• “The Synod of Bishops on Friday entered its decisive second phase,” states a report from CNA/EWTN, “with the formation of small groups which are to come to decisions which will be synthesized into the synod’s concluding ‘relatio.'” That relatio will provide the basis for what will be discussed next year at the ordinary synod on the family; it will “be presented Oct. 13 by Cardinal Peter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, who is serving as general rapporteur for the Synod of Bishops.”
John Thavis reports that “Pope Francis has named six additional prelates to help write the revised relatio for the Synod of Bishops, to be released Monday.” The six includes Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, DC; they “will assist Cardinal Peter Erdo, the primary drafter of the relatio, and two other synod officials, in the task of summing up the first week of spirited synod debate in a document that will form the basis for future discussion.”
Thavis adds: “At the risk of oversimplifying, they all seem to be on the pope’s wavelength when it comes to promoting pastoral mercy.” Because—wink, wink—there are a number of bishops who don’t really care about pastoral mercy. They choke on the word “mercy.” They hate mercy so much they refuse to dine in French restaurants, for fear they may have to say, “Merci,” which apparently sounds a lot like “mercy”.
• If that sounds like an overreaction to Thavis’ oversimplification, consider the veteran Vatican reporter also wrote, in another post today, that Cardinal Raymond Burke, “has become the ‘Dr. No’ of this synod…” How so? Because he had the audacity to express concern about how families might be put in positions where they are pressured to condone same-sex relationships and homosexuality. Thavis also takes a jab at some of the married couples, from various Catholic lay movements, who have addressed the synod: “They have endorsed church teachings, saying sexuality should reflect the ‘plan of God’ and not the consumerist and selfish model of the world. No one doubts their sincerity, but perhaps the synod might have invited some other voices as well.” Perhaps Andrew Sullivan? Good grief.
LifeSiteNews.com reports that Cardinal Burke said the following:
If homosexual relations are intrinsically disordered, which indeed they are — reason teaches us that and also our faith — then, what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?
Burke added, “we don’t want our children” to get the “impression” that sexual relationships outside God’s plan are alright, “by seeming to condone gravely sinful acts on the part of a family member.”
“We wouldn’t, if it were another kind of relationship — something that was profoundly disordered and harmful — we wouldn’t expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it. And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.”
He added, however, that “families have to find a way to stay close to a child in this situation — to a son or grandson, or whatever it may be — in order to try to draw the person away from a relationship which is disordered.”
This sounds reasonable, fair, and informed by faith. Maybe that’s the problem, by which I mean that far too many Catholics talk about being reasonable, fair, and informed by faith—until it comes to a topic, such as homosexuality or contraception or abortion or remarriage, which renders them unreasonable, unfair, and unconcerned with faith. As I indicated yesterday, I don’t think most of us really appreciate how profound is the capitulation when it comes to these sort of issues. We talk about people “knowing” or “understanding” Church teaching, but in many cases, people do know the teaching—and they are invested in changing it, come hell or high water.
• Cardinal Burke’s recent interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo about these and other topics can be seen on the CWR blog.
• Speaking of knowing Church teaching, but not really knowing Church teaching, the Huff-and-Puff Post ran a piece yesterday titled, “How Reporting on Gay Marriage Made me Reevaluate my Catholic Identity”. As is often the case with material on that particular site, it was written by someone who is barely out of her teens (maybe) and exhibits almost no understanding of the real issues involved, ever mind the Real Presence involved in Communion:
In the Catholic Church, confirming your faith involves one small word and a whole lot to swallow. It’s a simple task, receiving communion, but in my religion class, it warranted a rehearsal. I practiced walking in line down my teacher’s lawn, my right hand beneath my left, in an obedient gang of beggars. At the end of the line, a simple “Amen” won me a Saltine, a kind substitution for the bland wafer I had yet to taste.
