The Synod begins – a few notes

I admit to having Synod Fatigue™ already.  I am so sick of it already, that even now I force myself to write this.

I hereby commit myself to use my irritation and concern to my advantage.  I will force myself to pay attention and to mutter prayers as I go about my business in the following days.

On the one hand, I am not worried that the Synod will attempt to change God’s and the Church’s teaching.  It can’t.  The Synod can’t order pizza unless the Pope says so.  On the other hand, I am worried that the widely reported antics that might take place at the Synod will create an atmosphere of expectation that God’s and Church’s teach can change and that, based on that expectation, people will start doing whatever the hell they want.

Some of you are no doubt saying, “But Father!  But Father!”  People are doing whatever the hell they want right now! Isn’t that great?!?  This is the age of mercy!  You hate Vatican II, don’t you!”

I don’t think it’s great, no.  I think souls are in deep jeopardy and that many will be lost because of our feckless leadership and fuzzy teaching and aimless liturgical worship.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln…

But back to my theme: the Synod.

I saw an interesting observation at the blog St. Corbinian’s Bear which merits a little of your attention.  He makes a point about the papal style.   Popes tend to begin with positive and affirming points before they weigh in with their true agenda, often correctives.   The writer of the blog post trots out a Latin adage which is rather pointed.  He begins with a personal viewpoint from his own experience as a lawyer.  When judges would rule against him, they would start by praising his arguments, while waiting to the end to go against him.  Thus the phrase in Latin, in cauda venenum… the poison is in the (scorpion’s) tail, that is, the stuff you don’t want to hear, the bad news, comes at the end of a discourse.  It’s a pretty common technique.

He applied this to the Holy Father’s speech at the opening of the Synod.

You might check out his post.

BTW… during the Synod you will probably see endless repetitions of the groan-inducing cliche that Synod, made up of the Greek preposition syn and (h)odos means “walking together”.  No.  It means “meeting”.  Sorry.

Here an example from VIS:

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 10.10.53

Over at The Catholic Thing Robert Royal (who I believe will also be providing some coverage of the Synod (not “walking together”) on EWTN with my friend Fr. Murray) provides some tips for your own sifting of news about the Synod.  Here are the tips, but you have to go there for their explanations.

Principle No.1: Be Cautious About Drawing Large Conclusions.
Principle No. 2: But Don’t Be Too Cautious.
Principle 3: Look out for claims of a false sense of freedom in the Church. Principle 4: Stay focused on how that false freedom is corrupting concepts like love, mercy, charity.
Principle 5: So, Increase Your Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.  

That last one is what I have more than once pushed you to do.

I recently gave a couple talks to two different groups about the Synod (not “walking together”).  I confess that I painted a grim picture.  I confess also that I wanted to scare them all a little and make them a little angry.


To help them (you) overcome Synod Fatigue when it inevitably sets in and keep them (you) focused on praying and fasting, asking God to protect the Church and her people (one might add… “from their pastors”).

This is not a time for endless happy talk.   Some years ago I asked an American bishop what he thought was the state of the Church in these USA.  “Terrible!”, he said.  I asked, “What can we do to turn things around?” He responded, “The first thing we have to do is stop blowing happy gas!”

Meanwhile, I will recommend a few books.

First, don’t forget the game (Synod) changing book last year, the Five Cardinals Book™.  This book scared the organizers of the Synod (not “walking together”) that the copies that were sent to the members were boosted from their mail boxes.  Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church contains five essays of cardinals, of the archbishop secretary of the Vatican congregation for the Oriental Churches, and of three scholars on the ideas supported by Walter Card. Kasper in the opening discourse of the consistory in February 2014. Also available now in the UK! HERE

There is now also the Eleven Cardinals Book™.  Eleven Cardinals Speak On Marriage and the Family and also Christ’s New Homeland – Africa, the Ten Africans Book™.  And to have a look at what the organizers of the Synod (not “walking together”) are capable of, see Ed Pentin’s new Smoking Gun Book™ about last year’s chaotic Synod.

Finally, here is a book that is being hailed as the “Ratzinger Report” for our time.

God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith by Robert Card. Sarah

He is the real deal.  UK HERE

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 10.52.52

I wish this book had come out a few year ago.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ChrisRawlings says:

    Cardinal Erdo’s opening shot this morning was remarkably strong and lucid, too. And he, as well as Cardinal Sarah, come from regions of the world (Eastern Europe and Africa) where the Church is in considerably better shape than, say, Germany and Switzerland. I have trouble seeing a strong majority of Synod fathers pining after the ways and wonders of the German church when offered the powerful witness of the fruits of fidelity in other parts of the world.

