Showing posts with label synod. Show all posts
Showing posts with label synod. Show all posts

Monday, June 17, 2019

Don’t Leave the Barque of Peter For a Ship of Fools

Another day, another case of people committing rash judgment in response to something they think the Pope is doing, but has nothing to do with the actual events.

This time, the case involves a synod called to look into whether the Church should ordain married men living in the remote regions to provide people with access to the priestly ministry when there are too few priests to meet the need of the people living there. If accepted, the Church would call married men of stable families—similar to how she calls married men to be permanent deacons—to fill the role.

This would not be an abolition of celibacy in the West. This would not mean that those already priests could marry. The only precedent it could set is that if it happens that another region should wind up with the same circumstances, the Church could allow this to the people there as well.

But some are declaring that the discipline of celibacy is a doctrine and the Pope is a heretic. In doing so, they have met challenges by denying that Eastern Rite Catholics are in communion with the Church. Others say that the Church should start ordaining women instead (she can’t). Some misinterpreted this as throwing open the doors to allowing priests to marry everywhere. 

All of this shows that the people who are “defending” the Church from the Pope (a small but very vocal portion of the laity) are ignorant about what the Church teaches and/or what is going on beyond the headline [§], and condemning the Pope for doing things he has no intention of doing. They sound increasingly like the typical anti-Catholic who condemns what he thinks is Catholic teaching when Catholic teaching is either nothing like their accusations or else held for reasons completely different from what they think.

These critics are sure that they represent the true Church while holding views at odds with her actual teaching. But they overlook the fact that some Catholics who are convinced that the Church is in error have wound up in various sede vacantist groups, fundamentalist anti-Catholic groups, Old Catholic groups, or the Orthodox church—all of which require deny some part of the long held Catholic teaching. That’s ironic, considering they’re claiming to defend the Church from error. But it’s not surprising because they have never believed a crucial teaching. Blessed John Henry Newman wrote [#]:

I will take one more instance. A man is converted to the Catholic Church from his admiration of its religious system, and his disgust with Protestantism. That admiration remains; but, after a time, he leaves his new faith, perhaps returns to his old. The reason, if we may conjecture, may sometimes be this: he has never believed in the Church’s infallibility; in her doctrinal truth he has believed, but in her infallibility, no. He was asked, before he was received, whether he held all that the Church taught, he replied he did; but he understood the question to mean, whether he held those particular doctrines “which at that time the Church in matter of fact formally taught,” whereas it really meant “whatever the Church then or at any future time should teach.” Thus, he never had the indispensable and elementary faith of a Catholic, and was simply no subject for reception into the fold of the Church. This being the case, when the Immaculate Conception is defined, he feels that it is something more than he bargained for when he became a Catholic, and accordingly he gives up his religious profession. The world will say that he has lost his certitude of the divinity of the Catholic Faith, but he never had it.

An Essay in Aid to a Grammar of Assent, page 240

The critics, whether they leave the Church or remain within, either never believed in or stopped believing in the infallibility of the Church. Whether they stay or go, they have effectively abandoned the Barque of Peter to become a ship of fools, attacking the Church for not accepting their error as truth.


[§] I’ve seen it get as ridiculous as some critics assume that the “Amazon synod” meant that was involved in changing Church teaching. This is not a joke... though I wish it was.

[#] While he was writing about Catholic converts who returned to their original denomination, I believe it also fits cradle Catholic critics.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

If You Believe This, Then Why BE a Christian in the First Place?

(See: Does Pope Francis fear God? On the Synod of the Family and the fracturing of the Catholic Church.)

So, a Catholic writer, in a conservative magazine, wrote the following:

In the next three weeks, I fully expect the leadership of my own One Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church to fall into apostasy, at the conclusion of the Synod on the Family that begins today in Rome. This is the outcome Pope Francis has shaped over the entirety of his pontificate, and particularly with his recent appointments. An event like this —heresy promulgated by the Pope and his bishops — is believed by most Catholics to be impossible. But they should be prepared for it anyway. This is not an ordinary religious conference, but one to be dreaded.

The question that comes to my mind when I read this is, why in the hell would anyone be a part of a Church that can fall into apostasy? If the Church at the level of binding and loosing can fall into apostasy, then it cannot be—and never was—a Church established by God. 

I don’t use this as rhetoric or as a click-bait opener. Rather, I see it as a problem with people who have so confused their political preferences and media misinterpretations of the Church teaching, that they no longer believe that God is with His Church, but instead believe that they themselves cannot err.


Such a Catholic has to consider the ramifications of their anti-Francis mindset. If one recognizes that Jesus Christ is God and that the Catholic Church was the Church that Our Lord willed to establish in Matthew 16:18, then it follows that the promises He made about the Church will be kept. If a person denies one or both of these tenets of the faith, their faith is deficient.

Let’s think about it. If Jesus is God and the Church He established is the Catholic Church then he promised that the Church, built on the rock of Peter, would not see the gates of Hell prevail against it, and He promised that He would be with His Church always (Matthew 28:20). If the authority of the Church, which has the authority to bind and loose, should fall into error then we have to recognize one of two possibilities:

  1. That Jesus could not keep His promises.
  2. That Jesus did not mean it in the sense that the Church has taught.

If Jesus could not keep His promises, then He is not God and our Catholic faith is in vain. We might as well go and seek admittance to Judaism if we wanted to still believe in the God of the Bible, but being a Christian would be nothing more than being a Platonist—a philosophy of doing good which is right some of the time. If Jesus did keep His promises, but the Catholic Church misinterpreted these promises, then she is a blind guide leading the blind into a ditch. We could never know when she got it right about being a Christian and when she did not. Was she wrong in Vatican II? Vatican I? Trent? Nicea? We could not know whether it was the Trinitarians or the Arians got it right, the Catholics or the Protestants and so on. We could only have opinions on who got it right—solely based on our own hunches and preferences.

