An Article More to Do with African Bishops than the Czech Republic…

…  But the Bishop of Hradec Kralove and some Slovenian and Slovakian Bishops and Poles and Croatians and Eastern “Riters” are on board for the upcoming Synod on the Family in October.  So the Slavs will represent.

What is the Synod on the Family?  Casually stated, it’s a big face-to-face discussion of Catholic Church bishops and cardinals and experts on subjects such as contraception, same-sex unions, Holy Communion for the divorced and other issues.    One’s opinion of the current stances may liken the Church’s doctrine to a boat’s anchor, or an anchor tied around a swimmer’s neck.

Francis recently chose some surprising bishops, including Johann Jozef Bonny, the Bishop of Antwerp, who has openly supported same-sex unions.

Some people reading this might freak out, from pleasure or fear.  But Francis is doing something very brave: Encouraging discussion between people holding a wide range of viewpoints.  Francis may or may not agree with the Bishop Bonny, but he will let this representative be heard.  In doing so, he is trusting the Holy Spirit, who is God that descended into each baptized Christian, to work through the representatives.  So, I see the Pope as acting in great faith.

Bonny and some liberal German bishops might be getting a lot of press in the West, but this ignores, in my opinion, who will be the real influential group at this Synod – the African bishops.

While the German Cardinal Kasper stated to his later embarrassment that, “[The African bishops] should not tell us too much what we have to do,” some of these shepherds should have more experience in dealing with “extra-normative” marriages ( for the sake of this article defined as marriages differing from Catholic doctrine) than their European counterparts.  For some of these bishops, the issue probably hasn’t been same-sex marriage, but has been polygamy.   They’ve been dealing practically with that for a long time; and they’ve had to develop strategies of caring, forbearance, confrontation, and patience while maintaining and encouraging the one-to-one ratio of Catholic marriage.  They have had to deal openly and privately with the ingrained cultural traits of their parishioners that do not jive with Catholic marriage.  Some in the European and North America churches might be thinking that they are sailing a ship across uncharted, challenging waters,  the African bishops might tell them, “That sea looks similar to the pastoral swamp we’ve been walking through.”

Collectively, these bishops have also had to deal with disease epidemics like HIV and ebola, religious and tribal violence, and many different natural and man-made calamities.  While I am sure they are far from perfect, they need to be shown more respect up here in the north-westerly latitudes than what they currently receive.  Maybe after the Synod…