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“Synodality” means whatever Pope Francis wants it to mean

Two news items out of the Vatican this week will serve to illustrate the point.

Pope Francis touches his knee, which has limited him to a wheelchair in recent weeks, during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in this June 1, 2022, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“You keep using that word,” says Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya to Wallace Shawn’s hapless Vizzini in Rob Reiner’s 1987 adaptation of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” I remember thinking of that scene, when Pope Francis began railing against “casuistry” and “abstract casuistry” a few years back. It was easy to deal with his lexical idiosyncrasy then, because “casuistry” means something.

“Synodality,” on the other hand, means everything. That makes it harder to nail down because it means, in essence, that “synodality” means nothing. More precisely, “synodality” means whatever Pope Francis wants it to mean.

Pope Francis says that a “healthy decentralization” of power, or at least its exercise in the Church, is part and parcel of synodality. This is in keeping with the idea that local authorities will know best what is good for their people and will have a better idea of how to get it for them. That’s fine. How it is that what he says lines up with what he does, however, is not always immediately apparent.

Two news items out of the Vatican on Wednesday will serve to illustrate the point.

One is the announcement of a change to canon law, which requires diocesan bishops to obtain “written license” from the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life – the Vatican curial department responsible for overseeing religious orders and congregations – before establishing new religious houses within their dioceses.

It may be a bit wonky, but it’s worth digging into this for just a second.

Many religious congregations have begun as institutes of diocesan right – that is, as houses or communities recognized by a local bishop, and tied to the places where they are recognized – and some of those have gone on to obtain official recognition from the pope. When that happens, they are said to be of pontifical right.

Such communities need not go on to obtain pontifical right, and frequently they don’t. Lots of religious communities fizzle. Some thrive for a season or two before wilting and withering. It’s the way of things, and is – or has been – the Church’s way of “prov[ing] everything” and keeping what proves to be good.

Sometimes, it happens that a diocesan community has a powerful if idiosyncratic founder, who attracts troubled followers and establishes unsatisfactory modes and orders of life for them. Sometimes, things start out well and go sideways. Sometimes, a mix of things to which human affairs are subject combine in a way that fosters growth – of the wrong sort, perhaps – but then, keeping these matters at the diocesan level can have a limiting effect on the damage a dysfunctional community or society can do.

In any case, bishops have pretty much always had the power to establish – to “erect” such communities on their own.

Basically, the change Pope Francis made to the law means that local bishops need to ask permission – and obtain it in writing – from a Vatican office before they exercise the powers of governance that are theirs and always have been.

In other words, it’s not like the pope taking away bishops’ driving privileges as though he were the parent and they were teenagers with too many speeding tickets, so much as would be like a President of the United States telling governors they have to obtain written permission from the Secretary of the Interior before creating a new state park.

Only, the President of the United States can’t do that.

The theologians and canon lawyers can debate whether the pope can do the thing he just did, if they want, but it doesn’t look like this is the sort of thing that is necessarily ultra vires – beyond the scope of legitimate power – however ham-fisted or ill-considered it may be.

The thing is, he just did it.

Pope Francis has been chipping away at their powers in these regards from some time, so the move is not entirely surprising. Still, it is tough to square with the notion of healthy decentralization, unless the unspoken corollary is that the healthy decentralization needs to be accompanied by a healthy centralization.

“What is healthy?” is a reasonable question, however you slice it. Having the Vatican dictate the contents of parish bulletins, for example, probably isn’t. That’s what happened when the Congregation (since restyled “Dicastery”) for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued its instruction implementing Pope Francis’s draconian crackdown on the use of older liturgical books. Even people sympathetic to Francis’s aims and willing to defend his means had a hard time with that one.

Now – News Item #2 – the Vatican has issued “suggestions” for marriage preparation. Now, marriage prep is something that could stand to be strengthened, and the document – so far released in Italian and Spanish, but coming soon in other languages – is not destitute of possibly helpful elements. It does, however, get awfully granular over its nearly one hundred pages: proposing a “catechumenate” in several stages, for persons intent on marriage, lasting more than a year before marriage and for several years after a couple is married.

