Archbishop Cupich and the synodal Church

It would be hard to argue with what Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich says in this paper, from a cursory reading.   The words are smooth as silk and I can see why people find them attractive.

He writes:

First,I want to talk about the transformation that comes in trusting that Christ is truly risen. It’s a trust that goes beyond believe that Christ rose from the dead two thousand years ago.  This is a trust that requires a real conversion on our part [Yes, Amen! I am with you totally up to this point] and that is why we need to pay attention to the signs of the times. [?????!!!!!]
The second level of transformation of bishops is about trusting with greater fervor that the risen Christ is active precisely in the ministry of the Church, in our ministry as bishops.  It’s about trusting in our ministry as the place where Christ is always doing something new and not being afraid when he calls us to that newness.


Finally, there is a transformation that comes in trusting more humbly that Christ the risen one is at work and revealing his presence in the lives of those we serve. As a result, it means trusting that the people we serve have something of great value to say to us about Christ’s will.

The only thing that jumps out at me as highly problematic is this:  the emphasis on paying attention to the signs of the times.

Would you listen to me, Your Grace, as a new Catholic?    I ask you to please be leery of paying more attention to “the signs of the times” than to Scripture and Tradition.  I ask you to please read the signs of the times in light of Revelation and Tradition and not Revelation and Tradition in light of the signs of the times.

Otherwise, how do you know the Risen Jesus you are following is the real one, and not a construct of group think and the path of least resistance?

Yes, Christ makes all things new.  But would the Risen Christ contradict Himself on marriage when He so clearly spoke this it is indissoluble?   Would the Holy Spirit contradict Himself in the words of Saint Paul about worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist?  Will a synodal Church mean doctrine is decided by democracy and that the teachings of one Pope can overthrow those of a previous Pope?

I trust the Risen Jesus.

But I read the signs of the times differently, as a full of warnings of the Judgment to come.  Christ’s love is merciful, yes, but we must not presume upon Him or assume He is lenient. He is not.

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We former Anglicans get how serious this is

Fr. Ed Tomlinson has a great post today on what led the Anglican Communion into schism and, in some parts of the world, collapse.

He writes:

For in the early years of the 20th Century its moral theology was broadly in line with Catholic teaching. Anglicanism was opposed to artificial contraception, re-marriage after divorce, active same sex partnerships and more besides. The change only arrived in the 1950’s when General Synod voted to altar its methodology in regard to just one small issue…

Citing a need to conform to the modern world (sound familiar?) official teaching was changed to allow artificial contraception. On the surface a small decision; a pastoral concession respecting modern couples. But in reality an epic moment- for it was here that the ship of faith, in that particular communion, defintively pulled away from its scriptural and doctrinal moorings. With sex now divorced from its procreative purpose all teaching on marriage and the family was thrown into question. The moral theology of the Anglican communion was set afloat on the sea of modernity and the heart and soul of traditional Anglicanism collapsed.

Fr. Tomlinson warns Catholics what is at stake, my emphases:

For once you elect to follow the decision of Synods, or even the personal desires of Pope’s, in preference to the clear voice of scripture and tradition, the very fabric of the church changes. No longer is it a divine institution guarding a fixed deposit of faith; it becomes a political institution in which that faith is ever up for grabs. One must simply lobby those with influence.

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‘Who am I to judge?’ vs. Judge not lest ye be judged

Not long after Pope Francis made the remark “Who am I to judge?”  many in the media and in the unformed and uninformed Catholic world assumed he had single-handedly changed Church teaching on sexual morality.  Since then, anything associated with firm doctrine has been tied with being judgmental, lacking mercy, and so on.

For me, right doctrine, believing the Truth as revealed in Jesus Christ, God incarnate and passed on faithfully from the first eyewitness accounts from generation to generation and interpreted within Holy Tradition–which has to do with handing down the truth properly—is of crucial importance.  It is our job to conform our minds, our thinking to the Truth and right doctrine helps us to take thoughts captive to Christ and gives us the faith seeking understanding, to paraphrase St. Anselm.

