5 Good Changes the Synod Could Make

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Questions such as communion for the divorced and remarried, female deacons, and acceptance of homosexual relationships have dominated the media discussion about the Synod that began earlier this month. Instead of adding volume to those debates, I want to point out a few positive things we can pray come out of the synod. The synod may not touch on each of these, but we can all reflect on them to deepen our own understanding, which in turn helps the Church.

A deeper understanding of the Mass without Communion


Mass is not just so you get Communion! For hundreds of years, the majority of Catholics did not receive Communion most Sundays of the year but were expected at Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is a re-presentation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Communion perfects this by uniting us to Jesus, but the Mass has value even if you don’t receive Communion. Being present at the death and resurrection is one of the most wonderful things we can do.

Before we even consider Communion for the divorced and remarried, we have to reflect on the value of Mass without Communion – both as a whole Church and with each individual couple.

Many people, at least in Canada and the USA, think that they cannot participate in Mass without receiving Communion. This is false. Communion perfects one’s participation in the Mass, but one can participate without receiving Communion.

I remember the difficulty of explaining to a non-Catholic child at a Catholic high school what value there was for him to show up at Mass with his class. I understood the reasons, but I still had  difficulty in communicating it clearly. A reflection by the Church on this point would help us all be able to explain this aspect of our faith better.


A deeper reflection on single life, especially those called to non-consecrated chastity


We have told single people clearly that they need to live the chaste life. However, there is more than chastity. How can their friendships have meaning? How can they serve? What are they called to as single people? What gifts can they offer the Church?

We need to reflect on those who don’t choose singleness, at least directly or initially. We have had a lot of reflection in the Church on those who consecrate their singleness to God — priests, religious and the like — but not much on other single people.

A single layperson can do a lot to build up Christ’s kingdom in ways married people can’t. There is a pragmatic level I think most can agree on: since single people don’t have kids to raise, they generally have more free time. However, I have a sense of a deeper spiritual significance. Unfortunately, I can’t concisely and clearly indicate what this is. I hope that some reflection on this, either inside the synod or outside of it, can help us all express the significance better.

The ones who’ve gotten the most press regarding this reflection are those with same-sex-attraction, but I think it also applies to many others. For example, someone might dedicate themselves so fully to a cause – anything from the pro-life movement to extending our knowledge in some scientific field – that they don’t have much time to date. Another might simply have bad luck in trying to find the right person. Spiritual Friendship has started to pursue this reflection, at least for those with same-sex-attraction, although I’m not sure of every reflection they make. Reflecting more online casino on non-consecrated singleness will help these people be stronger members of the Church.


Supporting Francis’s initiative to improve the marriage annulment process


Last month, Pope Francis published some norms to simplify the annulment process. I hope these changes help people in this difficult situation and that the synod fathers concur. The rules put forward by Pope Francis might have seemed technical but some of them will have positive impact quite quickly. For example, a friend was telling me about someone who has been waiting 11 years for an annulment because their ex-spouse lives in Russia and the Russian tribunal won’t act. With the new norms, the tribunal here can act without the Russian tribunal because one of the parties currently lives here (before these norms, a tribunal would need to certify other tribunals that could have jurisdiction didn’t want the case before proceeding).

I think we can point to some positive points of the annulment process. For example, John W. Miller wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “The annulment … involves facing what happened, not denying it, and the process includes helping you avoid failing relationship patterns in the future… In my entire experience of getting divorced, the church dissolution was the only time someone asked me that raw and caring question: What really happened?” For him, the annulment process helped resolve issues from his marriage and divorce.


Support faith-filled families


Cardinal Dolan blogged about the need for us to support “those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity.” He also referred to those who give up careers to take care of their kids. These families may not be perfect but represent the ideal we hope that other families strive for. If we want to strengthen families, we need to support these families. At times we can fall into the danger of reaching out to each marginalized group that we forget those in the center. Once we support these families we can often use them as an example for other families that the ideal is possible.

Centering on such families helps us also show that divorce can be avoided and having more than two kids doesn’t make you certifiably crazy. Without witnesses to the Church’s teaching on marriage, few people today will accept that teaching.


