October's extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family was just one event, but "a tale of two synods" emerged from it, according to the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Speaking to reporters Nov. 10 after the morning session of the USCCB's annual fall general assembly in Baltimore, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, acknowledged the differences in the synod experienced by the bishops participating in it and news accounts disseminated outside the synod.
Those differences were highlighted by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York in remarks delivered during the assembly's morning session.
"There must have been two synods," he said, and the participating U.S. bishops "happened to be at the wrong one."
From what he said he had heard and read about the synod, one synod was "confrontational and divisive," "hijacked by left-wing dissenters intent on eluding doctrine," with proceedings "smothered by new Ottavianis, dug in to resist the fresh breeze" of change, Cardinal Dolan said, referring to Italian Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani known for his opposition to the changes being brought about in the church during the Second Vatican Council.
"Too bad we missed that one," Cardinal Dolan added. "The one we were at was hardly as spicy (and) juicy."
The synod Cardinal Dolan said he attended "was a synod of consensus. This synod was led by a pope with a radical charism for attentive listening," he said of Pope Francis, adding the only time the pope spoke was in "reciting the Angelus -- twice."
At this synod, "we listened to married couples who found God's love in one another and their kids," Cardinal Dolan said. "At this synod, we listened to bishops form Africa who said the (church's) teaching on marriage, so widely dismissed in the First World, was enhancing their culture. ... We saw brother bishops asking how we can expedite and simplify marriage (annulment) cases."
It was at this synod, Cardinal Dolan said, that "life-giving marriage" was the focus of "meeting the most urgent vocation crisis of the times."
Archbishop Kurtz, in addressing his fellow bishops, noted that each one of the 62 paragraphs that constituted the final "relatio," or report, of the synod met with majority approval -- and all but three of the paragraphs with approval by at least two-thirds of those voting.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, at a news conference following the morning session, said Pope Francis had asked that the "votation" be published along with the text to indicate the degree of accord shared at the synod.
Archbishop Kurtz said there were 12 documents in all to be considered at the synod before the final "relatio" was discussed: the first two "relatios" -- one offered at the synod's beginning and a second draft issued mid-synod -- plus separate documents produced by each of 10 small working groups.
"The work of the second 'relatio' was the work of the small groups," Archbishop Kurtz told reporters.
Cardinal Wuerl added that press covering the synod and those bishops participating in it "have different perspectives."
"So many people tend to reflect now in terms of sound bites," he said. "In the church, we're learning to speak a little more crisply, but our teaching is not reducible to sound bites."
He noted it took some time for the final "relatio" to be translated into English from the official Italian. But he urged the bishops to wait for the translation, noting that the final "relatio" serves as the "lineamenta," or outline, for next year's world Synod of Bishops.
Archbishop Kurtz said the Vatican was holding a meeting later in November to construct a system of reflection for bishops' conferences to use in seeking input from dioceses to be used in preparation for next year's synod.