Sunday, October 25, 2015

Synod II Wrap Up

The Synod on the Family is finally over.

Good. Lord.

Ugh...what a terrible month for the Church. I had to intentionally moderate my attention to this event because of how distressing it was. It will take some time to digest what really happened here and what it portents for the Church in the years to come, but here are some initial observations. I want to thank my friend Joseph for several of these insights.

(1) In all the discussion of the Pope and the Kasperites leading up to the Synod, I noticed a particular usage of the word "reality." There are many examples we could cite, but let us look at two statements from the relatio document of Circulus Anglicus C group at the Synod, moderated by Msgr, Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh. For example:

"We were equally insistent that we address this issue as pastors, seeking to understand the reality of people's lives rather than issues in some more abstract sense."

Elsewhere, the same relatio makes this observation in regard to the Church's teaching on contraception:

"On the question of responsible parenthood, the discussion focused on the need for a pastoral approach which both promotes the teaching of Humanae Vitae and deals with the reality of people’s lives, providing ongoing formation of conscience which looks to a harmony between Church doctrine and personal decision."

We have only cited two passages from a single document, but examples of this concept of "reality" have been legion since the advance of the Kasperites began in February of 2014. According to this parlance, "reality" is something that is opposed to abstract doctrine. When we focus too exclusively on doctrine, we lose sight of "reality" and no longer comprehend the "reality" of people's lives. I do not deny that there can be an opposition between doctrine and charity, in the sense that a person can maintain the virtue of faith after the virtue of charity has been extinguished. But doctrine, strictly speaking, cannot be opposed to "reality." Doctrines (Latin: "teachings") correspond to reality. There is no way pure Christian doctrine can lead one away from reality. The beatific vision of God is an intellectual vision, the vivifying fulfillment of knowledge and all our other faculties. Our doctrine gives us our way of life which leads us to the ultimate reality. But the Kasperites hold that doctrine qua doctrine can actually be an obstacle to reality. Pope Francis has employed this false dichotomy, as well. When the annals of this sorry era are written, this should be noted as another aspect of the Kasperite heresy, along with their major thesis that one can receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin.

(2) Speaking of the Kasperites, this Synod was not a complete victory for those who wished a restatement of doctrine. Some doctrines were restated, but the key ones that are in the Kasper proposal regarding penance, the Eucharist, and the sinfulness of adultery were not restated. This is obviously why some secular outlets are trumpeting this as a conservative "victory."

(3) But if the Kasperite proposal was not affirmed, neither was it rejected. This despite several news articles published saying that it was. It also was not finally endorsed, and there was not language included asking the Pope to investigate the possibility. After a year of turmoil and divisiveness, it was like a big collective "nevermind." It was simply ignored in the final document. 

(4) Or mostly ignored. In fact, the language of accompaniment and the distinctions of culpability that were included in the final document were language that the Kasperites wanted to move forward their proposal. If pastors must "accompany" adulterers on their "journey" towards "an authentic conjugal project" (Final Relatio, #71), then this pastoral accompaniment makes it much more difficult to speak unambiguously about the fundamental sinfulness of adultery and cohabitation. If grades of culpability are introduced, it will obviously fall to pastors to determine which grade a particular couple falls into - and it is not too much of a stretch to imagine lax pastors basically absolving everybody from all culpability in a marriage that has "failed."

(5) Speaking of "failed marriages", let us remember that marriage is a sacrament. Sacraments do not fail. Are there "failed" baptisms, "failed" ordinations, "failed" confirmations? One is either baptized or one is not. One is either confirmed or one is not. One was either ordained or one wasn't. Similarly, one is either married or one isn't. You cannot have a valid, sacramental marriage which has "failed" in the sense that the problems of one marriage can render it null and permit a person or persons to be subjectively convinced that they are now free to remarry. Sacraments do  not fail. A marriage is a marriage. It is not an ideal that only the perfect arrive at. It is not "an authentic conjugal project." It is a sacrament - a sacrament which more or less grace may be available depending on the disposition of the spouses, but a sacrament nonetheless - and it is brought into being in its fullness and immediacy by the consent of the parties before the Church's minister. We must all be on guard against the subtle transformation of marriage from a fact to a mere ideal, and an excessive focus on its natural aspects versus its sacramental character.

(6) The Pope seemed disgusted with those who fought for doctrinal clarity and for practice to agree with doctrine. In his daily homilies, he continued to preach against the doctors of the law and those who would stifle mercy. In his final address, he spoke against "those who would 'indoctrinate' it in dead stones to be hurled at others... in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families" and insisted that some of the interventions were not well-intentioned.

(7) The Pope critiqued "a language which is archaic or simply incomprehensible". It is not clear what language he had in mind. Kasper had earlier critiqued the language of "perpetual adultery" as incomprehensible. This language, unfortunately, does not seem to have made it into the final document. I suspect that it is precisely clear language like this which is incomprehensible to the modern mind which the Pope had in mind with this critique. The real question is whether this clear, unambiguous language is actually incomprehensible to the pope himself.