Time will tell whether these suggestions will become anything more, but it is hard to imagine a bunch of curial jobbers producing anything of immediate practical usefulness. One wonders when local folks in the pastoral trenches will begin to wish the fellows in Rome will tire of helping. Pope Francis, meanwhile, is happy to give priests advice on everything from the length of their homilies to their liturgical dress. As the old saying goes, one needn’t consult a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

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About Christopher R. Altieri 221 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, editor and author of three books, including Reading the News Without Losing Your Faith (Catholic Truth Society, 2021). He is contributing editor to Catholic World Report.


  1. I conclude that I am free to ignore the “agenda” of Pontiff Francis (per His Dissenting Eminence Cupich), since PF dissents from the previous two Popes, who it seems in stark contrast were devoted to defending and safeguarding the deposit of faith.

    Just erase PF’s junk-culture artifacts.

  2. As analogous to casuistry, Synodality is conceptual. In casuistry however the concept is the universal, the universal a concept, say of a good applied to validate the morality of an act. St Thomas Aquinas argues otherwise, that universals are first drawn from singulars [acts]. Either definitively good or evil acts [it’s in actual human interaction that we understand adultery and from examples form a universal concept of adultery]. Therefore, we begin our deliberation of the morality of an act by first examining the conditions of the act [whether it complies with adultery]. Ethical deliberation begins on the ground so to speak and ascends [by conscientious reflection upon the universal called Synderesis by Gregory Nazianzen] to the proper universal.
    Pope Francis’ difficulty is that the concept of synodality was not drawn from actual on the ground implementation. It begins instead with a vague concept that has no concise definition and thereby no definitive application.
    Altieri questions whether Francis as pontiff can canonically do things as he wishes. My example of this is the issue of mixing bishops with laity with bishops as mere onlookers [Pope Francis has been chipping away at their powers in these regards from some time, Altieri]. It seems as Altieri suggests this is what Francis intends. A movable forum in which ideas, doctrines are evaluated on an equal plane by participants. Pope Francis believes the Holy Spirit in this converse pyramid [alluded to earlier during his pontificate as the future Church model] beginning with the proverbial level playing field that will assist in sorting things out with fresh efficacious ideas.
    Difficulties are apparent to many regarding who is to validate that inspiration is from the Holy Spirit. Especially if the institutional method of doing so was inaugurated by Christ himself with chosen Apostles and the laying of hands is abandoned in the Synodal process.
    Altieri perceives the anomaly of Francis leveling authority within the Mystical Body while literally amassing it to himself, “One needn’t consult a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing”.

  3. Only, the President of the United States can’t do that.

    Neither can the Pope, no matter what that angry little man attempts to impose through canon law.

  4. “Pope Francis, meanwhile, is happy to give priests advice on everything from the length of their homilies to their liturgical dress.”

    Parents like to give advice. Teachers to students, priests to laypeople, Catholic internet influencers to their fanboys and girls.

    The real question for priests who preach ineffectively and who bow to mafiosi: are they willing to listen?

    • I’m sure your knowledge of priests and Catholicism in Sicily is everything and that. But even the Pope admits he doesn’t know much about what’s going on:

      “I don’t know, because I don’t go to Mass in Sicily and I don’t know how the Sicilian priests preach, whether they preach as was suggested in [the 2013 apostolic exhortation] Evangelii gaudium or whether they preach in such a way that people go out for a cigarette and then come back,” the pope said.

      But that wasn’t going to deter him from making comments, including some about the use of lace, which he apparently doesn’t know much about as well:

      So, unsurprisingly, the pope does not like priests wearing lace albs or cottas. Pope Francis has set himself up as the arbiter of liturgical taste on what would be a most banal level if it were not also so snide. I am not sure personal taste has ever been within the remit of papal infallibility, or even a lower level of the magisterium. With a captive audience of Sicilian bishops—not the priests themselves, but their superiors—the pope bolsters a type of episcopal camaraderie by denigrating their clergy. One shakes one’s head. Two observations come to mind: for Francis priests are not fellow workers but a lower caste—a case of us and them; and, in these remarks ideology trumps common sense.

