Some thoughts as the synod fathers gather in Rome

So much to write about, so little time!

First, here is John Allen Jr.’s analysis and what to expect.  Please read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:

On the Kim Davis meeting and its aftermath Allen writes:

Whatever one makes of how the meeting happened, or what it ultimately says about Francis’ views – and theories on both matters abound – the big picture remains intact and works to validate a fairly firm conclusion about this pope.

To wit, Francis is positioned squarely in the middle of what Americans have come to know as the “culture wars.”

On one hand, Francis clearly upholds traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and the family. He believes those doctrines don’t make the Church the great “Doctor No” of the modern world, but rather mark out a path to genuine human fulfillment.

Marriage and the family a path to “genuine human fulfillment.”  Yes, from a sociological point of view, certainly studies show that married couples are generally happier and healthier than those who are unmarried or single and the children of married couples also do better by almost every other measure–whether its performance in school, likelihood of remaining in poverty, or future happiness.
But the Catholic faith is concerned about more than genuine human fulfillment, no?
Is there some kind of Hegelian synthesis now operating in theological circles?  History and dialectics and synthesis and progress and all that?  Thus we find that synthesis in the middle of the culture wars?  Or is he speaking of a difference in tone and emphasis?   But then I recall that Pope Benedict also stressed the Yes! in the Catholic faith, rather than the No! but a lot of good it did him.
He goes on to write:

In the run-up to this summit, a well-known journalist in Rome published an e-book asking whether last year’s edition of the synod had been “rigged,” implying that a cabal of progressives had tried to stack the deck in favor of a more permissive line on matters such as homosexuality and divorce.

On the other side, a minor Vatican aide announced on Saturday that he’s gay and happily in love, and called on all gay Catholics who have been “persecuted by the Church” to fight for their rights. Predictably, the official in question, Polish Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, was swiftly fired from his Vatican position.

If these opening salvos are any indication, the synod may be defined not just by disagreements on substance, but also suspicions of Machiavellian maneuvers along the way. That’s not exactly a prescription for meeting in the middle.

No, it isn’t.  And is meeting in the middle what needs to be done?  Or do the bishops need to open themselves up to the Holy Spirit, surrender to the will of God and stand under  (understand) Revelation afresh so they hand on the deposit of faith intact with words that speak life to the lost in today’s culture?

As for concerns about manipulation by the synod organizers, they remain.

“Xavier Rynne II” writes this about the synod in today’s letter:

The deck-stacking has gotten worse in the entr’acte of Synod-2015, most notably in the composition of the final report-commission. Will a majority of Synod fathers agree with some of their number who have already concluded that this commission cannot be repaired by expansion (ie, adding new members), but must be rejected by the full Synod and a new slate chosen – thus following the model by which Cardinal Achille Lienart and others changed the course of the first session of the Second Vatican Council in its opening days? Will the protest against this deck-stacking include Synod fathers from beyond Africa and the Anglosphere – Italians, Poles, perhaps French and Latin American bishops as well?


Imagine Athanasius at Nicaea I agreeing to confine his remarks on Arianism to a three-minute “intervention.” (Or, if you want to stretch your imagination even further, conjure up the vision of that first council inviting those sympathetic to Arius to help construct the Nicene Creed.) Imagine Cyril of Alexandria at the Council of Ephesus accepting a “procedure” that confined his critique of Nestorianism and his defense of Mary as “Mother of God” (Theotokos) to three minutes, or that cut the Council’s president – him – out of the process of devising the Council’s canons?

That would be interesting, if the synod fathers move early on to elect their own commission to write their final report.  We will know soon enough, I suppose.

Then there is the way pressure to change the Church’s teaching on same sex relationships keeps inserting itself into the synod’s agenda.  Allen mentioned the most recent kerfuffle concerned a monsignor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who came out to say he was gay, happy with his boyfriend. He also issued a manifesto on where the Catholic Church needed to change so as to stop being homophobic.

The Vatican press office’s response said this:

With regard to the declarations and interview given by Msgr. Krzystof Charamsa it should be observed that, notwithstanding the respect due to the events and personal situations, and reflections on the issue, the decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the Synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the Synod assembly to undue media pressure.


It would be sad to think of the Successors of the Apostles being subject to undue media pressure and thus concluding they must change the teachings of the Catholic Church based on divine Revelation as a result.  Is there another way of looking at this?

