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The post-synodal stakes for the Church

Synod-2019,” writes George Weigel, “served the very useful purpose of casting in sharp relief the grave doctrinal and theological issues facing the Church, today and in the immediate future.”

Pope Francis carries his pastoral staff as he arrives in procession to celebrate the concluding Mass of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon at the Vatican Oct. 27, 2019. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani)

For those Catholics who still take seriously matters such as truth, clarity, doctrine, Scripture, Tradition, and so forth, the past month has been a perplexing combination of frustrating, maddening, and surreal. The recent Synod, which I think will likely go down as a watershed event (for several reasons, almost none of them good) in this pontificate, has further highlighted the many significant fissures and tensions in the Church. There is, put simply, much at stake.

George Weigel, who was in Rome for the last month, has written a lengthy essay (“There’s a Pony in Here Somewhere: A Post-Synodal Reflection”) in which he helpfully details many of the essential point of conflict. “Amid the detritus of Synod-2019,” he writes, “which included everything from blatant heterodoxy to guerrilla theater to a senior churchman denouncing responsible critics of the synod as hired guns of oil companies, there is, in fact, a pony to be found. For whatever else it may or may not have accomplished, Synod-2019 was an unmistakable moment of clarification and a stern summons to responsibility. That’s the pony amid the muck.”

“Most importantly,” he then writes,

Synod-2019 served the very useful purpose of casting in sharp relief the grave doctrinal and theological issues facing the Church, today and in the immediate future. During the synod, positions were taken; the theological orientations and pastoral stances of various personalities were identified; and as of October 28, 2019, it is impossible for anyone in a position of ecclesiastical responsibility to deny what is at stake, save for reasons of inattention, indifference, or fear. 

And what, precisely, is at stake, after this synod and its predecessors during the current pontificate? Conversations with both elders of the Church and knowledgeable observers suggest that we have reached several bottom lines.

At stake is the reality and binding authority of divine revelation as conveyed to us by Scripture and Tradition. Does revelation judge history—including this historical moment and its legitimate concerns about the environment—or does history judge revelation (and thus demand, for example, that 21st-century Catholicism jettison the biblical view of humanity’s unique, and uniquely responsible, position in the natural world)? 

At stake is the magisterium of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI as the authentic interpretation of the Second Vatican Council—an interpretation that underwrites the vitality of the New Evangelization in the living parts of the world Church. 

At stake is the teaching of the 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor on the reality of intrinsically evil acts—actions that can never be justified by any calculus of intentions and consequences. 

At stake is the teaching of the 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis on whom the Church is authorized to admit to Holy Orders. 

At stake is the teaching of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the declaration Dominus Iesus, on the unique role of Jesus Christ as Savior, a declaration that was personally affirmed by St. John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of 2000.

At stake is the relationship of the universal Church to the local churches: Is Catholicism a federation of national or regional churches, or is Catholicism a universal Church with distinctive local expressions?

At stake is the very nature of the Church: Is the Catholic Church a communion of disciples in mission, sacramentally constituted and hierarchically ordered, or is the Church to understand itself primarily by analogy to the world, as a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to good works in aid of the poor, the environment, migrants, etc.? 

At stake is the realization of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19–20: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”    

That is what is at stake. Those with primary responsibility for the Church’s future according to the teaching of Lumen Gentium (Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) have a solemn obligation, undertaken when they accepted ordination as bishops, to address those issues. Reticence, in the hope that “God will provide,” is not an option at this Catholic moment.

In other words, nearly every essential belief of the Church—about Christ, authority, faith, morality, ecclesiology, evangelization, etc.—is at stake. Read the entire essay.

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About Carl E. Olson 1190 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. Respectfully, and in the service of real dialogue over pre-emptive monologue, diocesan BISHOPS worldwide (and their conferences) are urged to please take special note of how layman Weigel concludes (below) his full-body scan of Amazonia…

    Then, please craft a genuinely MISSIONARY-type letter. A letter addressed to the diocesan/conference parishes and the Vatican—-partly to demonstrate mature reflection on the fatal flaws of Amazonia Pachamama-Pantheism, etc. (an “app” well-financed with Ford Foundation dollars and German marks).

    As a minimum, the ecological message deserves a better pack mule than pantheon Amazonia. And, Amazonia itself deserves to not be (ab)used as a pied piper for problematic/dissident Germania. And, Christian mission, finally and firstly, demands at least some pretense toward unalloyed “maturity in accord with the stature of Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).

    Here, the Weigel conclusion:

    “The Lord Jesus established a Church governed by bishops. The Second Vatican Council taught that each bishop shares responsibility for the world Church; HIS RESPONSIBILITIES DO NOT STOP AT THE BOUNDARIES OF HIS DIOCESE [caps added]. It is past time for those bishops who share an understanding of “the stakes” as described at the outset of this essay to make their CONCERNS known, both in their dioceses and to Rome. Yes, that takes courage [….]”