      Common sense? In the Mediterranean countries, and other hot climes, the use of lace centres not on decoration but perspiration. Lace was a practical development of the alb, which of course covers the whole body, in lands where hot days are the norm, at least in summer. Far more than an alb even of pure linen, a lace alb breathes, and so is much cooler to wear. Having offered Mass in hot climates without lace, I know how hot in can get when vested. The sight of this profusely perspiring priest must have been pitiable rather than edifying. Sicily is a hot place in summer. Of course the priests wear lace; and of course many a pious Catholic lady—a nonna or a mama even—delights in making such a vestment. How little Pope Francis seems to know about the clergy in Sicily.

      Most people welcome advice when it comes from someone who knows what they are talking about and convey it with some sense of empathy and concern. More often than not, Francis talks off the cuff about matters he apparently knows little about (see, for instance, his recent comments about Catholicism in the U.S.). As Jayd Henricks observes over at First Things:

      And yet Pope Francis extols the analysis of people like Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., who wrote what can only be described as an embarrassingly superficial account of the situation in the U.S. in his article “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism.” He has elevated prelates who cannot get elected to any leadership positions at the USCCB because they do not reflect the sensus fidelium of the Catholic Church in the U.S.

      Perhaps the Holy Father is simply listening to a select few voices who have their own ecclesiastical biases and agendas. But after nine years since becoming the successor to Peter, that is no longer an excuse. Whom he chooses to listen to is itself an act of discernment. There are vocal Jesuits who have a perspective on the life of the Church here in the U.S., but it is simply a perspective and one that is profoundly unrepresentative, and thus offers a distorted picture of the American Church. The Holy Father says that he wants the Church to be a listening Church. If so, then he should be listening to a wide variety of voices in the U.S. before casting stones and making claims that there are a significant number of Catholics in this country who reject Vatican II. The facts do not support this claim, and those who propose this narrative betray a bias against the Church in the U.S. that seems to be driven by an ecclesiology of exclusion that rejects any form of Catholicism that does not fit their theological and aesthetic predilections. This narrow partisanship is unfortunate for any Catholic, but it is dangerous coming from the Holy Father.

      Spadaro is certainly a major source of skewed (or worse) “information”, but I’m sure Cardinal Cupich is as well. Which is unfortunate, because Cupich’s record consistently demonstrates that he has just one notable talent: climbing.

      • As for bishops who climb, we’ve always had that. I remember Archbishop Law, pressured early in his scandal to resign, cited a Patristic source suggesting the bishop was married to his diocese, and that bond couldn’t be easily set aside. I wonder if that made Springfield-Cape Girardeau a starter wife.

        And boy, did that lace comment get a lot of attention. One might be inspired to part the curtains of confusion to see its context. Jesus once mentioned something about plucking out one’s eye or cutting off one’s hand. He wasn’t wrong that a virtuous maimed person would be better off in the Kingdom than a whole-bodied sinner. Thankfully (I think) we’ve never had a form of the Rite of Penance that included removing a body part.

        That said, I suspect Pope Francis doesn’t give a hoot about lacey albs, as long as the priest in question was a good and holy pastor, and effective in the proclamation of the Gospel.

        I find my theological formation isn’t a hindrance to understanding exactly where Pope Francis is coming from. I applaud it.

        • On your first point, I’m not sure how noting past evilness makes any sort of a case for dismissing concern for current evilness. On your subsequent points, I’m not sure where you find a shred of evidence where Francis makes any sort of an honest effort to step outside of the realm of dishonest caricature formation in order to root out what he imagines to be “clericalism” while remaining oblivious to his own.
          As far his valuing holiness among priests, an arrogant refusal to divest himself of one of his favorite caricatures of priests who celebrate Latin Masses justifies substantial doubt. And he does give a “hoot” about lace. Those who use it are just one more item on his very lengthy list of venomous insult targets.

    • Good question, Todd.
      Clericalism is part of the problem. Pope Francis is trying to take us away from clericalism and back to a synodal Church as it existed in the first century, right from 48 AD (The Council of Jerusalem).

      • “Pope Francis is trying to take us away from clericalism…”

        It would be easier to believe that’s the case if the past nine years didn’t exist. Sigh.

