Catholic church officials from around the world are now in Rome for a two-week gathering that's being described as potentially extraordinary. They're discussing how the Church can better reach out to divorced people, gays and lesbians and unmarried couples.
And the meeting is viewed as a test of how Pope Francis's push for a more open, modern church will mesh with the more conservative views of many of its bishops.
These married couples have brought up some conversations that you just don't hear in assemblies of celibate male bishops.John Allen
"There's tremendous interest in this one because it is the first time one of these summits of bishops from all over the world has occurred on the watch of Pope Francis, and Pope Francis has already demonstrated his capacity to be a kind of maverick leader," Allen said. "Also because of the topic. It's about the family and there is no hot button issue in the Catholic Church ... that doesn't fall under that rubric."
Pope Francis has invited lay people from around the world to give testimony at the meeting.
"He decided to invite 12 married couples to give the bishops a crash course in the reality of what family life is like," Allen said. "And it has been striking that these married couples have brought up some conversations that you just don't hear in assemblies of celibate male bishops."
While Allen says the Synod won't result in any doctrinal changes, there could be changes in the application of doctrine. At the very least, Allen says exposing the bishops to different family organizations would let them be "better equipped to talk about these issues with people who are living in situations [the bishops] would consider irregular," such as being gay or cohabitating.
This segment aired on October 10, 2014.