In either case, the results of the synod would be irrelevant. Whether the Church upheld the traditional teachings on marriage, or called for polygamous homosexual divorce would be irrelevant, because the Church would have no authority whatsoever.

It only makes sense to be a Catholic if we believe that Our Lord protects the Church from teaching error when she teaches. We are bound to give assent not only in her ex cathedra pronunciations, but in her teachings of the ordinary magisterium as well. As the Catechism says:

891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.… The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

If we are bound to give assent even to the ordinary magisterium, then again we have two possibilities:

  1. God will bind error and loose truth if the Church so decrees.
  2. God will prevent the Church from binding error and loosing truth.

The first choice is asinine. The God who came to save us from our sins would certainly not say that sin is OK if the Church gives its sanction. But given that Our Lord equates rejection of His Church with rejection of Him (see Matthew 18:17 and Luke 10:16), obedience to those He has put in charge is not an option. But since human beings are weak and sinful, God must have a way which ensures that they do not lead people into sin.

Even if we should see the synod become another “robber council,” (which I do not expect), we can have faith that the Pope would block such things from becoming teaching. Think about it. St. Paul said that to receive the Eucharist unworthily would be eating and drinking judgment on themselves (1 Corinthians 11:29-32). If the Church should sanction people in mortal sin receiving the Eucharist, that would be a case of binding error and loosing truth. 

It is because I have faith in Our Lord that I do not fear that the magisterium of the Church will teach error. The leaders of the Church can indeed be sinful and weak. They can enact rules that are ineffective and falter in the face of opposition. Thus we need to pray for them. But even if some individual bishops or even regions should fall into error (it has happened in our History), the Church will not call evil good.

The person who believes that the Church will embrace error and change her teachings on good and evil needs to ask himself or herself this: If the Church is not protected from teaching error, then why even be a Catholic at all?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Quick Quips: Thoughts on Synod Agendas and Annulment Concerns

Don t panic

Thoughts on the Claims of Synod Agendas and The Dangers they Hold

It’s popular for Catholic writers, even in normally orthodox publications, to talk about agendas when it comes to the upcoming synod on the family. People scrutinize the appointed and elected bishops to the synod and wonder aloud about the machinations of bishops who are not being faithful to Church teaching and plan to overturn Catholic moral teaching. Some (mind you, we’re talking orthodox publications here, not radical traditionalist sites) have even gone so far as to question whether the Pope agrees with their agendas?

I think those people and publications have lost sight of something important: The Church is not a man-made institution and the synod is not a political undertaking. What the synod is attempting to do is to look at the family and determine how to present the Church teaching in a time when the entire understanding of marriage and family have fallen into confusion.

Are there bishops involved who have expressed extremely dubious views on divorce/remarriage and “same sex marriage”? Yes, unfortunately. But what we forget is that in any Church council or synod, there have always been participants who have had dubious ideas. You can not only trace that back through all the Church Councils to Nicea I, but you can see it in the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:1. Some members of the Church have the wrong ideas on what the Church is supposed to be, and the Church looks into the issue and determines how to be faithful to Our Lord in every age.

And that brings us to people looking at the Church as a human organization and the fears that the synod is going to push an agenda. See, when the Pope takes the final results of the synod and issues whatever teaching we are to follow, that is an action of the Ordinary Magisterium, which requires us to give our assent:

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.


 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 236.

So, if we are obligated to give assent to the ordinary magisterium, and the teaching that the Pope brings forth out of the synod is part of the ordinary magisterium, we are obliged to give assent to that teaching. Therefore, for one to expect the final result of the synod will be acceptance of divorce/remarriage and “same sex marriage,” is to expect that the Church will bind us to accept error. But that expectation is to forget the promises of Christ in Matthew 16:18 and Matthew 28:20. The promises are that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church and that Our Lord will remain with His Church always. See, if the Church teaches error on faith and morals, and we are required to give assent to that error, then the gates of hell will have prevailed against the Church and Our Lord will not have always been with her.

That’s a very serious error. If Jesus was unwilling or unable to keep His promises, then He is not God, and our Christian faith is in vain. In such a case, the ultimate result of the synod is irrelevant because we would have been following an error for the past two thousand years.

However, if we have faith in Our Lord, Jesus Christ and believe that He keeps His promises, then let us have faith in Him here and not panic over the possible ways the synod could go wrong.

Thoughts on Annulment Concerns

There are two major themes in articles written that express concern over the Pope’s Motu Proprio over reforming the annulment process. One of them I believe to be a valid concern. The other I believe is not. The two concerns are:

  • Dioceses need to have time to set up the framework to carry out the responsibilities handed to them in determining the validity of marriage and may need to petition Rome for a delay in implementation.
  • This motu proprio is going to effectively lead to “Catholic Divorce” because the bishops will not be able to handle the change and will end up “rubber stamping” petitions.

I believe the first concern is valid. Setting up the framework to handle the reform of the annulment process can take time since not all dioceses can handle the new responsibilities with their current staffing. In such a case, it can be legitimate for bishops to request a delay in order to ensure that the framework is established so a just decision can be rendered—provided that this request is not an attempt to use bureaucracy to block implementation altogether.

However, I think the second concern is not valid because it acts on assumptions I believe faulty. It takes the view that dioceses lack the competence to take on the responsibility and will not be able to correct any deficiencies that currently exist.

Sure, changing the level of responsibility from the current authority to the recognition of the role the bishops can take will result in some turmoil to begin with. But that kind of turmoil can be expected in any restructuring—religious or secular. The term abusus non tollit usum (abuse does not take away use) comes to mind. Bad implementation and even corruption can abuse any reform, but the misuse is not the use and the existence of misuse by itself is not grounds for eliminating legitimate use.


