I like the Pope's list, in his closing address, of things to avoid:
- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.
- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”
- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
- The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…
Though I don't understand that last bit about "byzantinisms." You can read the whole address here. Much as I agree with what he says, I don't see a whole lot of definite help in it toward solving the actual problems that have received so much press.
Representing the "wise as serpents" group, Russell Shaw makes some cogent and worrisome points in The Synod and the Media: Culpable Naivete or Shrewd Calculation?
This piece, which I reached via Rod Dreher, says something similar to what I've said several times, that one very notable feature of Francis's papacy so far is a sad, maybe tragic, re-igniting of the intra-Church factional fights of the past fifty years which had been fading into the background, and a consequent turn inward of the Church in the industrialized nations rather than toward the world so in need of evangelization.
But I don't know any better than the Pope how, specifically, to reconcile the demands of love and truth in relation to the sexual and marital turmoil of our time. Truth without love is not truth. Love without truth is not love. I have my doubts as to whether any set of rules can adequately codify the attempt to balance them. Nothing the hierarchy says or does can take the place of the encounter of persons, or provide a detailed script for it, or remove the need for every Catholic to approach it with one question always uppermost: How can I help this person move closer to God? The old medical principle applies: first do no harm.