We’ve now got the guiding document for the Vatican’s upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family. If anyone thought it would challenge established doctrine, they will be disappointed. I wasn’t expecting that, but equally, I wasn’t expecting this:

The document devotes six pages to contraception, sometimes fiercely defending Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which deemed use of artificial contraceptives by Catholics as sinful. “The Encyclical Humanae Vitae certainly had a prophetic character in reiterating the unbreakable link between conjugal love and the transmission of life,” states the document. It says the positive aspects of Paul’s teaching are unknown by many.

“Some responses see a relation between the commonly-held contraception mentality and a pervasive gender ideology which tends to change some basic aspects of anthropology, including the meaning of the body and the difference between the sexes which is replaced with the idea of gender orientation to the point of subverting sexual identity,” it states.

That connection is not obvious to me. The signs on gay inclusiveness are also almost all negative:

The document states: “Every bishops’ conference voiced opposition to ‘redefining’ marriage.” Some responses, it says, “recommend not using phrases such as ‘gay,’ ‘lesbian’ or ‘homosexual’ to define a person’s identity.” It states: “The great challenge will be to develop a ministry which can maintain the proper balance between accepting persons in a spirit of compassion and gradually guiding them to authentic human and Christian maturity.”

The one sign of moderation is that word “gradually.”

We shouldn’t conflate some responses with the Church’s response, of course. And I haven’t read the full document. But it seems like a classic attempt by the church to understand why its messages have not reached the average Catholic. It cops to the impact of the sex abuse crisis on the moral authority of the Church but also veers into Ratzingerian memes on the reasons for the failure:

“the hedonistic culture; relativism; materialism; individualism; the growing secularism; the prevalence of ideas that lead to an excessive, selfish liberalization of morals; … [and] a culture which rejects making permanent choices.”