    Courage? The choice between either (a) permanent and self-inflicted insult (and perdition?) from silent acquiescence, or (b) ephemeral name-calling from agenda operatives. But, as the fully story comes out, it’s becoming clear that the pygmy-kings wear no clothes.

    So, of real and universal dialogue, this from Evangelii Gaudium: “The whole is greater than the part!” The part being any pre-selected synod majority and, now predictably their buddy-financiers.

  2. And what exactly is at stake? “… nearly every essential belief of the Church—about Christ, authority, faith, morality, ecclesiology, evangelization, etc.—is at stake.”

    I’ll bet the silent answer from most diocesan Bishops will be:

    “Good luck with that.”

    • These same things have taken place slowly over decades in the United States. Our Constitution which was developed using the Bible as a blue print for our principles and laws, has been systematically taken apart. It was said that Pope John Paul II would be the last Pope of the Catholic Church and I believe that just may be true.
      We all need to pray and come back to God. There is no such thing as “too late” when our soul is at stake.

    • I agree, but what are you the faithful and also we priests going to do about it. We need to have a plan and it needs to begin on a local, then regional, the national basis.

  3. For many years I thought, ‘If I had a chance to ask God only one question, it would be, “Why did you create the mosquito?”‘

    Then Bergolio was elected Pope…

  4. The “Supreme” Pontiff presided over the worship of the pagan idol Pachamama “without any intention of idolatry.”

    If the Pontiff Francis were unintelligent, we might conclude that his denial of idolatry is preposterous.

    But since we know that the Pontiff Francis is highly intelligent, we can consider his act and denial of idolatry is contemptuous.

    We can be confirmed that the Pontiff Francis is being contemptuous when we learn that he and his brother Bishops in Italy published their prayer to Pachamama in their Bishops’ periodical in April 2019, as reported by Phillip Lawler this week, which link I will post in a comment immediately following.

  5. The Italian Bishops periodical Missio published their prayer to Pachamama in April 2019, as explained by Phillip Lawler, here:

    They, including the Bishop of Rome, are idolaters.

    To understand their idolatry, we need to understand 21st century idolatry, which is repurposing the pagan idol Pachamama as the new Lord of All. Pachamama is the Lord of the Marxist “communitarian” political ideology, chosen for worship by the Bolivian Marxist dictator Evo Morales, co-worker with his Marxist friend Pope Francis (the same 2 who staged the photo-op stunt of the Hammer and Sickle Crucifix, profaning Our Lord’s Sacrifice by using it in service to their base political pursuits.

    I will publish the environmentalist website explaining Pachamama and Evo Morales (and The Pontiff Francis) in the post immediately following this.

  6. Mr. Weigel has some important and useful points to make, however, in my opinion his assessment of Hispanic America (I don’t write Latin America, a concept invented by Napoleon III when he attempted to take over Mexico by installing the ill-fated Maximilian as Emperor there) demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the history of Spain’s presence, the great feat of evangelization, the reasons why Spain’s empire was pulled asunder due to Napoleon’s invasion of the country, the fact that the so called-independence was no independence at all, rather submission to Britain and a combination of the handiwork of Freemasonry and England whose agents were the traitors and mass murderers especially Simón Bolivar. Mr. Weigel would need to study the history of Spain, the Reconquesta, the extraordinary feat of the Evangelization etc. He complains about the fact that the Cathedral and the seat of government are close by in cities like Lima and Mexico. Doesn’t the Church want a true cooperation with the State. That actually happened during Spain’s 300 years of presence in America. Protestantism destroyed Christendom, but it remained vibrant in Spain and the Spanish Empire, which was not about colonies and explotation of the natives. Besides, is the Cathedral at the center of the great medieval cities.

    In my opinion, his enthusiasm for liberal democracy is totally misplaced. It is a system of government vitiated from its foundations. It derives from the mistaken philosophies of Hobbes, Locke and Rouseau among others, who deeply influenced the American founders. The popes of the day condemned liberalism, and its close ally Freemasonry. When socialism, a derivation of liberalism came on the scene, again all the popes rightly condemned it, and they did the same with its outgrowth communism. In fact, liberal democracy has never worked in any Catholic country and it was imposed on the people by Freemasonic liberals. I cannot go into more detail here, but Weigel’s opinions regarding the matter he discusses Hispanic American affairs are misguided, superficial and based on false presuppositions such as the goodness of democracy. St. John Paul II stated in Centessimus Annus that monarchy, oligarchy or democracy could be acceptable once they are based on solid ethical principles, which is not the case in any country these days. In fact, the democratic system has failed both in Britain and the U.S. something patently clear in the case of Brexit and the rejection of Trump.
    Why is it difficult for the Church to teach morality? Founderin Hispanic countries. The founders of those countrires and most of those considered heroes were mass murderers (Bolivar), traitors, guilty of grand larceny and other crimes. They destroyed the economy just as their followers in Venezuela are doing. Spanish priests were expelled, all of this organized by them from London and they were all freemasons. As for Mexico, 60% of its territory was conquered by the U.S.,American imperialism despite the fact that if it hadn’t been for the help lent by Spain, George Washington would have failed. The U.S. has done tremendous damage to Mexico not only invading it and imposing its will on it. Wodrow Wilson invaded Mexico in 1916. Once the British hegemony came to an end, the American hegemony continued. The Masonic government of Calles was supported by the U.S. and its ambassador was heavily involved in the “fixing” (clled in Spanish “arreglos”, which involved the murder of thousands of Catholics by the Calles government, due to a large extent to naive bishops. I don’t think an American who is given over to liberal democarcy has many lessons to give to Mexico and other countries south of its border. It is no wonder that Mexicans say “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so near the United States”.

