Vatican III in the offing?

So it seems that pope Francis has convened an ‘urgent’ meeting of senior clerics of the church to take place this October in which they will discuss all the major issues that the church is confronting. He had earlier asked them to canvass the views of their members on these issues prior to the meeting and those results are currently being tallied, so that the discussions will reflect the actual concerns of people.

The survey asked 39 lifestyle questions in each diocese — including whether unmarried couples living together was common, whether same-sex unions were legal, how many children were being raised in non-traditional families, and what programs effectively conveyed Catholic teaching on such matters.

Prelates in Germany, Switzerland, parts of the U.S. and a few other jurisdictions who favor a softer line have published their survey findings to bolster the case for change. The German bishops reported that many of their parishioners view the church’s teaching on sexual morality as “unrealistic,” its prohibition on artificial contraception as “incomprehensible” and its treatment of remarried divorcees as pitiless.

That the Germans also publicized their results in English “clearly meant they were trying to influence public opinion in a worldwide manner,” said Robert Gahl, who teaches at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

Some see this as a tactical move by Francis.

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.

Although the church is not calling this Vatican III, after the famous Vatican II convened by pope John XXIII that introduced some modernization, commentators are wondering if this is the first step towards making major changes.

I am not hopeful. As far as I can see, the current pope seems to fully endorse traditional church doctrine on contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, priestly celibacy, male only clergy, and so on. What he may call for is a softening of the edges on these issues in order to shift them off the front pages and to focus instead on issues like fighting poverty and inequality which is where his interests seem to lie.

But by convening this group and asking for specific feedback on those doctrinal issues, he risks raising hopes for real change and this could lead to big disappointments if nothing major changes.


  1. Al Dente says

    We’ll have to wait to find out if this not-a-council is about real change or is just PR.

  2. sailor1031 says

    He doesn’t need another council to determine what to do about birth control. He just has to accept the findings of Vatican II and of the special council appointed thereunder to report on changes that should be made to BC doctrine & practise. The same findings that were deepsixed by Paul VI when the council came up with recommended changes he didn’t like.

    I predict that Frankie is not going to convene a third council, which would open up even more problematic (for the Vatican) areas than Vat II did (popes have been very busy ever since then trying to push those genies back into their bottles). He’s all about window dressing not real change. Don’t forget this is the man that betrayed some of his own priests to the military dictators…and has just canonized that well-known liberal bleeding-heart JP II. fascist is as fascist does not as fascist says!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *