I’m not a Catholic but I have studied church history and fundamental Christian theology more extensively than most non-academics. So I was surprised today when the special Synod on the Family called by Pope Francis refused to grant him the two-thirds supermajority he needed to get his specified language on gay rights and unmarried Catholic couples living together into a final document.
I have always been under the impression that the Pope is infallible in matters of doctrine. Yet this document was clearly described as an attempt to “restate Church doctrine” on a number of family-related issues. So in my apparent naivete, I expected the Pope would simply announce, in an encyclical, the new doctrine, and, voila!, the church’s official belief would change In my lifetime, I know Popes have used that power (for example on the whole fish-on-Friday thing).
But because the revised document — even with some very watered-down language on gays that supplanted what the Pope really wanted — could only muster 118 of the required 127 votes to adopt the document, the Roman Catholic Church continues operating out of 16th Century ignorance on topics of increasing importance to its followers.
Little wonder that the Church continues to fade in its influence. The most recent Pew Research polling found that just over 1/4 of self-identified Catholics considered themselves “strong” supporters of Church doctrine.