God remains watching over His Church even in the worst of times—which this time certainly is not. Yes individual bishops and even the bishops of entire regions have gone astray in the past, but those events have not changed the official teaching of the Church. Instead, those bishops have simply exceeded their authority and done wrong. We need to remember that whatever the failings of individuals in the magisterium, that has never led to teaching error by the magisterium.

So when we pray for the Church, let us do so with faith that God looks out for her and will not let her lead us astray.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Reflection on Factions "More Catholic Than the Pope."

24 Since we have heard that some of our number [who went out] without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, 25 we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts15:24–26).

(Preliminary Note. It’s easy to assume “Either A or B.” So I expect some readers might be tempted to think that I write this because I emphasize with “the other side.” That would be a mistake. I seek to be a faithful son of the Church and I believe that God will protect her from teaching error. I write about this sort of faction because it seems to be a greater threat to Catholics who seek to do what is right than the factions who falsely claim Church teaching can be disobeyed without sin. Please keep this in mind when reading.)

The Catholic blogosphere has been going berserk during the extraordinary synod, as I mentioned in past articles, but I think this is only a symptom of a larger problem afflicting the Catholics trying to be faithful. The problem is that a certain faction of these Catholics have confused the essence of the Church with the accidents (in the sense of a property of a thing that is not essential to its nature) of the Church. The assumption is this: This faction assumes that its preferences are part of the doctrine of the Church. When the preferences of this faction are changed by the Church, it is assumed that the Church is changing doctrine. 

This is a dangerous attitude to take however. It assumes that the Church can err, while this faction cannot err, when it comes to determining truth. It’s as if everything Our Lord had to say about the authority of the Church and the role of Peter was meaningless, or became void at a certain point in history (usually presumed to be Vatican II). They tend to be vague on exactly when, and or to what extent error exists—perhaps because if they were specific, they would reveal their own denial of Catholic doctrine.

If this faction kept to itself like a sect, they would only be a menace to itself. But the truth is, they give the appearance of being knowledgable, orthodox Catholics and there are many Catholics out there who want to live faithfully, but do not feel confident in their knowledge on how to live as a faithful Catholic. These Catholics look to this faction as a guide on how to practice the Catholic faith. The result is these seeking Catholics are deceived into thinking that the guidance from this faction is authentic Catholicism, when in fact it is Catholic belief mixed in with the preferences of their mentors.

They succeed because there are people out there who do distort doctrine and try to change teaching. There are people who are public sinners and seem to suffer no ill effects from the Church. It’s pretty easy to insinuate that the reason they don’t seem to suffer consequences because there must be “sympathy” for their position. Essentially the real dissent is used as a “guilt by association."

When you have such a distorted teaching, things tend to snowball. Every time the Church changes one of the practices, she is accused of being unfaithful to the Sacred Tradition of the Church. Before too long, you have a case where the teaching authority of the Pope and the bishops is seen as suspect and every time they make a decision, it is scrutinized for potential errors.

This is essentially the problem I am seeing with the conservative Catholics in the English speaking regions of the world. The magisterium is being judged by a faction that is politically conservative and tends to equate political conservatism with Catholic teaching. When the Church teaching seems to “deviate” from the politically conservative, she is accused of betraying Sacred Tradition.

The problem is, the Church has not changed her teaching, and has never betrayed the Scriptures nor Sacred Tradition. The Pope and bishops in communion with her have the authority to assess the Church teaching, making sure the teaching of Christ can be understood by each generation. So the authority and the responsibility falls on the magisterium. But, if the magisterium has the authority and responsibility, we have to trust that God has a role in preventing the Church from teaching error in matters pertaining to salvation. Otherwise, we could never know when the Church was teaching accurately and when she was not. For example, if Vatican II is considered suspect on whether it teaches error, we have no way of knowing that Vatican I or Trent was free of error.

Once you understand this, the reaction to Pope Francis becomes obvious. We had gotten used to two European Popes who were academics. They were very similar in style, and were very effective on teaching the what we were called to do and why. They were succeeded by a Pope from a different continent and experience. Pope Francis did not teach differently than St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. He merely shifted the emphasis to acting . . . taking the teachings of his predecessors as a given.

3 popes one teachng

There’s nothing in Pope Francis’ documents on social justice that wasn’t found in the writings of his predecessors. It’s just that he has a different style of presentation.

Unfortunately, some people believe there is a break. In comparison to the public perception of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pope Francis is considered to be undignified. Because of course St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI never did anything undignified . . . 


Pope sombrero marc 2177327k

The difference between Pope Francis and his predecessors is really . . . nothing more than the fact that his style is slightly more blunt.

So, this is the issue with these factions. They are angry with the Church because they believe that the Church should behave differently than it does. They confuse their preferences with doctrine and end up suspecting the Pope of being a secret Marxist or a secret Modernist. They go out with no mandate from the Church and teach their preferences and suspicions as truth, and their error spreads to those who think they are correctly teaching the faith.

The thing to remember is, Christ has had strong warnings for those who do these things. 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’  Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others.  Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!  

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. (Matt 23:13–28)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thoughts on a Statement by Cardinal Marx

In the article Amid criticism, Cardinal Marx supports synod's midterm report :: Catholic News Agency (CNA), we get this comment from Cardinal Marx, Archbishop of Munich, on same sex relationships:

“homosexuals who have been faithful, one to the other, for 30-35 years, and they take care the one of the other until the very last moment of life. But they live in irregular situation for the Church… as a Church, can I say that all of this has no value because we are speaking about a homosexual relation?”

