Pope Francis Convenes Vatican Synod on Family and Sex

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Hmmm. Is Pope Francis about to convene Vatican III? Not quite, but we’re getting something along similar lines later this year:

On Pope Francis’ orders, the Vatican will convene an urgent meeting of senior clerics this fall to reexamine church teachings that touch the most intimate aspects of people’s lives….The run-up to the synod has been extraordinary in itself, a departure from usual practice that some say is a mark of the pope’s radical new leadership style, and a canny tactic to defuse dissent over potential reforms.

….Within a few months of his election last year, Francis directed every diocese in the world to survey local attitudes on family and relationships and report back to the Vatican, a canvassing of a sort that few of the faithful can recall previously….The exercise reflects Francis’ desire for less centralized and more responsive decision-making, mirroring his own self-described evolution from a rigid, authoritarian leader as a young man into one who consults and empathizes.

….Taking the public temperature also brings tactical advantages. Nobody at the Vatican will be surprised to learn that vast numbers of Catholics disobey its ban on premarital sex and birth control, or that some are in gay partnerships. Setting down those realities irrefutably on paper, however, could strengthen a bid by Francis to soften the church’s official line and put pressure on bishops inclined to resist, including some in the United States and many in Asia and Africa, conservative areas where the church has been growing.

The story is careful to say that no one expects any large doctrinal changes from this synod. Catholic teaching on gay marriage, divorce, women priests, and contraception will likely remain unchanged. Still, even baby steps would be welcome. Stay tuned.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest