Pope Francis imposes synodality on Rome

It’s clear that some sort of shakeup to Rome’s diocesan governing apparatus had been coming, but both the specific form the Apostolic Constitution In Ecclesiarum communione took, and the optics created by its promulgation, are terrible.

Pope Francis listens as Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, papal vicar of Rome, speaks during an audience with the faithful from the Diocese of Rome at the Vatican Sept. 18, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Pope Francis has reorganized the Diocese of Rome. A complete rehearsal of the changes would run to considerable length and likely induce somnolence before it effected understanding. “Let me ’splain,” said Inigo Montoya to Wesley in The Princess Bride before thinking better and changing tack, “– No, there is too much, let me sum up.”

So, let me sum up.

By “reorganized” one means that he has discombobulated pretty much everything and reduced the government of his diocesan territory to little more than personal rule with straw offices and rump councils as window dressing.

Pope Francis has even created a new watchdog for the Vicariate. Styled an “Independent Oversight Committee”, the outfit is independent of everyone except the pope, who approves its bylaws, sets its agenda, names its members for three-year terms, and receives its reports.

Pope Francis himself will preside over the meetings of the diocesan leadership, take all decisions beyond those related to ordinary administration, police the treasury and the seminaries and basically everything else. Even the auxiliary bishops for each of Rome’s seven territorial divisions will report to Pope Francis, as well.

The Cardinal Vicar will now be an auxiliary of the pope, juridically equal to the other auxiliaries of the diocese and essentially a vicar in name only. He “shall not undertake important initiatives or any initiatives exceeding the ordinary administration [of the diocese] without referring to me.”

The document is striking for its personal language and tone: “I” and “me” are found throughout, rather than the technical legislative dictions like “the Roman Pontiff” or “the Ordinary” or some other such third person referent.

Pope Francis has done all this in the name of “synodality” – a word that comes up several times in some form or another throughout the long and cumbersome document outlining the new governing structure – but does not ever say what synodality is or what the “synodal style” of governance for which he calls in the document should be.

It’s pretty clear that some sort of shakeup to Rome’s diocesan governing apparatus has been in the offing for a while. Still, both the specific form the Apostolic Constitution In Ecclesiarum communione took, and the optics created by its promulgation, are terrible.

The moves from Pope Francis came in the wake of an unfortunate statement from the Cardinal Vicar regarding l’Affaire Rupnik – a radioactive global scandal of abuse and coverup that reaches far into the Apostolic Palace – and seem to have torn an already strained relationship into tatters.

It looks like Pope Francis is kneecapping Cardinal Angelo De Donatis – the guy Francis chose to be his right hand man in Rome and groomed for an even more prominent role on the curial stage – after De Donatis committed the one unforgivable sin of giving the pope a bad day in the press.

Is that what happened?

Sic et non, the Romans say – “Yes and No” – though in this case one may say, “No, and also Yes.”

Basically, Cardinal De Donatis picked a fight with Pope Francis when he passed the buck on Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, SJ, the disgraced Jesuit priest who is accused of sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse of nine women over several years. Rupnik’s Jesuit superiors and senior Churchmen in Rome through three pontificates either turned a blind eye to Rupnik’s predatory proclivities or else actively worked to discredit his accusers. Under Francis, Rupnik received some highly unusual – not to say “very special” – treatment from the Vatican’s official organs of justice.

Just before Christmas, De Donatis issued a statement explaining why Rupnik still had ministry and held offices within the Rome Vicariate, basically saying that it was the pope’s decision and not up to the Cardinal Vicar. It was all couched in exquisite curialese, but the message was clear: Pope Francis was calling the shots on Rupnik. It’s a safe bet that didn’t fly well in the Apostolic Palace.

Truth be told, there’s been bad blood brewing between the pope and his vicar for some time.

In March of 2020, at the start of the corona virus pandemic, when no one really knew what was happening and hospitals were overrun and death tolls were climbing exponentially day by day and everyone was scared, Cardinal De Donatis decided to close Rome’s churches.

De Donatis took the decision after consulting with Pope Francis. The very next day, Cardinal De Donatis opened parish and mission churches. He took the second decision after “further discussion” with Pope Francis. Between the decision to shutter the churches and the decision to keep parishes and missions open, there was significant pushback from several quarters, including the pope’s own almoner.

That episode certainly put a strain on relations between the pope and his man for the city, which a 2021 financial audit likely did not help to ease. Suffice it to say that the rift has been several years coming.

Whether it was Cardinal De Donatis’s statement as led to the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution in the precise form it took (and so quickly after the Christmastide contretemps), or whether Cardinal De Donatis knew that something like Inter Ecclesiarum was on its way and so decided to get off a shot while he could, is largely beside the point. Pope Francis has made it clear that he is in charge of everything.

Personally.


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About Christopher R. Altieri 190 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.

58 Comments

  1. One is reminded of 1870 and the reduction of the Pope Pius IX to a “prisoner of the Vatican,” inside the 109-acre border, after loss of the papal states (most of central Italy) and finally the fall of Eternal City to the secular forces.

    Now, with synodality appearing more and more like a secular plebiscite, Pope Francis personally reclaims at least the Diocese of Rome! But then declares it “synodal”–all 217,600 acres. Now, if only the entire world land mass (a mass!) can be made “synodal”–all 36,794,240,000 acres.

    Come on, Altieri, give “the bishop of Rome” (after all) a break! And, thinking big, and interreligiously with Lao Tzu, “the journey of a thousand miles [synodally “walking together”] begins with a single step!”

    But wait, what? Like councils, synods are what the Church DOES, not what the Church IS. Not what is synodality, but rather, what is the Catholic Church?

      • The Catholic church is not a democracy; the Pope is a Vicar of Christ, Christ Jesus who’s God and, we the faithful are toddlers in front of Jesus. So, calling the Pope a dictator is referring to Jesus as a dictator and is a blasphemy.

        • Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

          John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

          John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

          Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

          John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

          We know the same could not be said of Papa! Many are concerned that he has departed from the faith and presents his own point of view, instead of Christ the King.

        • See Galatians chapter 2. St. Paul committed no blasphemy when confronting St. Peter who was “very wrong” in his actions.

          The word “dictator” is yours. The article simply describes what happened.

        • Equating Jesus with the Pope is wrong. Calling a pope a dictator is not calling Jesus a dictator. The gift of understanding, please. Jesus is God with God the Father and with God the Holy Spirit. These three persons are of one substance. Francis is unadulteratedly and purely human. God is simply and essentially a different substance and essence than that of men. A good Catholic catechism can explain it more fully.

          • I am not judging but we must always with the spirit of discernment identity the actions of individuals. What do his/her behaviors disclose? In this his, the Pope Francis? Is he living the gospel is he defending truth is he defending what Jesus taught to the faithful? If so why then was the purpose of the crucified Christ? According to the Pope all are save, all people? Regardless of his position (with all respect), he is not Christ he is not the head of the Church. Christ is, and Christ is alive and well. The Bible the word of God is eternal no Vicar has the authority to change it.

        • With no intention of hurting anyone, it simply must be said that this statement is a perfect example of the infantilized and morally crippled mindset cultivated by the corrupted “Church Establishment,” which is practiced in the low arts of grooming the laity to defer to men who themselves work year-in-and-year-out to eclipse the authority of Jesus, and decapitate the Body of Christ, and substitute themselves as “the-new-godhead.”

    • These articles and others like them don’t bear any lasting good fruit I would suggest. It doesn’t matter how much of it is technically true or not. The devil is very happy for the so called “devout”Catholic to get embroiled in church politics and lose sight of the pilgrimage to sanctity. I have only one life to live and I certainly can’t afford to get caught up in all that and lose my peace of soul. I wonder how much faith those have who get involved in policing the Church. Perhaps they don’t really believe the gates of Hell will not prevail. Pray more. Maybe ponder like Mary on the one thing necessary.

  2. John 21:18
    He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you,j when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

    EWTN’s ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ video will show you how the, ‘Liberal’ ‘Progressive’ ‘Democrats infiltrated the Catholic Church to destroy the Catholic Church. The Progressives started after WWI and have grown to become 800 covert organizations world wide, with the goal to destroy Christ’s Church. The Progressives have many operatives at top positions of power in our Catholic Church today.

    https://youtu.be/ZnKB9NzgD4k

    • How sweet it is.

      The College of Cardinals, all younger than 80, elects Popes and requires at least 66% votes. Francis shall have it on February 21 when Cardinal Sepe turns 80. He need not appoint more before then, given his 16 new ones, who shall replace 80 year olds through Cardinal Sandri on November 18. Expect Francis to appoint 15 new Cardinals in December, who would replace 15 Cardinals through Cardinal Cardozo, who turns 80 on 10/10/24. On that day in 2 years, “Francis College Cardinals” shall be 77%. If Francis retires in 4 years when he turns 90 on, then he shall have appointed 83% of the College. Seven Cardinals were born before 1960; new Cardinal Marengo is only 47. They shall elect 2 successor “Francis Popes” during their lifetime, who shall appoint “Francis Cardinals” and “Francis Bishops,” who shall appoint “Francis Heads” of Seminaries, who shall appoint “Francis faculty,” who shall teach seminarians to become “Francis priests.”

      Regarding Francis and US Bishops, he has appointed 132 US Bishops younger than age 75, which is the age when they no longer can vote in the UCCB. There currently are 140 US Bishops younger than age 75, who were appointed before Francis. 12 of them are age 74, including Burke, and from large Diocese like Brooklyn, Newark and Philadelphia. 18 of them are age 73, including Neumann, DiNardo and Salazar, and from large dioceses like Los Angeles, Galveston-Houston and New Orleans. Of the 272 US Bishops younger than age 75, Francis’ current 132 Bishops shall become the majority 137 UCCB voting Bishops when Bishop Fitzgerald turns 75 on May 23. Francis has appointed 7 US Bishops ages 46 – 50; and 23 US Bishops ages 51-55. Expect future appointments of similar young Bishops, who shall vote for 20-25 years in the UCCB. Therefore, the days of the control of the USCCB by conservative Bishops are numbered. That shall become most evident in the 2024 UCCB elections when all of the now 30 age 73 and 74 Bishops appointed before Francis shall have turned age 75 and no longer shall be able to vote. These US “Francis Bishops” shall appoint “Francis Heads” of Seminaries, who shall appoint “Francis faculty,” who shall teach seminarians to become “Francis priests.”

      There is nothing you can do. You “dont have the numbers, and the House always wins.”

      How sweet it is.

      • All very cute, this numbers game, unless those Francis cardinals who are also international–and possibly not toadies to Western ideologies–vote prudently and wisely in the next conclave. And maybe well before Pope Francis is 90.

        The irony of it all! These so-called “Francis cardinals.” The Church is still guided by the Holy Spirit, and the cardinals always have the option of exercising their free will in a graced and conforming direction. God writes straight with crooked lines. Waiting to see “how sweet it is…”

      • You’ve already cut, pasted, and posted this exact same drivel on several different articles on this site in the past. Please provide all of us with an explanation for this obvious trolling behavior. Who’s paying you to troll CWR?

        • Not paid to debate debatable comments by others, nor for articles. It’s also apparent that readers do not read everything in these threads and, therefore, that repetition is not out of place.

          Not cut and paste. Not trolling. And as for drivel, I actually look for and find your stuff worth reading; try harder to not erode your credibility.

          • P: I wasn’t referring to your post. I was responding to the Anna Amoz post above, which I have seen here at CWR on several occasions. Sorry if that replied under your post – that was not my intent.

      • “There is nothing you can do. You ‘dont have the numbers, and the House always wins.’ How sweet it is.”