  2. anilwang says:

    What I’ve been trying to fathom is why Pope Francis has repeatedly placed heretical foxes in charge of the hen house, yet in his homilies appears to be mostly orthodox (though strongly anti-Traditional). The unsettling conclusion I’ve come up with is that it’s a negotiation/political tactic. First propose an extreme position, and then negotiate to a “compromise” position that would never have been accepted if it were first proposed. The heretical foxes are there to promote the extreme position. The Pope is there to promote a “compromise” that we’re supposed to be grateful for since “it’s not nearly as bad as we feared”.

    I don’t know what sort of “compromise” he has in mind, but I’m fearful since his many of his homilies, such as the one opening the Synod, seem to imply that his Papacy is a “New Pentacost” and that under the banner of “mercy” he (through the Holy Spirit) has the power to do things that only Jesus or the first apostles had the authority to do. If the annulment reforms are any indication, what we’ll get is a “change in discernment and benchmarks” that will preserve doctrine but make it impossible to apply, making communion for people in mortal sin practically impossible to deny.

    We need to pray for the Cardinals to be strong enough to mount another Synod rebellion to defend doctrine.

    That being said, I think that one blessing of the Pope Francis papacy is that it exposes the depth of the pro-heresy Mafia is in the hierarchy, and has highlighted some Papabile stars like Cardinal Sarah that can actually and desires to fix it. Frankly, I didn’t see any of the other candidates during the last conclave has having the will or desire to confront this mafia and this might be God’s way of ensuring this is ultimately dealt with once and for all.

    I am hopeful for the future, no matter what Pope Francis ultimately does.

  3. Auggie says:

    I was struck by Pope Francis using the metaphor of the Church as a sort of “bridge.” Is that an appropriate image? I think of C.S. Lewis as a “bridge” to the Church, but I don’t think of the Church as a bridge. The symbolism seems too horizontal… and leads to where on earth?

  4. Robbie says:

    Michael Brendan Dougherty has a very strongly worded piece today about what he believes will come from the Synod. Here’s the link for those who are interested.

  5. acardnal says:

    Last Thursday Raymond Arroyo rebroadcast his June interview with Cardinal Kasper. Watching it leaves me incredulous.
    Part One:

    Part Two:

  6. AnnTherese says:

    Here is a prayer I saw yesterday:

    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
    in you we contemplate
    the splendor of true love,
    to you we turn with trust.

    Holy Family of Nazareth,
    grant that our families, too,
    may be places of communion and prayer,
    authentic schools of the Gospel,
    and small domestic churches.

    Holy Family of Nazareth,
    may families never again
    experience violence, rejection, and division;
    may all who have been hurt or scandalized
    find ready comfort and healing.

    Holy Family of Nazareth,
    may the approaching Synod of Bishops
    make us once more mindful
    of the sacredness and inviolability of the family
    and its beauty in God’s plan.

    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
    graciously hear our prayer. Amen.

  7. Praynfast says:

    “On the other hand, I am worried that the widely reported antics that might take place at the Synod will create an atmosphere of expectation that God’s and Church’s teach can change and that, based on that expectation, people will start doing whatever the hell they want.”

    Fr. Z., unfortunately great damage is already done and people are already doing “whatever the hell they want.” My anecdotal evidence is in regards to the declaration of nullity change, which was at one time a part of the synod “dialogue.” I am a single, young adult male who focuses on the spiritual – meaning, I pray, go to daily Mass, do holy hours, etc. – and it turns out that women actually dig that type of guy – especially after their real life experiences of marrying some meat head because of his nice car. I have already had 4 married-but-lonely-because-they-married-for-money-and-“stability” Catholic women make passes at me since the Pope changed the declaration of nullity procedure (even with a car from the nineties that doesn’t go above 50 mph with hail damage and a muffler that sounds like it belongs on Harley Davidson motorcycle!). Great confusion is evident in the women, and it is obvious that they feel they can seek out another “husband”, doing whatever the hell they want.

    Edward Pentin provides a related quote from a Senior Vatican official:

    “This synod could be predominantly Thomist or champion the teachings of John Paul II – it makes no difference, “ he said. “They’ve accomplish what they wanted. They have established doubt and confusion in the minds of many, and given conviction to those supportive of their agenda.”

