I try to avoid criticism of Popes, some Catholics would find excuses for Alexander VI, once that string of mules had left the Lateran and the silver they had carried had been distributed to the Cardinal electors, and the tiara was placed upon the Borgia brow. Even the Popes of the Pornocracy could be excused - troubled childhoods. Pius XII employing Bugnini - care for the unemployable.
The Church is rough inside - serenity is a fiction. Bishop Barron before his elevation spoke of the Synod as being like the contents of sausage, though you might want to eat it you don't want to know what goes into it. Nevertheless the Holy Father has called for 'parrhesia' and already there has been a lot of that around, whoever thought they would see Cardinals mud wrestling or publicly denouncing journalists for lying about racist comments only to have a video published that revealed the journo to be correct and the Cardinal revealed as a liar or Archbishops fictionalising paragraphs in the a Synod Relatio.
I fear the approaching Synod. I'm not sure what will emerge, something unpleasant most probably. I am not sure if human inefficiency or Pope Francis or the Holy Spirit is behind the mess but there seem to be numerous agendas and it isn't just the obvious things that most commentators have picked up on.
1) The role of the Pope: After Benedict's resignation it has been impossible for any serious Catholic to continue thinking of the Papacy in the same way we have for the past 150 years. Though we might have denied it, I think many Catholics thought of the Pope in semi-divine terms, at least in a terms 'office' rather than fallible human being with strengths and failings. I think I would have denied the Pope was merely a part of a faction, but that becomes increasingly difficult as one sees many of Francis' of nominees for the Synod - Cardinal Daneels? Yet though the Pope speaks of decentralisation and synodality this is imposed by the most monarchical papacy ever. I am sure that after this Papacy, even Francis collaborators will be looking for a completely different style, away from the idea of the Church as the Papal fiefdom, or as the Pope being its President, collegiality demands better.
2) One of the things that was very important in Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech was the idea of Christianity being based on Greco-Roman thought. The New Testament and the ancient Fathers are after all, full of Aristotelian philosophy and ideas and this has dominated Western theology up until the 19th century. Although Hegelian ideas are there within the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the notion of 'subsists', for instance, when describing the Catholic Church, they are easily overlooked. The Synod in many ways seems to be a battle between Germany and the rest of the World. Vatican II's call to return to the Scripture and the Fathers is being extended by Cardinal Kasper and his allies to include the thought of those 19th century German school philosophers who have been so influential on them.
3) In many ways, it is the 'hermeneutic of continuity' versus 'the hermeneutic of rupture' is at the very forefront of what some Italian journalists are referring to as "adapters" and "upholders". The big question is: is the Church recreated in each new age? Are we free to turn out back on the thought of previous generations? Can we remake history at the stroke of a pen or as part the action of a Synod? In the past, change was organic, from the bottom up. Now, change is from the top down, the whim of a Pontiff or the whim of a Council or the whim of a Synod. It's the entry of a new reality for the Church - a reality where everything is "relative".
4) 'Adapters' and 'upholders' have been very much the feature of contemporary Protestantism and Anglicanism and the adapters have won. One of things I admire (is that the right word) Francis for is admitting that this is and has been part of Catholicism since at least the Enlightenment, St Pius X tried to crush it but in fact drove it underground, it seems as if the Synod will be the first round in a battle in which side or the other will eventually triumph, or 'adapters' and 'upholder' will learn to compromise.
5) I have before suggested that one of my concerns is the relationship of the Church to God that will be played out at the Synod, who is the dominant partner - is it scripture and the Word of God or is it human experiernce?