        This post is fantasy at best. First, it assumes that the cardinals and bishops Pope Francis has appointed are all 100% aligned with him ideologically. Nothing could be further from the truth. Secondly, it ignores the history of the Catholic Church. We’ve experienced wild swings in the papacy in the past; there’s no reason the pendulum will not swing back in the opposite direction. Pope Formosus was dug up by Stephen VI, and his corpse was thrown in the river, with all his acts being reversed and Stephen declaring him an antipope. Then Stephen’s successor reversed Stephen. Happens all the time. In our day, we went from Pope Ratzinger to Pope Francis. It can swing back again.

        Regarding “Francis priests,” one wonders which planet you inhabit. Many young priests that are coming up through the ranks, in the U.S. and abroad, are ideologically more “conservative” than Pope Francis and will be here long after he is gone. The majority of men who are of the same mindset as the pope don’t become priests because they don’t practice the Faith. Many people who practice the Faith are not of the same thinking as Pope Francis, and they are the ones having children, not the others. It is Pope Francis and his allies who, in a few short years, won’t have the numbers, as they have not been able to produce vocations. Traditional Catholic families will be producing vocations and outlast and outnumber people like you and people like the German bishops. How sweet it is.

      • What you are not accounting for is the people in the pews. At this time they are mostly old ( and generally conservative leaning). They are mostly not fans of Francis. It would appear younger, LIBERAL ( Francis-type) folk have no use for religion as a group and most are not attending church at all. Nor, of course, are they supporting the church financially. ( These are often the same folk who hate America too.) So, when the older faithful die, they will take their wallets with them. This will necessarily result in a shrinking church. Possibly with many Cardinals to standing around looking for people to order about or more Latin Masses to cancel, but they will be frustrated in that attempt. They will be the proverbial “empty gong”. Because the believers will either be mostly dead or will have voted with their feet and left the church. Interestingly, at the same time these aged liberals are taking power, what few new priests come into the church are now and likely will remain statistically leaning CONSERVATIVE. At least, they are in the US. Eventually the aged liberals will inevitably die, and with any luck and the blessing of the Holy Spirit, the church will be able to recapture its effectiveness and relevance with a new generation of believers. Side note: the recent injury of a 24 year old football player and the immediate prayers for his recovery which his serious injury elicited, was an interesting study in the reality that not everyone believes “God is dead” liberal tripe. Most REAL Catholics prefer to attend church , but that being said, one can pray anywhere.

    • But then there’s still the question internal to whatever is left (meaning intact!) of the Church today…a question apparently beyond the elementary competence of papal ghost writers…

      How to do real listening, not only post-tradition talking and “walking together”?
      How to be enlivened by the Holy Spirit, not eclipsing the Deposit of Faith?
      How to evangelize fully, not being assimilated generically into the world?
      How to at least govern, not redefining both governance and morality?
      How to develop deeply, not double-speaking into a bogus “paradigm shift”?
      How to respond creatively, faithfully and clearly to the dubia, not shelving Veritatis Splendor?
      How to do a synodal Church, not a cross-dressed churchy synodality?
      Cross culturally, as with the Chinese emperor who was asked how he would restore his kingdom: “I would restore the meaning of words!”…
      Not a tautological “synod on synodality”!

      • Not so. At least, I recall nothing, and a spot check of past postings also shows nothing.
        I think what you recall is something more like the following (from 5-02-22)—another use of contrasts, which I have reworded nine times (Lord have mercy!) in the past four years, to make a point or four…

        “We are told, for example, that ‘realities are more important than ideas.’ That statement can be interpreted variously…”We are also told that this statement is anointed as a “principle” (Evangelii Gaudium, 2013), and that there are three other like principles, all of which lend themselves to avoidable misunderstanding:
        “First, when is “realities are more important than ideas [concepts?]” at risk of NOMINALISM (exemptions from undenied moral norms)?
        Then, when is “time is greater than space” at risk of HISTORICISM (the “paradigm shift”)?
        Also, when is “unity prevails over conflict” at risk of CLERICALISM (the synodal triad of Marx, Bats-sing and Hollerich)?
        And, when is “the whole is greater than the part” at risk of GLOBALISM (e.g., the Fundamental Option, Proportionalism/Consequentialism)?

        “The difficult fit is how to leaven increasingly disrupted life on the street with revealed and undiluted truth? How to be equally steadfast in both mercy and dogmatic truth?”

    • all this may be true, but it wil not affect the salvation of those believe the words of Jeus recorded in the Gospels and the teaches of Church for 2000 years. God wills the salvation of all souls and provides the guidance of the Holy Spirit for those have the humility to listen. No can knowingly ignore Holy Scripture, the Church Father, the Councils, and the Teaching Magisterium of the Church will not be saved unless they repent.

  3. Dear Steven:

    “EWTN’s ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ video is penetrating yet, somewhat confusing.

    It solidifies the importance of Jesus Christ and His work and word. When we have Jesus the rest is iinconsequential. To be of use to our fellow man is to have reliance and assurance in Jesus. The film underscored this precept

    Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

    Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

    Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

    Matthew 7:8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

    Thank you for this reference and your devotion to understanding and praising God.

    Yours in Christ,

    Brian

  4. As intensified the drawing of final authority to himself, as diluted will become the legitimate Apostolic authority of bishops in Rome. Presumably this is the model for dioceses throughout the world.
    “Pope Francis has made it clear that he is in charge of everything” (Altieri). Papal vicar for the diocese of Rome De Donatis knows this. What he will also know is that this strategy signals the dissipation of unity within a Christ instituted
    ecclesial schemata beginning with shared Apostolic authority. A universal Church crumbling into disunity no longer a Church [moreso than Protestant denominations], rather disparate churches each diocese a synodal listening body creating its own rules [already in effect when the CDF prefect with Francis’ impetus determined that diocesan bishops be permitted to formulate their own policy on communion for pro abortion politicians] each diocese its own magisterium. A design engineered to effectively render the word Catholic, or universal irrelevant.

    • Francis said early on he envisioned a converse pyramid ⛛ Church, authority welling upward from the body, which theoretically is Synodality, the plebeian, Spirit guided adjustment of revelation to existential [concrete] realities. Rather than top down irreducible precepts which do not address the reality on the ground.
      St Thomas Aquinas offers the resolution to Francis’ moral dilemma with a radical approach [misunderstood by ethicists to this day] of morality down to earth grounded in deliberation of the conditions of the act to be done, a first principle. Not a casuistic downward application of a universal moral principle to on the ground particulars.
      St Gregory Nazianzen [390 AD] supplements this with Synderesis [recognized by Aquinas in the Summa], the consequent ‘upward’ assessment of the singular principle, the act to be done with the correct universal. Although it is the apprehension of the singular principle, the act to be done that determines the good of the act. Apprehension by the intellect facilitated by the Natural Law Within.

      • And this correct understanding of moral judgment is realized in the exclusive faith principle that revelation is no longer in prophecy from below rather from above, in its fullness, in the Person of Christ, and that his authority is delegated vicariously not absolutely.

  5. … but does not ever say what synodality is or what the “synodal style” of governance for which he calls in the document should be.

    See entry for dictatorship.

    • From someone looking on from the outside, this seems like a pretty normal exercise of executive power. As I understand it, he has the right to do this in Rome; it’s just that it might not be exercised quite so directly most of the time.

      It might not be the best of ideas to have even more meetings and reporting structures, since Pope Francis is getting on, but perhaps he got tired of all the rumours about his imminent retirement and decided to make a point that, yes, he’s still here and not going anywhere right now, despite what some might prefer?

      • “… and decided to make a point that, yes, he’s still here and not going anywhere right now…”

        Sounds like mature, responsible leadership, without doubt.

      • Perhaps? If people start obsessing over who comes next and he ends up a “lame-duck pope” (to borrow a term from the USA) it could prevent him from further enacting his supposedly liberal agenda.

        There are likely other ways to do it, but every leader has their own management style. Perhaps he’s also concerned that the existing setup led to poor outcomes in some cases.

          • Todd Flowerday ….

            You mean to accept that we are not in a rabbit hole. Apparently you would be saying as well, that the dubia and other questions are closed and have no point or further merit.