“I cannot say: it’s all black, it’s all white,” Cardinal Marx stated. “And we cannot stand behind the logic of ‘everything or nothing.’”

I must say, with all due respect to his office, I am perplexed by Cardinal Marx and his statement. If we recognize that participating in homosexual acts are condemned by God, then we have to say that a same-sex relationship can never go beyond the level of platonic friendship. If a relationship goes beyond this, then the Church cannot accept it, and must seek to guide such a relationship towards a place that is right in the eyes of God.

More clarification would be helpful, but as it stands, this appears to be a fallacy of the middle ground. There is no middle ground between contradictory positions. When one party says “homosexual acts are sinful” and the other says “homosexual acts are not sinful,” there is no middle ground. This is a situation where one position must be true and one must be false.

I think we also have the appeal to pity fallacy. If the hypothetical couple mentioned has been together for 30-35 years and have affection for each other, this is still not a justification for finding some sort of compromise on calling it a sin. There simply are relationships which can never be recognized as valid. For example, consider polygamy and the convert who comes to the Catholic Church from such a culture. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

2387 The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law. “[Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive.” The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children.

Despite years of living together polygamy is behavior which cannot be considered compatible with the teaching of the Church. I believe the same obligation follows for same sex couples, cohabiting couples and couples who were divorced and invalidly remarried. As the Catechism points out (#1789):

One may never do evil so that good may result from it.

Now the Church can, and should, develop ways of helping the people who have made decisions which place them in opposition to what God has made known to us. But these ways can never compromise Our Lord’s teaching. They have to be aimed at bringing these people back to follow Christ, and recognizing that He must be first in our lives. This isn’t some bureaucratic rule from the Church. This is what Jesus Christ Himself said in Luke 14:26-27.

26 “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 

Jesus also said in Matthew 5:29-30,

29 *If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.

Even though it can cause us some pain in this life, we do have to recognize that following Christ obliges us to reject certain behaviors and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).

If Cardinal Marx can find a better way to help people in these situations change their ways, that is good. But at the moment, I just can’t see how his words can be reconciled with Christ’s.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

TFTD: Is It REALLY Dignified to Treat the Synod Like a Political Convention?

Must you act this way?

OK, so Cardinal Kasper denies he gave an interview to Edward Pentin who writes for National Catholic Register and Zenit. The issue is over comments made about synod fathers from Africa, which managed to offend Africans. Cardinal Kasper claims he would never say such things.

National Catholic Register and Catholic World Report have articles which insist he did give this interview and did make the comments. They are speaking about audio recordings that prove it . . . with an apology made by Pentin to the Cardinal for not making it clear to the cardinal that he was going to publish this on Zenit.

Now I feel no obligation to defend what the cardinal said. I think his suggested ideas cannot be reconciled with Christ’s teaching and Church doctrine.

But that being said, this behavior troubles me. It’s treating the synod fathers like politicians and using gotcha tactics apropos to political rough and tumble. So when the outside world looks at all of this, they’re going to look at the synod perspectives as if they were merely factional disputes.

I’m not going to try to sort out the blame. I’m just saying, can we behave with a little more dignity?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TFTD: Was Emily Litella in Charge of the Media Coverage?

Emily Litella

So now it seems there are updates from the Vatican and the Bishops participating in the extraordinary synod. There was a mistranslation of a word in the unofficial translation of a draft document. Solidly orthodox bishops are giving their take, showing that the synod fathers do not intend the confusion in the rough draft spill over into the final draft.  

So it begins to look like media reports causing such horror among conservative bloggers may have been a little bit of an overreaction. Hopefully everyone’s learned their lessons, from the bishops being more aware of media incompetence (or possibly bad will) to the rush to judgment from the blogs.

It does make me ponder though . . . why did the whole uproar end up sounding like the ranting of a certain Gilda Radner character? 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reflection on St. Robert Bellarmine: Something to Consider If Alarmed by the Synod

Saint Robert Bellarmine

As I read some of the Catholic blogs out there written by people deeply troubled by the summary report of the first half of the synod, I keep thinking of the letter St. Robert Bellarmine wrote to Foscarini in 1615. In discussing the new theory of the heliocentric view of the Solar System and what it meant for Scripture, the saint (who personally did not believe heliocentrism was true) said this in response:

I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun is at the center of the world and the earth in the third heaven, and that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun, then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary, and say rather that we do not understand them than what is demonstrated is false.

It is a good principle to remember: the truth of a source is not disproved by a misunderstanding of it, and if what we think is the proper understanding turns out to be false, we need to look to sources we know to be true and see if we have personally invested into it something never intended to be taught. For example, St. Robert Bellarmine was invested in the idea that the Scriptures were literally describing the movement of the planets and stars as geocentric. But he recognized that if it could be proved that heliocentrism was true, we’d have to recognize that Scripture was misunderstood, not that either science or Scripture was false.

The truth, as we now know, is that the Scriptures used phenomenological language—that is, language that describes how it looks from our perspective. For example, we still refer to “sunrise” and “sunset” (even in meteorological reports) because that is a description of how the sun appears, and did not intend to make scientific declarations on how the universe functioned.

But even now, there are a few vocal fringe groups of Catholics who try to argue that geocentrism is true because they have a false understanding of how Church teaching works, fearing that admitting that if members of the Church once thought wrongly about how the Solar System was constructed, it means denying the authority of the Church to teach.

I believe this is similar to the case with some individuals looking at the relatio that came out yesterday. They have a set idea on what the Church can even discuss in terms of binding teaching. They see the synod relatio mentioning reaching out to people in invalid marriages, people cohabiting and people in same sex relationships and are scandalized by things being mentioned that might be interpreted as downplaying the moral teaching of the Church. They fear that the Church might end up teaching error.

