A friend of mine, happily married for many years, likes to tell a story. Over a 30th-anniversary dinner, and after a little too much wine, he said, “I love you, sweetheart. I’ve never been unfaithful, and I never will be.” He repeated that line a couple more times during the evening””until his wife put down her fork and said with all the warmth of a glacier, “Are you seeing someone else?”
The lesson of the tale: Even when done innocently, emphasizing one’s fidelity a little too often and earnestly can yield unwelcome results. Such may be the case in Rome, where more than 250 Catholic bishops from around the world have gathered in a three-week synod, ending Oct. 25, to discuss “the vocation and mission of the family in the contemporary world.”
Synods, from the Greek synodos for meeting or assembly, are purely advisory. They offer counsel to the pope on matters he chooses. As the Catholic Church’s supreme pastor, he can listen to their advice, ignore them or do something in between. But it is a rare bishop of Rome who would disregard the consensus of his brothers, so synods carry collegial weight.