The Pope needs to be the preserver and defender of this deposit of faith, and under its authority and by extension the authority of Christ.  The Holy Spirit spoke in preceding generations and He is not going to contradict Himself now, though He may give us new insights on how everything ties together.  So I pray for him every day that he will yield to the Holy Spirit and the charism of the Successor of Peter, especially when his personal opinions or casual remarks seem contradictory.

What does this have to do with Jesus’ command to judge not lest ye be judged?  First of all, we have to let Revelation and Tradition judge us, not the other way around.  And just as Catholics must resist being their own pope, we must also resist playing God and taking over the role reserved for Him in judging.

But that does not mean throwing all truth out the window and never seeing the difference between right and wrong and extending a kind of lenient mercy over everyone and every behavior.

If I am judging, I am usurping God’s role.  And I am probably getting a little frisson of pleasure from feeling morally superior, or contemptuous or resentful or hot with anger, or offended.   Long ago I have come to see that’s the booby prize, that little bit of dark pleasure that leads me to enjoy venting, blowing off steam through complaining about what I’m seeing and getting kind of high off it.  But the high of being appalled, of being annoyed, of being outraged, while pleasurable for the moment, separates me from God and the joy of being in His Presence.  I start to see my prayer life becoming perfunctory and dry.  The sin may not seem that serious to me at the time, but the separation, the spiritual dying sets in slowly.  No. I want to live. I want to be alive in Christ.

So now I’m making a big effort to quit venting.  To quit judging by my own light and to quit being offended.  But what happens?  Well, maybe I’m a little more boring on blogs and social media, but when I stop accepting the bait of those little highs, I being to see everything in a new light.   I hope then to set aside my judging so that the Holy Spirit will give me His light to discern.  And when He gives me insight—I pray I will not be tempted to respond with ewwwww!  and start venting again, but to see that I’m being called into intercession or to making reparations not to climbing on the throne that belongs to Christ as Judge.

Right doctrine is always a guide towards right relationship with God.  It must not be used as fuel for making personal judgments, for self-righteousness, for permitting oneself some “righteous anger” or “laughing to scorn” which I can so easily fall into.

It is a difficult and confusing time in the Catholic Church right now.  I see so much anger and indignation on so many blogs and everyone has their reasons and their justification so it seems.   Some of the reasons can be quite compelling, even an temptation for me!  I see it, I see it.  I see why it would make someone angry, even incandescent with rage because sacred teachings are being attacked or twisted.  I see so much factionalism, so much treating the Church as a political entity rather than a family.  So many who would like to hive off those family members who are difficult or do not see things the same way.  All of us need deeper conversion, to find the oneness and unity Jesus prayed for before His crucifixion.  The Lord has been working with me to take my partisan sharp elbows down. To stop being factional, partisan or divisive.

It’s like this.  Anger undercuts the witness.  The taking offense may attract others who also take offense and provides mutual support—you see what I see?!!!!!  Yes!!!!! Isn’t it awful?!!!!!  And I confess, I go there.  Way too much.  And I wish to stop.

Even when one is wholly justified in feeling betrayed, angry, outraged—we are commanded by the Lord to forgive, to leave judgment to God, to apply the doctrine to ourselves to remove the plank in our own eye and then, only then will we be some good to the Kingdom.

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One of the most insightful interventions yet at the synod

This intervention by a Romanian doctor is one of the most powerful and insightful I have read so far.  

It is published at Voice of the Family.  (My emphases)

Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea,  President of the Association of Catholic Doctors of Bucharest (Romania), at the Ordinary Synod on the Family on Friday.

Your Holiness, Synod Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, I represent the Association of Catholic Doctors from Bucharest.

I am from the Romanian Greek Catholic Church.

My father was a Christian political leader, who was imprisoned by the communists for 17 years. My parents were engaged to marry, but their wedding took place 17 years later.