I think St. Robert Bellarmine has the attitude that should be followed. Like his faith in the inerrancy of Scripture, we need to keep faith in God protecting His Church from error. If an individual thinks that the Church cannot do a thing, and the Church does do that thing as a formal teaching, then it is more reasonable to recognize that he or she has erred than to think that the Church has erred.

We know that the Church cannot err in teaching matters essential for salvation. We know that wrongly telling people in sin that they are not sinning is an error in matters essential for salvation. Therefore we know that the Church cannot teach people in sin that they are not sinning.

We should remember this and not panic when we hear reports of the relatio and how some think it means the Church is going to change her teaching.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fearing Pope Francis and the Synod

The reaction to the synod report and the Pope’s statement that “laws that don’t work are obsolete,” have put certain Catholics into panic mode and others into a false sense of rejoicing depending on their ideology. Ironically, conservative and liberal Catholics aren’t even on opposite sides. They simply have opposite reactions to a shared view. That assumption is that Pope Francis is a liberal Pope who is determined to change the teaching of the Church.

The “Who Am I To Judge” Quote

This hearkens back to 2013 when the Pope was, unfortunately, quoted out of context when he said, “Who am I to judge?"

Did ANYBODY read it in context?

Let’s be clear here. The Pope didn’t say it in a sense of moral indifference about the moral teachings of the Church. That’s a media fabrication. The proper context was a press conference on July 28th 2013 (if you’ve never read the whole thing in context, here is the official Vatican transcript). The Pope was asked a question by journalist Ilze Scamparini:

I would like permission to ask a delicate question: another image that has been going around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his private life. I would like to know, Your Holiness, what you intend to do about this? How are you confronting this issue and how does Your Holiness intend to confront the whole question of the gay lobby?

So, right off the bat, we see that the Pope was not asked about changing doctrine. He was asked about the discovery of an allegedly notorious past of a newly appointed member of the Vatican Bank. Was the Pope going to fire him? Was their a clique of homosexuals in the Vatican?

The Pope’s response, in context, was:

About Monsignor Ricca: I did what canon law calls for, that is a preliminary investigation. And from this investigation, there was nothing of what had been alleged. We did not find anything of that. This is the response. But I wish to add something else: I see that many times in the Church, over and above this case, but including this case, people search for “sins from youth”, for example, and then publish them. They are not crimes, right? Crimes are something different: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, sins. But if a person, whether it be a lay person, a priest or a religious sister, commits a sin and then converts, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we confess our sins and we truly say, “I have sinned in this”, the Lord forgets, and so we have no right not to forget, because otherwise we would run the risk of the Lord not forgetting our sins. That is a danger. This is important: a theology of sin. Many times I think of Saint Peter. He committed one of the worst sins, that is he denied Christ, and even with this sin they made him Pope. We have to think a great deal about that. But, returning to your question more concretely. In this case, I conducted the preliminary investigation and we didn’t find anything. This is the first question. Then, you spoke about the gay lobby. So much is written about the gay lobby. I still haven’t found anyone with an identity card in the Vatican with “gay” on it. They say there are some there. I believe that when you are dealing with such a person, you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. This one is not good. If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a beautiful way, saying ... wait a moment, how does it say it ... it says: “no one should marginalize these people for this, they must be integrated into society”. The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another, and there is this one and there is that one. The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies. For me, this is the greater problem. Thank you so much for asking this question. Many thanks.

The Pope is talking of a person who has repented of a sin, not of the unrepentant. When God forgives a sin, we cannot continue to hold the past against the sinner. What’s more, earlier in the same interview, we had this exchange:

Patricia Zorzan:
Speaking on behalf of the Brazilians: society has changed, young people have changed, and in Brazil we have seen a great many young people. You did not speak about abortion, about same-sex marriage. In Brazil a law has been approved which widens the right to abortion and permits marriage between people of the same sex. Why did you not speak about this?

Pope Francis:
The Church has already spoken quite clearly on this. It was unnecessary to return to it, just as I didn’t speak about cheating, lying, or other matters on which the Church has a clear teaching!

Patricia Zorzan:
But the young are interested in this ...

Pope Francis:
Yes, though it wasn’t necessary to speak of it, but rather of the positive things that open up the path to young people. Isn’t that right! Besides, young people know perfectly well what the Church’s position is.

Patricia Zorzan:
What is Your Holiness’ position, if we may ask?

Pope Francis:
The position of the Church. I am a son of the Church.

 In other words, there is no way that anyone who was paying attention to the interview can think that the whole “who am I to judge” line was giving approval to homosexuality.

The Synod Relatio Post Disceptationem

I mean, seriously? It's NOT the disaster everyone thinks it is.

Once we recognize this exchange in context, it is impossible to think that Pope Francis favors a change on Church teaching in sexual morality—but rather he takes it as a given. What he calls for is studying how we are to deal with a world where a majority don’t even believe that they are doing wrong. There’s a lot of things accepted as “good” now that 40 years ago nobody would have dreamed of accepting. The Church needs to have a game plan in reaching out to all sinners.

When read in this context, with the intent of the synod, it becomes clear that the relatio is understood as the Church investigating how to bring them to Christ . . . whether they be the divorced and remarried, and the cohabiting. There is nothing listed in the document recommending changing doctrine. But we do see the document stating:

39.  All these situations have to be dealt with in a constructive manner, seeking to transform them into opportunities to walk towards the fullness of marriage and the family in the light of the Gospel. They need to be welcomed and accompanied with patience and delicacy. With a view to this, the attractive testimony of authentic Christian families is important, as subjects for the evangelization of the family.

It’s pretty clear that the goal is not to tell such couples that it is ok to remain as they are.