        • In my Case, Carl, it is what I have observed in the past nine years, and read about the years earlier, that I believe. It took me some time because I had been blindsided by some opinions expressed on certain Catholic websites.

    • Parents have love for their children, and are listened to on that basis. I’ve never seen any evidence that Francis has any love for thise he criticizes. Besides that, clergy have a right to be addressed as adults, not to be reprimanded like children.

  5. – ? the Holy Father giving an example of what the synod can be ..suprised that his prophetic words about being in the gestatorial chair has been ignored as just a joke , yet reading a bit deeper into same one can hear the theme of the efforts of the Popes , heeding the Holy Spirit, desiring to move The Church into the times of Reign of the Divine Will , the labor pains for same starting around the Council …that would also fit in well with the wisdom in the observation as to how a ‘moving perspective ‘ is what would help the young people . The blessing for hope and trust in the Holy Spirit imparted by the Holy Father, narrating related experience in own community – may hearts be open to same to deal with these ‘unusual times ‘ . The marriage courses that include the same theme can be the preventive and the antidote to what destroys families in our times , in turn to bring forth good vocations as well .
    Blessings !

    • “heeding the Holy Spirit, desiring to move The Church into the times of Reign of the Divine Will”
      This is exactly how Pope Francis envisions the synodal process. Everyday Catholics understand this but, apparently, theologians and scholars do not. (Perhaps, they do not want to.)

  6. “heeding the Holy Spirit, desiring to move The Church into the times of Reign of the Divine Will”
    This is exactly how Pope Francis envisions the synodal process. Everyday Catholics understand this but, apparently, theologians and scholars do not. (Perhaps, they do not want to.)

  7. Thank you, Carl. As one with three advanced theological degrees, two doctorates, and 70 years of studying the Catholic Faith, I see that I will have to defer to Mal’s agitprop to “get” what Bergoglio is really about.

  8. If it were only things like lace that this pope is ignorant of, our problems would be manageable. But he is the most Scripturally and theologically ignorant pope to come along for a long time. Combine that ignorance with a truly massive arrogance, and you have a recipe for disaster. This man needs to go.

  9. I think it’s great that Pope Francis is instituting both additions. I work at a higher ed institution, and when there is a decision to build a new building on campus, the decision goes in front of the board for a vote. The university’s president can’t just tell people to make a new building on campus. No, there needs to be a proposal sent to the board for review (and decision). The same concept can apply to bishops. If a bishop has an idea to expand his area, send a proposal to the Vatican for a vote. It’s good to have checks and balances in place. The Catholic Church is also a business with a finite amount of $/resources. Let’s ensure we use our resources wisely.

    And kudos for the effort to better prepare couples for marriage. Anything we can do to help keep marriages intact in this broken world.

  10. God is not man, that He should not lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19
    Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 Papal decrees? Always changing.

  11. When the signature “accomplishment” of this papacy reminds one more of The Princess Bride and Humpty Dumpty (“When I use a word…it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less”) than of the solemn obligations of the Chair of Peter…Lord, help us.

  12. – Another good Holy Spirit inspired talk by the Pope that also reveals his aching in seeing the divisions ..that could thwart the call for The Church to be moved to bring the good news , into far away places too for the rich harvests , his trying to lift the finger that could be putting prickly pins , such as a subtle pride and its contempt , a little idolising of old ways . The lace comment too pointing to what could be seen as less than the ideal attire for these times – Servant Leaders and strong Father figures . Technology likely has made it possible to have good enough substitutes . Would not be surprised too that same also came from his desire to make a good gesture to alleviate concerns from the Orthodox side as well .
    Are there powers that carry envy about The Church moving into places that they want to claim .. after all, if desire for geographical dominion could drive a nation that claims purity in holiness to fall for the spirit of Cain , it is not beyond imagination that there have been ongoing efforts to sow fears and discords against The Church for long enough years , ? its fruits now afflicting some of who could be the best as ‘excess light and salt ‘ – words of Holy Father – 🙂