My mother waited all those years for my father, although she didn’t even know if he was still alive. They have been heroically faithful to God and to their engagement.

Their example shows that God’s grace can overcome terrible social circumstances and material poverty.

We, as Catholic doctors, defending life and family, can see this is, first of all, a spiritual battle.

Material poverty and consumerism are not the primary cause of the family crisis.

The primary cause of the sexual and cultural revolution is ideological.

Our Lady of Fatima has said that Russia’s errors would spread all over the world.

It was first done under a violent form, classical Marxism, by killing tens of millions.

Now it’s being done mostly by cultural Marxism. There is continuity from Lenin’s sex revolution, through Gramsci and the Frankfurt school, to the current-day gay-rights and gender ideology.

Classical Marxism pretended to redesign society, through violent take-over of property.

Now the revolution goes deeper; it pretends to redefine family, sex identity and human nature.

This ideology calls itself progressive. But it is nothing else than the ancient serpent’s offer, for man to take control, to replace God, to arrange salvation here, in this world.

It’s an error of religious nature, it’s Gnosticism.

It’s the task of the shepherds to recognize it, and warn the flock against this danger.

“Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The Church’s mission is to save souls. Evil, in this world, comes from sin. Not from income disparity or “climate change”.

The solution is: Evangelization. Conversion.

Not an ever increasing government control. Not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism to our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on.

What the world needs nowadays is not limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin. Salvation.

Our Church was suppressed by the soviet occupation. But none of our 12 bishops betrayed their communion with the Holy Father. Our Church survived thanks to our bishops’ determination and example in resisting prisons and terror.

Our bishops asked the community not to follow the world. Not to cooperate with the communists.

Now we need Rome to tell the world: “Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”.

Not only us, the Catholic laity, but also many Christian Orthodox are anxiously praying for this Synod. Because, as they say, if the Catholic Church gives in to the spirit of this world, it is going to be very difficult for all the other Christians to resist it.

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The reports of the Bishops’ small groups from the synod

You can find the reports from various language groups here.  Don’t have time to read them all in depth, but here’s the one from the group moderated by Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins and related by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput:

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Relatio – Circulus Anglicus “D”

Moderator: Card. COLLINS Thomas Christopher

Relator: S.E. Mons. CHAPUT, O.F.M. Cap. Charles Joseph

Those of us taking part in Circle D are grateful to Pope Francis for calling for this synod, and we are honored to be part of the process. We also want to express our gratitude for the hard work embodied in the Instrumentum Laboris (IL). We suggest that the document should start just as we begin any celebration of the Mass – with a kind of Confiteor, putting ourselves in the midst of the failures of the members of the Church, rather than judging them from the outside. We need to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for our own mistakes as pastors, especially those that have undermined family life.

We had two general observations:

First, while various elements of the IL are admirable, we found much of the text to be flawed or inadequate, especially in its theology, clarity, trust in the power of grace, its use of Scripture and its tendency to see the world through overwhelmingly Western eyes. Second, we felt limited in our ability to respond by not knowing clearly who the audience of the document is. In other words, are we writing to the Holy Father, to families of the Church, or to the world?

Most of our group felt the IL should begin with hope rather than failures because a great many people already do successfully live the Gospel’s good news about marriage. Our group expressed concern that readers will simply ignore the document if it begins with a litany of negatives and social problems rather than a biblical vision of joy and confidence in the Word of God regarding the family. The huge cloud of challenges pervading the first section of the text unintentionally creates a sense of pastoral despair.

Several group members felt that Section II should precede Section I. Others supported the current arrangement of the text. A shared concern was that most people won’t read a dense or lengthy document. This makes the IL’s opening section vitally important; it needs to inspire as well as inform. Additionally — recalling the work of Aparecida — members stressed that the focus of the text should be on Jesus, through whom we describe and interpret the world’s present situation. We should always begin with Jesus.