Moreover, we need to realize that even though the relatio did deal with same sex couples, it did not “lump them together” with the irregular relationships of male-female couples. Indeed the relatio did say:

51.  The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

In other words, the document already has affirmed that the Church will not change her teaching on homosexuality. Like the “Who am I to judge?” comment, the allegation is another fabrication. Perhaps it comes from wishful/fearful thinking by people who do not understand the meaning and the structure of the Church. Perhaps it comes from agitators who think they can treat Church teaching as if it were a political platform. But it is simply false.

The thing that really struck my attention was the reference to the Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate (#2), concerning non-Christian religions. The passage of relevance is:

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.

This document recognized that these religions, even though not the true faith, had elements of the truth which can serve as a common point of reference to bring them to the full Truth of Christ.

This relatio from the first half of this synod makes a rational application of Nostra Aetate. Why not look for the “ray of truth” that comes from irregular relationships and use them as a way of pointing them to the full truth? That approach is not heretical or endangering souls. It is an approach of move them from a partial truth to the full truth. What people overlook is the fact that the relatio says nothing about approving of those people who have found themselves in opposition to God on account of their sins.

It is important to remember that this relatio is not a declaration of official Church teaching. It is a report on the first half of the extraordinary synod. It tells us of the issues discussed and gives us a sense of what might be discussed at the 2015 ordinary synod. We must remember that nobody has taught heresy or advocated sin here. It simply says, “We need to talk about these issues and establish the pastoral care for people in difficult situations to bring them over to Christ."


I truly believe the fear among certain Catholics concerning the synod is a fear of Pope Francis not being fit to carry out his office, and a failure to realize that the actions they fear coming into existence would be allowing the Church to formally teach error in a matter concerning salvation. Remember, if remarriage after divorce, cohabitation and same sex relationships are wrong, then the Church permitting them would be teaching them it was OK to do what was evil in the eyes of God. If the Church ever does that, then it’s meaningless to worry—because then the Catholic Church would never have been what she claimed to be. 

Because I do believe she is what she claims to be, I believe God will protect the Church from teaching error in the synod. Moreover, I do believe that Pope Francis is not some “idiot uncle” Pope. I believe he is wise and has a deep love for Christ and His Church, and is determined to be a faithful shepherd to the best of his ability. So I believe all the panic that exists among certain Catholic blogs is misplaced.

If we believe God is protecting His Church, we cannot assume from the fact that some people have a “wish list” incompatible with Christ’s teaching that they will have their way. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Question Concerning Fears About Pastoral Practice After the Synod

A friend of mine had a question about the concerns of the synod that doesn’t deal with the doubting of Christ protecting the Church. That’s fair enough. I have a tendency to deal mostly with the doctrine, but there is always the concern about how the Church teaching gets applied in the parish.

He says:

There are thoseand I sometimes feel this way—who know that the Synod will not change doctrine but worry that there will be pastoral changes which involve watering down the way that the faith is taught and approving pastoral approaches which are harmful . . . . So it's not the doctrinal changes which concern people like me, it is how we go about conducting the day to day pastoral life of the Church.

We do need to remember that it is too early to assess what the pastoral changes may be. Why? Because this extraordinary synod is actually to prepare a relatio [the basis of what is actually going to be discussed] for the ordinary synod in 2015.  But I do understand the concern. After all, we have had problems in the past, and I am sure the people my friend refers to want to avoid a return to the period of rebellion and confusion.

Why This is a Concern

For those too young to remember, the Church had a demoralizing situation with the rebellion of some clergy and laity after Humanae Vitae was published in 1968. The rejection of authority, civil and religious, had effects on an entire generation. Popes Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have had to fight this, and it seems like we are only now recovering (though some believe we are still going through it). I’m old enough to remember liturgical abuses like songs from Barry Manilow and Jesus Christ Superstar used as “hymns” in the 1970s, and I remember the “Spirit of Vatican II” school of thought from the sisters who ran the college I attended from 1989-1992, which held that the only people who didn’t get Vatican II were the members of the Magisterium who happened to be there at the Council. It felt like the spiritual anarchists were running rampant. We don’t want to have to deal with that again.

Of course we need to distinguish what is caused by the practice as established by the Church and what is caused by disobedience. The two are not the same. We had a generation of people from the “Spirit of Vatican II” (AKA: the Make up whatever the hell you want school of thought) who claimed to know what Vatican II “intended” even though it had nothing to do with (and usually contradicted) the actual words of Vatican II and the interpretation given by Popes who actually attended.

So What is Pastoral Practice?

So we have a distinction to make. What do we mean by pastoral practice? The term is not a formal Church term, but when used in Church documents, the general sense is the way Church teaching is carried out, whether it is the way the Church intends it to be carried out or whether it is an abuse practiced in a region. The term is equivocal (open to more than one interpretation) and we need to recognize that fact.

Do we mean what the Church says we must do? Do we mean guidelines open to personal interpretation? Or do we mean spiritual anarchy caused by the “make up whatever the hell you want” school of thought? These are different things, and the role of the Church is different in each case. Before we can say the pastoral practices of the 2015 Ordinary Synod (this extraordinary synod is preparation, remember) might be harmful, we need to consider what the teaching authority of the Church can do vs. what  a member of the Church may decide to do.

Remember, all of us are sinners and all of us have free will. None of us are impeccable. We can choose to what is wrong in spite of what the Church says we must do. Or, in other words, the Church can tell us what we need to do to be faithful to Christ, but she can’t force anyone to choose it. All she can do is try to correct, and seek better ways to communicate. 

