The Youth Synod and the birth of the Synodal Church

The Synod of Bishops concluded a month ago, but the final document—in which “synodality” is by far the major and most clearly laid out theme—has still not been translated.

Pope Francis leave in procession after celebrating the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 28. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

With his tightly controlled final document of the Youth Synod together with a new Apostolic Constitution that he released just before the start of the Synod, Pope Francis made it clear he wishes to  establish “the synodal Church.”

The 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” concluded a month ago, but the final document of the Synod is still available only in Italian.

Several news sources at the close of the Synod reported that many of the episcopal participants objected to the substantial passages about “synodality” in the final document because that subject had not been discussed much during the daily sessions.  If that is true, it is all the more remarkable that synodality is by far the major and also the most clearly laid out theme of the document and, thus, of the Synod.

The new constitution of the Church

The Catholic Church, the final document states, is now a synod, for “synodality” is a “constitutive dimension of the Church” (121).  Quoting Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, the final document holds that “[t]he establishment of a synodal Church is an indispensable presupposition” for Church reform (118).  The Synod participants themselves became “aware of the importance of a synodal form of the Church,” and the Synod brought out a “synodal style” towards which the Church must “convert” (121).  The Church is called on “to practice synodality as a way of being and acting” and to “the practice of synodality at all levels” (119).  Quoting Pope Francis, “the Church and Synod are synonymous” (121).

What is a synodal Church?  It is “a Church of listening”—again quoting Francis (122).  “It is a participatory and co-responsible Church.” Synodality allows the Church “to gather and make dialogue the gifts of all its members, starting from the young” (144).  Indeed, synodality makes the Church itself appear “more clearly as the youth of the world” (118). “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” are “synodal verbs” (147).

In notable contrast to the final document, neither the word “synodality” nor the phrase “synodal church” appear in the Instrumentum Laboris, the Synod’s preparatory document released in May. The October 2015 final document of the Family Synod also said nothing about synodality.

And in his apostolic constitution, Episcopalis Communio, which he promulgated just before the start of the youth Synod, Francis quotes himself—a habit of his in all his documents—in stating that a synod is a “privileged instrument for listening to the people of God” (6) (emphasis in original).  In that document, he says that a final document of a synod, if “expressly approved” by the pope, “participates in the ordinary Magisterium of the Successor of Peter.” (Art. 18). In his address at the conclusion of the Synod, Francis said “we”—meaning himself and the Synod fathers—“approved” the final document, and that “the Holy Spirit gives this document to all of us.”

Synodal and accompanying

Part of synodality is “accompaniment,” a concept and activity established by Francis in his addresses and writings (e.g. Evangelii Gaudium). Accompaniment, and its relationship to synodality, is a constant theme of the Youth Synod’s final document.  The pope had said in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that accompaniment was new, for “everyone – priests, religious, and laity” in the Church, he said there, had to be “initiated” into the “art of accompaniment.”

The final document from a month ago holds that “The Synod . . . recognizes the need to promote an integral accompaniment, in which spiritual aspects are well integrated with human and social ones” (99).  Imitating Jesus, accompaniment is “a constant and cordial presence, a dedicated and loving closeness, and a boundless tenderness” (91). A person who accompanies well “knows how to be welcoming towards the young people he accompanies, without moralizing and without false indulgences.  When it is necessary, it can also offer the word of fraternal correction” (102). “It is therefore urgent to rethink thoroughly the approach of catechesis and the link between family and community transmission of faith, relying on personal accompaniment processes” (19).

As compared to synodalizing and accompanying, the final document has next to nothing to say about teaching and preaching—either to or by the young.  The “teaching of the Church” is mentioned in a few places, as for instance, as “a rich tradition” (39), but the same passage includes a criticism about how it “often” causes misunderstanding and estrangement.” Preaching is referred to only twice, in both instances as just an activity of the Church, not as something that needs to be directed to young people.  The pedagogy of youth is touched on twice, once with the warning about avoiding “a set of rules” (70), and the other as “the search for more adequate methods” of teaching sexual morality” (149).  Overall, young person themselves “want to be” the “protagonists” of their own lives, not just the students of others (52).  “Therefore, it is not a matter of doing something ‘for them,’ but of living in communion “with them” (116).

