Synod 2015- Reasons to be Optimistic

I think it would be fair to say that there is a great deal of doom and gloom surrounding the prospect of the Synod in October. Back in November, Cardinal Raymond Burke urged Pope Francis to take the issues of Communion for the divorced and remarried, cohabitation and same-sex marriage “off the table” for next year’s Synod of Bishops.

As reported by the Catholic Herald and numerous other news agencies, Cardinal Burke addressed more than 300 delegates at a family and marriage conference, organised by Catholic Voice in Limerick on November 15. Here he said that these issues had distracted the work of the synod in its first session in October.

Warning that Satan was sowing confusion and error about matrimony, the cardinal patron of the Knights of Malta said, “Even within the church there are those who would obscure the truth of the indissolubility of marriage in the name of mercy.”

Voice of the Family, a coalition of pro-life organisations, has launched a "filial appeal" to Pope Francis which has already garnered well over 100,000 signatures! You only have to take to social media to see the huge concern expressed about the apparent sudden fragility of truths Catholics have long considered to be self evident, divinely revealed and thus unchangeable. 

Although canonically, I understand that these doctrines cannot be altered, there is a fear that what may ultimately prevail is a wishy-washy, pastoral work-around that leaves the faithful more confused than ever about the complex issues it faces in every day life. In other words- a means by which those in the Church who want to can capitulate to secular temporal pressure.

Laurence England provides a clear exposition of this in a recent blog post. He works from the Gospel of Tuesday 10th February 2015, which is Mark 7:1-13, inspired by Jesus admonition of the Scribes and the Pharisees for ignoring the Word of God and instead, sticking to their man-made traditions, Laurence explains how this seems to be exactly the path being followed by some in Rome (Cardinal Kasper, et al). Laurence explains it thus:
what Jesus's enemies do is pretend to love God while shrewdly neglecting his law. Just this tendency is aptly pointed out by Our Lord in his discourse on marriage, in which He says that Moses permitted divorce because of the 'hardness of heart' of those entrusted with the law. However, this is not what God wanted. Jesus then unveils not the law of Moses, but the whole truth concerning God's loving plan for marriage and its covenantal meaning and guess what? His hearers do not like it one bit! So what's new? Nothing at all, it seems. Modern man hates the same message preached 2,000 years ago.
So we see that modern Catholic prelates enjoy creating an impression of Christ who is war with those who strive to uphold God's law on marriage, divorce and remarriage, when, in fact He is anything but. They like to cast these people as Jesus's enemies when the opposite is true. Jesus's enemies were affronted not just by His teaching on mercy and compassion, but His teaching by preaching the whole Law of love of God and neighbour, including keeping those commandents, instead of doing your best to slyly circumnavigate them.
It would be very convenient for these prelates if Christ had said what they say, but He did not. In doing so, they fulfill Our Lord's prophecies that "false Christ's and false prophets and false messiahs will arise". They don't have to appear in person, in the flesh. They just have to appear as a fake depiction of the real Christ, the real Messiah, Jesus Christ, our Lord and God - a Jesus who, like Pope Francis, changes his mind or contradicts Himself within the very same week, the very same day, or even in the same hour. This false Jesus does not convict us of sin or show us the way to Salvation. We're left unsure if He is different to any other preacher or messenger. Perhaps He does die for us, but we are really left unsure why and, in any age, that is really quite disturbing.
In the current edition of Mass of Ages, the US academic Professor Peter Kwasniewski states that the Synod was a huge wake-up call for the Church and to the faithful. He claims it showed us, in no uncertain terms, that many of our 'shepherds' are like drunks or madmen, and that we cannot sit back and take for granted that the faith is safe. Kwasniewski suggests that the 'experts' within the Church tried to pull the wool over the faithful's eyes, as has happened before, only this time it didn't work. The Machiavellians were too clever by half and the Synod actually galvanised many Catholics around the world to take up their Catechisms and defend the Faith! Ultimately, Professor Kwasniewski suggests that God could use this for good as it may portend to a still greater opening of hearts and minds to the Gospel and to the Faith as it has always been held and taught.

I could continue to document further sources which express the level of confusion and dismay that seems rather tangible in the Church at the moment, but there are some causes for optimism apart from Professor Kwasniewski's assertion of the good coming out of the bad, or that liberal Catholicism (whatever that actually is) is ultimately suicidal.