But First, A Fallacy Warning

An important fallacy to avoid here is the post hoc fallacy. This fallacy looks at two events that happen in sequence and presume the first event was the cause of the second. Sometimes it turns out to be the case, but not always. One has to look at the events to see if there are links between them. Sometimes, there isn’t. For example, take this bit from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn:

A body might stump his toe, and take pison, and fall down the well, and break his neck, and bust his brains out, and somebody come along and ask what killed him, and some numskull up and say, 'Why, he stumped his TOE.' Would ther' be any sense in that? NO. (Chapter 28).

That’s an exaggerated example, but people make this mistake a lot. One example in the Church is the association of Vatican II with the rejection of Church authority. Many people opposed to this council note that the Second Vatican Council ran from 1962-1965 and called for changes in some things that were seen as distracting. They also note that in the late 1960s we had many acts of rebellion against the Church.

The problem with the assertion is we know that this rebellion did not only affect Catholic countries. It also affected Protestant and even non-Christian nations, and was not solely a rejection of religion. It also rejected civil authority. So to say that Vatican II caused the Catholic dissent is an example of the post hoc fallacy—there are too many reasons outside of the reach of the authority of the Council that can better explain this rejection of authority. You might as well say that the Lateran V Council (1512-1517) caused the revolt of Martin Luther and others beginning October 31st 1517.

So the point to remember is, a sequence of events do not show relation. It may be a coincidence or there may be a connection . . . you have to research the link before you can say there is cause and effect.

Now that we are aware of this, let’s keep in mind when considering the different meanings of “pastoral practice."

Pastoral Practice In the Sense of What the Church Mandates

I have found that when the writings of the Church are actually read, they are pretty level headed. The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent do not come across as draconian, and the decrees of Vatican II do not come across as Hippy-Dip. They recognize the importance of following Christ and recognize the fallen nature of humanity and the tendency to sin. The difference of language between the documents of the Council of Trent and Vatican II is that they were addressing Catholics of different eras where the political and social conditions were very different. Both attempted to explain the faith to people where they were at.

I expect this extraordinary synod and the 2015 ordinary synod will attempt to do the same thing. After the sexual revolution in the world and a period of widespread dissent in the Church, there are a lot of people who never learned to distinguish doing what is right from “you have to follow the rules or else.” The Church has to reach out to them in their ignorance or defiance (whatever the case may be) to show the truth.

There can be some legitimate differences of opinion on the best way to carry out the teachings of the Church. That’s not sinful—provided that people recognize that it is the Magisterium that has the responsibility and authority to judge what is legitimate and what is not. There were members of the Church who would have preferred that the changes to the Order of the Mass in 1970 would have been handled differently. So long as they recognize that it is the Magisterium that has the responsibility for making that decision and respect the decision made, that is fine. If the Church decided to reverse herself and go back to the missal of 1962, I’d be in the same boat they are in now, and I hope I would practice what I preach and follow.

I think that pastoral practices in this sense will reflect doctrinal norms. For example, with the fear/hope over admitting the divorced and (invalidly) remarried to the Eucharist, the result must reflect the doctrinal norms because we know Christ called this adultery (see Matt 19:4-9) and we know we cannot present ourselves to the Eucharist in a state of grave sin (see 1 Cor 11:27). So we can be sure that whatever pastoral practices the Church adopts will reflect doctrinal teachings. Any person who presents a claim that pastoral practice permits something that goes against doctrinal teaching—as taught by the Magisterium, not as the radical traditionalist claims—is exposed as a fraud.

Pastoral Practice in the Sense of Guidelines We Have to Interpret

There are times where we have to apply the Church teaching to our lives in a way where the Church decrees a pastoral practice and the person has to assess how to apply it to their life. The Church does not plop down a 3000 page compendium where you look up your specific case and see what you can do. No, she exhorts the faithful to behave in line with the teachings of the Church and permits us to assess how to apply the Church teaching to our lives. The effectiveness of these teachings do depend on how well the teaching is expressed of course, but another part of it is how honestly the member of the faithful applies the teaching. If the Church teaching is not easily understood, then people may accidentally run afoul of it. If it isn’t precise, people may not know where to turn in difficult cases. Try looking up Probabilism in the 1913 Catholic Dictionary for examples of different schools of thought (some accepted by the Church, and others rejected). We don’t want to make situations where the faithful feel damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

But we do have to remember that when the Church exhorts us to live in a certain way, we do have to use our judgment and form our conscience in line with the teaching of the Church. In other words, we also have the responsibility to seek out and do what is right. So let’s look at one of the cases where people seem to be most concerned with what was cited from the synod. The case of a couple from Australia who alarmed people when they spoke about welcoming the partner of a son with same sex attraction home for Christmas.

Now, the mainstream media seems to understand it that everything mentioned is enshrined as doctrine, but that isn’t the case. what it boils down to is that this couple spoke about issues concerning them . . . how do we deal with such situations? The point of the extraordinary synod is to take their shared experiences and break them down into the relatio saying “we need to address these issues.” Cardinal Burke gave an insightful breakdown of how the Church needs to consider what they said.

In light of the concerns about the pastoral practices emerging from the synod, I imagine the synod will be looking into how one can balance the loving your family members who choose to sin while not being forced to choose between alienating the family member or appearing to tolerate that which is evil. I think that is a good thing to explore. I personally have to ask myself, “Am I coming across like a jerk?” "Am I giving the impression of indifference if I don’t speak?"

But i imagine some people will be (and some on both sides already are) misinterpreting the synod discussions as giving sanction to relationships the Church must call a sin. If the Church expresses herself clearly, she cannot be blamed for the people who misinterpret it because they never bothered to learn what the Church required.

That’s our job, by the way, to pray that the synod fathers will be guided to express the Church teaching in a clear manner to help the person of good conscience.

But “good conscience” is the key. Conscience has to be informed. It can err, if it is not informed. And if the person cares little about informing the conscience, the chances are they will habitually choose what is pleasant over what is right.