As confused as the piece is, some clues about the underlying problems do emerge:
I don’t go to church every Sunday. My knowledge of the Bible is largely based off of the television series of the same name. I don’t say grace before I eat, and I don’t want to be married in a church.
I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ, his son. I believe in the healing power of faith. I was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic, though my faith has never been put to the test. Before attending Northwestern University, I had never met a gay man or woman. I have never been invited to a same-sex wedding. But within minutes of meeting Lisa and Maria, I knew I would have attended theirs. I would choose witnessing their happiness over adhering to my faith.
Her “faith”, in other words, is a product, and she is a consumer; the question, then, is: does the product provide her with what she wants and desires at any particular moment? Not: are the teachings of the Church about human nature, sexuality, and love true? Everything is backwards; the subjective tail wags the objective dog. But that is how expressive individualism works in this age of authenticity, which is almost completely unmoored from the wisdom won by time and history, the traditions gained by family and culture, and the revelation granted by Christ and his Church.
• Compare that with a remarkable essay, “I’m a divorced Catholic. And I’m sure it would be a mortal sin for me to take Communion”, published last week in The Spectator:
It has never occurred to me to present myself for Communion when I have not sought — for various reasons that I won’t discuss here — to have my first marriage annulled. I know I am not a good Catholic, and I am living a life that the Church considers to be adulterous. Yet I am in good spirits, as I hope in God’s mercy. But I do not presume upon it. My Catechism says that is a further mortal sin, as would be the unworthy reception of Holy Communion.
People in my state are explicitly encouraged, in the Catechism, to attend church, and to make a spiritual communion, as I do each week. I have the hope that one day I will be in a state of grace and able to receive Holy Communion again. I hope that, despite my ongoing sin, God nonetheless hides me in the shadow of his wings; that Mary, hope of sinners, has her cloak of mercy cast about me. I am a poor Catholic but I am also a believing Catholic. Yet there is a faction within the Church that evidently considers ‘believing Catholic’ to be a hopelessly old-fashioned clique that they must get shot of, alongside lace mantillas and kneeling at the Communion rail.
Do read it. Share it.
• Alessandra Nucci, an Italian journalist who contributes to Catholic World Report, sent me this note earlier today about how the synod is handling various aspects of communication:
In prior Synods the press was handed two daily bulletins in many languages, with summaries of all the speeches written by the speakers themselves.
This time all that is provided is the daily aural summary by Fr. Lombardi, with no mention of who said what.
Further, although the participants handed in their speeches in writing by September 8th, the Secretary General, Cardinal Baldisseri, has forbidden them to divulge their content publicly, as this has become the property of the Synod. This too is different from the freedom of prior Synods.
Nonetheless every member is free to say whatever he pleases, and there is a blog dedicated to this purpose by the Holy See’s press office. This was, as I see it, the numbers don’t count, only the sensation created by what is said.
Edward Pentin expressed some of the same concerns in National Catholic Register:
According to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the atmosphere has been lighthearted, enjoyable and conducive to the free and open debates desired by Pope Francis.
But the material, disseminated by the Holy See press office, is causing some concern: many of the interventions, for example, appear to seek reconciliation with the way the world sees the Church (one speaker reportedly said the Church should “show friendship towards the world”) rather than holding up dogmatic truths or acknowledging that the Church will always be counter-cultural.
Another questionable element of the assembly has been that only a lengthy, general summary of each congregation is being distributed. The synod secretariat, unlike past ones, is neither disclosing extensive summaries of most individual interventions, nor revealing who is giving them. This is in order to free up discussion; it’s also due to the relative brevity of this synod and its “extraordinary” nature. But the downside is that the limited information leads to more generalizations than normal, and offers few clues as to whether one or more participants might be sharing any particular opinion.
More seriously, it makes disclosure of the synod’s discussions susceptible to the whims of the reporting press secretaries and the Vatican press office. There’s no knowing what is being filtered out, nor what is being given undue attention.
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