The confusion and kerfuffle in the world’s media during the first week of the current Synod were remarkable and un-precedented as far as I can see. Then came week two, and things have become truly extraordinary, and frighteningly so. Anyone who denies that a major ecclesiastical battle is being fought in and around the Synod is in cloud-cuckoo land.
Matters seem to have come to a head with the Archbishop Cupich of Chicago proposing that no-one should be denied Holy Communion as the Church should respect individual conscience. The utter logical and theological nonsense of his position is breathtaking. However, things became exponentially worse yesterday after the papal speech to the Synod. The Pope is certainly faithful to the infamous call he made to young people to go out and “make a mess”.
Not long ago the Pope reminded us all that the Synod was about more than Communion for civilly-divorced Catholics who had remarried. Now he has shown the true nature of the “more” he had in mind. His speech yesterday had little to do with marriage and the family. It announced his intention to restructure the Church, to make it a “Synodal Church”, decentralizing it, gutting the Curia and moving power to synods of bishops, which, in their proper form, have historical precedent and standing. But he also made clearer his deeper purpose, which is devolve as much as he can, “in a special way” to national and/or regional bishops’ conferences, which are a post-conciliar creation with no historical precedent or standing.
Synodal and national churches are dire. They become immersed in petty bickering and less-petty nationalism. They are apt to fall prey to regional and national forces, both social and political. They have a habit of mutual recrimination and even excommunication. Fr Blake fleshes this out better than I can. Bishops’ conferences are even worse. They neuter individual bishops in their own dioceses, exerting peer pressure to make non-conforming individual toe the party line. That party line is all too easily manipulated by factions within the Church and forces without it. There is nothing collegial about them at all in truth. They are a means of manipulation and control under the guise of decentralization and democratization. Do a little research and see when the term and concept of “collegiality” first appears in Catholic theological thought. You will not have to look far back; it is a very recent novelty with little, if any, biblical warrant.
The Pope is right in tying his project to Vatican II. For that was the first clear occasion that the universal Church was being marshalled to adapt to the secular world, and to make the Church (somehow) relevant to the modern world. That is what forces within and without the Synod are attempting to do yet again. In the wake of the Council we witnessed the most dramatic falling away from the Church in the western world ever seen. Having tried so hard to be relevant to the world by conforming to it, it no longer had a message that people whose hearts and minds were being stirred by the Holy Spirit wanted and needed to hear. There were oases of gospel truth of course, and great figures who spoke out against the prevailing decline. But the forces of worldliness had been unleashed in the Church and they have been near impossible to root out. Now, with this plan to synodize the Church, we find the same mistakes being repeated in a different form.
Yesterday morning my thought had been to join in the chorus exposing the evil of the plan proposed by Cupich. He proposed that the Church should, in effect, give the nod to grave sin. He proposed that individual conscience should prevail in a way unheard of in Catholic doctrine; unheard of because impossible. He seems to think that an individual’s conscience can absolve all its grave sin simply be refusing to call it grave sin. It is the most profoundly defective understanding of conscience one could expect to see in a bishop. Self-absolution seems to be a plank in the platform of this brave new synodized Church. Though of course, not brave at all. Cravenly cowardly more like it.
One of the most subtly disturbing things in the papal speech yesterday was its exclusive focus on this life and this world. There was no mention of the next life, heaven and our eternal destiny, of this brief life being a preparation for the eternal life of divine bliss that awaits the faithful, Cross-carrying Christian. The first words of the gospel are “Repent”. Where was any call to repentance? Mind you, since sin is effectively being abolished, then logically any call to repentance is obsolete I guess.
While Christians are being martyred daily, literally in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, and metaphorically in the Western World, Rome fiddles.
Sorry to be so gloomy but this Sin-nod is an outright disaster so far, especially in a pastoral sense. It has sown confusion and dissension, and all this willingly presided over by the “Bishop of Rome” as he resumed styling himself. True to his word, sorry and sad to say, he has made a mess.
Pray for him, and for Mother Church. Go to confession soon, give alms and fast a little. Something is up; there is a whiff of something in the air. Best to be ready. The Cross might be about to get very real in our lives.