    Read more:

  8. boko fittleworth says:

    Yesterday’s Gospel was Jesus teaching that remarriage after divorce is adultery. Today’s Office of Readings contains this nugget from Psalm 50: “But God says to the wicked: ‘But how can you recite my commandments and take my covenant on your lips, you who despise my law and throw my words to the winds, you … WHO THROW YOUR LOT IN WITH ADULTERERS …. You do this, and I should keep silence? Do you think that I am like you? Mark this, you who never think of God, lest I seize you and you cannot escape; a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me and I will show God’s salvation to the upright.”

  9. rwj says:

    Thanks for forcing yourself to write this, Father. I needed to hear it, especially principle 5 again- rather than throwing hands up in frustration raising a voice in prayer is a good idea!

  10. CatholicMD says:

    Cdl Sarah was my hope for the last conclave.

  11. Fr. Bryan says:

    A recommendation that I will make while the Synod is in progress, is to re-read (or read for the first time), Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical letter, Familiaris Consortio.

  12. Adaquano says:

    I agree with your comment on feckless leadership. It seems today you hear so much about mercy, but nothing about what Christ actually says about mercy. Why are we so afraid to speak the truth? It reminds me of the Bread of Life Discourse, “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Jesus wanted people to follow him more than just for his warm and feel good sermons, but he wanted them to totally abandon their former selves, or as Peter said “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It is easy to get caught up in the trendiest thing or being afraid to exile people based on harsh realities, but bringing the true Gospel of Jesus to people should be the ultimate goal of all baptized people. If we just decide to placate those outside of the Church by conforming to their desires, what do we gain? My fear is a jumping of the shark so to speak; when a show or a band, a movie star or director sells out from what made them so immensely popular to begin with. The Church can not sell out from the teaching of Christ.

  13. Fr. Bryan says:

    Excuse me, Familiaris Consortio is an Apostolic Exhortation, not an encyclical. My error.

  14. Hans says:

    in cauda venenum

    Now that’s a phrase I’ve not heard for ages, but it’s a useful technique. For instance, I started my homily at the Saturday evening vigil Mass (OF, probably obviously) talking about St. Thérèse — whose memorial is the first but used to be the third — and her Little Way and how it is an excellent way for families to follow. I led from there to showing that what Jesus was saying about divorce is that it really didn’t end the marriage, even if it proves impossible to live together.

  15. Tony Phillips says:

    We’ve seen in the secular world how the word ‘equality’ can be twisted in such a way to be used as a justication for same-sex ‘marriage’…indeed, the word’s also been used as a rationale for legal abortion.

    I fear the word ‘mercy’ will be similarly twisted in the synod to justify the Kasperite agenda.

  16. dans0622 says:

    I think I’ve had “synod fatigue” for over a year. I’ll try to keep up with the prayer & fasting…but I don’t think I can make myself pay attention to the day-to-day reports. The mere thought of it makes my blood run cold.

  17. Eugene says:

    O God in Your mercy protect Your Church in this hour of darkness. Stop the plans of those false shepherds who want to change doctrine and lift up and protect the true and brave ones that want to uphold doctrine.
    Blessed Mother Mary please intercede for this.
    St. Joseph, please intercede for this.
    St Francis of Assisi please interced for this.
    St John Paul II please intercede for this.

  18. BenjaminiPeregrinus says:

    “Rather pointed” ha, good one Father.

  19. jacobi says:

    “people will start doing whatever the hell they want.”

    They will. That is the intention of the Gradualists from the start.

    And I too am now worried about “in cauda venenum” an expression I did not know of. Many, but not all let us remember, of the Germanic bishops will use it.

  20. donato2 says:

    I’ve had increasing fatigue since March 2013. My fatigue is now bordering on despair. The future is looking increasingly bleak. By the time of the next conclave we are likely to have seen the likes of Blaise Cupich and Bruno Forte, and many others like them, elevated to the College of Cardinals. It is hard not to conclude that what is now unfolding is part of an epochal massive cave-in to the world.

  21. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I think I’m going to begin the practice of praying the Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart, starting today, until the Synod concludes or a supernatural correction intervenes, which ever comes first. Something about those who, “straying far from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow Thee, their Shepherd and Lord” and “profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege” and “public crimes of nations”.

  22. Pingback: Good News from the Synod by Jimmy Akin - Big Pulpit

  23. Tradster says:

    If I correctly understand the rules governing the Synod, no one, not even the bishops themselves, will ever see the results of their meetings. Only the Pope and his most trusted inner circle. If that’s true then, really, what does it matter how they vote? The ballot box is already stuffed.

  24. Charles E Flynn says:

    This article has some helpful reminders about what a synod is and what it is not:

    Five Guiding Principles for the Synod, by Robert Royal, for The Catholic Thing.


