I’m packing my bags and heading back on the road! Earlier this evening, I announced on the Hugh Hewitt Show that Hot Air will return to the Vatican to cover the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Hot Air/Townhall will partner with Catholic Match Institute as a sponsor for the trip, which is (if you will pardon a pun) a perfect match for this event. Their mission is to build more and stronger marriages, and also to “magnify the efforts and talents of publishers, ministries, parishes and dioceses” in communicating Catholic teachings on family life, which is the topic at hand for this Synod.

This is no routine event, either. While the Vatican has “ordinary” Synods on a regular basis, this is only the third extraordinary Synod since Vatican II. Pope Francis called for this debate as one of the first significant moves of his pontificate, seeing the broad range of issues facing families within the Catholic Church as too important to ignore. The scope of this Synod is broad indeed, and will drive the debate on such issues around the world — and certainly in the US. The preparatory document for the Synod includes questions about same-sex unions, divorce and remarriage and the Eucharist, cohabitation, contraception and the openness within marriage to children, the level of understanding of Church teachings within the dioceses. Economics will also likely be a major topic in relation to the family, too, a topic of no small interest to readers on both sites.

The Synod has already created controversy. Crux’s John Allen Jr reported today that the “jousting” has already begun on the subject of marriage:

One sign that a summit is viewed as crucial is when a tug-of-war breaks out to shape its agenda and outcome. By that standard, the looming Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family appears a very big deal indeed.

In the run-up to the synod, we’ve already seen cardinals publicly jousting over the contentious issue of whether the Church ought to relax its ban on divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion.

Activists and rank-and-file believers alike have entered the fray on all manner of issues related to the family, with the latest to-do involving a cross-section of 48 mostly conservative intellectuals and ministers, including not just Catholics but also Protestant luminaries such as Rick Warren, urging the synod to hold the line in defense of traditional marriage.

Late last week, Cardinal Raymond Burke – the subject of rumors himself regarding his status at the Apostolic Signatura — warned that rumors of doctrinal change threatened to undermine the Synod:

Next month’s synod on the family has undergone an attempted hijacking by some media sources, which are fueling expectations that impossible changes will be made to Church doctrine, said the head of the Church’s highest court.

“I don’t think you have to be brilliant to see that the media has, for months, been trying to hijack this synod,” said Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura — the office which, among other things, handles annulment cases in the Church.

In particular, he told CNA in a recent interview, the media has been presenting Pope Francis as being in favor of allowing holy Communion to be distributed to those who are divorced and remarried and other such propositions, even though this is not the case.

The danger, Cardinal Burke continued, is that “the media has created a situation in which people expect that there are going to be these major changes which would, in fact, constitute a change in Church teaching, which is impossible.”

“That’s why it’s very important for those who are in charge to be very clear,” he said.

As well as those reporting on it, too. As with the conclave last year, I have received media accreditation, and will have normal media access to the event. The intent here is to give an informed and first-hand report on the issues and the debate, to the extent that it takes place in public, as well as work with informed individuals to analyze the goings-on. The conclusion of this process will take place in 2016, but in order to understand where we have arrived, it will be necessary to understand how we got there.

Thanks to our partners at Catholic Match Institute, I look forward to bringing that perspective to readers at both sites with interviews, analysis, and first-hand reporting. Our coverage will begin this weekend. Stay tuned!

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