Explain the value of commitment to young people


Today, the percentage of young people getting married is dropping more and more. Our culture has stopped valuing commitment at all. This can also be seen from a drop in religious life and commitment to the priesthood. I think it would be great to reflect on the value of committing your life to another: whether that other is another person or God himself. Hopefully the synod can help us get away from a temporary culture.

Lack of commitment destroys the family. A family is made by a stable couple that is  fully committing to each other in marriage. Even long-term cohabitation is not stable because at any moment, either one can leave.

The questions dealt with here will be almost prerequisite questions: Why commit? What value does commitment add? Can commitment last a lifetime? Why commit to another person or to God in a vocation? In the past, these questions were presupposed, but they are often not today. The younger generation has certain values it can teach us but it struggles in this area.


This list is obviously not exhaustive. To a certain extent I’ve presented areas I know we can reflect on and improve without certainty on the best route for improvement. I felt that the proposals getting most media airtime either change doctrine or dangerously bordered on doing so. Instead these are five areas that the Church has a general teaching on, but where there is still a large area open for further reflection. All of these improvements begin in reflection and theory but have a concrete and practical application to help the family or those around the family (such as single people). Whether the synod talks about these or not, each of us can reflect on them more deeply and hopefully improve the Church’s pastoral practice.

Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC

Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC

Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC is a religious priest with the Legionaries of Christ who focuses on youth ministry. After 2 years of engineering, he entered religious life in 2001, made final vows in 2009 and was ordained in 2013. His twitter bio (which 33,000 people follow) begins: “I ♥ Jesus. Jesus ♥ us. I want to help you experience him & become his apostle.” Currently he lives in the DC metro area and spend his time studying, writing, and helping out his community and their retreat center.

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17 thoughts on “5 Good Changes the Synod Could Make”

  1. Avatar

    Father, I think you missed the most important point of Mass w/o Communion.
    Those unable to receive are under that sentence because they have been judged
    by the Church to be in a state of mortal sin. It’s the gross presumption of this that makes Mass an unnecessary obligation esp in light of the fact that those presumed
    to be so are not privy to its grace. My advice is to not marry anyone unless you are absolutely sure they won’t divorce thus sparing them such a fate.

  2. Avatar

    The vast majority of Catholics continue to be ignored by the Church. The baby boomer generation. For many of us, our children are now grown, so the intense focus of the Church on families no longer includes us. Many of us were never properly catechized, but that massive need isn’t even brought up. However, we are left out when it comes to catechetical needs in the Church. Again, the focus in only on families with younger children. Sounds like the vast majority of the Church is expected to finance the needs of the vastly smaller number, but never see our needs met.

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      ” Many of us were never properly catechized, but that massive need isn’t even brought up.”

      Lady, if you’re part of the baby boomers (60+) and haven’t figured it out yet,
      give it up.

      1. Avatar

        James, I think a more charitable response to Sue’s statement, “Many of us were never properly catechized, but that massive need isn’t even brought up”, would be to say, God wants everyone to “accept the love of Truth so that they may be saved” (2 Thes. 2:10). and it is never too late to start because God wants us to love Him Who is Truth, with our whole heart and therefore we all must strive to love Him (and all the Truth He wants everyone to know and believe) and this requires us to seek Him and His Truth all our lives. If any of us say this is too much work, takes too much time, or we have more important “wants”, we are not truly loving Him and His Truth, we are then turning our backs to God and leading others by our bad example. On the other hand, when someone older, realizes they need to “accept the love of Truth so that they may be saved” (2 Thes. 2:10) and they ask for the graces to begin today to seriously work to know whatever it is that God wants everyone to know, believe, and understand the way God wants all to understand it, these people then demonstrate God’s mercy and infinite goodness in helping people change bad behavior (not truly seeking to know and believe what God wants all to know and believe) to good behavior and this example is what all need.
        James, when was the last time you heard a priest cite 2 Thes. 2:10 in their sermon and extol all parents to live that love of truth? I cannot remember any such sermon and I am 62. Perhaps this is a major part of the loss of faith for many people, that they were not reminded that they have a personal responsibility to seek to know what God wants all to know and believe which is more than just attending Sunday Mass?

