Is Pope Francis closing the door on the "innovators"?
This weekend I have been praying for unity in the Church. The Catholic Church bears unique charisms which protect it from error. over the centuries this has been demonstrated sometimes in quite dramatic form.
Infallibility is the protection given by the Holy Spirit to the pope so that he will never teach error in matters of faith and morals.
But the open divisions I have witnessed since the Synod on the family have scared me and scandalised me terribly. To be honest, having studied Catholic theology, most of what has been said by the likes of Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Marx should never have been said. I have personally wrestled with the dialogue and the prospect of a change in stance which would amount to nothing less than an acceptance of relativism and a turning away from the deposit of faith--in contradiction with the very raison d'être of the Papacy, which is to hold fast to the fides quae, the faith which was deposited by Christ.
This can not happen.
I feel so sad that there can be people in the Church who are so determined to turn away from that faith, so closed to trying to understand and implement it, so determined to change what the Church holds and teaches to something else. This, in an environment where the faith in all its power and beauty is so rarely heard and taught and preached these days. A world where even within the Church, doctrine has given way to pastoral practice, and the answer to the resultant withering of the faith is more of the same. Yet has it not always been this way?
What is this deposit? St. Paul uses the Greek word παραθήκη "paratheke," "deposit," meaning something precious entrusted to a depositary for safekeeping. He does not mean some inert object like gold or diamonds or a sum placed in the trust department of a bank, but a living body of doctrine.
"O Timothy, guard the 'paratheke,' the deposit" (1 Tim. 6:20).This urgent appeal of the Apostle to his Successor is not only thematic for the Acts of the Apostles and their Epistles but also for the Gospels. The reason is the fact that this deposit is the doctrine and the teaching program which Jesus entrusted to his Apostles when he taught them, and mandated them to take it out to all nations (see Matt. 28:16-20). He entrusted it therefore also to their Successors, including the men of Holy Orders as a whole until his Second Coming at the end of the world.
This concept of a priceless divine deposit entrusted to the teaching Church belongs to the New Testament as one of its principal themes. The origin of the deposit, then, is Jesus the Divine Teacher. It originated in his teaching of his Apostles, when he prepared them to carry his program forth to all nations. What is the value of the deposit? Unique and priceless. Jesus himself states it:
"My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me" (John 7:16).It is the Word of God, not diffused throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, but gathered into a brief teachable synthesis and summary by Jesus himself. It was a stroke of genius, humanly speaking, that Jesus made his revelation of the Three Divine Persons the pattern of this teachable summary of divine revelation. Jesus was preparing teachers in the age-old oral methods of mankind; printing, printed catechisms and printed textbooks were still fifteen centuries in the future.
Today, Sandro Magister has written a very heartening piece cataloging what he concludes is a very clear change in direction from the Holy Father. Magister notes how "open" the Pope has appeared to change leading up to the Synod, he states that the Pope:
...had repeatedly and in various ways shown encouragement for “openness” in matters of homosexuality and second marriages, each time with great fanfare in the media. Cardinal Kasper explicitly said that he had “agreed” with the pope on his explosive talk at the consistory.Magister notes how from the end of the synod on, Pope Francis has adopted a new trajectory which could be said to be diametrically opposed to his initial direction of travel. Magister points out that, from the end of 2014 until today, there has not been even one more occasion on which the Holy Father has given the slightest support to the paradigms of the innovators.
On the contrary. the Pope appears to have ramped up his rhetoric against them and intensified his criticism of all the most controversial questions connected to the synodal theme of the family: contraception, abortion, divorce, second marriages, homosexual marriage, “gender” ideology.
In addition, each time he has addressed these issues, he has said he does so as a “son of the Church” - a term he loves to use to describe himself - with ironclad fidelity to tradition and without swerving by a millimeter from what was said before him by Paul VI, John Paul II, or Benedict XVI.
Magister's website has cataloged these statements and list them here.
It is so heartening to hear the Pope steering a course away from controversy and toward the tried and tested truths of the faith. The issues we face are not that we need to change the doctrine of the Church and contradict the words of Jesus Himself, but that we need to find our voice to speak out against the zeitgeist of the age and reinforce the objective truth of the deposit of faith.
Let us all continue to pray that the Holy Father does this with ever increasing volume as we approach the synod later this year and that the Holy Spirit provides him with the wisdom and courage undoubtedly essential to this huge role.