What the Catholic Church’s Family Synod Can Teach the Evangelical Church

Plaza de San Pedro, Vaticano courtesy of Diego Cambiaso and Flickr
Plaza de San Pedro, Vaticano courtesy of Diego Cambiaso and Flickr
The Catholic Commission
With little fanfare the Catholic Church concluded several weeks of discussions that are now known as The Family Synod. On Saturday, 270 bishops from around the world signed off on a document meant to clarify divisive positions of the church and bring unity within a increasingly secular body of religion. While time is the biggest teller of the impact of the events it is the situations surrounding the events that are very telling as an indicator of cultural change.
The synod was the culminating even of two years of discussion and disagreement within the ranks about several key issues (including the issue of divorced persons and homosexuals within the Catholic church). Why is it though, that evangelical Christians would find themselves concerned about events of the Catholic Church? Simply, because they represent a changing tide within some conservative circles over some very liberal issues.
While clearly disagreeing with much of Catholic doctrine and authority, the power, money, and influence from Vatican City have helped in maintaining a firm voice in the liberal issues that threaten churches. What we are seeing is a change, or rather a compromise, in some of the most staunch opponents of things such as divorce, homosexuality, and abortion. The voice that they lent to that opposition was well-known and well-taken. But that seems about to change.
The Catholic Compromise
Attempting to abridge the dissension within the church over some of these issues, the Church called together a committee of bishops. The public comments from many of those bishops represent the wide gap that exists. The bridge across that gap is a bridge of compromise. On Sunday, The New York Times opened an article with these words: “Any good compromise allows everyone to claim victory” (1). Weary of the direction that the future may take them, both sides of the Catholic Church are indeed claiming victory. The result of that compromise causes three errors contrary to Godly living.
Satisfying Men
Pope Francis sits in the middle of two groups, and even The Washington Post notes that he risks alienating both liberal Catholics (and even non-Catholics) by not being an agent of change and yet at the same time could create a deeper division by not maintaining a more conservative stance (2). This demonstrates a wrong focus. The concern on Biblical issues should not be about pleasing men, but pleasing God.
We already know that the message is counter cultural. Paul writes 1 Corinthians as an exhortation on how to avoid worldliness and the way to do so is by preaching Christ crucified (1 Corinthian 1:23). He even says that this is foolishness and a stumbling block to the world. But the rejection of the message doesn’t change the message.
Subduing the Word
Ultimately when we try to satisfy men, the automatic consequence is a compromise to God’s Word. The Word of God is very clear on a number of areas or at the very least, gives a worldview that teaches us how to respond to certain aspects of living. The Word of God is true (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17). To teach contrary to the Word is to reject the truth of God. By compromising positions of Biblical clarity, one compromises that truth.
Supplants God
Finally, upon satisfying men and subduing the Word, the only consequence that can result is the supplanting of God. The Reverend Lucas Van Looy, Bishop of Ghent, Belgium is quotes as saying, “This synod has put an end to judging” (3). The quote is telling about the position of God’s authority in the lives of men. God is the judge, and while we are not to judge the salvation of others, it is clear that we are to hold others accountable (if it were not so, there would be no need for Matthew 18). Thus, by the admission of this one person, we see a mindset that denies God’s authority in the lives of man. Ultimately, compromise replaces God’s authority with man’s authority . . . it takes God off of the throne and places man on it.
The Catholic Concern
Compromise will always lead to more compromise. One side will always say the compromise did not go far enough while the other side will say it went too far. Thus, division will always exist.
Lessons from the Catholic Synod indicates a cultural compromise and provides for us a perspective of what occurs if evangelicals follow suit. There will be a continuous need to satisfy men leading to a subduing of the Word and eventually a supplanting of God.
Compromise will minimize God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Word and replace them all with man. True integrity exists in truth which exists from the Word of God. We must resist the temptation to succumb to the world. I am certain if we watch closely, the Catholic Church will exemplify the course of compromise and the catastrophic consequences that result.
(1) Elisabeth Povoledo, “Catholic Paper on Family Is Hailed by All Sides, Raising Fears of Disputes,” The New York Times, Retrieved October 26, 2015 from:
(2) Anthony Faiola, “Pope Lectures Catholic Elders at Closing of Synod on Family,” The Washington Post, Retrieved October 26, 2015 from:
(3) Ibid.

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