If marriage is a vocation, which we believe it is, we can’t promote vocations by talking first about its problems.

As the Trinity is the source of reality, and because all communities originate in the community of the Trinity, some thought that the Trinity should be the document’s starting point.

Members noted that in his letters, St. Paul would often write a prologue of praise to people whose sins he would then critique. This was a common style in his epistles, and effective.

Our group thought there were a number of elements missing from the text: a serious reflection on gender ideology, more reflection on pastoral care for the differently-abled, the role of fathers and men as well as the role of women, and a deeper treatment of the destructive nature of pornography and other misuses of electronic technology.

Members criticized many of the paragraphs in the first section. Some thought the presentation was chaotic, without inherent logic. Sentences seemed to be tossed together without any organic connection to one another.

Some thought the text worked well because the family today does, in fact, face serious problems. That’s why we’re here at the synod: to deal with those problems; and people who suffer want to see their reality touched by what we say. So it’s important to speak in a way that will draw people’s attention.

Still others thought that the text lacked anything that would attract people. If the document is destined to the general public, they felt that stories from family life, or the lives of the saints along with illustrations, should be included to make the material more compelling. They stressed the need to review the language of the document and ensure that it appeals to both men and women, leaving no one out.

Members worried that the English translation may not be faithful to the official Italian text. Others complained that many of the document’s statements were too general and not specific enough. Still others felt the text had many inaccurate generalizations, was verbose and repetitive.

Members said that some of the sections seemed narrow in scope and excessively inspired by West European and North American concerns, rather than a true presentation of the global situation. Some of the members thought that terms like “developing nations” and “advanced countries” were condescending and inappropriate for a Church document. Others thought that the language of the text was too careful and politically correct, and because of that, the content was unclear and sometimes incoherent. Wonderfully good points were made in some paragraphs, but they were addressed too briefly and in a poorly developed manner. They seemed to be simply pulled together and listed, rather than presented logically.

Overall, members felt that Pope Francis and the people of the Church deserve a better text, one in which ideas are not lost in the confusion. Our group suggests that the text should be turned over to a single editor for clarification and refinement. The current material is obviously the work of a committee. Because of that, it lacks beauty, clarity and force.

Finally, members felt strongly that even in difficult situations, we need to underline the fact that many Christian families serve as a counter-witness to negative trends in the world by the way they faithfully live the Catholic vision of marriage and the family. These families need to be recognized, honored and encouraged by the document. Thus the first section of the IL text, which is about “observing” the facts, ought to highlight the good as well as the bad and the tragic. Heroic holiness is not a rare ideal and not merely “possible,” but common and lived vigorously in much of the world.

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Bishops taking to social media to report on the synod themselves

Ines San Martin over at Crux has an interesting story about how various bishops are using social media such as blogs and Twitter to put forward their own views about the synod.

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Some interesting posts on latest developments at the synod

Bear with me, because trying to follow the synod is like drinking from a fire hydrant. Here is some analysis from the always interesting John L. Allen Jr. over at Crux:

ROME — In the abstract, Pope Francis might have reason to be a bit nervous that his much-ballyhooed Synod of Bishops on the family, an Oct. 4-25 summit he’s been touting as a potentially defining moment of his papacy for almost two years, might be about to run off the rails.

We’ve already had confirmation, for instance, that a clash among the bishops over the hot-button question of allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to return to Communion is far from resolved.

On day one, Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő basically tried to bury the issue. Yet on day two, Italian Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli used a Vatican news conference to say that it remains “completely open,” and pointedly asked that if all the bishops were going to do was to echo Erdő’s line, then “what are we doing here?”

Similarly, there was enough blowback against changes to the synod process on the opening day that Francis felt compelled to take the microphone to insist that he’d personally approved the new rules, which critics feel are designed to limit the information flow and stack the deck in favor of desired outcomes.

Father Z writes Pope Francis threw Cardinal Erdo under the bus.  Funny, that’s not how I interpreted the Pope’s intervention when I first read it.  But Father Z is not alone.