    • Foley comments on Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 invasion of Mexico.

      In a parallel and larger case at the same time, historian von Kuehnelt-Leddhin (Leftism Revisited, 1990) faults the rigidly Calvinist and anti-Catholic Wilson for also opposing a negotiated peace in Central Europe (desired late in World War I by the exhausted Catholic Austrian monarchy). And, therefore, for actually prolonging the War and for the collapse of multi-national Austria. A collapse/power vacuum which was key to the later rise of pan-Germanism and the descent into World War II under the (democratically-elected) Hitler.

      Most historians are of a different mind, but the ultra-conservative KL’s still credibly proposes the irony that Wilson’s plan “was not to make democracy safe for the world, but rather to make the world safe for democracy.”

      Going on, KL then writes of Mexico: “This had already been evident in his dealings with Mexico before America’s entry into World War I. About America’s southern neighbor he said, ‘Our friendship is a disinterested friendship, so far as our aggrandizement goes. . . leaving them to work out their own destiny, but watching them narrowly and insisting that they shall take help [toward ideological/liberal democracy] when help is needed’.”

      Turning to the future, the sidelined St. John Paul II, whose focus (as Foley notes) was on the common good rather than forms of government, warned: “As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open and thinly disguised totalitarianism” (Centesimus Annus, 1991, n. 46).

      Weigel’s central point is that acquiescence to Pachamama primitivism is an amnesiac and absolutely total abdication by what used to be the Catholic Church.

    • Outstanding! Joseph Foley. You’ve got the real story dead-on.
      Weigel, in my opinion, is the snake oil salesman of Modernism.
      Arriba Espana! Viva Cristo Rey!

  7. George Weigel is quite explicit no punches pulled dazzlingly on the mark. Ecological conversion rather than Christological conversion is Synod Amazonia’s preconceived manifesto [plastic straws floating on high seas is greater than abortion]. Inculturation to Acculturation of indigenous belief with Catholicism. Pachamama is emblematic of the direction presided over by the Pontiff advocated by Bishop Krautler Cardinal Hummes. Next stop Germany Tomorrow the World. From what we’re hearing from the Vatican and prime movers it’s evidently so. That is unless world Hierarchy rally in unison with Bishop Athanasius Schneider remaining faithful to Christ’s Gospel loyal to the Chair of Peter refusing error [who knows that may convince the Pontiff to rethink – hope is a virtue and whatever transpires the faithful remain]. Bishop Schneider’s new book Christus Vincit authored with Diane Montagna addresses dispelling the Darkness with the Light that is Christ.

  8. Thank you, Mr. Olson and Mr. Weigel (also very articulate and courageously outspoken in person on EWTN). The Pagan Amazonian Synod is also the Synod of Sanctified Glorified Failure. Not only the willfully failing, corrupted German Clergy but all of their more atheistic followers want the generalized, moral, core human failure in today’s society to also be “sanctified” and legitimized in the Catholic Church. Why such incredible fiery passion to spread this abysmal, total failure? The reason is what drives today’s society at its core: perverted imagination and deceiving images. Today we are like cavemen and cavewomen fascinated and obsessed about cave paintings made by Satan and his Tribe of Enemies while, right there next to us, Artificial Intelligence (AI) exposes our diminishing core intelligence and responsibility.

    Imaginations are lazy, easy and addictive; actual thinking is work. All Church enemies profit from the popular, cartoonish image of the Heavenly Father as an old, bearded man in the sky. Even many Catholics believe that nonsense. When The Father is seen as just that cartoon by so many, even the most failed of humans and especially them, feel totally entitled to a “sacred mission” to guide, redirect and correct that quasi-senile cartoon being. Just like serial killers pontificating their “great” manifestos and ideas to decent society. We turn God into a cartoon so we can become cartoon gods ourselves. When God is turned in our deluded human imaginations into a cartoon, a true cartoon like Pachamama looks great in comparison. Lower all the stakes into a bottomless pit and we all look like gods, together with our own lowly likeness in idols and false ideology. The Father is infinitely greater than us and wants us to be free from being a cartoon god so we can actually grow and be actually divinized in His true, absolutely real, world changing Holiness…if we stay in Total Authentic Catholic Truth!!

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