    Hesitated to share this , not wanting to add to the ‘spirit of gossip ‘; yet , ironic that many who bemoan the media effects with regard to the Council ? also being tools now …
    In a quick read through of the sited article below , think the author of the above article and CWR site is spared , glad for same – 🙂

    Many could have missed out on the very good talks / articles by the Holy Father esp. about the Holy Spirit – all on line ; one good of these little fire works displays (the ‘mess ‘ 🙂 – be that it would bring the good incentive in many to read through them to help make The Word alive , in deeper depth and breadth ..
    The Spirit to help turn the hearts of ‘the chidren’, healing the father wounds – the likley common denominator all across –
    ‘Most Precious Blood of Jesus , save us and the whole world ‘ – Lord , who has redone all human acts in His Sacred humanity during his earthly life , given us the means to rejoice , in asking The Spirit to come in a flash , into all the fallen traits and occasions ,such as into situations narrated in the Old Testament too …
    Thus , for example, in The Mother, we are no longer daughters of Tyre who are asked to ‘forget’ the father , instead already belong to a King and Father who desires to adorn us ever more with His gifts and fruits – the ever present blessing from the goodness of the heart of the Holy Father .
    Glory be !

    • Explain all of this “healing” to those abandoned wives and children as a result of the stupid moral reasoning of Amoris Laetitia that justified a man abandoning his first family to run away with his mistress if “he feels” it is what God is calling him to do.

      • This is why you are so wrong. The Church does not justify a man running away with his mistress – it never has. It does, in fact, reach out to the abandoned wives and children. It reaches out to all – men, women and children – who have been ostracized, abandoned or, in some way, left helpless.

        • Well said, Mal, sort of…
          Butt the normalcy of “a man running away with his mistress” is no longer the issue. Ah, for the good ol’ days! Now, it’s two men not running off, but remaining in collar and in place, and infesting the Church (“space is more important than time,” after all!). And, yes, while not “justified,” neither are they told the truth. Instead, the tribalism of poster-child James Martin—accompaniment, then accommodation, then acquiescence. The gangrene is well-advanced and the “field hospital” church shuns sharp instruments.

          “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9-10).

          The difference between the smell of the sheep and the smell of the lemmings is that the sheep know the truth (“What is truth?”)—that the end of synodality, as an “endless journey,” is a cliff.

          • This is why, Peter, we are asked to smell like the sheep, but to also look out for the lost sheep, no matter how they smell – even those who have ended up in the pigsty.

          • There is no mention that the prodigal son had to do innovations to figure out he was in a pigsty and who his father was.

            Mal why don’t you tell the Pope to repent of the vaccine-fraternalism debacle.

          • Mal, you make a good point, and again, it is beside the point…

            Regarding the pigsty, in Luke we find that the prodigal son first “came to his senses” (!) and then scraped clean his sole(s) and was penitent (!), and only then set out for his ever-loving (yes, infinitely-loving) Father.

            And, already, the Father “sees him from afar”(!), as if the Father has spent endless hours, weeks and maybe years in the watchtower looking and waiting… But, in the biblical version, where exactly do we discover that the Father first went forth and shared the pigsty with his son? (The synodal “path” of acquiescence: Marx/Batzing & Hollerich; with added choristers in the United States: Cupich, Gregory, Tobin in New Jersey, and now McElroy). The account of a duped Father is not found in any canonical translations, but, perhaps for some, such missing wording is etched into the lenses of rose-colored glasses?

            And, then there’s the endgame parable about the smell of the sheep…and the final difference between the sheep and the goats. Oh, yeah, we can “dip” into that stuff, butt who does this Jesus Christ think he is, messing with our rose-colored ideologies?

            Your fertile reference to a “pigsty” inspires additional commentary too long for this website, butt the clue is on the evolving guidance posted above the barn door of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” So, please, be the first to let a breathless world know the minute that the “path” of Courage is posted on James Martin’s much-celebrated LGBTQ outreach-link on the USCCB website.

          • One parable does not tell it all. In the same vein we have Luke 15 telling us about the time Jesus was denounced because he ate with sinners. How could anyone mix with such people? But our Lord told them: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” He added. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
            See how precious each and ever sinner is to Jesus. Is it not incumbent on us who profess to be one with Jesus to do our best to emulate our Lord?