Here is Voice on the Family’s analysis:

The intervention of the Holy Father yesterday has undermined the authority of Cardinal Erdő’s report and has signaled to the synod fathers that the Holy Father would prefer the discussions of the synod to proceed along the lines established by the heterodox Relatio Synodi rather than the orthodox introductory address of Cardinal Erdő. The Holy Father’s actions have gravely weakened the cardinal’s efforts to reorient the Ordinary Synod towards an affirmation and defence of Catholic doctrine.

Did it?  I don’t know. Time will tell.  I personally am trying not to jump to conclusions.

You can read the text of Cardinal Erdo’s opening remarks here at Catholic World Report.  He mentions Humanae Vitae!

Joshua McElwee at the National Catholic Reporter has a good summary of what went on at yesterday’s press briefing, including the high profile suddenly taken by Gatineau Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, who said he told the synod to consider having women become deacons, and raised questions whether Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics was a doctrinal or a discipline issue.  Here’s an except of McElwee’s piece:

Durocher, who leads the Canadian archdiocese of Gatineau and is a former head of the country’s bishops’ conference, was asked if church practice towards the divorced and remarried represented a doctrine or a discipline — and thus, whether it fit under Francis’ reassurance that doctrine was not being questioned.

“To be quite honest, there might be differences of opinion on that,” the Canadian replied. He said he thought that issue itself might be debated among the synod’s small discussion groups.


Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian who assists the Vatican press office with English-language media, gave an overview of different themes talked about by synod participants Monday and Tuesday. He also presented what appeared to be quotations from interventions given by participants but did not identify them by name.

Rosica said some common themes mentioned were: Poverty, unemployment, migration, war, and the continuing refugee crisis. He said one participant also identified a need for a better pastoral approach for couples living together before marriage.

One of the synod participants, Rosica said, expressed that “there must be an end to exclusionary language and a strong emphasis of embracing reality as it is.” Another said that “our church can often be a dangerous place” and asked: “How do we make our homes and ecclesial communities welcoming places?”

One synod member, Rosica said, spoke of treatment of gay persons in the church, saying: “These are our children. They are family members. They are not outsiders. They are our flesh and blood.”

Archbishop Durocher gave an interview with the CNS’s Carol Glatz that further explains his views on the doctrine/discipline debate and I urge people to listen to it before leaping to judgment in one direction or another.

In the interview you can see +Durocher’s position is more nuanced than what comes across in news stories.

I personally believe how we practice the faith has a huge bearing on what we believe and am deeply saddened by many modern day practices that seem to undermine faith that Jesus is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament.  We surely do not act like we believe it a lot of the time, do we?

In relation to what Fr. Rosica reported at the news conference,  Voice on the Family said this:

One of the most disturbing aspects of Rosica’s summary was the suggestion that the question of Holy Communion for the “divorced and remarried” could be solved in different ways in different parts of the world. This would lead to different practices, and thus different doctrines, in different parts of the Church. Such division is, of course, inseparable from schism.

Well, Fr. Rosica is reporting on what was said in the synod hall.  I wish we had access to the synod fathers’ original texts because that would help fill out the picture of what was said.  I think it is too early to be too concerned about remarks reported at a news conference.  Let’s wait and see whether any of these pronouncements show up in the texts of the working groups at the end of the week.

UPDATE:   Here’s Edward Pentin’s report on other interventions made yesterday at the synod.

* A number of synod fathers spoke in support of Cardinal Peter Erdo’s introductory speech, including one who underlined the importance of keeping fidelity to truth about marriage, the family and the Eucharist.

* A synod father asked “What are we doing here?” and stressed the synod is about the family, not other relationships such as homosexual ones. He also stressed that if the synod accepts the divorced-remarried issue, the Church effectively “supports divorce”.