  3. Avatar

    I very much like your list. What a much better Synod it would have been if the bishops had not been distracted by the call to give Communion to the divorced and civilly remarried.

  4. Avatar

    Father, thank you for the list. I commented on James’ response to Sue, and I hope you will consider the following idea and ask others to help improve it and encourage all ministers of all faiths to support it in the sure faith that God will lead all to the ONE Faith He wants to share with everyone. Please consider the proposed poster for all churches. Thank you.

    1. Will someone give what they believe is a good reason why the following idea should not be publicly discussed, looking for ways to improve and implement it, in the sure faith that God is infinitely good and powerful enough to convert the whole world by His grace and the evidence, reasoning and questions that He wants all to know and share, and therefore this idea should be supported by all peoples of all faiths until a better idea can be found to cooperate with God in His peaceful evangelizing of all?

    2. Will someone respond in a way that shows they actually read, and gave some consideration to, what my suggestion is?

    thank you. Douglas Kraeger 4866 Indian Town Road, Vernon, New York 13476 315 534 4103

    “A Poster and slip of paper” idea: Should all laity and all ministers of all faiths publicly support this Poster and slip of paper idea in the sure faith that God will lead all to the one Faith He wants all to have by HIS grace and His peaceful means with our cooperation.

    To build up the foundation of civilization (the family) with a simple, new paradigm for helping spouses to do what they should be doing but many are not, to wash each other with a “bath of water with the Word” (Eph. 5:23) (truths that God has revealed that He wants all to know and believe)” and by helping them demonstrate a true love of (all) truth so that they may be saved (2Thes. 2:10)

    Please: How can this be improved? ( more arguments in support of this idea are available at eternalvisionfarmer.blogspot.com )

    Suggested Poster for all churches to put up and remind people of periodically:

    “All truly good parents are seen wanting to pray ever more perfectly, are seen washing each other with a “bath of the water with the Word” and committing themselves to a lifelong effort at being open to all Truth from God, through anyone. All truly good parents are seen eager to know and believe whatever it is that God wants everyone to know and believe and therefore these parents, in order to share them with others but especially with their children, are looking for GOD’S ANSWER to the best sequences of questions from people of all faiths with the best verifiable information and who are eager to share such in the sure faith that God’s answers for these questions will lead all, by peaceful means, to the one Faith God must will all to have and for them to thereby reject violence and all man made additions to this Faith.

    There are many in this church eager to help and encourage all spouses to wash each other with a “bath of water WITH the Word” the way GOD WANTS IT DONE (and they have some very good suggestions for questions and ways to do this) and to help anyone start or continue in this quest to pray as perfectly as possible and in the lifelong search for Truth and to help any who are now seeking to find everything God wants everyone to know and believe, one step, one question at a time.” (names, telephone numbers, email addresses)

    Do you see the potential for good if one Catholic Bishop and/or a few lay Christian groups (Knights of Columbus, St. Joseph Society, and non-Catholic groups) started working together and expected their ministers to support this idea? What minister would explicitly, publicly say, “I do not want to publicly, explicitly encourage husbands and wives to wash each other with a ‘bath of water with the Word’ the way God wants it done and to actively seek to believe everything and whatever God wants all to know and believe. I want them to trust me to tell them what they need to know.”?

    Obviously people will eventually know everything in the poster no matter how long it is if the minister makes a monthly, strongly worded comment reminding all that there are members of the church who are eager to help anyone find God’s answer to all questions from anyone. Parents and children will each know (because the poster and the monthly reminders put a “spotlight on the parent’s actions”) whether or not the parents are, or are not, doing what they should already be doing but many times today, in this world, are not doing (washing each other with a bath of “water with the Word” and eager to know and believe all that God wants all to know and believe). Is this not a good way for ministers to frequently remind all (without pointing a finger at any one person) of the importance of truly accepting the love of, and therefore being open to truth, from God through anyone and eagerly seeking ALL the truth that God wants all to love so that they may be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10)? If you cannot think of a better way, and this idea might help many, many parents, and many children, should you pass this on so others can help improve it?

    To help ALL parents be better helpers of their children, ONE STEP AT A TIME.

    This idea has three aspects:

    1. A poster (similar to the one on page one above) in all churches, put up by their minister for passive but powerful reminding of what everyone can know for certain.

