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Why you should read the working document for the upcoming Synod

June 28, 2014
Cardinals converse following press conference for release of working document for extraordinary Synod of Bishops on family
You’re probably thinking I need to read a 75 page document about the upcoming Synod as much as I need a hole in the head. But bear with me, reading the full document is worthwhile.
To give you some context - this “Instrumentum Laboris” or working document on the pastoral challenges of the Family is actually a compilation of comments solicited last year from the national bishops conferences around the world.  As you might expect these reports from “the trenches” are an honest, no holds barred assessment of where we’re at. It’s refreshing to read because we’re admitting where we’ve dropped the ball. And make no mistake, with so many Catholics completely oblivious as to why the Church teaches what she does, this one is a no brainer. That said, there’s a sense of relief that comes from naming the problem and having it out there on the table.
As lay people we’re the ones who are charged with going out and transforming the world, but how are we going to live this effectively if we’re not all on the same page, literally. So by reading the working document, you’ll have a good sense of what the bishops are going to have on their minds going into the synod and it will provide context when they come home and start making changes in the coming months and years.
Now don’t get me wrong, the teaching of the Church is not going to change (come on people, in 2000 + years, as if!) – but what is different about this Synod is that its primarily concerned with a pastoral reality which means the implications are about to get real.  We’ll feel them on the ground.
Also, once you’ve read this document you’ll have a snapshot of the universal Church. There are many very good observations and useful clarifications on all the hot-button issues. It’s fascinating to note, that what’s of concern for us here in North America (and possible solutions we might propose) if applied without careful consideration in another context might have disastrous consequences in Asia or Africa. An excellent reminder that although the teachings of the Church are universal there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to the pastoral reality.
It’s clear Pope Francis wants us to move beyond self-referential communities that are absorbed with simply maintaining the status quo.  One way or another we’re all going to have to move out of our comfort zone, which means getting a sense of the bigger picture. And this document helps us to adopt a mindset which calls us to faithfully embrace these uncomfortable realities, facing them head-on.  And as Pope Francis likes to say, Christ knocks on the door – are we going to let him in?
Ok, still not willing to commit?  At least read the summary.
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