Francis' synod process is messy and fraught with fights, but it's necessary

This story appears in the Synod on the Family feature series. View the full series.

by Christine Schenk

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Well, the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family lived up to its name. It was indeed extraordinary.

It was extraordinary not because of the synod's developing content, which seems disappointingly same-o, same-o so far. No, what is noteworthy is the process through which the bishops are now engaging one another. Pope Francis' synod is modeling an open process. He invited input from grassroots Catholics around the world, insisted that that participants voice their opinions boldly, no matter how controversial, and clearly expected the heated disagreements that inevitably ensued.

News flash: For the first time in about 35 years, the pope is saying it is OK for church leaders to publicly disagree and discuss diverse points of view about pastoral issues.

I was in Rome for two previous synods, the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist in 2005 and the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in 2008. Both were conducted with little opportunity for advance feedback from the People of God. Both featured stilted speeches that influenced hardly anybody and were quickly forgotten. And, God forbid, there was never a hint of internal disagreement that aired publicly.

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