The Extraordinary Synod on the family is, thanks be to God, over.
The bishops will meet again next year at the same time in the Ordinary Synod on the same topic: the Family.
Let me start with the pessimistic take, first.
In sum, I think this Synod caused defeats for all sides.
It was a big defeat for liberals/progressivists because they didn’t get what they wanted. The liberals in the Synod weren’t able to ram through their agenda. In the end, they overplayed their hands and the conservative/Magisterium defenders rose up and said “No more!” It was also a defeat, but less so, for the defenders of the Magisterium because, frankly, some of the things which were hotly debated at the Synod, shouldn’t have been debated at all. Thus, liberals got their way a little bit: they managed to get their points on the agenda.
Also, the Catholic people everywhere were defeated: great confusion has been sown about matters such as Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and the “welcome” we are supposed to show as a Church to homosexuals. I am already hearing from priests that people as saying things like, “I’m remarried but Francis says I can go to Communion”. That’s ridiculous, but, as I said, there is confusion. Some people will have the notion that we now “welcome” (whatever that means) homosexuals because they are homosexual rather than because they are human beings. That’s ridiculous, but, as I said, there is confusion.
The Synod was positive in the sense that in the end enough bishops rose up to put a halt to the lemming rush – nay, rather – walking together towards the cliff. But we shouldn’t be aiming at the cliff at all.
Who knows if it will be possible to halt this thing during next year’s Synod. Some of the key players who stopped the liberal surge and manipulation in the Synod, probably won’t be involved next year. I doubt Card. Burke will be there. He was there this time in his role as head of a dicastery of the Roman Curia. So were Card. Pell and Card. Mueller. Who knows who will receive special appointments as participants. If this Synod couldn’t be manipulated, and clearly a manipulation was attempted through the control of information and texts, next year’s could be controlled by stacking the deck, changing the slate of participants to favor one side.
However, one factor that will remain is “The Five Cardinals Book”. This important book will have been read and absorbed well by next October. In the face of the books explanations, many of the liberal issues simply fall apart.
A few more points, in no special order.
First, there was controversy about how we are to “welcome” (accogliere) “gays” (I hate that word now). What on earth does “welcome gays” mean? What does it mean for the divorced and civilly remarried? This “welcome” strikes me as incredibly superficial. It reflects sentiments, not real thought.
Does “welcome” for gays and remarried mean just avoiding any words that might be imagined by some to be off-putting? Does it mean admittance to Holy Communion? I think it does, ultimately. If that is the case, then I think we just have to say “game over”. Think about it. What does Communion become, through the open admission of those who are objectively and often openly in the state of mortal sin? Communion becomes that white thing someone puts in your hand to make you feel “welcome”, like you “belong”. Then you sing the song and go on your way. You don’t have to think about how you live, or what you are doing with you receive the Eucharist. 1 Corinthians is a dead letter. Why bother going at all? One you have obtained the victory of self-affirmation, of deciding for yourself about Communion without any regard for the Church’s perennial teaching, why even bother with Mass?
The talk about “graduality” was interesting, but again there is confusion about the term. We do not approve sin. Sin is not good. We are pleased when people move away from sin toward virtue. We are happy when people sin less, but we are not happy with the sins they still commit. Moreover, this is a way of helping individuals stop sinning and come to live a good Christian life, it is not a program for whole groups of people. This is something to be applied in the internal forum rather than in vague phrases of “welcoming”.
Also, and perhaps I am wrong about this, but I think not… it seems to me that in the words “traditionalist” and “intellectualist” the Magisterium of John Paul II was undermined. It seems now that if you believe in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or Familiaris consortio, you are a “traditionalist” and “intellectualist”. Under attack during the Synod, by liberals, was the Magisterium of John Paul II, especially as found in Familiaris consortio and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I would like to point out that everything Card. Burke wrote in his contribution to the Five Cardinals Book, is supported by the CCC or Familiaris consortio. Hey! FC is 33 years old! That’s outdated by now, right? So, the term “dissenter” will be applied to people who defend doctrine.
Weird, no? It is as if we are now walking about with a Salvador Dali landscape.
I sound pessimistic, I know. I, therefore, rush to add that we can all be grateful for the participants in the Synod who, fed up, held their hands up, got to their feet, and said “No!”
A week ago, we had no idea what was going to happen. One camp thought their scheme was going to work like a charm. They aren’t so confident now, I think.
I am also reminded of the pessimist and the optimist who are discussing the state of things. The pessimist says, “Things can’t possibly get any worse!”. The optimist replies, “Oh yes they can!”
Putting on my optimist hat now, I turn my gaze to Sunday 4 October 2015, which should be the date that the next Synod begins. In the Novus Ordo calendar it will be the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B.
What is the Gospel reading for that day? I knew you would ask.
Just to refresh your memory:
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”
Yes, that is the reading for the corresponding Sunday for next year’s opening of the Synod of Bishops.
We have a year now, during which the debates are going to continue.
For a whole year, as you listen to the rhetoric about mercy v. law, pastoral v. intellectual, compassion v. doctrine, everyone will remember what Gospel they should have for the Synod of 2015.
Meanwhile, friends, do not let up. Let’s use those provisions of Summorum Pontificum and pray and take on mortifications for the sake of Holy Church in these troubling times.
The moderation queue is ON. Also, I have a really long flight coming up, without internet.