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  • John Thavis

Two colorful cardinals, two takes on the synod

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

It was soundbite city in Rome last night, as two participants in the Synod of Bishops offered somewhat different takes on how mercy, language and doctrine apply to family and marriage issues.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Australian Cardinal George Pell talked at a Rome launch of Crux, the Boston Globe’s online project that focuses on Catholic news. Both have a reputation for speaking their minds.

Guess who said this:

“The thing I’ve taken from the first three days is the level of trouble we’re in, right around the world, with marriage and the family. There are very, very few societies where the trend is running in the direction of strengthened family life.”

And who said this:

“Even thought there is this gritty realism, and complete and utter bluntness about the challenges we’ve got, you don’t detect much hand-wringing, and you don’t detect much pessimism or gloom. … There’s not a sense of panic.”

The first quote, of course, came from Pell, who considers himself a “realist” willing to say things that, as he put it, might be “ecclesiastically incorrect.”

The second was from Dolan, who realizes that sounding upbeat is a prime requisite when church leaders meet the press.

Cardinal Pell, who has been among the cardinals who publicly criticized Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to find a way to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion, also had this to say:

“As Christians, we follow Jesus. I might have hoped Jesus would have been a little bit softer on divorce. But he wasn’t, and I’m sticking with him.” That line brought applause from a mostly clerical crowd at North American College, where the event was held.

Cardinal Dolan, while saying that the church cannot soften or dilute its teachings, declared that mercy is already front and center for most bishops. “The bishops are speaking with immense love and tenderness about their people, especially about their broken people. It moves them, it moves us, when we see people who are outside the church.”

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