Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Synod: Fasten Your Seatbelts

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Words Of Jesus Christ (Mark 2:17)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Words of Jesus Christ, (Matthew 11:28-30)

Imitating Jesus’ merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm.
Relatio post disceptationem (working document from the Synod on the Family) Paragraph 23
As I suspected would happen, this past week the Catholic blogosphere has been apoplectic about the Synod on the Family in Rome. The Synod is an opportunity for bishops and others to meet in Rome and express their opinions and views about the current state of the family which, any way you look at it, is pretty sad. The Extraordinary Synod taking place in Rome is basically a gabfest.  The Pope is giving people from all sides of the various issues concerning the family the opportunity to air their views.  However, it is vital to note that there will be no decisions made this year. 

This fact makes no difference to the Catholic blogosphere.  The consensus among the blogosphere seem to be that Church hierarchy has fallen completely off the rails and is no longer under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Many of those viewing the Synod have become hysterical and worse.

Pope Francis, in his opening remarks at the Synod, did his best to tell us what the purpose of these meetings is.  The meetings taking place in Rome are not about redefining doctrine or dogma.  The Extraordinary Synod is not about changing the direction the Church has taken for 2000 years.  It is about defining the problems that the family faces in the 21st Century and how the Church should address these problems.

In St. Peter's Square on the eve before the beginning of the Synod, Pope Francis said:
"Let us invoke openness to a sincere, open and fraternal exchange of views, that it might lead us to take pastoral responsibility for the questions that this changing time brings with it, Let them fill our heart, without ever losing peace, but with serene trust that in his time the Lord will not fail to lead us back to unity."
Notice the words of the Holy Father which imply that the Church is not walking in unity on many of these issues right now, but as His Holiness says, we should never lose peace but have "serene trust that in his time the Lord will not fail to lead us back to unity."

"Doesn't the history of the church perhaps tell us of so many analogous situations, that our fathers knew how to overcome with stubborn patience and creativity?" 
We must lend an ear to the rhythm of our time and perceive the odor of people today, that we might be imbued with their joys and hopes, their sadness and anxiety: at that point we will be able credibly to propose the good news on the family.
Pope Francis wants everyone to have their say, even and maybe most especially those whose views do not conform to Church teaching.  He admonished those who do stand by Church teaching to listen with "humility."

Pope Francis continued this theme on the first day of the Extraordinary Synod in his opening message.  From a portion of his opening remarks [HERE]:
A basic general condition is this: to speak clearly. No one must say: “This can’t be said; he will think of me this way or that …” It is necessary to say everything that is felt with parrhesia [to speak boldly]. After the last Consistory (February 2014), in which there was talk of the family, a Cardinal wrote to me saying: too bad that some Cardinals didn’t have the courage to say some things out of respect for the Pope, thinking, perhaps, that the Pope thought something different. This is not good; this is not synodality, because it is necessary to say everything that in the Lord one feels should be said, with human respect, without fear. And, at the same time, one must listen with humility and receive with an open heart what the brothers say. Synodality will be exercised with these two attitudes. 
Therefore, I ask you, please, for these attitudes of brothers in the Lord: to speak with parrhesia and to listen with humility.
And do so with much tranquillity and peace, because the Synod always unfolds cum Petro et sub Petro, and the Pope’s presence is the guarantee for all and protection of the faith.
With that last statement, Pope Francis is reminding the Church that no matter what may be said, we should not allow this to distress us in any way because through the Pope, the Holy Spirit will still be there guiding and leading the Church, "and the Pope’s presence is the guarantee for all and protection of the faith."  The approach that Pope Francis is taking seems to me to be that of a doctor who wants his patient to describe all of his symptoms, not holding anything back.  Like a good doctor, Pope Francis realizes that the Church cannot help people heal if she does not understand exactly what is causing their illness.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Catholic blogosphere seem not to believe this.  They feel that if everything is not going just as they feel it should, then the Pope is as far off the rails as the rest of Church hierarchy, and we don't even have to listen to the Holy Father.