  25. Benedict Joseph says:

    Auggie, if I’m not mistaken, the word “pontiff” derives from the word bridge, which (if I’m not mistaken) us “pons” in Latin, “ponte” in Italian, “pont” in French.
    These days it must be a bridge to nowhere.
    Lord, please, let me be wrong.

  26. iPadre says:

    I must admit that I am pretty dam tired of it also. I look forward to looking back in a year or so. Will it be like most other synods? How many can name the topic of the last five or even the last synod?

    This morning, I offered Mass for The Church #1

  27. majuscule says:

    As long as we’re sharing links, this one about some of the Cardinals at the synod is very good:

  28. I remember when Kasper was made a Cardinal by St. Pope John Paul II. Kasper’s response was, “is this a joke?” Perhaps only in the afterlife will we get to hear the punch line.

  29. I don’t suppose anyone suggests that Congress (whether The US _ or International _ of Mathematicians) is a “walking together”? Because it makes as much [little] sense in the Latin as in the Greek.

  30. Derek Brown says:

    I have not been able to avoid SFS (Synod fatigue syndrome). My symptoms from SFS had greatly improved through the spring, but have returned to the same intensity as they were a year ago. It is interesting to note that my symptoms were least severe at the point in the year, which was equidistant from each Synod. The evidence suggests a correlation.

    For myself, I have found that the best remedy to fight SFS, is to build my family. In the middle of the last Synod, my wife and I welcomed our first child (Olivet Maria Faustina). The miracle of her birth really helped turn around what had surely been a terminal case of SFS. As my recent symptoms of SFS have began to worsen, we have discovered that we are expecting another baby(if a boy, Fulton Joseph Benedict). So it looks like I am going to pull through this most recent Synod after all. My basic strategy to fight SFS is to build my family and by doing so, I am doing my part to prevent a third Synod on the family.

    But seriously, the last few years have been incredible. I was a lukewarm catholic and messed around(let’s go with that description) through most of my twenties. I was rather coerced into going to confession, which was my first time in over seventeen years. Grace would have it, that this priest is likely one of the holiest priests in the country (Fr. Louis Marx). What happened in that confessional saved my life. He told me the truth and he did so with firm authority and a gentle love. Not a wishy washy sentimental mushy “love”. It was sincere and for the first time in my life, someone was truly concerned for my soul. It was as though I had heard truth for the first time and I knew that it was Jesus that I encountered in the confessional. Once I heard it, I lost taste for the lie. That was the turning point for me, which leads me to today.
    To sum it up, I later met and married my wife in Nov 2013, we met Pope Francis a few days later, we had our first baby in Oct 2014, and we are now expecting our second. I deserve none of it and am continually amazed how God continues to increase in generosity. As for confession, I go weekly.

  31. Derek Brown says:

    There is one thing I forgot to say regarding Synod Fatigue Syndrome and the prevention of a third Synod on the family.
    All of you married folks in the fertile state, have more babies. For every baby you welcome into your family, another Guardian Angel is added to the team of angels that watches over your home. The fourth, fifth, or fifteenth baby never becomes less of a blessing. You cannot loose with this strategy.

  32. Lizzy says:

    What happens if the synod declares that people who are divorced and remarried can receive communion? Is that tantamount to formally declaring heresy? I’m trying not to fret, but it seems likely that will be there outcome, and I don’t know what to expect should that occur. Schism? An expansion of SSPX? What would it mean with regard to Francis?

    [Repeat this to yourself 1000 times today: The Synod has no authority to declare or change a pizza order, much less doctrine or practice.]

  33. rhhenry says:

    I think we’re likely to see a statement / teaching parallel to the Church’s teaching with respect to other denominations: the fullness of marriage can be found in the Sacramental union of one man, one woman, open to life, for life, but that elements of marriage can be found in other relationships, and so they should be respected. Throw in some paragraphs on “mercy,” and you’ve got yourself de facto gay marriage, divorce, polygamy, etc. I don’t support this, but that’s my prediction.

  34. LarryW2LJ says:

    Speaking of “Synod Fatigue” ….. I continue to pray, fast and give alms so that the outcome of this synod is favorable and in accord with the Truth. That is all I can do – the rest is in God’s hands. Should the outcome result in something less than what we would like to see, all I can do is remain faithful, keep going to Mass and receiving the Sacraments, and live my life as I have been. It’s up to God to sort out the mess (should one occur) and I’m confident that He will.

    No matter what happens …. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

  35. DonL says:

    I fear the outcome (as well as the unstated goal ) of the synod will be to continue using traditional music sheets (to please the attentive ones in the audience) but the clerical orchestra will play rap, hip hop and dubstep in keeping up with the times.