Sexual morality and the mainstreaming of homosexual persons

There was a substantial controversy, led by American Archbishop Charles Chaput, over the use of the phrase “LGBT” in the preparatory Instrumentum. Although that phrase was eliminated, the final document explicitly emphasizes the “continuity” and “complementarity” of the Instrumentum with the final document. (2-4).   Thus, the artful omission of “LGBT” from the final document does not amount to an exclusion of all the themes about homosexuality that the Instrumentum had presented, and before that document, had already been presented in the report of the March 2018 pre-synodal meeting.

The final document itself states that “a more in-depth anthropological, theological, and pastoral elaboration” needs to be undertaken about the “difference and harmony between male and female identity and sexual inclinations” (150).  Defining “identity,” it is said, should not start from “sexual orientation,” but the document “recommends encouraging” the “accompanying walks” with “homosexual persons” that are occurring in “many Christian communities.”  Which are:

In these ways people are helped to read their own story; to adhere freely and responsibly to one’s baptismal call; to recognize the desire to belong and contribute to the life of the community; to discern the best forms to make it happen. In this way we help every young person, no one excluded, to increasingly integrate the sexual dimension into his personality, growing in the quality of relationships and walking towards the gift of self. (150)

And, of course, the Church is “against any discrimination and violence on a sexual basis” (150).

The specific language about “accompanying the walk” of homosexuals in the Church found in the final document and the prior Instrumentum inevitably brings to mind American Jesuit James Martin. His 2017 book Building a Bridge [see Dr. Janet Smith’s CWR review of the book] was about promoting sensitivity to homosexuals in the Church, and Martin, in his new role as a consultant to the Vatican’ Secretariat for Communications, enlarged upon the book’s purposes in his address to the world-wide Church at September’s World Meeting of Families on the subject of how parishes can “welcome and respect LGBT Catholics.” In that address, he stated that “L.G.B.T. people should be invited into parish ministries: eucharistic ministers, music ministers, lectors, bereavement ministry and every ministry.”  All parishes should sponsor “specific L.G.B.T. events and outreach programs,” Martin said.

One remaining question now seems to be whether Francis, in his followup to the Synod, will specifically include the ordained diaconate and catechetical offices as parish ministries open to homosexuals.  Regardless, by virtue of the words of the Instrumentum and the final document, it would seem that any bishop could make those decisions on his own.

As for sexual morality in general, although the Church should not “delude” young people with a “minimal” pedagogy, it should likewise not “suffocate” them “with a set of rules that give Christianity a reductive and moralistic image” (70).  The Church’s teaching “often causes misunderstanding and estrangement from the Church, as it is perceived as a space of judgment and condemnation.” Young people today “explicitly desire to compare” questions “related to the difference between make and female identity, to the reciprocity between men and women, to homosexuality” (39).
These passages can be compared to the language of the incorporated Instrumentum (53) about the “controversial issues” of “contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation, marriage,” concerning which young people “ask for greater clarity.”  The Church should “speak in practical terms” about “homosexuality and gender issues,” the Instrumentum continued.

Controlled voting

Of the total of 268 members of the Synod who had voting rights, only 181 had been elected by bishops’ conferences (or men’s orders) from around the world.  The rest were members of Vatican offices or the Synod’s permanent staff (31), heads of the Eastern Catholic churches (15), and 40 members personally nominated by Francis.  Every paragraph in the final document was separately voted on, and a two-thirds voted was required for passage. The results of each vote are included at the end of the final document.  It is no hazard to conclude that the 71 members from the Vatican and Francis’ personal appointees voted as a bloc in favor of the paragraphs of the final document, which paragraphs, of course, was written by the staff of the Synod. The United States delegation, headed by Archbishop Chaput and by Cardinal Dinardio, the chairman of the USCCB, had five duly elected members, but Francis personally added Cardinal Cupich of Chicago.

