Over the past two weeks the news has been understandably filled with the events of the third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, a gathering in Rome to discuss the ‘The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization’. With intensive media coverage of what this bishop or that cardinal has said, I think it is fair to say that a great deal of confusion has been the result, often through an attempt to speak of complex theological issues in overly simplistic language. However at the heart of the debate there has been (and continues, to some extent, to be) an unparalleled scrutiny of the Church’s teaching and her pastoral practice.
These two areas of the Church’s life are not entirely new to those of us who have entered the full communion of the Catholic Church by means of the personal ordinariates. Nevertheless, the weight given to both doctrine and law in the Catholic Church, and the absolute definition of Church teaching and pastoral practice, is new. As Catholics we rejoice that we can turn to two particular documents to help us understand these important concepts. First, the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is ‘the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate’ (AC I §5), and secondly the Code of Canon Law which is ‘an indispensable instrument to ensure order both in individual and social life, and also in the Church’s activity itself’ (SDL).