  36. Sonshine135 says:

    When I am tempted to despair and begin thinking about how we can’t even fix ourselves much less this world, I recall Good Friday. That day, the author of life died on a cross and all seamed lost. How glorious it was three days later though. It is always important to keep in mind that God never abandons us, and we sometimes are chastised. Better here on Earth than for all eternity.

  37. benedetta says:

    To counteract Synod Fatigue I recommend hosting as large a group as your home can possibly fit for a party. In the alternative, crafting or making something that you can use or sell or give away makes for an excellent activity during these long weeks, days, hours. If you were to begin knitting a hat or fermenting sauerkraut or building a backyard chicken coop now, by the conclusion of the synod you will then have produced a bona fide home prepared good to show for your patience/angst and perseverance, and quite possibly something of real value to share with your friends and loved ones. Other commenters may offer additional options.

  38. Lizzy says:

    Ok Father Z, I’ll start now!

  39. benedetta says:

    Another congenial option for combatting Synod Fatigue might be for people to undertake their own personal reenactments where they are of Will Kempe’s famous Nine Daies Wonder. A recusant and comedic member of Shakespeare’s troupe, he morris danced 100 miles north from London to Norwich in the year of Our Lord 1600. Although some regard it as the precursor to the modern day publicity stunt, others see his determination as nothing less than a spiritual pilgrimage. While he recorded his progress as the summation of a nine days’ journey, it is more probable that his entire trip took about a month traveling by way of jigging or morris dance. Others may chime in with suggestions.

  40. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you, Father, for this measured article. I, too, believe strongly that God will not abandon the Church and that the truth will prevail. However, some may not want the truth and may leave the one, true, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church for their own reasons.

    We should all pray and fast this week.

  41. TimG says:

    Great article about Cdl Erdo. Encouraging news….

  42. bourgja says:

    @Lizzy: It is not the Synod that I am worried about, but Pope Francis himself. He is not “afraid to make mistakes” and seems not to recognize the doctrinal consequences of the practice of admitting divorced and remarried (or others in a state of sexual sin) to Communion. He has not hesitated throughout his papacy to set aside traditions and follow his own preferences, and it seems to me that his post-synodal actions could end up creating a crisis of authority with schism as a possible result.

  43. Christ_opher says:

    The church does not belong to anyone other than Jesus Christ.
    The gates of hell shall never prevail against my church. (Jesus Christ himself)
    God will not be mocked.
    Stand firm. (Saint Paul)
    God never abandons us.
    Don’t mess with the Holy Spirit.
    Miracles happen every day, in fact a miracle occurs at every mass. We could all hopefully be witnesses to the restoration of the faith not the division and destruction that many Catholics are expecting.

    Just think for a moment wouldn’t it be marvelous to see and experience the faith being restored and the church unifying back to one faith and all of the post vatican II add ons being ejected.

    As many good Priests (Inc. Father Z) have suggested we can all play a part in experiencing a miracle by going to mass, praying, confessing, sacrificing and fasting.

  44. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: the Church as bridge, St. Catherine of Siena’s Dialogues include a lot of imagery of Jesus as the only bridge that one can cross to get to eternal life, with the world depicted as a raging mountain river swollen with flood. This is a fairly common image in church history, and is a sort of horizontal version of Jacob’s Ladder. And since the Church is Jesus’ Body, it is not unheard of to talk about the Church as also that single bridge.

    The old guardian angel pictures with the unrepaired bridge may even refer to the Church on earth, in this way.

    Being wary of a specific application is one thing, but being scandalized by the image itself would be calling a good part of our Catholic heritage evil.

  45. WYMiriam says:

    Remember the scuttlebutt preceding Humanae vitae — that Paul VI would be changing Church teaching on contraception?

    Remember what Paul VI actually taught in that encyclical?

    It looks to me as though there are definite parallels between that encyclical and the suppositions of these days about how Church teachings on marriage are going to be changed (and those suppositions are coming from both sides: both those who want the teachings changed and those who fear that that change is coming).

    We need to wait and see what happens, instead of playing the “whatif” game, don’t we? And while we wait, wouldn’t we do well to heed what Jesus said:

    WATCH — and PRAY.

  46. Lizzy says:

    Bourgja, yes, that worries me too. I was speaking to someone from the CDF last week who was trying to be reassuring and said “but name something that Pope Francis has actually done (I.e. not just saying confusing things )” and then we both went “annulments.” I suppose in a way it’s better if he acts alone than with the support of all the cardinals though? Maybe that’s trying to find a silver lining that doesn’t exist?

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