The blogosphere has now concentrated their criticism of the Synod on the working document that was released, the "Relatio" as it is being called. You may read the entire document HERE, and I would suggest you do so. Yes, there are some very controversial statements in it, which Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of South Africa has said, "The message has gone out that this is what the synod is saying, this is what the Catholic Church is saying. It's not what we're saying at all."[HERE]   However, along with these controversial statements are also some very profound statements, such as that quoted above.

How can there be such disparity in this document? Because this document is essentially a very broad summary of the different topics discussed so far at the Synod and the views and opinions of those involved in the discussion. It is in not in any sense an official document of the Church. Yes, the secular media is running with it, but that still does not give the document any true authority. This document is essentially talking points, the basis for discussion, just as requested by Pope Francis. 

One of those leading the charge against the bishops at the Synod is, as could easily be predicted, Michael Voris. In his reports so far concerning the Synod, he has described the bishops there as "assorted wicked bishops, bishops who wear the robes but are, as Our Blessed Lord said, 'ravenous wolves.'" He is telling us that there is a "Holy War in Rome", with bishop against bishop.  He slandered specific bishops, such as Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., who Voris says "is no friend of the Church’s teachings regarding the reception of Holy Communion by Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried without having their previous marriage annulled."  

Voris assails and condemns the bishops with the following:
There is no doubt about it—no denying it any longer, Church-of-Nice defenders—the homosexual agenda has arrived full throttle in Rome, carried in by various bishops under the guise of mercy, charity, welcoming, etc. in their modernist baggage.
And this also must be said very clearly: There are bishops and cardinals in this Synod who no longer believe the Catholic Faith. They don’t sound Catholic, they don’t speak Catholic, they don’t think Catholic.
What purpose does this rhetoric serve except to divide brethren and turn them against those appointed by the Holy Spirit to watch over their souls? It would seem that Michael Voris has no interest in listening to anything or anyone that might suggest that the Church is not in a death spiral. He picks and chooses his facts. He made the following comment:
There hasn’t been one word here of sin, the need to take up one’s cross, sacrifice, conversion, confession, or anything of the like.
First of all, Michael Voris has no idea what specifics have or have not been discussed in the Synod because the discussions have all been behind closed doors.

Secondly, the document release by the Synod, proves him wrong.

Paragraph 14 specifically mentions the Cross:
14. Jesus Himself, referring to the primordial plan for the human couple, reaffirms the indissoluble union between man and woman, while understanding that “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Mt 19,8). In this way, He shows how divine condescension always accompanies the path of humanity, directing it towards its new beginning, not without passing through the cross.
Paragraph 12 quotes Pope Francis about the great need to turn towards Christ:
12. In order to “walk among contemporary challenges, the decisive condition is to maintain a fixed gaze on Jesus Christ, to pause in contemplation and in adoration of His Face. ... Indeed, every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up” (Pope Francis, Address of 4 October 2014). Jesus looked upon the women and the men he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps with patience and mercy, in proclaiming the demands of the Kingdom of God.
The need for conversion is mentioned in paragraph 28:
28. For this reason, what is required is a missionary conversion: it is necessary not to stop at an announcement that is merely theoretical and has nothing to do with people’s real problems. It must not be forgotten that the crisis of faith has led to a crisis in matrimony and the family and, as a result, the transmission of faith from parents to children has often been interrupted. Confronted by a strong faith, the imposition of certain cultural perspectives that weaken the family is of no importance.
Paragraph 35:
The importance of family spirituality and prayer needs to be underlined, encouraging couples to meet regularly to promote the growth of the spiritual life and solidarity in the concrete demands of life. Meaningful liturgies, devotional practices and the Eucharist celebrated for families, were mentioned as vital in favoring evangelization through the family.
The concluding paragraph puts everything in perspective.  This paragraph tells us that the points raised in the document were from discussions that "took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening."  These discussions were not about answering questions but just the opposite, "to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer..."
58. The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialog that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015. These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view. All the same the collegial path of the bishops and the involvement of all God’s people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead us to find roads of truth and mercy for all. This is the wish that from the beginning of our work Pope Francis has extended to us, inviting us to the courage of the faith and the humble and honest welcome of the truth in charity.
Despite this, we have Michael Voris and others telling us that the Church is at war with herself and we will basically have to choose which side we are on.  As Voris says,
If there is anything good to come out of this event so far, it would be that the battle lines are being drawn clearly and that Satan is being exposed.
 And how does Voris know that "Satan is being exposed"?
You know the Enemy is present here, precisely because his name never comes up in anything told to the media, in any documents, speech summaries—anywhere. It’s as though to many of the Fathers of the Synod, he simply doesn’t exist.
Michael Voris is not privy to any of the numerous private meetings that are being held in the Synod. Yet he makes this horrendous accusation because "Satan" is never mentioned in any media documents or summaries. Hey Mikey, these are "summaries", not blow-by-blow descriptions.    Pope Francis told us that we can absolutely trust that the Holy Spirit is very active in Rome right now because "the Synod always unfolds cum Petro et sub Petro, and the Pope’s presence is the guarantee for all and protection of the faith."  I think I will believe the Vicar of Christ before I believe Voris or any of his cohorts.  

