So what do I expect?
Rather than a direct assault on marriage, I expect the opposite. What I expect is a nice flowery document re-stating the Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage. It will include language about the pastoral care of souls in troubled situations, but it will be generally orthodox. But at some point, whether this year or next, or in a post synodal document by the Pope, they will recommend the Bishops conferences to study and implement pastoral guidelines to help those in this situation.
No mandate, no direct assertions on what to do, but just a call for Bishop conferences to study the problem and implement pastoral practices in line with the synodal documents. That is when the horse will be permanently out of the barn.
Then certain conferences will run wild either directly allowing it or allowing the pastor to decide. You know they will. (See German Episcopal conference)
The traditionally minded will scream bloody murder while the "everything is awesome" Catholics will only refer to the document of the synod as the mostest wonderfulist re-statement of Catholic teaching ever, ignoring what his happening on the ground.
In the meantime, the Vatican will move at a glacial pace to correct any abuses. After a few years, it will issue some weak document asking the Bishops not to abuse things. This document will be completely ignored in praxis and will only serve the purpose of throwing it in traditionalist faces when they complain about the obvious. You know the drill.
After a few more years, the obvious abuse will be so commonplace, that people will think you a sedevacantist for even bringing it up.
In other words, Patrick does not expect the Church to declare all of a sudden that she had her fingers crossed all this time on that whole indissolubility of marriage thing, because, you know, she can’t. What he does expect is for the pope and the bishops to lie--that is, to say that nothing has really changed and then set about making the “obvious abuse” change--the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics who are still living in obvious and unrepentant sin to the Eucharist--happen without any complaint or fuss at all except from the True Faithful Remnant who bravely repudiate the words and actions of the pope and the bishops whenever they feel justified in doing so, which is pretty much all of the time, because that is what truly faithful Catholics do.
I left a couple of comments over there yesterday, but as of nearly 5 pm. CST today they have not appeared. I’m sure it was just a software glitch, or else the Archbolds are busy today and haven’t been able to approve any comments posted yesterday after a certain hour (something that happens to me all the time). It would be unjust and uncharitable to suspect Patrick, on no grounds at all, of suppressing negative comments below his blog post. That every other comment so far that has appeared there is from someone who completely agrees with Patrick that the pope and the bishops will lie and pretend they’re not destroying Church teaching about marriage while secretly setting out to do exactly that because, you know, evil modernists Church of Everything is Awesome (Church of Nice) yada yada yada--is, I am sure, just a coincidence. Not jumping to the wrong conclusions is something we’re supposed to do, in charity.
So let me repeat the gist of one of my comments (I didn’t save it, so I don’t recall the exact words): whatever does happen at the Synod on the Family, even if tremendous good comes of it, I fully expect a certain subset of Catholics to kvetch about it and insist that this is one more bit of proof that those people in Kansas or wherever who claim they have had the Only True Pope since the so-called Pope St. John XXIII was elected were actually right, freeing them to shake the dust of the Vatican from their feet and go in search of Truly True and Perfect Holy Catholicism, in whatever storefront church it happens at present by the power of the Holy Spirit to reside. Few things, alas, are more certain than that.
What the Synod will actually do or accomplish, I think, ought at this point to be a fit subject for prayer and reflection. Strengthening actual, valid marriages, making it harder for people to enter invalid ones, reminding people why we believe what we do about the permanency of marriage “until death do us part,” and finding some ways to help those whose initial marriages were quite likely invalid but who have been battered by a sometimes-unwieldy and, in some countries and dioceses, unjustly expensive process are all good goals. I have no problem trusting that these are the kinds of things that Pope Francis would like to see coming from the Synod on the Family.
I do have a problem leaping immediately to the unjust and uncharitable suspicion that what the pope, the bishops, and everybody else but the True Faithful Remnant secretly and nefariously wants is to destroy marriage and make it possible for Catholics to divorce and remarry again and again without being called to repentance (which includes the prohibition against receiving Holy Communion while remaining in a state of adultery). When you are always ready to assume that nearly everybody in the Church is the enemy of Christ while you are not, the problem, quite likely, is not nearly everybody in the Church. And launching a preemptive strike against the Synod on the Family because you fear that it is going to be a vehicle for evil says more about the person who launches such a strike than it says about the Synod.