This week on Register Radio, Jeanette De Melo gets a synod synopsis from Register blogger Jimmy Akin. Also, Elena Rodríguez and Matthew Warner talk about the Archdiocese of New York City and their adoption of a brand new parish communications strategy.

Jimmy Akin on the Marriage & Family Synod

Jimmy Akin is a regular blogger for the Register as well as Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to This Rock magazine, and a weekly guest on "Catholic Answers Live.” Today he’ll discuss the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, now meeting at the Vatican.

Akin mentioned, as he did recently at the Register, that there is good news coming from the Synod that’s just finishing up in Rome. “A lot of the things that the Fathers of the Synod have been saying about the family are very good. They’re calling attention to problems that need to be addressed, challenges families in different parts of the world are facing, and all that’s good. Unfortunately, at the beginning of last week,” he continued, “there’s a document that came out called a relatio — that means a report — and it was a report that was intended to summarize the discussions that the Synod Fathers had had up to that point, but the thing was this relatio was really flawed in a number of ways.”

The good news, Akin said, is that there were a number of Synod Fathers who pushed back and called for a better document. “Those flaws [in the document] were obvious to people on the outside, and the good news is that many of the Synod Fathers were standing up for having a better document.”

Akin said that “according to one of the Synod Fathers, three-quarters of the Fathers who addressed the document said it had flaws that needed to be fixed.”

There were a couple of statements on homosexuality that caught people’s attention. The first was in Section 50 of the document. It posed a rhetorical question that said, “Are our communities capable of providing fraternal space for people with homosexual orientation, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?” 

“That raised a lot of eyebrows,” Akin said. “The idea of valuing homosexual orientation. It’s one thing to acknowledge someone’s orientation sexually and to accept them in love despite their temptations, just like we need to do with anybody who has temptation, which is to say everybody. But to say that we should value those temptations just struck a lot of people as really strange.”

Akin said that there may be a translation issue with this question. “If you read the document,” according to Akin, “it’s poorly translated.” He explained that it seems as though a native Italian speaker did a rushed translation job and then didn’t check the translation with a native English speaker: “It uses words in weird ways that a native English speaker would never use,” Akin said. 

The term translated as “valuing” might be better translated as “evaluating,” he said.

However, the the second statement in question, found in Section 52 of the document, doesn’t seem to be only a translation issue. There, it says, “Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions, it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”

“This just seems very strange,” Akin explained. “Sure, you can have two people who are partners in a homosexual relationship that offer each other mutual aid, even to the point of sacrifice, and that may seem precious to them in some way, but it doesn’t change the fact that the nature of their relationship is fundamentally disordered. It seems you could say the same thing about any two people,” he continued. “Can’t there be cases of mutual aid to the point of sacrifice between two people committing adultery with each other? Or two people who are partners in crime? But that doesn’t mean you should single out this mutual aid as a precious support in their lives in a way that diminishes the fact that what they’re doing together is wrong.”

Akin had a number of other things that he noted about this document, including “ecclesiastical bafflegab,” a term he described in the interview and in his recent post

As he mentioned in another piece at the Register, “Battles in the Church and How You Can Help,” we are looking in and catching bits and pieces of a conversation. Unfortunately, there’s no C-SPAN for the Catholic Church.

“We’ve had intense debates in the Church going back to the first century,” Akin said. The pointed discussions and heated debate have not, Akin said, “stopped God from guiding the Church in each age.”

Be sure to listen to the entire interview online or on your mp3 player.

Matthew Warner on Parish Communication

Matthew Warner is the founder of flocknote.com. He’s also a blessed husband and a grateful father trying his best to manage it all. He’s a prolific blogger, a contributor to the book, The Church and New Media, and author of TheRadicalLife.org

“The Church exists to evangelize,” Warner said, “which means we have a to learn how to reach not just the people in the pews — which we need to do a better job of doing anyway — but also to reach out to people who aren’t showing up to the pews anymore and maybe wouldn’t think to show up to the Church anymore.”

One of the ways we engage the culture, according to Warner, is by “engaging the types of tools and ways and methods that the culture and people at large are communicating.”

Warner pointed out that “we’re at a point in history where we have an unprecedented ability to function as the Church even more efficiently and more effectively than we ever have been able to. With these new technologies changing everyday, it’s important that the Church is always exploring how those can help the mission of the Church.”

With Flocknote, Warner has worked with thousands of parishes across the world. Referring to the commitment that the Archdiocese of New York has made to equip all 350+ of its parishes with both Flocknote and eCatholic, Warner said, “implementing something this big — and yet so simple — across an entire archdiocese is something we haven’t really seen before and I think it’s going to make a really exciting improvement to the way the Church functions there and, hopefully, maybe in other parts of the world too.”

One of the things they’ve learned at Flocknote, Warner said, is that “What’s the simplest thing that the Church can do, that a parish can do, that can have the biggest impact? … At the end of the day, we don’t have to do all of [the new technologies] to make big improvements. Something as simple as having an up-to-date email list and an up-to-date text message list, where you can reach the entire parish or some group of people within the parish is really, really powerful.” 

According to Warner, “Emails and text messages are still the number one most effective way to reach people that are part of your organization or that want information from your organization.” The ability, then, to not only send the emails or text messages, but also to capture the responses or feedback in one place “is a complex idea, but it’s very, very powerful and very, very effective.”

The simple-to-use tools that Flocknote offers “help a parish take a simple step that gives big results very quickly,” Warner said.

“There is an urgency we should have to get this message [of the Gospel] out,” Warner said. But there are also, he pointed out, also weather announcements and emergencies to alert people to. Additionally, “the idea that you could something like a reminder for a Holy Day of Obligation the night before a holy day doubles [the parishes who use Flocknote’s] attendance.”

“People want to be more involved with things going on at their parish but they either don’t know about them or forget about them.” The Church, he said, needs to be in the midst of all of noise and information that bombards and surrounds people, “at least attempting to be present among all of that, but doing more than that and reaching out and pushing information to our members so we stay top-of-mind throughout their week.”

“There [are] real opportunities as we innovate to get people’s attention that maybe are just so used to tuning out the normal communication of the Church,” Warner said. “They get the bulletin every Sunday, but they stopped reading it. They get the announcements at the end of Mass, but they stopped listening. They started to tune these things out because they’re just the same, they’ve grown so used to them. … Something new sort of wakes everybody up.”

Warner explained that Flocknote also tries to teach parishes the proper use of these tools, so people don’t start tuning it out. “The technology’s twenty percent of it,” he said, “but the other eighty percent is how are you using it and what are you saying and what are you trying to accomplish with it.”

Listen to this week’s show online or on your mp3 player.