(8) The Kasperite Thesis is based on the theory that two people can be sleeping with each other whenever they want to without any intention to stop and not be responsible for doing so. This is what is mean by invoking "limitations on culpability." The idea of the bishops who promote it is that people are oftentimes trapped in a situation where they do not wish to sleep with each other but find they have no choice--a kind of lack of consent. That's rather demeaning to the couple, isn't it? "Well, honey, we're not really married, and, as a Catholic in the State of Grace, I love God above all things, but I am slave to our circumstances, unable to make a free choice, and so I am going to sleep with you, not as a free agent engaging in a personal act, but as an animal coerced by the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in." Very romantic, huh? No. Actually, it's pretty much rape. It is the old liberal talking point that sin is inevitable

(9) The Pope may be moving towards permitting the question of absolution for those living in an adulterous second union to eventually be answered by episcopal conferences. He said: 

"[W]e have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion" (Papal Homily, 10/24/15)

This may in part be a reference to the fact that the African Bishops (and others, such as the American Bishops, for the most part) rejected the Kasperite thesis vociferously. 

(10) The response of the pope to resistance to the "path of mercy" and "openness to the Newness of the Gospel" that he saw among "jealous older brothers" seems to be to "decentralize" the Church. He seems to be calling for a solution similar to the Anglican or Orthodox manner of doing things where practice can vary tremendously from place to place. How that will help Catholic unity is beyond me.

(11) Though Synod I was a conservative "victory" and though Synod II did  not incorporate the worst of the Kasperite heresy in its final document, we should not in any sense these Synods as successes. This 2014-2015 Synod on the Family was probably the most disastrous thing that has happened to the Church since Vatican II. It will take centuries for the damage to be undone - and the damage is already done, regardless of what the final document says, because it has given the impression that fundamental moral doctrines are up for debate. And either way, we should remember that in Synod I, the majority of bishops voted for the pro-homosexual passages; they were not included because the vote did not reach the requisite 2/3, but it did reach a simple majority. This should appall us. Similarly, the fact that one conservative commentator estimated that at Synod II not more than 35% of the episcopate would vote for the Kasper thesis should horrify us. for these numbers mean that between 1/3 and 1/2 of our global episcopate lacks the most basic understanding of Catholic moral theology. Our pastors.

(12) Once again, the heroes of the Synod were the Africans, although we should also note the heroic stance of the Polish Episcopal conference, who were inflamed by the memory of John Paul II and fidelity to Familiaris Consortio. God bless Bishop Stanisław Gądecki.

(13) However, while appealing to the memory of John Paul II and Familiaris Consortio may have helped save the day, traditionalist Catholics should not fall into the practice of opposing John Paul II or even Benedict XVI to Francis. Some Catholic blogs still like to paint Benedict as a traditionalist and compare the Benedictine "restoration" to Francis' lio. But who appointed these Kasperite bishops? Who put these heretics in office? Blaise Cupich was appointed by John Paul II. Kasper was made a bishop by John Paul as well, years after his heretical views were known. Maradiaga was also a John Paul II appointment. Nunzio Galatino, the Secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference - you know, the one who told the Italian newspaper La Nazione that “My wish for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favour of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality" - he was an appointment of Benedict XVI. Reinhard "Kirchensteuer" Marx, the arch-heresiarch of Germany, was appointed by John Paul II and elevated to the cardinalate by Benedict XVI. This nonsense about affirming the good things in homosexual relationships was started by Benedict XVI himself. If you are appalled at the apostasy of these liberals, blame John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They appointed or elevated them. The entire global episcopate - at least at its senior levels - is the creation of John Paul II. I know John Paul II and Benedict XVI look pretty good now compared to Frankie Uno, but John Paul II and Benedict XVI were innovators, too. Taking refuge from the chaos of Francis in the example of John Paul II will get us nowhere.

(14) But more terrifying than any of the discussions about homosexuality or divorce and remarried was the pope's homily where he laid out his theology of the Church as an "inverted pyramid" and promised more decentralization, and assuring us that "new paths" the Lord will open up for the Church. This homily, more than anything else the pope has said, seems to indicate that he really has no clue. I mean none. It is like if your own local goofy, quirky, liberal parish priest became pope. I pray for Francis as often as I can, but it is increasingly evident that the man is utterly clueless about what is really wrong in the Church and how to best restore her. 

"Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye on the ways, and see and ask for the ancient paths which is the good way, and walk ye in it: and you shall find refreshment for your souls." - Jer. 6:16


Alex A. Biral said...

Thanks for your thoughts, today's post is very insightful, if a bit disheartening and chilling. However, I do have some hope that you are wrong about it taking centuries to undo this damage. I mean, the damage is pretty extensive, but it seems to me this synod is more symptomatic of the current state of the church than damaging by itself.

But at any rate, my point is that even though the damage is very extensive, I believe a good papacy might be able to revert a lot of it. Maybe it wouldn't be able to get the many people falling outside the Church back to it, but it could help those who still follow it to follow it right.

Then again, maybe I just hope so because I would like to see the splendor of the Church that was so extant in older times in my own lifetime.

Unknown said...

Better the weakness and ambiguity of Benedict XVI than the chaos of Francis! Anyway, great analysis here.