Voris tells us:
This isn’t Catholic by any stretch of the imagination. Heck, it doesn’t even rise to the level of bad Protestantism.
Again, Voris makes this horrific accusation based not on any actual knowledge but on reports and summaries, and as I have shown, he has misrepresented even those things which have been made public.  Voris completely discounts the words of Pope Francis and the promise that the Holy Spirit will not desert the Church.

Who is really doing the work of the devil?

Below is a wonderful video by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales of a press conference he did shortly before the Extraordinary Synod began.  He gives an excellent explanation of the process which we are watching:
Could I present you with an image to begin with? The first serious public discussion of the themes of this Synod took place last February at a meeting of the Consistory of Cardinals to which I was admitted as a newly nominated cardinal. I said after that the discussion there had been like an overture. It was something that signaled many of the themes that would be developed in due course. So it moved quickly from theme to theme.

This Extraordinary Synod, I would like to suggest to you, is a first movement of a piece of music. Only a first movement. What will happen after this Synod, there will be a second movement. And that will be the 12 months in between the two Synods of Bishops. Now those of you who know classical movement format, second movements are often more meditative, they're quieter. They're to be listened to perhaps more intently. And I think what goes on throughout the Church worldwide between these two Synods is a very important part of the overall composition.

The third movement, which as you know is often quite dramatic, will be the Ordinary Synod in October 2015. That will be attended by elected members of bishops' conferences.

And then in musical terms there will be a finale, which will be whatever the Holy Father concludes if this Synod follows the normal pattern. So in due course there will be an Apostolic Exhortation such a Evangelii Gaudium. And that will express the mind of the Church through the Pope on the matters that have been talked about.

So it's very important that we understand where this Extraordinary Synod sits in the whole process the Catholic Church worldwide is embarking on.

I would suggest watching the whole video.  It is very enlightening.

Interestingly, today is the feast of the great Saint Teresa of Avila.  One of her most famous quotes is:
Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.


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    1. My feelings exactly. Our Lord always told us "be not afraid." Those who are telling us we need to fear are certainly not listening to Him.

    2. When I wrote my original comment, I had not yet listened to Michael Voris' vortex "Burke Blasts Back". Before I only had gentle words to say. Now, not so much.
      I posted this on CMTV facebook page, we will see how long before it is deleted.

      I stayed away for a while, trying to limit my comments. However, this goes too far and can not be ignored.

      To say the least, I am a little disappointed in Cardinal Burke. I do wish he was less recalcitrant on this issue. I believe he should remember the Holy Father's very words, "cum Petro et sub Petro".

      "The Church does not teach they are going to Hell" means that the Church states that no one is competent to declare someone is going to Hell. That is why they do not deny anyone Christian burials anymore. Someone with a STB should know that.

      "valuing their [homo]sexual orientation", let read the full sentence in its proper context.
      Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their [homo]sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
      That is a question, not a statement.
      For the record, a homosexual orientation is no more sinful than a heterosexual orientation one. Both orientations are capable of the same level of sexual sin.

      Michael Voris keeps on making reference to the Fathers of the Synod. How about the Holy Father of the Synod. Pope Francis himself said, "the Synod always unfolds cum Petro et sub Petro, and the Pope’s presence is the guarantee for all and protection of the faith."
      An attack on this Synod is an attack on the Holy Father and on the Catholic Church.