1. Crisis Magazine onsome key passages from Vatican II

...and they are the opposite of what the editor of The Tablet thinks (but then again, she probably has never read the documents of Vatican II). Familiarity with these documents might be interesting, especially if you live in England and Wales, where it does seem a broadly seperate narrative has been prevalent for many years, justified by reference to Vatican II.

2. Marriage: Theological and Pastoral Considerations

This has just been brought to my attention although it was published last summer in the international theological review Communio.
Communio was founded in 1972 by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and Joseph Ratzinger. It stands for the renewal of theology in continuity with the living Christian tradition, the continuing dialogue of all believers, past and present, “as if all were simultaneously in the circle.” (sounds like what Chesterton called "the democracy of the dead"). It is now published in collaboration with thirteen other editions in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, and is truly “Catholic” and international in scope. (Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was instrumental in the establishment of the Polish edition.)

This edition includes articles by Pope St. John Paul II, Cardinal Angelo Scola (Archbishop of Milan - the biggest diocese in the world - born 7 November 1941) and Cardinal Marc Oullet (the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops - born 8 June 1944 ).

Cardinal Scola writes on Marriage and the Family Between Anthropology and the Eucharist:
“The nuptial dimension proper to every form of love is the point of departure for addressing pastoral challenges regarding marriage and the family.”
Cardinal Scola previously served as rector of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome and President of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome, with a term spent as visiting professor at the counterpart Institute in Washington, D.C. He also has very strong links with Communione Liberazione.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet writes
“The new openings for a pastoral approach based on mercy must take place within the continuity of the Church’s doctrinal tradition, which is itself an expression of divine mercy.”
3. Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church

This famous book (published last autumn) contains five essays from cardinals, the archbishop secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and three other respected scholars, on the half-baked ideas proposed by Cardinal Walter Kasper (born 5 March 1933) in the opening discourse of the consistory in February 2014. The five cardinals are Walter Brandmuller born (January 5, 1929) , Gerhard Muller (born 31 December 1947), Carlo Caffara (born 1 June 1938) , Velasio De Paolis (born 19 September 1935) and Raymond Burke (born June 30, 1948) .

4. Crisis Magazine: Pope Francis Shocks Liberals on Same-Sex “Marriage”

This article contains an interesting quote from Austen Ivereigh's book The Great Reformer which points to the role of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises in forming Jorge Bergoglio’s thinking and unlocking the mystery of Francis’ papacy: 
He absorbed at a very deep level St. Ignatius’ rules for distinguishing the action of the Holy Spirit from spiritual motions that come from the devil, which often come disguised in angelic form.
 He discerned, in the move to create same-sex “marriage” in Argentina in 2010, precisely that kind of temptation: In the name of “good” things, such as dignity and equality, what the government was doing was destroying a child-centered institution based on an anthropological reality.
 The Exercises are also key to understanding Francis’ reform of the Church.
St. Ignatius’ retreat is a four-week cycle. In Week I, you discover yourself to be a sinner, yet at the same time unconditionally loved and forgiven by God.
In Week II, you choose to follow Christ, renouncing distractions and temptations, and commit to the truth taught by the Church. You’re able to get to Week II because of Week I; it’s the pattern of conversion.

Yet, too often, we focus on the saving truth of the Church’s teaching while making it hard for people actually to experience that healing love.
What Francis is trying to do is get the Church to focus less on a Week II-type proclamation and more on Week I. It’s not an attempt to soften or dilute the Church’s teaching, but to fill it out—to show the part that too often gets skipped. Hence, his vision of the Church as a healer and a mother, not just a teacher. That’s the program of his pontificate."
To use a bit of a teaching analogy, one might surmise that Pope Francis is working to get us, the children of the Church, to like him in order that we might settle down and be happy in school - so that when he begins to teach us, will will actually listen to him.

I might give the final word to Cardinal Pell:
"Believers in the tradition, such as the authors of this volume, should be commended when they state their case calmly and charitably.

We still have the best tunes.

We also need to work now to avoid a repetition of the aftermath of Humanae vitae in 1968.

We should speak clearly, because the sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, foreword 11 and the outsiders realize that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible, the more the hostile disappointment (which must follow the reassertion of doctrine) will be anticipated and dissipated."
George Cardinal Pell
Archbishop Emeritus of Melbourne and Sydney
Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy
May 20, 2014


Juan José Pérez-Soba and Stephan Kampowski: The Gospel of the Family Going Beyond Cardinal Kasper’s Proposal in the Debate on Marriage, Civil Re-Marriage, and Communion in the Church

Foreword by George Cardinal Pell


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