As the Vatican II Document Gaudium et Spes (#16) puts it:

Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.

The Church does tend to be very clear. But this type of Pastoral Practice relies on the member of the faithful seeking out God’s will, not being the hair splitter by playing the rules to maximum advantage or minimum disadvantage. If one acts in bad faith, the Pastoral Practice will not be effective . . . if you police yourself, it’s easy to become a corrupt cop when your obligation tells you that you must do something other than what you want to do.

Pastoral Practice Twisted Into Spiritual Anarchy

That leads us to the third case to consider—the case of someone choosing to interpret the Church teaching in such a way to justify their behavior even though the behavior cannot be justified in the eyes of the Church. While it is fading as the rebels of the 1960s get older, for quite awhile we had all sorts of distortions of Church teaching through the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II” that claimed to know what the Council intended to say despite the fact that the documents themselves and the members of the Magisterium who actually participated in the Council opposed.

I have seen the Church teaching on “double effect” twisted by people to try to justify abortion—even though abortion is considered a direct evil that one cannot deliberately choose (Double Effect says the bad effect cannot be deliberately chosen and cannot outweigh the desired good effect). I have seen the Church teaching on Natural Family Planning distorted into claiming it was not a sin to use contraceptives—entirely contrary to Church teaching.

A dishonest person can justify anything they want to simply by ignoring the facts that stand in opposition to their position. You can try to contrast the Church as being in opposition to Christ. You can say that if the Church really understood the issue, she wouldn’t have taught what she did. I’ve seen these arguments constantly used. They lack only one thing . . . authority that permits them to do it. The Church has never recognized the view that one may choose, without sin, to do what the Church forbids. In fact, not only has the Church never taught it, Christ Himself does not recognize it:

John 20:23 tells us, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Matthew 16:19 tells us that Jesus said to Peter, "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 18:17-18 has Jesus confirming this authority to the Church, saying, "If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Eventually, people will get to the Final Judgment and be asked by Our Lord, “Why did you think I did not mean what I said?"

The point is, the Church is not to blame for people disobeying the teachings she lays down. As St. Paul tells Timothy (2 Tim 4:3-4):

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.

Our Lord Himself, in Matthew 24:11-13, tells us that:

Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.

All she can do is teach, and offer correction when people go astray.


When it comes to the pastoral care that comes about by the teaching of the Church after the synods, we cannot just assume that any bad behavior is the fault of the Church. It is only the fault of the Church when she formally teaches something that can be reasonably misinterpreted by someone who makes their best effort to live according to what the Church teaches we must do.

But if the person never bothers to find out what they are called to do, or chooses to make excuses for what he or she knows is disobedience, the fault is not the fault of the Church. It is the fault of the person who willfully disobeys or refuses to seek out the truth, preferring to remain in ignorance rather than risk having to alter their behavior.

I don’t believe we’ll see bad pastoral practices caused by the synod teaching (remember the earlier warning about the post hoc fallacy here!) because even aside from the fact that Jesus Christ protects His Church from error, I believe we have a Pope and bishops who are concerned with doing what is right and concerned for the welfare of the faithful. They will do their best, cooperating with God’s grace, to teach as effectively as they are able to do.

Will we?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How I Expect the Reactions to the Synod to Pan Out

I don't fear that the upcoming synod on the family will teach error. In matters of faith and morals, God will not permit the Church to teach errors when it comes to salvation.

What I do suspect is that people who have been led to expect the impossible (the Church permitting remarriage after divorce) will feel "betrayed" when the Church does not change her teaching, 

Meanwhile, conservative Catholics will blame the Pope and the synod for causing the rejection of Church teaching.

At the same time, I suspect we'll see people on both sides twisting the words of the synod and whatever Post-Synod exhortation the Pope should happen to write to justify their own disobedience.

Why do i think this? Because it has happened before in 1968, when some Catholics were misled into thinking that the Church was going to reverse her position on contraception . . . when the Church had no intention of changing that teaching. There was a good deal of rebellion in response, and opponents of the Pope and Council blamed them for the rebellion.

Let's be clear. The synod is not about changing Church teaching. It's about reaching out to minister to Catholics who have managed to end up in opposition to Church teaching. Even though these Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist while persisting in grave sin, they are still part of the Church and need to be ministered to.

The smart, prudent thing to do is to remember that the Church is not going to change Church teaching to contradict herself. Misunderstandings are not going to be the fault of the Pope and Bishops.  But they're going to be blamed by both sides.

Now is the time to remember to pray for the synod and for those people whose choices have put them at odds with the Church.

Now is NOT the time to panic or bash the magisterium.

But that is what I suspect will happen.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Stop Panicking And Just Pray.

In certain blogs and articles, I see a lot of fear being expressed over the synod on the family changing Church teaching concerning divorce and remarriage when the previous marriage is still valid. Especially when Cardinal emeritus Kasper makes statements that seem rather... bizarre (to put it charitably).

Me? I have faith that the Holy Spirit is still on the job when it comes to protecting the Church from teaching error on matters essential for salvation. Since the Holy Spirit protects the Pope, it is reasonable to expect that, regardless of what may be said at the synod, the Pope won't be changing Church teaching from truth to error.

No doubt the media and dissenters will continue to misrepresent and raise false hopes (it happened before the release of Humamae Vitae where people wrongly expected the Church to change her teaching on contraception). But the Holy Spirit was active then, and is active now.

The Pope has asked us to pray for the synod. We should. Not in the sense of "Oh God, please don't let them teach heresy!" Rather we should be praying:

"Lord, please send your Holy Spirit over this synod  so that Your Church may be brought to a deeper understanding of what Your Son has taught about marriage."