What happened at last year’s synod and what can we expect in October?

Over at Crisis Magazine, Austin Ruse has an interesting take on the various narratives spun during last year’s extraordinary synod on the family.  Here are the three that emerged in Ruse’s article:

The progressive narrative on that first day when the Vatican released the interim document was that Church teaching on homosexuality and on communion for the divorced and civilly remarried was at least softening if not changing altogether. This news rocketed around the world in the moments after the document was released. Some hopeful people practically danced in the streets.

The counter narrative cooked up in those cafés that afternoon and on subsequent days was that nothing had changed. The interim document did not change doctrine. It only softens the practice. We are meeting people where they are. We were told the Holy Spirit protected the synod and that everything would turn out okay.

There is a tendency, a good tendency, for faithful Catholics to step in and defend the Church, to explain what is almost always misunderstood either through ignorance of Church teaching or through willful manipulation. It is natural to step in and defend your Mother.

It seems to me that these faithful Catholics, some of them anyway, were being used. Still others were taking advantage of their good natural inclination. In actuality this counter narrative was not so much counter after all. It was a narrative hewing closely to what some in the synod were driving for all along, that nothing much had changed when, in fact, a great deal had changed. Moreover, while these good Catholics thought they were defending the Church and the Pope, they were actually supporting something called the “synodal process” that was cooked-up by those wanting to change Church teaching.

There was a third narrative coming from faithful Catholics who were also huddling around Rome that week and that is a great deal might change, that the document was an enormous problem striking at the heart of Church teaching born from Scripture, tradition, and other sources of Magisterial teaching. The document represented nothing short of revolutionary change. These people had the better argument.

He also cites Edward Pentin’s book The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? which I read last week and highly recommend.  I found the book an impressive work of journalism from a man who as a faithful Catholic made an effort to be objective and to be fair to all sides in the differing interpretations of what happened.  The book is being widely read, as almost every day I encounter people who tell me they have downloaded it.

Pentin goes out of his way to give everyone the best possible interpretation for what they said or did, so I do not think the question mark at the end of the title was imposed on him. Pentin is a journalist, par excellence, he is not a polemicist.

For those of us who watched the synod carefully last year, Pentin’s book is an excellent recap of the troubling news that emerged, with much new information gained from some persistent research.

What is happening to those who were in the middle camp?  (“The interim document did not change doctrine. It only softens the practice. We are meeting people where they are. We were told the Holy Spirit protected the synod and that everything would turn out okay.”) I wonder how many are starting to question themselves.

As for me, I hope the middle position is the right one!  I pray the middle position is the right one!  Because if the Holy Spirit is not protecting the Catholic Church, how then can we argue this is the true Church of Christ, the one Jesus founded, if all of a sudden the words of Jesus Christ Himself on marriage are disregarded and Catholic divorce becomes normative?   Already, it saddens me to see how so many Catholics no longer believe in transubstantiation as evidenced by many recent polls, and seem to see the Eucharist as a symbol of belonging, not the Body, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as theodicy tries to solve the problem of evil in light of a good God as two points of divine revolution that must not be surrendered in any argument (that God is all-powerful and God is all good) it is the same in the current debate on marriage: two points of divine revelation that must not be surrendered.  There are Jesus’ words on the indissolubility of marriage; and St. Paul’s on the unworthy reception of the Eucharist.

Let us fast and pray the Holy Spirit will come down like a mighty rushing wind in Rome this October and shake the synod hall to such a degree that the supernatural graces of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit are renewed and that He will give again tongues of fire to the synod fathers to preach the Gospel, with no compromise with the world on what the Church has always taught.

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