      As Catholics, I believe we are called to have more faith in our Holy Father and the ongoing Synod on the Family and in the overall processes of our Church.
      If we can not do that, how can we possibly call ourselves loyal sons and daughters of Holy Mother Church?

    3. Thank you so much for this comment. I am not very happy with Cardinal Burke's comments either. It is not good that a cardinal is challenging the Holy Father. I didn't include this in my post because I think that is a whole other subject.

      Another Catholic blogger from Brooklyn - Deacon Greg Kandra, whom I highly respect - linked to an interesting article about the "value" comment from Catholic News Agency

      "An incorrect translation into English of the original midterm report of the Synod on the Family may have spurred controversial interpretations of the document itself.

      The document’s original version was written in Italian, which Pope Francis directed to be used as the official language of the synod. In prior synods the official language had been Latin, esteemed for its precision and lack of ambiguity.

      The point of controversy occurs at paragraph 50 of the relatio. The Italian original, after praising the gifts and talents homosexuals may give to the Christian community, asked: “le nostre comunità sono in grado di esserlo accettando e valutando il loro orientamento sessuale, senza compromettere la dottrina cattolica su famiglia e matrimonio?”

      In the English translation provided by the Vatican, this is rendered as: “Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

      The key word “valutando,” which has sparked controversy within the Church, was translated by the Vatican as “valuing.”

      Italian’s “valutando” in fact means “evaluating,” and in this context would be better translated with “weighing” or “considering.”

      The English translation, in contrast, suggests a valuing of the homosexual orientation, which could at least create confusion to those who are faithful to the teaching of the Church."

      I also felt the same as you do about the comment regarding hell. In all of her 2000 years, the Church has never declared any specific individual to be in hell, not even the Apostle Judas. Certainly that does not mean hell is empty, but it is not the job of the Church to make that declaration, and as you say, that is exactly why the bishop made such a statement to Voris. Someone involved in a sinful lifestyle is certainly placing his or her soul in danger, but I always think of Dismas, the thief on the cross. Our Lord calls us right up to our last breath, and we can repent right up to that time.

      It seems Voris and those who think like them see everything in black and white. They seem to think that it is actually possible to judge the state of another soul, even though Our Lord has made it very clear that not only don't we have that ability, it is sinful to do so. Voris has no hesitation in declaring bishops apostates and heretics, and plainly says that anyone who doesn't see things his way is not a real Catholic. That is exactly as the Pharisees acted in the time of Christ, and Christ's comment to them was that prostitutes and tax collectors would get into the Kingdom of God ahead of them.

      And yes, as you say, to condemn the Synod is to condemn the Holy Father. We are getting into very dangerous territory there.

      I am truly praying that Michael Voris either repent of what he is doing, or that he somehow be silenced.

    4. THanks for that explanation of one of the sentences in that document that I have had a hard time with.... sigh...I WISH I knew Italian!...and Latin...and Spanish...oh well.. thank you

  2. There are some people who aren't happy unless they're complaining. They exaggerate and predict doom and gloom. They see the cup as half empty ...never does it runneth over for them.That they spread their negativity to others and incite ill feelings toward Church hierarchy is shameful. Michael Voris is probably the most prominent example of Chicken Little syndrome among Catholic professionals. He has a gaggle of Henny Pennies following and repeating after him, "the sky is falling!!!". They're a bunch of malcontents who seem to enjoy being in a perpetual state of high drama. I supported Voris until I realized he frequently stretches and manipulates facts. His sarcasm and disdain for Church hierarchy comes through loud and clear and isn't helpful in drawing people to the Church or saving souls. To get so up in arms at this preliminary stage of the Synod demonstrates a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit. I think Pope Francis knows exactly what he's doing in allowing those attending the Synod to express themselves freely. The fact that a few like Cardinal Kasper are promoting ideas contrary to doctrine doesn't mean that doctrine will be changed. Christ's teaching will prevail. And, in the end, those who are now speaking against Church doctrine won't be able to claim that they were silenced. They will have been heard and their ideas will be soundly rejected. Catholics in social media have become so impatient and attempt to politicize the Church by segregating themselves into various factions using labels (liberal/conservative) to denounce each other. They work against unity. They've lost sight of Christ and His message. We must have patience and wait for the conclusion of the Synod. All this speculation and fear mongering go against Christ's many admonitions against fear and anxiety. I believe Pope Francis is endeavoring to bring Christ's message of love and joy of the gospel to the world. God bless him. Let's pray for him and for all ordained men.

