as a sign of your gratitude to our God Who lavishly gives us the great gifts of Faith and Community.

The Situation In Today’s World 

            Today there are 1.229 billion Catholics in the world among whom are 2.486 million marriages between two Catholics.  In regards to the second figure, there has been a drop because in 1970 there were 3.725 million such marriages within a smaller world population of Catholics.  Note the drop because it is important and emphasizes a trend which continues today.  This same kind of thing is happening in Canada too (as well as elsewhere). So, something must be done to help our families.

            Moreover, our parishes no longer are part of the life and activity of most Catholic families.  The influence of today’s culture (technopoly) draws many away from parishes and the Church.  Today, families are struggling to reclaim their identity in a world that is in conflict with Christianity/Catholicism.  American present studies show that students who leave Catholic schools and become “lapsed” Catholics number about the same percentage as those who leave secular non-religious schools.  The situation is similar elsewhere in the world (including Canada).  This is not to state that Catholic education is of no use – Catholic education is good education – but it points to the power of a strong cultural environment that pervades all aspects of our lives.   

Pope Francis

            The Pope sees all this and much more.  Many times in his short papacy, he has called for increased support for our families and their place in the life of today’s Church and in our culture; he also clearly recognizes that we need to do more to help them.  As we do this, the Holy Father asks us to imitate the merciful Christ.  God is merciful and so the Church also needs to be merciful always because it is the Sacrament of Christ’s and God’s mercy.  

            Thus, we Catholics (and all Christians) need to be loving, pastoral, and merciful and not punitive, excluding, and judgmental. “Pastoral challenges require timely answers. They cannot any longer come from authoritarianism and moralism.”  (Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez of Honduras whom Pope Francis has asked to help in the synods). Today, then, is a crucial moment for the Church.

The October 2014 Synod

            The theme of this synod was “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization [the public ‘proclamation’ of the Gospel].” At least 8 married couples were deeply involved in this synod along with the bishops and other lay people; some of our brothers and sisters from other Churches (other than Catholic) were also present.  The basis of interpretation  used by this synod was the following:  all Church teaching is based on the Gospel which is a living stream fed by the experience of God from every century, including our own.

            Preparation for this synod’s discussion included, among other things, the use of worldwide questionnaires (through dioceses) for people to answer.  Getting feedback like this is unusual in the Church.  By March 2014, around 80% who received the questionnaire responded along with about 700 Catholic groups and individuals.

            The Pope presided over the synod meeting and was helped in this task by some chosen bishops.  No Roman Curia members were included here because at times the Pope finds them obstructive.  This 2014 synod produced recommendations for the October 2015 synod.

The Upcoming October 2015 Synod

            For this, there are about 250 voting members (about the same number as the previous synod) and it is dealing with the recommendations of the 2014 synod.  Also in preparation, the present synod solicited worldwide feedback on the material from the earlier synod.  The situation of the separated and divorced remarried Catholics will be the big item of consideration.  This is a prevalent situation: in Canada about 40% of marriages end/fail; the number is about the same for Catholic Canadians.

            The October 2015 Synod has raised up many expectations on the part of people that it must come up with something powerful altogether.  It also cannot suggest in any way that marriage is not sacramentally permanent.

The Purpose of These Materials/Comments 

            We need to know something about what Pope Francis is thinking; so included with these materials, there is given a good synopsis of this that gives a good background to this whole topic.  It is an article titled “Papal Travel; A primer on where the Pope stands on gays, divorce, abortion,” written by Nicole Winfield of Associated Press (she writes very well as a journalist whose speciality consists of religious matters).

Concluding Thoughts

            Please note that the Pope speaks spontaneously and frankly on matters and at times trips up a bit (not often), e.g. the comment on female members of the Church’s theological commission as “strawberries on the cake.”  He can be forgiven for this!

            Please keep the content of this article and these background comments of Part 1 (above) before you as you read the future materials given to you.  Thank you.

            And please pray for the success of the 2015 synod.  “May the Risen One shower His Holy Spirit upon the upcoming synod and may He open our hearts in grace to the synod’s recommendations. Amen.”  God always bless you!


Father Fred Scinto, C.R.

Resurrection Ministries, Waterloo