* Another said the emphasis should be the sacrament of marriage, so the spiritual beauty of marriage is brought to the fore. Often the Church is not united around the “positive vision” of marriage and family. He said instability around marriage is “against its nature”.

* A synod father referenced St. Augustine, saying some of the baptized living in “irregular situations” don’t want to approach the Sacrament of Penance; he said the crisis of the family is a crisis of faith. He quoted 2 Timothy 4:2-5

* Another intervention noted the flock are too few, and that one should show respect for families which battle and try to remain faithful, those who in particular remain faithful to their marital vows given before God, although there are controversies and difficulties.

* A further intervention stressed that the Church has to defend that which God revealed about marriage and family and that the work of prelates is to support healthy families. A danger for families are “certain cultural currents,” as well as a sociological approach. In order to serve the family one has to take point of departure the word of God.

Read more:

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Some notes on Hegel and his influence on theology

From Xavier Rynne II’s letter from the synod today, this morsel on Hegel:

The Hegelian view of God’s involvement in the unfolding of history asGeist [Spirit] is at root a Christian heresy, reminiscent of Joachim of Fiore and the Gnostics. For the Hegelian, God suffers with, and changes, precisely through the sin and suffering of his creatures, dialectically pouring out his love and mercy through the progress of history. This heretical view has had widespread influence in modern Catholic and Protestant accounts of God’s nature, in such a way as to misunderstand Christ’s two natures and the suffering of the Second Person of the Trinity in “the economy of the flesh.” Thus the Hegelian approach, in either its Protestant or Catholic form, preaches a God who cannot save: a God who cannot wipe away every tear because he is somehow bound up with our tears.

  • A brief primer on Hegel on religion

As a response to Enlightenment rationalism, Hegel “dialectically” both accepts and rejects Kant’s infinitely transcendent God, even as he dialectically accepts and rejects the Romantic subjectivity which flowed from it: a subjectivity in which, without any accepted rational demonstrations of God’s existence, “religious feeling,” [Gefühl] becomes the best evidence on offer. Rather, Hegel argued that the best argument for God was rationally demonstrable, and was objectively experienced, in history.

For Hegel, God is “Absolute” and Christianity is an “absolute religion.” Abstracting from the doctrine of the Trinity, Hegel imagines that God is the Absolute in the process of coming to greater self-understanding through a dialectical unfolding of his divine love in human history. The Absolute, or universal, chooses to move out of itself to the historically particular – a kenotic movement which non-identically recurs as God pours out this divine love into a common life of Geist, which must be represented by cult, by sacrifice, by a Sittlichkeit, or moral community. This is, of course, an ek-stasis which is supposed to philosophically mirror the Christian faith in the Incarnation of the Son, as well as mirror his death and resurrection which opens the way to Pentecost and the creation of the Church.

But Hegel universalised this as idealist philosophy. And in the process he radically transformed the orthodox Christian understanding of the Triune God into something quite different. Hegel does not see God as “the true font of light and wisdom and the primal origin raised high beyond things,” because in the most dramatic way possible, Hegel believes that “God is not God without the world.”

So, perhaps this is where a certain prominent theologian gets his idea that mercy is a property of God?  Very interesting.

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Some interesting posts on the synod so far

As usual, John Allen Jr over at Crux has a most interesting look at the opening of the synod, particularly the “opening salvo” of the relator general Cardinal Erdo.

In Edward Pentin’s ebook, The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? (Which I imagine has been widely- read by the English-speaking bishops at the synod) Erdo was painted as perhaps overly accommodating of wishes from the synod commission organizers in softening his opening statement and changing things that caused him, according to Pentin, a great deal of angst.

By the time the midterm relatio came out, Cardinal Erdo openly distanced himself from its  three paragraphs on homosexuality that led mainstream media to trumpet the Catholic Church had changed its teachings. He referred a journalist’s question about them to Archbishop Bruno Forte, saying the journalist should ask Forte because he was the author.