          • It’s about institutions, not individual sinners…
            Instead of being laicized by the institution, McCarrick should have been invited to a Vatican banquet? Oh, wait, his clericalist following (named above) have already been given the key to the executive washroom…

            I could agree with the notion that McCarrick (and others) was likely emotionally deprived from his youth and might have been reaching out in the only contorted way that he knew (something like female rape as “unilateral outreach”?). Should have been detected long before he got the red hat—again, institutions cannot be allowed to betray all (!) of those in their care. Did Christ REALLY counsel abandoning the ninety-nine to theological and moral wafflers?

            A prescient quote from Chrysostom: “The road to hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lampposts that light the path.” And with the sober St. Paul, we affirm: “Do not cause anyone [the ninety-nine!] to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way” (1 Cor 10:32-33).

            The one and the ninety-nine: today the equity of both being betrayed equally.

          • Mal said: “One parable does not tell it all.”

            Jesus said: “It is written,” ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4)

          • Mal fails to account for the words of Jesus in the parables of the ‘lost’. The grace of Christ calls men to conversion. Grace freely chosen leads to repentance. Where in Scripture have unrepentant sinners converted other sinners?

            1) The first parable of the ‘lost’ at Luke 15:1 – “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.” It ends at 15:7 – “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine [b]just persons who need no repentance.” The sinners came first to Jesus. Jesus did not go in search of them.

            2) The second parable of the ‘lost’: “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10) There is no rejoicing over sinners who do not repent.

            3) The third parable of the ‘lost’: “I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” (Luke 15:18-19). The Father does not go to the pigsty. The sinner first returns to his father.

            Mal fails to account for the fact that Jesus differs from humans. As the Word, with God the Father, He made man in His Image, then providing fallen man the grace to become free from sin. Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, provides man graces of conversion. Men reject God’s words and grace only at their eternal peril.

            Jesus tells His disciples their role: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you;’….” (Matthew 28:18-20)

            Man’s role in the Church of Christ is not to proclaim that what Jesus and His Church and have taught for centuries is wrong. Rejecting the words of Christ is the same as rejecting His grace is the same as rejecting HIM.

  13. Manipulation of words and nonstop gaslighting is something one expects from dictators, not the Pope. Please God, let this trainwreck of a Pontificate come to an end soon.

  14. A problem with “style” and stylization is that it does not deliver on justice in the external things. Another problem is that it can’t properly identify this justice and its sources. A third would be that it will get into trouble in the interior things. Then at last the external interventions begin to overrun back into the interior and internal.

    If you have made this into a (bad) habit and a way of life then it is very difficult to undo it and likely you do not want to face correction on it especially from people who didn’t fit the styling in the first place and come from lesser backgrounds.

    But fear not, the Lord will fight for you and me when we call upon His Mighty Name, Jesus, Saviour, our Fortress, our Peace and our Reconciliation! Lord!

    • Is it about this Slum Pope?
      This is what the Star wrote about him.
      “For more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide, he’s Pope Francis. For Argentina’s poorest citizens, crowded in “misery villages” throughout the capital, he’s proudly known as one of their own, a “slum pope.”
      Villa 21-24 is so dangerous that most outsiders don’t dare enter, but residents say Jorge Mario Bergoglio often showed up in the slum unannounced to share laughs and sips of mate, the traditional Argentine herbal tea shared by groups using a common straw.
      People here recall how the Buenos Aires archbishop would arrive on a bus to their little chapel; how he sponsored marathons and carpentry classes, consoled single mothers and washed the feet of recovering drug addicts; how he became one of them.”

      • ‘Slum Pope ‘ – beautiful words – how authenctic too in his desiring more persons to share his joy in same, as the ‘smell of the sheep ‘ ; same as the authenticity of his desire to help problem remarriages, with likelihood of lack of true consent , the desire to restore Sacramental life for such ..not having to put them through the conventional , often impractical rigid hoops for many ..those who are afraid of misuse of same , even when AFIK , there are no such reports from pastors who know the reality .. the synodal process to be one when issues such as same can be brought to light to seek better means if needed ..even those who see idolatry on the occasion of his efforts to share the joy and dignity of the Amazonian people , how they cherish the earth in the symbolic mother image – seen in the background of the honor and genuine love , from a people in calling him the ‘slum Pope ‘ – to help to see how blinded one can be , not knowing his goodness .