    2. Superb questions (God’s questions) that will improve with each succeeding generation with verifiable evidence on slips of paper with a web address

    3. all ministers of all faiths will be expected by their flocks to publicly show they trust God’s answer to all such questions will lead people, by God’s grace, to the one faith God wants all to know and accept (or explain why they do not), and each minister will be expected to make available their own sequence of questions or endorse other sequences.

    I believe this idea cannot be publicly opposed by any leader of any faith, and all will publicly support it (maybe some because they will not want to be seen not supporting it) once a few religious leaders PUBLICLY call on all other religious leaders to support this.

    How has your Priest or Minister explained God’s meaning and the practical implementation of Ephesians 5:25?

    “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word”. What does God want husbands and wives to do in order to bathe each other with “the bath of water with the word” and to pass the desire for such bathing onto the next generation and all their friends and their children?

    Are there any problems facing families today that a healthy dose of Husbands and wives washing each other with a “bath of water with the word” would not help alleviate because of the graces God would likely send in response to such washing?

    Second aspect of Idea: Slips of Paper to help evangelize others and especially children?

    The second aspect requires the minister or a moderator (or team of moderators) who will write, or find, and post suggested sequences of questions (with verifiable, unassailable evidence) on a particular part of the church webpage (numbered and grouped according to topic) for people to be able to read and print out the questions on slips of paper and carry them in their wallet or purse. Then, when a person has an opportunity to dialogue with someone, (for spouses to share as they wash each other with “a bath of water with the Word, or when a parent and child have “one of those” discussions) they have these carefully worded, superbly well thought out questions, that they can hand to the other person and ask them if God might want to give them HIS ANSWER to this question and if they should therefore seek and find God’s answer to that question in their heart in the security of their home. The intent of each question will be to help people (spouses) take one step at a time, one issue at a time, towards believing whatever God wants everyone to know, believe, and understand the way GOD WANTS IT UNDERSTOOD BY ALL, rather than trying to get them to read an entire book (which is a very good thing but few do this today). There will be groups and individuals who will offer services (almost always free) where many different approaches to questions on each particular “step” are put side by side for comparison purposes. Parents, especially fathers, will be expected to arm their children with the best examples and to demonstrate being open to knowing and believing everything God wants all to know and believe and to help their children check out the arguments, questions, posted by other faiths to see if they have any questions that God’s answer to seems to appear to lead to this other faith only. Hopefully, many people will include related questions to be found on the web page also listed at the bottom of the slips of paper.

    Think if all religious schools made sure that all children knew where to go for the best questions for people of any faith.

    This idea does not negate everyone’s responsibility to know their faith and be eager to share it. It merely helps them be better armed, gives them a sense of confidence, so that even if they do not have all the answers at any given time (fear of which keeps many from engaging in dialogue) they know that they are armed with several well worded questions that the other would know they should seek God’s answer to, and which we can be hopeful will lead them to the One Faith God wants all to have when they find His answer to all questions, hopefully checking out the web address on the slip of paper.

      1. Avatar

        Thank you for your reply
        My priest will not respond to my emails and will not address the subject. Could you (or maybe, should you) pass it on to priests and laity you know with the disclaimer that you are only passing it on for others to consider supporting or suggesting improvements, not that you are actively suggesting anyone has to support it, only that individuals might be interested in it ? Thank you

  5. Avatar

    Communion is not for the perfect, divorced Catholics are not perfect, nor are any of us….it certainly is inconsistent with the Christ message to deny any believer the Eucharist. It is the center point of Mass, doing in remembrance and communion is community and no one is excluded from Christian community unless they choose.

    1. Avatar

      “it certainly is inconsistent with the Christ message to deny any believer the Eucharist”
      have you ever read about the early Christians? It was common practice to deny sinners Communion. We should not deny it from anyone fully striving but it’s different for those objectively sinning.

      1. Avatar

        Oh, and just who denied Marcial Maciel Degollado communion when his sexual exploits, drug abuse and larcency were well known among L.C? Wasn’t he objectively sinning for years and simultaneously receiving the Eucharist? To everyone’s knowledge even the Pope…clericalism?

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