TIME Religion Reporter to Media: Stop the Hype on Church Synod Report

October 13th, 2014 4:26 PM

While many liberal media reporters are giddy as schoolchildren over a document released by the Vatican regarding discussion about how to appropriately welcome gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church, Time magazine religion reporter Elizabeth Dias has a good word of rebuke for her colleagues on the magazine's website today headlined, "What the Vatican Really Said About Homosexuality."

"Looking for revolution can be misleading. It can mar the actual story of what is and what is not happening," Dias argues, explaining how the recently-convened "Synod on the Family is almost a two-year-long process" and that, as such "this snapshot is just that, a snapshot of one week in that process. There will be more such snapshot documents in the coming months." 

Here's a relevant excerpt. You can read the whole piece here

[B]efore rushing to conclusions, everyone, on all sides, should calm down.

First, here’s what the document actually is:

The relatio is a mid-Synod snapshot of 200+ Catholic leaders’ conversations that happened in the Synod hall last week. It is a starting point for conversations as the Synod fathers start small group discussions this week. It is a working text that identifies where bishops need to “deepen or clarify our understanding,” as Cardinal Luis Antonia Tagle put it in Monday’s press briefing. That means that the topic of gays and Catholic life came up in the Synod conversations so far and that it is a topic for continued reflection.

Second, here’s what the document is not:

The relatio is not a proscriptive text. It is not a decree. It is not doctrine, and certainly not a doctrinal shift. It is also not final. [...]

The relatio reaffirms at several points that marriage is between a man and a woman. Substance on that point is not changing. The Vatican has been repeatedly clear that this Synod will bring no changes to doctrine, or even a final document with new rites. To “welcome gays” does not mean the Church is no longer equating “gay” with “sin.”

Instead, tone—as it has always been with the Francis papacy—is what is on the table. The style that Pope Francis lives is one that starts with a spirit of embrace, of mercy, and not with sin. It begins with figuring out at what points embrace is possible before determining the points at which it is not. That may be one reason why people like top Vatican watcher John Thavis are calling this mid-synod report “an earthquake.”

But it is also important to remember that the Synod on the Family is almost a two-year-long process, and this snapshot is just that, a snapshot of one week in that process. There will be more such snapshot documents in the coming months. [....]

Looking for revolution can be misleading. It can mar the actual story of what is and what is not happening. Casual Vatican observers—especially those in the United States, where conversations about sexuality have a different trajectory than in the Vatican or in many developing countries—should be careful to not read into the conversation what they want to hear. The interest in a relatio, a relatively obscure document, does however point to another shift: people actually care about what a group of bishops is doing.

That itself, for many, may be a revolution.

The liberal media clearly have a rooting interest and it isn't in the Church both upholding orthodox, biblical teaching on sin while holding out Jesus Christ as the hope of all sinners, gay, straight, bisexual, or whatever as the case may be. No, the liberal media are keen on the Church tossing out millennia of Christian witness on sexual ethics for the libertine ethos of the day, and hence the rush to find glimmers of hope when the pope and Catholic bishops are seeking a way to extend mercy and compassion to the lost while also calling sinners to repentance. 

Ms. Dias should be commended for succinctly explaining the Synod's proceedings and avoiding value judgments, at least, thus far. The challenge for the next few years is for Ms. Dias and other secular media religion reporters to hold in check their personal opinions and report fairly and objectively on the progress of the synod. 

Expect many in the liberal media to fall short, but hey, miracles do happen.