Well, from what Allen reports, Erdo is not bending this time around. He writes:

Not mincing any words, Erdő said the only case in which divorced and remarried believers could be readmitted to Communion is if they “practice continence through the strength of grace,” meaning they renounce any sexual relationship, and only then if allowing them to take Communion doesn’t “provoke scandal.”

“The integration of the divorced and remarried in the life of the ecclesial community can take many forms, [but it] is different from admission to the Eucharist,” he said.

Erdő seemed determined to tackle all the usual arguments advanced for relaxing the Communion ban, such as the so-called “law of graduality,” which holds that people in imperfect life situations can be on a path toward moral growth and should be encouraged rather than excluded.

“Between truth and falsehood, between good and bad, there is no graduality,” he said.

On the equally divisive question of whether the Church should be more positive about homosexuality and same-sex relationships, Erdő threw down another gauntlet.

“There is no basis for comparing or making analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and God’s plan for matrimony and the family,” he said, quoting a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter also has an interesting round up of the days events, including Pope Francis’ preliminary address.  He writes:

The Synod, the pope said, is not a parliament or a senate, but an “ecclesial expression” of a church “that walks together to read reality with eyes of faith and the heart of God.”

“It is the Church that questions itself on its fidelity to the deposit of the faith, so that it does not represent a museum to be looked at or only to be safeguarded, but a living spring from which the church drinks to quench thirst and illuminate the deposit of life,” the pontiff said of the Synod.

“The Synod is also a protected space where the Church goes through the action of the Holy Spirit,” said Francis.

“In the Synod, the Spirit speaks through the language of all people who allow themselves to be guided by God who always surprises, by God who reveals to the little ones that which he has hidden from the wise and intelligent,” he said.

You can find the Pope’s text here at The Catholic Herald.   Be cautious of mainstream  media accounts and read the actual texts!

Speaking of the mainstream media, here is Elisabetta Povoleda’s report in the New York Times. An excerpt:

Archbishop Bruno Forte, one of the synod’s secretaries, said that nonetheless, the synod would continue to search for pastoral responses to the challenges presented by modern family configurations.

“We must look at the doctrine of the church and see how we can be pastors for all these different situations, that’s really what’s at stake,” he said.


The goal of the meeting is to make the family central to pastoral care “in a moment when it is in crisis, with an increase in cohabitation and fewer marriages,” Archbishop Forte told reporters on Monday.


Archbishop Forte said the pope had encouraged the synod participants to “have the freedom to say what they wanted to,” encouraging debate.

“This synod did not meet to say nothing,” he said. Even if doctrine does not change, the church must find new ways to approach issues “to allow the church to keep abreast of the times.”

He added, “Situations change and the church can’t be insensitive to these challenges.”

The journalist who asked the famous question last year that prompted Erdo to name Archbishop Forte as the author of the paragraphs on homosexuality is none other than Michael Voris of Church Militant TV.  Many people find his style abrasive and uncharitable in his daily Vortex briefings, but last year, his synod coverage was very different from his usual Church Militant fare.

He comes from a mainstream media broadcasting background and has excellent journalistic and broadcasting chops, regardless of whether you agree with his point of view or not.  In other words, he knows what a story is and when other news outlets and journalists get bogged down on process, he zeroes in on the conflict, who is doing what and he is extremely fast out of the gate and articulate.  So, speaking as a former television news and current affairs producer, I say he knows what he’s doing in the broadcast medium.

Today’s report after the synod’s first news conference is an example of a professional news hound’s wrap up that is very interesting and a reason why I, who seldom listens to his regular Vortex broadcasts, will be watching his synod coverage.

Like the New York Times reporter, his eye is still on Archbishop Forte.

Most observers think there is no chance doctrine will change, except for some who think this is the synod of doom that will usher in the great apostasy.  If your mind runs to conspiracy theories and such, there is a lot out there.