        In fairness to the Pope Emer. , he too likely dealing with issues of persons in the internal slums of our times , esp. in places like Germany ; his resignation on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes , honoring the Immaculate Conception , ? seeing in same the antidote , ? thus having chosen to devote his life to plead for the cleansing , healing tears – interior pains of The Lord and His Mother that they shed in loving compassion , for every wound and tear of each of the children the remedy for much of the interior poverty , that can be worse than in slums and afflicting many in our times .

        How good our Father is , in blessing us with such Fatherly hearts !

  15. A marriage Catechumenate?? Really? That will never fly. A whole year before marriage and then lasting years AFTER??? We can barely get these young people to church on sunday, let alone making a request for a terminal commitment. Todays young people both work, and none will have this amount of time to invest. Its probable They will simply go down the road of not attending church or the sacraments at all.Who keeps thinking up these crazy ideas??

  16. Nothing allows legalized homosexual civil union and nothing allows mandating vaccination in the name of Christian fraternity whether dressed up as humanist fraternalism or otherwise.

    And wait for it, the particular vaccinations are experimental concoctions and quite destructive all tying back into galloping systematized corruption.

  17. Actually most people do NOT know what is going on with the divorces/nullity “benefit” arranged through Amoris; and they can’t. This would be the first point.

    We simply do not know about the who and the what -to admit yes or no. But the divorced-receiving-communion business has been unfolding according to a playbook.

    It started out as an assertion of a need to minister to the estranged, the premise being that someone else would be at fault for not being fully pastoral.

    It has come to the stage where divorced-and remarried subjects get communion and have it proclaimed from the pulpit, even high-flying clerics giving impetus.

    So that even if there was/is some merit in charting a new pastoral initiative, what is coming to pass would appear to be negating the formula already set at work.

    That formula seems to include remarriage and further divorce and remarriage until the individual’s “vocation” attains to a “stable pastoral manifestation”.

    With this picture of it, go back and read reports on Cardinal Kasper’s evolving viewpoints and arguments. The chronological arrangement is very instructive on it.

  18. Mal mentions Austin Ivereigh whom he admires. Austin took to Twitter to compare conservative Catholics to faeces. He called them racists, anti-Semites and sedevacantists. In another tweet Austin compared faithful Catholics-especially the Pachamama Dunkers- to ISIS head-choppers.

  19. Mal at some point the Pope will have to denounce homosexual civil union the same way he had to bring himself to denounce abortion and the same way he had to find a way to separate his own thought and leaning, from liberation theology.

    Maybe you should be telling him that earlier than when he can measure up to it, or even if he can’t think it, because you are the one with the smell of the sheep? The way J.P.G./M. sounds, you will never get an encouragement like this from that quarter.

    And if you had to wait on absolutely everybody to smell like sheep, that would put you outside the Gospel.

    • The Pope did not have to bring himself to denounce homosexuality. He made it clear on numerous occasions that he is faithful to the teachings of the Church. He has not even changed the wordings about it in the catechism. He has also stated that marriage is only between a man and a woman. The Church also teaches that all sex outside of this marriage is sinful. So, this includes homosexual sex.

      • I sometimes wonder if ‘Mal’ is short for ‘malware’.

        But ad hominem aside, let us see how Mal’s Pope-who-can-do-no-wrong handles the German Synod when the binding votes come as his silence when Germany is lapsing into schism is rather deafening. German dioceses have been confirmed in blessing same-sex unions, giving the Eucharist as if it was a ‘right’, and the calls and preliminary votes to change Church doctrine.

        And the latest in Italy:

        “The diocese of Archbishop Matteo Maria Zuppi, one of the most prominent Italian cardinals of the moment and newly appointed president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), has staged the first public blessing of a homosexual union”.

