There has been much discussion on many different blogs, in different newspapers, and in various areas of the media over the Synod on the Family which is currently going on in Rome. Many people are hearing that one bishop said this or another bishop said that and beginning to panic and start already building their defenses in order to fight back. I would caution people against any premature hysteria. I think one of the dangers going on here is the readily available media coverage of the synod without any filter of understanding. It should come as no surprise to anyone that there are bishops in the Church with varying opinions. It has always been this way; in fact, in the earliest centuries, the differences of opinion were sometimes so strong that they were met with fists, sticks, insults, and even banishment from their dioceses on some occasions. No society, no matter how holy, if it is made up of human members will ever avoid it. Those who somehow expect that all the bishops would get together with the Holy Father and that there would be not a single difference of opinion are living in a dream world. If that were the case, there would be no need for synod in the first place! What is critical is not what one bishop or another says, what one or another letter written to the Holy Father says, but ultimately the final decision by the Holy Father after the bishops have consulted with him. That is the only document that need concern us. In order for the Holy Father to be able to arrive at a good pastoral decision he has to be able to hear frankly and candidly from the bishops, as Cardinal Dolan told us he asked them to do and he and others who signed a letter to him before the synod began in fact did. To suggest otherwise would mean we’re expecting that the bishops would already come into the synod and simply say what the Holy Father wants to hear. Such a meeting would be useless. Therefore it is essential that bishops be able to state their opinions, even if they disagree radically with the opinions of others. There’s no way we can arrive at the fullness of truth about any issue without hearing from all the different nuances of the issue, even those who disagree with a belief or are against certain way of implementing those beliefs. So the day by day coverage of the media of everything that was said in trying to get leaked documents is counterproductive, as it leads people to think that because there is a bishop with an opinion that differs from that of another the church is somehow split asunder. Difference of opinion does not constitute dissent. Dissent would come into play if, after the Holy Father issues whatever decree he does from the synod there were several bishops who refuse to go along with it; that would be dissent. There is no indication at this point that any of the bishops are threatening dissent if the Holy Father doesn’t agree with them. So do not worry if you’re reading all the different stories that are being passed on about the synod. First of all, the reporters are not inside covering what was said, they are receiving materials handed to them sometimes secondhand. Also, many of the media that are reporting on the issues are not sufficiently trained to understand what it is that is in fact being discussed. My advice to everyone is to wait for the Pope to give the final document. That is the only thing that would have any authority over us and in any way representing any official teaching from the church.