Eirene said...

Now that the Synod Talk-Fest has been completed and the identities of pro or anti the true Faith of the Church have been revealed, my question is this. Where does all this sawing of sawdust leave the average faithful Catholic who discovers that from the bottom to the top the prelates and clergy have absolutely no idea about any substantial.

Other than the faithful few, our hierarchs can be bought by anyone
offering free publicity, a TV or radio interview or whatever it takes
for them to mouth heterodoxy by the barrow load. Having learned that our Archbishop is one such prelate, what can our next course of action as the laity be? Should the Pope decide to "devolve authority" to the Bishops Conferences, we here in Australia might just as well pack up and leave for spiritual pastures greener. For many this could mean the Orthodox Churches, which, whilst despised
by the Roman Church, are at least standing firm on their commitment to the Truth as they see it. What a mess!

Boniface said...

I can agree with that!

Boniface said...

Who knows. The church moves slowly...but so does the Holy Spirit. "Those Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again" (Ex. 14:13).

entirelyuseless said...

It's possible that Pope Francis is utterly clueness, but doesn't that mean that it is even more possible that he is not, and that you are the one who is?

susan said...

Simply one of the finest piece of analyses I have ever, in my entire life, read. #5 in particular is so clearly and cogently stated, I almost came to tears. I am sending this to my entire address book, and I thank you for such a marvelous piece is wisdom. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

That was great analysis. I agree with everything you pointed out except for one thing in item #14. In 14 you stated, "This homily, more than anything else the pope has said, seems to indicate that he really has no clue. I mean none. It is like if your own local goofy, quirky, liberal parish priest became pope. I pray for Francis as often as I can, but it is increasingly evident that the man is utterly clueless about what is really wrong in the Church and how to best restore her." This man is a highly educated Jesuit. He knows exactly what he is saying. He is not stupid, he is not clueless and he's not just some off the wall eccentric liberal parish priest. He is very calculated. What he is saying in all of his so called "off the cuff" off the wall statements have less to do with how to restore Holy Mother Church and more to do with how to make Her into something new and different from what she has been for the past 2000 years. Something more humanistic and centered on man rather then on God. I tell you the man is not stupid. He knows exactly what he is doing.

Boniface said...

Well that's a good point. Although I don't think I said he was clueless about his agenda, but rather he is clueless about what the church needs. He is not stupid. You are right. He is doing it very intentionally - just like the liberal parish priest does it very intentionally. But those who do these things with the most intentionality are the ones who are the most clueless about the reality of the Church and what she really needs. So stupid, no. Clueless, yes.

Alexander said...

John Paul II was a stepping stone towards this. He adopted the ambiguous wishy washy language of Vatican II and mixed with clear teaching. His external actions also demonstrated this. It boggles the mind to have him forgive his shooter and turn around and let people break the first commandment on consecrated Church ground at Assisi. Or how he reaffirms moral doctrines but practiced ecumenism and interreligious “dialogue” in a way that makes it seem non-Catholics are already saved (even in writing), we just need unity, “St, John the Baptist protect Islam” and all of that. His actions can make it appear as if the Church is evolving towards a more liberal agenda, mixing orthodoxy with scandal and unCatohlic displays, as if it is the natural progression of the Church until we eventually get to a Pope who is fully unorthodox.

I am taking this thesis from those liberal bishops who take John Paul II and claim they are “developing” doctrine, quoting his encyclicals, and using the unclear wordiness to twist it (e.g. Archbishop Quinn and his book on the Papacy). They are really trying to evolve and change doctrine, right out the Modernist playbook, by claiming it’s simply a development. It is MUCH harder to do this to Popes who make clear statements, “negative” statements too e.g. the Syllabus or errors.

It doesn’t matter if you teach something clearly in a long and wordy encyclical and never enforce it. If you mix your clear teaching with ambiguous junk, coupled with not taking action against heresy, coupled with scandalous actions against Catholic doctrine, coupled with appointing suspect men to the episcopacy… then a liberal can come along and interpret the actions of the past several decades as neo-Modernistic evolution of doctrine, disguised as a “change in discipline.”

This is what happens when you are a Pope and your words and actions are not CLEAR, just like John Paul II. It was a mistake to canonization this man indeed.

Clear Waters said...

As an outsider I cannot help but conclude that Kasper is possessed. What a vile man.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Brother Boniface. Marriage is not always a sacrament. A Catholic can marry a woman who has not been Baptised (disparity of cult) and so their marriage is not a sacrament - although it is valid and binding and indissoluble etc

The interesting things is that once the woman gets baptised, it becomes a sacramental marriage

Other examples of real marriages that are indissouble although not a sacrament exist

Boniface said... understanding was that marriages of disparity of cult were sacramental if solemnized in the Church, since the non-Catholic party is also baptized. Or am I confusing disparity of cult with mixed marriage?

At any rate the synod was discussing Catholic marriage primarily.

Alexander said...

As a follow up: I don't mean to put all the blame on JPII. He was a component that lead up to this sure, but there are many more and much larger components to this. It's just pretty irritating when you haven't had a Pope act like a normal Pope for decades upon decades.