The two most senior officials of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, the body’s president, and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas, the vice president. Both are elected delegates to the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops on the family, and today Crux presents interviews with both men about their perceptions of the event. Read the Kurtz interview here.

ROME – As the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops enters what’s expected to be a rough-and-tumble final week, taking up contentious issues such as “new language” on homosexuality and allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston says two things seem clear.

One is that the 13 small working groups in which bishops participate are generating a great deal of input, reflecting what different voices are saying. The other, he said, is that no one seems quite sure what’s going to become of it.

“It all seems to be going into this huge blender in the sky,” DiNardo laughingly told Crux on Sunday.

He said the 10 bishops who make up a drafting committee for the synod’s final document — a group that includes Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC — will have to find a way to take the small group suggestions (technically called modi) and weave them into a document that honestly reflects the synod’s thinking.

That document is supposed to be based on a working text distributed at the beginning called the Instrumentum Laboris. DiNardo said it’s been slow going slogging through it — leading, he said, to the insider joke that it’s actually the Instrumentum “laborious.”

At the beginning there were charges the process doesn’t give the bishops adequate chance to express themselves clearly, and DiNardo was among roughly a dozen cardinals who signed a letter to Francis raising those concerns.

By now, he said, it seems the playing field is “pretty level” for the various camps. Yet DiNardo cautioned that a final judgment about fairness will depend on what happens with the concluding document.

“To my mind, that will be the tale,” he said. “If something comes back that suggests people have paid attention [to what bishops actually said], then I think we’ll do well.”

On the specific issues on the docket this week, DiNardo said he’s against the “Kasper proposal,” named for German Cardinal Walter Kasper, to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to return to Communion.

“I basically don’t favor it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s coherent. To my mind, indissoluble means ‘unbreakable,’ and you can’t say later it’s indissoluble but not exclusive.”

DiNardo said he expects his working group (English group D, led by Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto) to be “split” on the question, but “more opposed than in favor.”

With regard to the push for more inclusive and welcoming language on homosexuality, DiNardo likewise expressed caution.

“If they mean that we should speak with respect, I’m fine with it, but I don’t know that I like making the language of our faith so vague,” he said.

Especially in the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision approving gay marriage, he said, anything that fosters “confusion” in the United States about Church teaching would be unhelpful.

DiNardo said that in Houston shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, a gay couple called the archdiocese to enroll in a Catholic program of marriage preparation — on the assumption, he said, that opposition to gay marriage “is just a disciplinary matter of the Church that will change some day.”

In that context, he said, “I’m very concerned about the doctrine not being clear.”

DiNardo said that in the synod, attitudes towards new language on homosexuality often depend on whether a bishop hails from “south of the equator or north,” with African and Asian prelates expressing reservations while Western Europeans tend to be more enthusiastic.

On the other hand, DiNardo said there’s strong consensus emerging on several other points, including the need for better marriage preparation — something like an “RCIA for couples,” meaning programs analogous to the way the Church prepares adult converts for baptism.

“Bishops are saying that preparation has to start earlier,” he said, “and that it has to be much more thorough, not just ending with the wedding. We need to help people see themselves as disciples getting married, not just people jumping through hoops.”

On the whole, DiNardo said that despite clear differences on some points, the atmosphere remains cordial.

“Some people are making out that internal to the synod there are all kinds of horrible things going on, but there really aren’t,” he said. “People who have just said something opposed to one another then hang out over the coffee breaks together.”

In the end, DiNardo said, too much may be made of the details of synod debates anyway, because ultimately the final decisions rest with Pope Francis — who, he said, “really hasn’t shown his cards yet” in terms of where he stands.

Francis will receive the synod’s conclusions, but DiNardo emphasized the pontiff is not bound by them.

“He can take it or leave it,” he said.