All the paragraphs proposed by the writers of the final document were approved by more than the required two-thirds vote.  Of the specific votes, the paragraph (150) on sexuality received the most opposing votes (65), with 178 members voting in favor.  Without the 71-member bloc, that paragraph would have received only 101 favorable votes, just 41 percent, from members from bishops’ conferences.  Similar results obtained concerning other paragraphs that received the most opposition votes: the paragraphs on the final document itself (51%), young people (52%), “the synodality form of the Church” (52%), and conscience (55%).

Women and social doctrine

Besides synodality itself, the two subject areas heavily stressed in the final document are women and the social doctrine of the Church.  “A Church that seeks to live a synodal style cannot but reflect on the condition and role of women within it, and consequently also in society” (148).  The final document recognizes the obvious and everyday experience that women are already the backbone of and have “an irreplaceable role” in every parish, but that is not what the Synod is interested in.  The Church must undergo an “unavoidable change” by placing women in positions of power, that is, by involving them in “decision making processes” (55).  “It is a duty of justice” to include women “in ecclesial decision-making processes” and in “daily pastoral practice” (148).  There is no comparably emphatic statement on any subject in the entire final document.

There are a few passing references to “mothers” (or to fathers), but motherhood as a vocation, except concerning Mary and the Church as mothers, receives no emphasis or development. Marriage is mentioned only twice; young people (16-29 years) having their own families is given only one passing reference in a subordinate clause of a single sentence.

Speaking for the Synod, the final document “recommends the enhancement of the social doctrine of the Church” (94). “Fidelity to the Gospel” and “the inspiration of the principles of social doctrine” will allow the Church to “respond to the dual cry of the poor and the earth” (127). With respect to “ecological issues, it will be important to offer guidelines for the concrete implementation of Laudato si’ in the ecclesial practices” (154).  Additional social issues are “work, family support, marginalization, the renewal of politics, pluralism cultural and religious, the path to justice and peace, the digital environment” (132).

Implementation

The final document, described as only “a stage” in the synod process, points to an “implementation phase” at every level of the Church (120). Youth are central to implementation, for, in order “to move towards a participatory and co-responsible Church,” what is needed is “the active participation of young people in the places of co-responsibility of the particular Churches” (123). And that implementation emphatically includes parishes, which the final document holds, is in need of “a pastoral rethinking” because it has “fail[ed] to correspond to the spiritual needs of our time, above all because of some factors which have changed the lifestyles of people” (129).  “Pastors are required to increase collaboration in witness and mission and to accompany processes of community discernment. . .” (124; emphasis added). Additional implementation includes the establishment of “training centers” (160), a “youth pastoral directory” at each national episcopal conference (140), specific training in synodality” for “ecclesial leaders” (124), and a new office at the Vatican (124).

Conclusion

This article has concentrated on several large themes of the final document. However, the longest passages and the overall majority of the text of the 25,000 word document is a sprawling survey—with minimal evaluation or criticism—of the sociological, socio-political, spiritual, and even psychological (cf. 30, 43) condition not only of youth but also of the Church in today’s world. Although the document recognizes that “a considerable number of young people, for different reasons, ask nothing of the Church because they do not consider it meaningful to their existence (53), what the document does not, in fact, propose is a content-based plan and strategy to evangelize the young.


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About Thomas R. Ascik 11 Articles
Thomas R. Ascik writes from Asheville, North Carolina.

28 Comments

  1. The man is a villain. Francis has ended the Church as we know it. He has opened little doors – and that’s all he needs – to direct the Church to a full accommodation with decadent secularism and unconditional surrender to the sexual revolution. The worst Pope since the Renaissance is taking Mother Church down the same road already paved by the Anglicans – it leads to oblivion.

    • Eric you are correct. Except…. this is NOT Francis’s Church. It is the Church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. Francis desires to make the Church in his image, but ultimately he will fail. Eventually we will have the “smaller, more Faithful Church” predicted by Benedict XVI.

    • That is not true. He is working to return the Church to the way Christ envisioned his followers would live and believe. This Pope is the closest thing to “a man of God” that I have known in my lifetime. Stop finding fault and help him by believing his words. So many bigots showing off their large vocabulary…….