    1. Thank you very much for this thoughtful comment. It is good to know that not everyone is getting sucked into the hysteria. As you say, we need to trust in and believe that the Holy Spirit is in charge. I think Pope Francis is showing tremendous love and courage at the same time in allowing people to speak their minds. His papacy is the personification of mercy, and instead of standing in judgment and running around like Chicken Little declaring that the sky is falling, as you say, we should be learning from him.

      God bless you for your faithfulness to Christ, His Vicar and His Church.

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  4. You are extraordinarily optimistic. Cardinal Kasper is driving me nuts!! I wish HE would be silenced! I cannot stand all his interviews. Also WHY should the church be able to value a homosexual orientation?...what about the warning that St Paul gives in Corinthians about eating the body and drinking the blood unworthily and without discerning the body and blood and if you do, then you eat and drink condemnation on yourself. Cardinal Kasper says that he agrees that the 'spirit of Vatican II" is in the Synod and he is not referring to a spirit with a hermeneutic of continuity.. It is not just the blogoshere there are MANY bishops upset also . Did you read the statement from the Synod? I think both the Church and the pope do not give clear unambiguous statements , I find Pope Francis to be very confusing...and I am tired of trying to figure out what he is saying or what he means so much of the time. I need som clarity in whole paragraphs. Much of ehis sounds like doublespeak to me. I am glad Cardinal Burke speaks out and he has to be really upset and following his conscience to do so or he , of all people, would not be doing it!. and I am glad that Michael reports on this, I do not think he should be silenced. We all see life from where we are and most of us are doing the best we can. I do not find it as easy as you seem to to figure all this out and see it all in such a positive light. I would feel so alone in my confusion if others were not sharing their confusion too. I know you don't like the 'Catholic blogoshere' and often I don't care for it myself....but I love Cardinal Burke and am very grateful for him. He is having a hard time with this (and I am too) but perhaps he knows much more about what is going on inside the synod. I am not disappointed in him at all. I stand with Cardinal Burke and I stand with the African Bishops... I follow Uju hon Culture of Life Africa.
    This interview with Cardinal Kasper upset her...and me.
    Here is her article:

  5. I, myself do not believe I am being optimistic. I am simply putting my faith in the promises of Christ. Our Lord said that the gates of Hell will not prevail against our Church that is founded on Peter.
    I too disagree with Cardinal Kasper on the matter of divorced and remarried Catholics receiving Communion.
    I personally do not see why all the hub-bub about the Relatio post disceptationem. My poor latin translates this to read, Report after debate. A report of what was discussed, not what is being decided. There is a big difference between the two.
    As far as "valuing their [homo]sexual orientation", I understand from the above comments that ‘valuing’ was misinterpreted and that is supposed to mean ‘evaluating’. Which makes more sense. However, I personally have no problem with the phrase "valuing their [homo]sexual orientation". I, myself am an alcoholic 13 years sober. Alcoholism is to say the least disordered as is homosexuality. However, God gave me this. My Creator inflicted this on me for His reasons and His purpose. He obviously did not give it to me to be indulged and drink myself to death. (which I most likely would have done years ago if I had not turned to sobriety) God lovingly gave this to me as a cross to bear and as a sacrifice. A burning sacrifice that I can lay at the feet of Christ. In imitation of the great Sacrifice He Himself laid at my feet for my salvation, and for that of the whole world.
    I also agree with Cardinal Burke on almost all his statements. However, I also believe some of his statements also show a lack of confidence in and a little disloyally to the Holy Father.
    Yes, Michael Voris is a good reporter and a top investigated journalist. It is just his commentary, with his sketchy theology and attacks on Clergy that I could do without.


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