Pope Francis arrives for the morning session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 6. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
It seems as though Cardinal Péter Erdö's presentation
on the first day of the Synod, in which he reiterated the clear
doctrinal content of the "Instrumentum Laboris," struck a raw nerve
among certain Synod Fathers, as well as among other participants,
priests and laity alike, who favor a more progressive (and, dare I say, a
more revolutionary!) approach to the fundamental teachings of the
Catholic Church regarding marriage and the family, especially as
concerns divorce and remarriage and homosexuality.
Pope Francis probably felt pressured to make his first direct
intervention at the Synod in the course of the past two years.
doing so, Pope Francis made clear two key points: the "continuity"
between the work of the Extraordinary Synod and that of the Ordinary
Synod; that thus far the only official Synod documents which enjoy full
ecclesiastical approval are the two discourses he himself delivered at
the opening and closing of the Extraordinary Synod last October, as well
as the "Relatio Synodi" or final document of the Extraordinary Synod
which he approved.
Given the "extraordinary" (no pun intended!)
nature of Pope Francis' intervention on Day Two of the Ordinary Synod,
there is a perception on the part of many observers that Cardinal Erdö
was deliberately undermined.
Why? Because His Eminence is a
formidable spokesman for orthodox, Catholic-Christianity and this does
not sit well with some of the Synod's organizers and participants.
Cardinal Erdö is a true "mensch" who, like the majority of the Synod
Fathers, is unafraid to demonstrate an informed and authentic fidelity
to the Magisterium, while, at the same time, remaining genuinely
charitable and pastoral. Thankfully, the majority of the Synod Fathers
are not like the handful of ideologues who attempted to hijack (some use
stronger language like "rigged") the last Synod, and who are likewise
giving it a go this time around.
Cardinal Erdö and the majority
of his brother Bishops, by remaining faithful to the eminently clear
magisterium of St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, refuse
to engage in rhetorical and dialogical vagaries that ultimately create a
veritable mess in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, at the same
time giving rise to confusion in the secular society that deep down
longs, whether it wants to admit it or not, to consider the Church as
"the pillar and bulwark of truth" in a world of passing fades and
The faithful Bishops at the Synod are indeed doing the
Church an inestimable service of which the Fathers of the Church would
be quite proud, for they express the type of "parrhesia" (Gk for
"boldness") that the Holy Spirit truly intends, one that reaffirms the
timeless truths of our Catholic Faith, and does not serve to undermine,
or worse, deny their validity. After all, according to the Acts of the
Apostles, the Holy Spirit brought about "unity" on the Feast of
Pentecost, "the birthday of the Church"; he did not conspire to
perpetuate the confusion of the Tower of Babel.
Cardinal Erdö and
Synod Fathers like him, who rejoice in the "sensus fidelium," and
exercise their magisterium with a real "sentire cum ecclesia," are to be
commended for fighting the good fight of the Faith, despite the obvious
push on the part of certain Synod members to transform the Church into
some sort of nebulous entity--built not so much on the solid rock of St.
Peter and his divinely inspired confession of faith made at Caesarea
Philippi (cf. Matthew 16) as on the ever-shifting sands of time.
a word, there is a noteworthy faction at the Synod which, following the
logic of moral relativism, ultimately would prefer to see the Church be
conformed to the world rather than the world be evangelized by the
Church; and this in direct contradiction to what the Lord Jesus
commanded when he commissioned the Eleven to preach the Gospel to all
the nations and to baptize them in the name of God, Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28). Let us not forget that St. Paul explicitly
exhorted: "Do not be conformed to the present age" (Romans 12:2).
appear to be two main contingents at the Synod: one that favors the
proclamation of the fullness of the truth to be taught with clarity and
in the fullness of Christian charity; and the other favoring mercy at
any and all costs, even when that would mean sacrificing the truth and
purity of the Gospel message on the idolatrous altar of an erroneous
notion of compassion more akin to the superficial and secular virtue of
"niceness," or to what the Italians have aptly termed "buonismo," an
easy sort of goodness that makes no demands, requires no real
Evidence of the latter tendency has emerged, for
example, in a proposal to have "General Absolution" offered to all
Catholics in irregular situations during the upcoming Extraordinary
Jubilee of Mercy.
Furthermore, this tension came to the fore when at the conclusion of the "Briefing" in the Sala Stampa when a reporter from The Tablet
(a left-leaning Catholic periodical published in England) asked if
divorce and remarriage were still a firm doctrine for the Synod Fathers
or just a matter of mutable discipline. In response to this pointed
question, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, President of the Canadian
Episcopal Conference, astonished many in the room by proffering a very
snide and imprudent remark that those interested in doctrine should
(a well-known and highly respected compendium of Catholic
doctrine/dogma) while the Synod Fathers would continue to treat divorce
and remarriage as an issue open to discussion, andthereforepossibly
open to change.
What is a faithful and orthodox Catholic to make of all this? Keep praying to the Holy Spirit, and stay tuned!