      • Good Evening Jane,
        Sin is sin. Christ said more about God’s infinite justice than HE did about God’s infinite mercy. If you think we are bigots than start your own Church but don’t contaminate ours! If Francis is going down that road, he will not succeed, as Christ said the “gates of hell will not prevail against it” I pray for LGBT people each day that God will grant that they find their true humanity. They need our help and not our approval. They, like many people have chosen a sinful lifestyle. As good Catholics we must pray for them. Please understand me, I love ALL people but I love God more.

      • Bigots is it? Yaawn.
        By this pope’s decision alone, is the homosexual predator McCarrick still an archbishop.
        By this pope’s decision alone, does McCarrick still live a comfortable life on the faithful’s dime.
        By this pope’s decision alone, there are no charges and no canonical trial pending against this seminarian craving bishop.
        Not to worry, Jane, the police have raided the Cardinal’s office in Houston. The dam is about to burst.

      • The Holy Spirit reveals Saint John Paul as the man of God, not otherwise. I don’t think you are serious and that is tragic and dangerous. Blessings.

      • So the Catholic Church as a whole and all previous 265 Popes got the faith wrong for two thousand years, and Pope Francis suddenly got it right? Do you realize how absurd that sounds?

        We owe respect to the office of the Papacy, and obedience to legitimate authority, but not to error and confusion.
        “If the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter’s subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Galatians 2-11, “Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects (Summa Theologiae II-IIae, 33, 4, 2).

  2. Henri de Lubac, a periti at the Second Vatican Council, warned against today’s coupling (an appropriate term) of ambiguity with a hand-puppet version of synodality:

    “There is a danger that an exaggerated or misdirected critique of what is freely labelled ‘Constantinian Christianity’ […] may tend to restrict, and restrict dangerously, the Church’s sphere of action. It is to be feared that among those who advocate a ‘return to the spiritual’ there are some who, led astray by a dangerous ambiguity, really have in view not so much purity of the apostolate as an obscuring of Christianity and its own very spirit by the gods of the age; and that, in aiming at the liberation of the Gospel that they believe to be in captivity, some well-intentioned Christians are doing little more than striking a compromise–without wishing to do so–with the forces that wish to suppress it by either suppressing or subjugating the Church” (The Splendor of the Church (1953).

    After Alaric sacked Rome (410 A.D.) and St. Augustine, in his City of God, had distanced from the “gods of the age,” along came Odoacer, the new king of a very-remnant Italy. Soon defeated in battle (493 A.D.), he was invited to a banquet of “reconciliation” by Theodoric the Ostrogoth, both the victor and a poseur for “continuity.”

    Theodoric flew from the table with sword in hand and sliced cleanly in half the seated and unsuspecting Odoacer–from collar bone down to pelvis! Came the impromptu announcement: “See, he has no backbone!”

    And of the infiltrated Church today, after a fleeting millennium and a half, what of our perennial backbone of Tradition?

    Some–“conservative ideologists and bigots”–politely ask whether the Church is likewise being split asunder, by the surely “well-intentioned” (who am I to judge?)—split asunder left and right, and also top to bottom?

    Drawn and quartered, yet another tradition. One might say a “paradigm shift.”

    • Despite all of Francis’ talk about listening and accompanying, he is most certainly NOT listening to the faithful. In fact he now refuses to speak to us about the Church’s failings in dealing with depraved priests. I agree with the other comments that he seems most interested in conforming the Church to the world, and not the world to Christ. Early on I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. No more!

    • No doubt, the desire to deny Genesis, and thus Creation, in order to exchange The Truth of Love, with a lie, is so that those who desire to reorder man, according to sexual desire/inclination/orientation, in direct violation of God’s Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery, can accomodate and thus condone the equality of sexual acts and sexual relationships.

      Love, which is always rightly ordered to the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the human person as a beloved son or daughter, from the moment of conception, is devoid of lust.

      From the moment of conception, every human person has been created In The Image and Likeness of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as a beloved son or daughter, Willed by God, worthy of Redemption, as a reflection of The Ordered Communion Of Perfect Complementary Love, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, although not yet perfected through Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy.

