270 bishops agreed on 94 statements on marriage and the family. Statements that are all somehow good and right. But nevertheless disappoint, means our site editor-in-chief Ingo Bruggenjurgen.
It is good that the Catholic world bishops have not thrown the Christian system of values overboard on the questions of marriage and family and have not closed the door to new developments. They also found the strength in their language to move from a lecturing church to a welcoming church. But even if all those who were present emphasize that this synod was a great step for the church, many Christians in this country had expected more from their leaders.
Even well-disposed observers are rubbing their eyes in surprise: The new pope unexpectedly invites to an extraordinary synod, for the first time worldwide the committees and faithful are asked for months and involved in the consultation process … Then 270 bishops from all over the world meet in Rome to adopt a joint paper that is supposed to show the pope and the faithful the way in the important questions of marriage and family – and then at the end there are 94 statements on the table, which are all somehow good and right – but often already known and little concretely spoken into the present time. One may be proud of the point that women should be given more responsibility in the church? That one wants to meet remarried people more openly and that homosexuals also have their place in one's own family? That was really all? More was not possible, since the experiences and ideas are very different worldwide and cannot be measured only by Western European standards?
Precisely because the German-speaking group, including Cardinals Gerhard-Ludwig Muller and Walter Kasper, unanimously (!) has compiled a good, much-noticed interim report, one cannot deny it good will. But just trying is sometimes unfortunately not enough. Even some bishops find it regrettable that the group's much-noticed confession of guilt fell by the wayside and did not appear in the synod paper, despite their intervention in the final round.
In their home dioceses, it may not be easy for many bishops to recapture the disappointed expectations of some of the faithful. Reference will be made to the Pope in this regard. The synod can, precisely because it has not been defined by concrete demands, now determine the further path itself in the greatest freedom. But it was Francis who demanded more autonomy and participation of the dioceses and bishops at this synod!
Now the ball, which the synod bishops only kept in play but did not get into the goal, is back in the hands of the Pope. The already made clear in his closing speech that he is often closer to the people of today in word and deed than some bishops. "The true defenders of doctrine are not those who defend the letter – but the spirit – not the idea, but the person!" And mercy, he said, must be above all else. Cardinal Marx also admitted self-critically: "The pope always gets us moving again!"
So the pope from the other side of the world is stirring hearts from top to bottom, and he clearly has a plan. From the 1. Advent, he has prescribed a year of mercy for his church. This is encouraging, even to those who had actually expected a little more from their bishops at this synod.