As the Vatican turns: Dramatic talks about faith and family get soapy

Trust me, I am well aware that there are plenty of Catholic GetReligion readers who do not understand my consistent appreciation for the work of reporter and columnist John L. Allen, Jr., formerly of the liberal National Catholic Reporter and now the ringmaster at the new Crux site at The Boston Globe. It's really quite simple: He constantly reports tons of on-the-record information, even when he is writing prose that is clearly labeled "analysis."

Now, let me end this crazy day in Catholic news land -- click here for Dawn's earlier piece -- by pointing readers toward the sources and URLs contained in two rather dispassionate pieces of Allen analysis. It's hard to get more blunt than this:

ROME -- Every day, the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, a summit of 260 bishops and other participants convened by Pope Francis, seems more and more like a daytime soap opera. Today brought more surprising turns on multiple fronts.
For one thing, the bishops made the unprecedented decision to release internal reports of small group discussions about a working document released Monday that became a sensation due to its positive language about same-sex unions, couples who live together outside of marriage, and others in “irregular” situations.
The reports photograph a vigorous debate within a divided synod, with one camp seemingly embracing a more positive vision of situations that fall outside the boundaries of official Catholic doctrine, and another clearly alarmed about going soft.

And the perfect, killer quote for a synod on family issues?

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, one of the leaders of the moderate camp, today compared the situation in the synod in which a mother says “watch out, be careful,” and the father says “no, that’s fine, go ahead."

I did find it interesting that -- after his brief nod to the Cardinal Walter Kasper vs. African taboos affair -- one of the only times Allen had to take things off the record was to quote a synod participant saying something positive (sort of) on the clout of the growing African churches, as opposed to the powerful, but declining, churches of Europe.

Folks, parse this:

After Pope Francis named a six-member editorial committee to shape the synod’s final document, ...  Africans objected that he hadn’t included anyone from the continent. (Naturally, conspiracy theorists saw this as part of the plot to muzzle the conservative voice.)
Today the Vatican announced that the pope had added Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa to the group, along with Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia. Two days ago, Napier told a Vatican briefing that it “is not true” the entire synod stood behind the message delivered in Monday’s document.
One cardinal speaking on background today said that the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s, the Africans weren’t much involved in the discussion. Now, he said, they’ve come of age and are making sure their voice is heard.

Allen had another piece online asking even trickier questions: Primarily whether this synod marks the points where the many doctrinal conservatives who have defended the pope (there are many) are being tempted to join the few conservatives (they are few, but they are out there) who have aired on-the-record criticisms of actions by Pope Francis.

The pro-Francis conservatives have previously been aiming their anger in a logical connection. But watch the edge that develops in this chunk of Allen material:

Most mainstream conservatives ... have argued that media hype, or perhaps unintentional ambiguity on the part of the pope himself, has been to blame for mistaken impressions that he’s engineering a radical overhaul. In recent days, however, some of those voices have taken on a harder edge.
We’ve seen a Paraguayan bishop post the following on his personal blog: “Inside the Church, and recently from some of its highest circles, new winds blow that aren’t from the Holy Spirit,” referring to what’s happening at the synod.
Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano, formerly of the diocese of Ciudad del Este, said, “The situation is very grave and I’m not the first to notice that, regretfully, we’re facing the danger of a great schism.”

You really need to read these pieces online to take advantage of Allen's use -- much appreciated here -- of URLs to take readers to the documents he is quoting. 

Read it all. And hang on.

Please respect our Commenting Policy