Over at Father Z’s blog, a commentator calling himself KingofCharity writes:

KingofCharity says:

The way around this is for the Church to strengthen its language that all humans are in some sense intrinsically and objectively disordered by sin. The RCC needs a strong and clear teaching about the reality of “physical evil.” The effects of sin are real. The effects of the Fall have scared all of creation– even human sexuality. It is heresy to say things like “God doesn’t make mistakes, so gays are made by God,” or ” they are born that way and it is natural so we must treat it with scientific neutrality.” Nature is not the same as “Natural Law.” Natural Law is the Divine Order of nature on how it objectively is and should be APART FROM THE EFFECTS OF THE FALL AND ORIGINAL SIN. Nature is the current world with all its good signs and imperfections due to the Fall. We must clarify the difference between Nature and Natural Law. The RCC must strengthen its teachings about the imperfect condition of created matter and human nature.
The Church also needs to clarify that just because something is “natural” doesn’t make it right or moral. We are not held accountable to nature– we are held accountable to Divine Law. In addition, we can’t transfer sexuality from the moral realm over to the realm of science and claim that the Church’s authority is now null on sexuality because it is now a “scientific” question. This is absolutely not an option. Just because it exists in nature doesn’t mean it is beautiful, true, and good. Human sexuality is prone to perversions, distortions, erotic impulses, deviant desires, etc.
So the solution is for the RCC to remind the world that ALL people are to some degree broken, disordered, etc. by sin. We will not get offended. God didn’t “create us this way.” We have inclinations toward sin because of the effects of the Fall and Original Sin. Creation itself is “on a journey” towards perfection as the Catechism says often. It’s perfection will only culminate in the Second Coming of Christ. So just because people are born homosexual or whatever, doesn’t mean God “made them that way.” The Fall has wounded all of creation. In addition there is diabolical influence over the created world, too. “God doesn’t make mistakes,” say the liberals. But if that is true then all sinners “were made exactly the way God wanted them.” This is false.

The commentator makes an interesting point about the difference between what is natural, or occurring in nature, and natural law, the law the is written on our hearts.

But natural law is having a hard time these days as most people have no clue what it is and therefore reject the idea of an objective, God-given moral reality.  I listened to Fareed Zakaria opine at length last Sunday based on the writings of Garry Wills that the Bible really does not say much about sexual morality, really, it was all that natural law stuff that was tacked on later, and the Catholic Church should  dumped it. Er, well, okay!

But this idea has some traction outside of liberal American Catholic writers. When at least one of the cardinals on the commission to write the synod’s final document has said he would like to see the words “intrinsically disordered” removed from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in other contexts we see the words  “good news” and Gospel spoken of as if Jesus came to make us happy rather than dying on the cross to save us from sin, you have to wonder how many actually believe in the Fall, in Original Sin, and all that fundamentalist foolishness that precedes the necessity of a Savior.  If history is always evolving and mankind along with it, what, really, do we need a Savior for?

And really, what then do we need mercy for, if not because we are sinners, who are  hellbent and hell bound without it?

Some other thoughts on media pressure.

I remember several people telling me of the massive sigh of relief they experienced when Francis became Pope.  The constant barrage of negativity aimed at the Church, at Pope Benedict in the mainstream media, the constant world condemnation surrounding the clerical abuse scandal, suddenly vanished.  The whole world seemed caught up, even enchanted with this photogenic and humble pope who paid his own hotel bill, refused to go live in the papal apartment and continued wearing his black shoes.

With the Kim Davis meeting and the swift backlash, those who have  exulted at the pope’s popular image perhaps experienced  a gut-wrenching revelation at how easily Pope Francis worldly popularity could vanish.  As some have said on blogs and other social media, finally, the pope met with a sinner who was totally unacceptable–a “woman at the well” who has become a lightning rod for the hatred of the world.

As for Kim Davis, I think a lot of people do not understand her reasons for what she did and they are two-fold.  Her name is on the marriage certificates themselves, a kind of  “I Kim Davis as the County Clerk etc.”  so it is not a simple matter of putting her signature on a generic document.  This is also why she ordered her staff not to issue these licenses either, though she told them at the same time if they did she would not seek sanctions against them if they did so.   And thirdly, she is bound to obey the statutes regarding marriage, but the Supreme Court’s striking down a law does not create a new statute.  That still needs to be done.  She is asking for accommodation—that her name and office be removed from the marriage certificates, to have them issued under the auspices of the governor or other official.   Why is her request for accommodation deemed so hateful?


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5 Responses to Some thoughts as the synod fathers gather in Rome

  1. EPMS says:

    I was interested to see that, as a member of a non-Trinitarian denomination, (Apostolic Pentecostal), Kim Davis’ status as a Christian is questioned by those in the evangelical community who regard belief in the Trinity as fundamental to Christian faith:
    Why should Catholics have a monopoly on in-fighting?

  2. EPMS says:

    It appears to adhere to the heresy known as Sabellianism.

  3. EPMS says:

    I think they are the same thing. Sabellianism is a more impressive term to throw around, however.

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