        Will Pope Francis say anything? How about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

        • On occasion, commenter Beaulieu warns others of cacophonous clanging with the imaginatively appropriate 2-word choice: “Malware Alert”

        • Take note that there is no “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).”

          Since June 5, the effective date for the long-awaited and delayed “reform” of the curia, and along with all other “congregations” and pontifical councils, etc., the CDF is demoted to the rank of a “dicastery.” All of them, across the board. Now, there is a new super-dicastery for Evangelization…

          And, as for Archbishop Zuppi, he is said to be well-loved, and from his plush Archdiocese of Bologna exhibits a lifelong concern for the poor. Among his other defining positions, he is “fully committed” to Evangelii Gaudium (2013), Amoris Laetitia (2015) and the equally controversial Abu Dhabi Declaration (2019), and everything in between. Zuppi wrote the preface to James Martin’s “Building a Bridge.”

          “It is not always easy to know exactly where Zuppi, an intelligent prelate with a sharp mind, stands on doctrine and other issues, as he has shown himself able to tailor his message to his audience or his pope. A number of views on Church teaching, such as on the indissolubility of marriage and on hell, appear distinctly unorthodox. His supporters would say this makes him able to tackle complexities of the modern world; his critics might describe him as a clever, archtypal modernist” (final summary paragraph concluding 46 detailed pages, in Edward Pentin, editor, “The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates,” Sophia Institute Press, 2020).

      • Mal, your write of Pope Francis: “He has not even changed the wordings about it [the homosexual lifestyle] in the catechism.”

        And yet, he declined the resignation of Cardinal Marx, who since has publicly called for the Catechism to be mutilated on this very point; likewise Marx’s puppet understudy, Bishop Batzing now the hood ornament for the German “synodal path;” and even the appointed grand maestro of worldwide synodality, Cardinal Hollerich, relator for the 2023 Synod on Synodality. And what about Cardinal Grech, well, he says we’re simply expanding an existing grey area of mitigating circumstances.

        Surely Pope Francis’ Jesuit inner circle is even now crafting the words to defend the Catechism, as you imply, against the graffiti theology of his own appointed Storm Troopers. Yes, he could be waiting for the passage of time to bury this noise. But who am I to judge?

    • ‘Smell of the sheep ‘ – phrase that used to be a puzzle ; hearing more about the background of the Holy Father, about his genuine compassion of working with the people in the slums – helps to give meaning to those words .. likely that no shepherd likes the smell of the sheep on them – ? reason why David’s father did not invite him, when Samuel came .. yet , a good shepherd knows that his presence and vigilance is a life or death matter for the sheep, not to let in the prowling lions ..leaving persons without Sacraments by using set rules in a rather rigid manner without truly caring to know if there is likelihhod of invalidity of the marriage – one such that fits the category ,in the possibility that there would persons who would bring the ‘smell ‘ – as uninformed accusations ..
      ? Same with regard to such as in the case of a single male , who may be alienated from family , wanting to presrve the remnants of a wounded friendship for legal purposes – one can put hope and trust in the Holy Spirit that there can be healing there too , as freedom from the hardness of hearts that often lead persons into disordered relationships …
      The Precious Blood to save persons – the spirits that lead to the blindness and hardness of hearts related to impurities and sins against life ,rampant in our times .. even there , possibility of true frienships in The Spirit that preserve and protect the God given dignity and identity , free of carnal and idolatrous attachments .

      Thank God that the synod would likely foster more of these dialogues and its fruits into many areas .

      Blessings !

  20. On occasion, commenter Beaulieu warns others of cacophonous clanging with the imaginatively appropriate 2-word choice: “Malware Alert”

  21. Alitieri obviously comes out here in this essay with a “fortress” ecclesiology that understands synodality as “talking at.” Pope Francis’ ecclesiology of a “field hospital” has a concept and practice of synodality that is more of “talking with.” Critiques and bashers can quickly point out how about Traditionis Custodes? In that instance, the Pope was exercising his duty as shepherd by telling and teaching with a “jolt” the small minority but loud Catholics who would not otherwise listen and cause division in the Church.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. “Synodality” means whatever Pope Francis wants it to mean – Via Nova Media
  2. Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 3/11/23 – excatholic4christ

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