As 2014 draws to a close one naturally looks forward, but one’s hopes of a very happy new year should be muted. The big event coming in 2015 for Catholics is the Family Synod in October. This Synod has already failed to live up to its name, at least in perception. The media coverage has rather lost sight of the focus on family life, and is concentrated on the subject of communion for the divorced and remarried, with a sideline in talk of the Church recognising, in some shape or form, same sex relationships. This is not the first time, of course, that we have had a divergence between an ecclesial event in itself and in its media portrayal.
As October approaches, we can expect to hear much more on both these topics, especially the first, as Cardinal Kasper and his allies make their final push for what they see as reform. And it really is a final push: Cardinal Kasper is in his eighties, so it is now or never as far as he is concerned. The synod may be about the family, but the run-up will largely be about a proposal that, if it passes, will signal the definitive break up of all family life, namely the proposal (for that is what it is) to make all marriages provisional rather than, as now, absolute. So, between now and October, we need lots of prayer, so that this attempt to subvert marriage is defeated.
Meanwhile, in the still for the moment United Kingdom, the next big event is the General Election scheduled for May 7. Most pundits are predicting another coalition government as the outcome, but, as things stand at present, the coalition could be one that includes the Scottish Nationalists, and/or Plaid Cymru and one or other of the parties from Northern Ireland. If Labour gets in this way, or the Tories hang on in this way, one can expect Britain to experience the dreadful reality of pork barrel politics as regional parties such as the SNP extract a heavy price for their support. The possibility of a Westminster government having to bribe the Scots Nats with funding in return for votes, while making cuts in England, while the Nats plot the destruction of the United Kingdom, is too terrible to contemplate.
As for what happens abroad, here the picture is equally gloomy. There is no guarantee that 2015 will see ISIS put out of business, simply because there is no real hope that Iraq will have a stable and strong government soon. While President Assad will probably be in power this time next year, it may well suit him that ISIS is still in control of a large part of Syria. Unfortunately, we can expect no real change in the Middle East. The region will be, as it has for some time now, beyond the control of the Pax Americana, until such a time as America and its allies comes round to the idea, once more, of the necessity of boots on the ground.
Is there anything we can look forward to? Yes, there is. In 2015 we shall be hearing more, I hope, from the African church, and come to a greater understanding of the insights and graces that have been granted to Catholics in Africa. Moreover, the affable and respected Cardinal Burke will continue to travel the world, and will visit (I am sure) Malta, where, I am reliably informed, a warm welcome awaits him. Oh yes, and at some point a new Bishop of Arundel and Brighton will be appointed. Moreover, we will all continue to watch Cardinal Pell as he rolls out further common sense reforms of the Vatican finances. In addition, I shall be listening out for the sound teaching one has come to expect from Cardinal Mueller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna. As well as that, I shall be interested to see who is going to be the next Archbishop of Malta, who should be appointed at some point in 2015.
The coming year may well be interesting. For those who like praying, and keeping specific intentions in mind, I would recommend these: the Family Synod, the plight of suffering Christians around the world but particularly in Syria and Iraq, and outstanding candidates for vacant sees, particularly in Arundel and Brighton and Malta.
Happy New Year, everyone! May Saint Sylvester intercede for us today, and Our Blessed Lady on her feast tomorrow!