We have to be wary.
Do you remember that, just before Benedict XVI abdicated, during an audience he talked about the Council of the Fathers v. the Council of the Media?
This is what we are seeing develop around this Synod.
There is a Synod and there is a Synod of the Media.
A great example of this is found today at CRUX.
My first observation is that, when you look at CRUX’s main page the great burning question that all Catholics are focused on is “gay” marriage. There is a disproportionate focus on this issue, just as there is a disproportionate representation of “gays” in TV sitcoms, etc. Surely this comes from a desire not just to report news but to advance an agenda. I circled stories on the main page that have to do with “gay” matters. Given the percentage of Catholics who actually want there to be same-sex unions, for any reason, … well… you decide what’s going on here.
You can conduct the same exercise over at Fishwrap (aka The National Schismatic Reporter). It’ll probably be a higher percentage yet, given that outlet’s leanings.
To their credit, CRUX has an op-ed piece by Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press which is worth a moment or two. He explodes the canard that conservatives are against change and he clearly states that we have to embrace also the hard sayings of the Lord, the difficult teachings. “Pastoral” doesn’t mean selling out.
On the other hand, at CRUX we see a “Synod of the Media” piece by John Allen (who now works for the Boston Globe for CRUX). Allen enthusiastically relates that married couples are stealing the show at the Synod (which is all of 36 hours old). Highlighted are the comments of a couple who assert that the Church should be open to same-sex couples. There are no other explanations of what that is supposed to look like other than the analogy offered: just as a parents of a son in some kind of same-sex relationship should welcome that “couple” into their home at Christmas time, so too the Church should welcome same-sex couples. There is a lot of ambiguity here. Say parents do allow their son and his … whatever he is called… to their home for, say, Christmas dinner. Do they then give that “couple” a bedroom in their home for the night or longer? Similarly, Holy Church already welcomes every sort of couple of Catholics. As a matter of fact Holy Church obliges every sort of Catholic to come to Church and participate in Sunday Mass. Remember the obligation thing? What Holy Church does not do is say to people in mortal sin that they can receive Communion. The language of “welcome” in these scenarios, namely, the Church should “be welcoming” is a red herring. OF COURSE the Church is welcoming to sinners. THAT’S WHAT SHE’S FOR, for the love of all that’s holy.
Moreover, Allen also expostulates about how the way annulments are handled in these USA could be a model for the rest of the world. What he is referring to is the high percentage of cases that receive decrees of nullity, without consideration of whether those tribunals were exercising due diligence or not. This was considered a serious problem during the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Is it suddenly not a problem anymore just because there is, right now, an almost lemmings-to-the-cliff rush in favor of some “streamlined” annulment process?
The Synod of the Media, folks.
But wait! There’s more.
Mr. Allen also reports that Card. Kasper has received an “endorsement” from fellow German Card. Marx of Munich, who is also a member of the fabled “Gang of Eight”. Well, that’s a huge surprise, isn’t it! Germans bishops support Kasperite thesis! Sun to rise at dawn!
First of all, the fact that the German bishops, with Marx, might back Kasper’s notions during the Synod means very little, in terms of the Synod. The Germans have their representation. I think its at about the same level as that of the Church in, say, Croatia.
Also, could there be behind this German push for Communion for the civilly remarried a desire to defend Germany’s Church Tax?
In the UK’s best Catholic week, The Catholic Herald, there is in the print edition (you can subscribe HERE) a letter to the editor by Fr. Francis Coveney, which raises a good point:
Over at Lifesite News, there is an entry which touches on the fact that the German Church is losing members like fleeing rodents from a less than stable barque.
The issue [Communion for those in irregular situations] has been a high priority for the German Catholic bishops for whom much of the Church’s funding comes from the Church Tax, in which citizens identify themselves as affiliated with a particular church and the government pays a portion of their income tax to support it. The Catholic Church’s refusal to budge on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics has cut into Catholic revenues as thousands of Catholics in “irregular” situations have switched their affiliation on tax forms.
In 2012, the German bishops’ conference issued a statement that Catholics who did not pay the Church Tax would be refused the sacraments. German citizens are required to give an affiliation on their tax forms, and the bishops declared that changing the affiliation to one of the Protestant Churches is tantamount to a declaration of apostasy. In 2011, the Catholic Church in Germany received 5 billion euros (approximately $6.84 billion U.S.) from the government.
The bishops have repeatedly complained of the loss of membership and blame the Church’s refusal to change teachings such as that on divorce, the reservation of priestly ordination to men and clerical celibacy. [… “but for Wales?”] The German media, however, has pointed to the clerical sex abuse scandals as a major motivator for the refusal of Catholics to continue paying the tax levy. In 2011, 126,488 Catholics asked to be removed from registers.
Kasper, long a theological opponent of the former Cardinal Ratzinger, has espoused a change in the practice for years. In 2005, Cardinal Kasper refused to accept the decision of a synod of bishops on the question, [Wait just a doggone minute here! I thought “synodality” was the bestest and most wonderfulest way ehvurrrr to work out problems in the Church.] saying “It is a question that exists, and we have to reflect on it in order to be able to respond…Every bishop in every Western country recognizes that this is a grave problem.” Of the Synod’s conclusion that the practice of withholding Communion could not be changed, Kasper said it “is not the final result.” [I guess there are Synods and then there are Synods.]
In 1993, as Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Kasper released a pastoral letter along with Karl Lehman, then-Bishop of Mainz that allowed divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion after “serious examination” of their conscience. [And the CDF shot that down right away.]
There’s a lot more to say, but that’s enough for now.
Bottom line: Keep your eyes open and your ears tuned to the problem of the Synod of the Synod v. the Synod of the Media.