Where the concern lies among more mainstream Catholic observers is how much of a gap might open up between doctrine and practice.  There are legitimate fears (or hopes, depending on your point of view) a change in practice does result in a change in doctrine.  And one American theologian Richard Gaillardetz has said it is precisely by changes in practice that doctrine does in fact change.  Here’s an excerpt of a 2013 piece in the National Catholic Reporter in which Gaillardetz wrote:

Doctrine changes when pastoral contexts shift and new insights emerge such that particular doctrinal formulations no longer mediate the saving message of God’s transforming love. Doctrine changes when the church has leaders and teachers who are not afraid to take note of new contexts and emerging insights. It changes when the church has pastors who do what Francis has been insisting on for the last six months: Leave the security of your chanceries, rectories, parish offices and episcopal residences. Set aside the “small-minded rules” that keep you locked up and shielded from the world. Go meet the people where they are.

If Francis succeeds in creating a new generation of pastor-leaders who are willing to meet the people where they are, who are willing to create what he has called a “culture of encounter,” he will have created the necessary conditions for appropriate doctrinal change. That’s how it works.

As I have said before, there are two insurmountable difficulties the synod faces.  Does it treat Jesus’ words concerning marriage and indissolubility and St. Paul’s words on the danger of receiving the Blessed Sacrament unworthily as small-minded rules and reinterpret them so that the latest sociological and scientific research trumps Revelation?

Does meeting people “where they’re at” become a historical sign of the times that empties Scripture of its content?

I don’t think this is what Pope Francis has in mind when he talks about the God of surprises. I hear what the Holy Father is saying when he calls for “emptying oneself of one’s own convictions and prejudices in order to listen to our brother bishops and fill ourselves with God.”

That kind of emptying is a contemplative practice that I am well familiar with.

But one can’t become so empty that one sets aside Revelation.  The Catholic Church can’t do that and still call herself the Church founded on Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

I have found that truly emptying myself of my own convictions and pet theories and allowing God to fill me only makes Revelation come alive with supernatural power when, after a period of silence, and entering the “Cloud of Unknowing” I return to Scripture and find it alive with meaning.  May that happen to the synod fathers over the next three weeks.


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The synod on the family begins

I must try to get some writing done today, so I will not be posting much here today but I do want to call your attention to Robert Royal’s report today on some guiding principles for interpreting the onslaught of news and opinion that will be gushing out of Rome now that the synod on the family has begun.

He writes:

I hope TCT writers and readers alike will be informed, measured, and wise in all their reactions.


I was at the 2014 Synod and I saw how a very few inflammatory phrases could distract everyone from much needed efforts to shore up the family. We need to keep our eyes on the ball this time or the radicals will win by sheer default.

To help move us along, I’ve developed Robert’s Five Guiding Principles for the Synod. You may want to suggest others, but these are the crucial, the indispensable notions we’ll need in order to get the best out of what’s to come over the next three weeks, and beyond.

Principle No.1: Be Cautious About Drawing Large Conclusions. Everyone you meet will “know” what the Synod means. Wait. Practice healthy skepticism. Resist the temptation to claim things that will remain uncertain for a while. Truth takes time. Sometimes there may not be much truth in play. I’ve been in Europe the past several days, but followed the controversies about the pope’s meetings with Kim Davis and a gay couple at the nunciature in Washington. As shocking as it is that Papa Bergoglio maintains a casual relationship with a gay friend – something unthinkable for any past pope – and that Francis almost went into full stealth mode about Kim Davis and the Little Sisters of the Poor, I would not immediately draw any strong conclusions from any of it. Or from similar things you’ll see in coming days. The press just distorts too much, as do Vatican leaks.

Well, maybe I’d conclude a little about the gays. This pope is a man of gestures, not ideas. That doesn’t always mean he knows or can control what his gestures convey.


Go on over to read the other four principles.

And do read the texts of the Holy Father’s remarks today. You’ll find them and other information over at the Catholic Herald.   Keep an eye there as well for the daily letters from Xavier Rynne II.


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