      “It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”, due to The Unity of The Holy Ghost, thus it is not possible for a counterfeit church to subsist within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

      It Is Through, With, and In, Jesus The Christ, through The Unity of The Holy Ghost, that Holy Mother Church exists, thus this counterfeit church must be purged.

      Our Lady at Fatima, Destroyer of all heresy, including the heresy of the anti pope of the counterfeit church, which in denying Genesis, and thus the Sanctity of all human life, and the Sanctity of marriage and the family, denies The Divinity of The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Hear our Prayers.

  3. Thank you Mr. Ascik for spelling out the ‘new paradigm’ agenda of Pope Francis in depth. It appears from your well researched analysis of the Youth Synod that we are surely moving away from the Church as instituted by Christ in Matthew 16. It’s apparent that Pope Francis likes to use the ‘feelings’, ’emotions’, ‘opinions’ and ‘experiences’ of today’s secularized and liberalized youth to facilitate the watering down of doctrine and sexual morality taught by the Church for ages, which has the capacity to lead souls astray from the “hard and narrow road” to salvation.

  4. Cardinal Muller alreayd noted on an EWTN interview that the Pope cannot change the constitution of the Church. The hierarchical nature of the Catholic Church is infallible dogma according to Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma.

    Pope Francis in any case will only allow Synodality when it suits him, as his suppression of the US Bishop’s vote on real abuse reform proves.

  5. Stang and all [for the hyper imaginative] he leads the way. Onto Light or Darkness? Depends on interpretation. Revealing is former Milan Archbishop Carlo Martini SJ’s vision of Synodality as a vehicle to catapult us into the 21st century. Avid protege Jorge Bergoglio agreed and voila Synodality he says will complete the unfinished work of Vat II. Slip in LGBT transexual consensual relationships omit the bugaboo Homosexuality and bless the documents as Magisterial. Assign Cupich to chair discussion on clericalism, paedophelia rather than Homosexual prelates and lesser clergy and we’re ready to roll. Some who fear the Darkness question the validity of the Great Reformer. CWR featured an article Sept 2017 on that question by canon lawyer Edward Peters that deserves a revisit. “Contrary to Universi Dominici Gregis 79, 81, before or during the conclave some electors pretty clearly entered into gratuitous agreements to vote for Bergoglio subjecting themselves to latae sententiae excommunication. People who might labor under an undeclared latae sententiae excommunication place ecclesiastical acts (such as voting and/or accepting election) illicitly but validly. See1983 CIC 1331. So much for that argument. Et poenae latae sententiae delendae sunt! Illicitly but validly” (Edward Peters). My opinion is Peters is correct. Despite validity of Bergoglio’s election being a moot issue as argued by Peters it remains that canons were admittedly abrogated during the election despite the outcome being apparently valid. What it says to me is that he slipped in under the divine radar so to speak. In other words the election of Pope Francis apparently was not the work of the Holy Spirit but rather a Spirit of Darkness. The other issue is Homosexuality. Ever since boyhood in Brooklyn I was convinced that if homosexuality were to be accepted worldwide, especially by the Roman Catholic Church it would signal the Antichrist’s appearance. Homosexuality, the perversion of a powerful human impulse the sexual is so deeply embedded within our worldwide collective psyche that I don’t perceive a means of divesting our culture of this disorder other than an act of God. Commercials now from Omaha Steaks to Liberty Mutual show homosexual men embracing, kissing. The Church is increasingly displaying emblematic homosexual symbols colors banners words. Catholic pastors exult in their homosexual parish. We’re living in a world of Sodom and Gomorrah. We know what God did to a less gifted people who, unlike those of us who have known Christ and abandoned him never knew Christ.

