What is most frustrating in reading the media mutterings about the synod is the superficial experience of church life that most journalists have.
Christina Odone is one who should know better. She is a lifelong British Catholic, a former editor of the UKs Catholic Herald and a longtime commentator on church matters.
Nevertheless in this article she falls into the trap of cliches that every other journalist seems to be parroting.
It is the false dichotomy between the so called Franciscan reformers and the old timers in the Vatican who are hide bound and resistant to all change.
Francis is portrayed as the smiling, warm hearted, merciful and compassionate pope who simply wants to open up the church to welcome all.
His enemies are the legalistic old men who are going to resist all change no matter what.
This false narrative is simply not the church I know as a parish priest on the ground level, nor does it represent the make up of the synod fathers and the reasons for the clash of the last two weeks.
To characterize those who resist Francis’ reforms as hard hearted, Pharisaical legalists is a complete travesty. These are wise, learned, intelligent and sensitive pastors. They are not grumpy old men in frocks who are hung up about sex.
They have a clear and coherent theology about God’s relationship with humanity. It is interlocked with a clear and coherent anthropology and understanding of human sexuality, marriage and society. Their complementary theology and anthropology is clearly integrated with the historic teachings of the Catholic faith and the history of the Church.
They are also very well aware of the tensions in modern society. They, like all of their parish priests, know first hand the difficult cases of divorce and remarriage, the heartbreaking struggles of people with same sex attraction and their families, the difficult choices faced with couples who are co habiting, couples who are struggling with artificial contraception, in vitro fertilization, sterilization and all at the other seemingly impossible moral choices ordinary Catholics face.
All we can conclude from Odone’s false dichotomy (and she is simply voicing the same sloppy thinking and easy stereotyping of most of the rest of the mainstream media) is that she is either ignorant of the reality or intentionally slanting the story to drive an agenda of change. Since she is an intelligent and informed Catholic woman we must assume the latter rather than the former.
The reality is far more complex and subtle.
Those in the media who are predicting or calling for radical change in the Catholic Church never go so far as to suggest what, specifically, they actually want. Do they want the Catholic Church to endorse homosexuality as a positive alternative? Do they expect the Catholic Church to suddenly say divorce and remarriage is okay? Do they expect the Catholic Church to condone co habitation before marriage, artificial contraception, abortion, the whole secular progressive agenda? If not, what exactly do they think is going to happen?