  6. The Francis papacy has been fraught with deception, confusion, and heresy right from the start with his “Buona sera” address to Catholics world-wide, followed by “Who Am I to Judge”.
    For me these were clear indicators that the man was not who he appeared to be – leader of the one true Catholic apostolic Church. No, his demotion of faithful clergy like C. Burke, C. Sarah, C. Mueller and many others and his promotion of heretics like James Martin, Coccopalmieri and others, his close association with world leaders like Barack Obama, the UN secretary general, pro-abortion and pro-homosexual clergy, were all clear indicators of his socialist, anti-family agenda.
    Liz Yore exposed all of this soon after the 2014/15 Synods. Other faithful Catholic media did likewise – LifeSitenews, Raymond Arroyo of EWTN, the Remnant, Voice of the Family – kudos to them – but now they have been targeted by the Vatican as fake news – we all know what that means – shutting down the truth and covering up the rampant abuse.
    The recent Church Militant event in Baltimore was a visible uprising and defense of the Church – we applaud everyone who rises up to defend the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
    Thank you for this excellent article – please continue to shine a light on all of the clergy sex abuse scandals that Bergoglio turned a blind eye to, while castigating and insulting faithful Catholics.
    We no longer attend the Novus Ordo Mass, because it is unbearable to witness the continual degradation of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
    May God turn these wicked men away from their crimes. We pray for good clergy to rise up and take back the Church.
    Our Lady of Fatima pray for us to be faithful to your Son in these difficult times.

  7. To be blunt, the Pope is just a liar. He is a flim flam man, telling us he is selling us a magnificent new car, but in fact he is selling us an old rustbucket.

    Look at this lie: “Synodality allows the Church “to gather and make dialogue the gifts of all its members, starting from the young”

    No, actually “synodality” as practiced by Francis, allows him to select a number of bishops on his own, a sufficient number of his own men to make sure that any vote is skewed toward whatever he wants. In fact, under Francis, synodality is the exact opposite of participation. It is an instrument of totalitarian control by the few. One is reminded by one of those Soviet People’s Congresses, meeting by the thousands in a great hall, when in fact none of them really has any say over anything. It’s all fake, a show to rubber stamp the already made decisions of the elite

    Pope Francis is simply a liar.

  8. More evidence of the End of Days. Caesar should step down and let the Populus Romanus elect our next glorious Caesar, as long as he’s not from the conquered territory of the FrankenBeast.

  9. “And, of course, the Church is “against any discrimination and violence on a sexual basis” (150).”

    So the Roman Catholic Church has officially embraced egalitarianism and feminism? Except for Holy Orders.

  10. Synodality. Such a tiresome concept, as bandied around by this papacy, for whom synodality for me, but not for thee.

    I’m sure that a careful study of the relationship between the papacy and the college of bishops throughout history will reveal all kinds of pathologies that arise from the poles of extreme papal authoritarianism and extreme concliarism.

    The healthiest and sanest Church power structure is one that in good Aristotelian fashion cuts things right at the *mean* between these poles.

    Lest you get the the present situation–a faux invocation of “synodality” that really masks raw exertions of papal powers to defend ideologies such as the ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity’ and the various other agendas of the current Pope’s inner circle.

  11. This is far worse than Luther’s rejection of prudence, justice , temperance and fortitude in both Aristotle and the Book of Wisdom. This is Martinism …and I am not referring here to that 15:1 ratio of gin to vermouth favored by Ernest Hemingway and known as the “Montgomery.”

    You know things are bad when Aristotle himself and someone like David Ross of The Right and the Good have more to offer than Jorge Bergolio’s stackers.

    We can’t even be the “right pagan” at this point. I say this to all who frequent this site and all who seek Truth in the Church who are in the rosaries I pray with my wife, my brothers and sisters…be the right pagan as a starting point.

    Apparently the birth of anti-Christ requires a counterfeit “anti-Spirit” as well…

  12. With deep thanks to Thomas Ascik for his fine article and to the many who published wise comments already, I want to add a comment on a further aspect of the Synod’s “final document” and Pope Francis’ Apostolic Constitution, namely, their intellectual incoherence. One instance amongst scores: if synodality is a “constituent dimension of the Church” and “the Church and Synod are synonymous”, is it then true that the Church is a constituent dimension of the Church? Such babble is so sub-rational that it is almost impossible to criticize. It may be simple idiocy or, probably more likely, a deliberate device. I am reminded of Belloc’s crushing conclusion to his demolition of the Higher Criticism: “And with brains like that, they ask me to deny my God”.

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