            Below, January 11, 2023 at 6:26 am, you outline certain areas of “progress” and could be implying they are all that matter, qui vivra verra, after all.

          • “You mean to accept that we are not in a rabbit hole.”

            Some of us are.

            “Apparently you would be saying as well, that the dubia and other questions are closed and have no point or further merit.”

            I think a lot of commentators have addressed the dubia material and have dismissed them. I suspect the cardinals and their supporters would have preferred PF engage them directly. Well, suppose I write to one of the dubia cardinals. Would they be dodging me if they declined to address my criticisms? IS that how it works?

            I think PF let others do his dismantling. I’m good with that. I have my own critique of the dubia; should you and I discuss that?

          • Discuss inside the rabbit holes or outside? To do what more assemblaging-dismantling-non-dismantling type thingys? You answered the dubia to your method but you expect others to dodge you for it?

          • Not sure what you mean here, Elias. Much is up for discussion, and I for one welcome it. Bring it on.

            One example: the Orthodox handle divorce and second marriages differently from Rome and permit Communion. We hold all Orthodox sacraments as valid. If a door is open for certain situations discerned with a bishop or pastor, why not permit a person abandoned in a first marriage to remarry without that artificial stigma of adultery? (Which really does not apply.) To my awareness Cdl Burke has not offered a more detailed commentary or refutation on other ways of handling this. It’s almost as if he’s bought wholesale into the concept of no-fault divorce through a subsidiary: all-fault divorce.

            In sum, I think the dubia presented by these cardinals don’t hold up. But if Carl wants me to present my points, he can ask me to write an article or 5.

  6. Anna N Amoz, calumny goes all the way to mortal sin. It’s not alleviated by boasting and irony, it is made worse. A relish for such things is indicating a set purpose -guilt; but also an underlying cynicism that again comes into sin.

  7. It seems like some little progress has been made under nearly a decade of Pope Francis. We don’t have criminals like Maciel raising money hand over foot for JP2. Not to mention a quarter century of bishops vetted for comments on women’s ordination, but somehow the Congregation of Bishops tripped up on sex with women and children. And B16, who seemed to figure Ted McC’s retirement settled the issue. It’s not a surprise ex-Cdl O’Brien was such a blow. Doctrinal orthodoxy, check. But a big Matthew 21:28-32 miss.

    Pope Francis is far from perfect, and he has his own blind spots with personnel, not unlike his two predecessors. At least he’s moving a few things on fronts that matter to most of the rest of the Church. And in cases of extreme ex-clergy like Frank Pavone and Ted McC, they are repositioned where they belong.

    Conservative and not-too-conservative popes, meh. Who cares? And cardinals, likewise. Just do your job with the Congregation of Bishops and limit the cult of celebrity in the priesthood and we’ll all be on better footing. If synodality moves us in that direction, I can’t see why we’re not all in favor.

    • Of the varied imperfections of JP II, B16 and now Francis I, you summarize, “If synodality moves us in that direction [away from the cult of celebrity], I can’t see why we’re not all in favor.” Also thinking of their similarities, all three were/are deeply and well-influenced by Luigi Giussani, founder of “Communion and Liberation.”

      Would like to hear your thoughts on whether synodality–and its liberating focus on “encounter” and true “companionship” (aka now “fraternity”, and “walking together”?)–is sabotaged by a procedural disconnect between past and present? The difference between personal celebrity and the Church’s interwoven magisterium….About which, Giussani also said this:

      “A writer of the Samizdat, that is, of underground Soviet literature, says ‘We well know the falseness of all revolutions lies in the fact that they are strong and concrete in condemning and destroying, but are absolutely weak and abstract in building and creating’. They are, that is, impotent, impotent before the future, because they have burned all their bridges with the past [the magisterium?] and in doing so refuse to see the past as the cohesive tissue [a doctrinally acquired immune system?] of that very present that they hold so dear. Because even as the human person is one, so too history is one, and the force of the present undertaking lies in all that has preceded it” (Giussani, “The Religious Sense,” Ignatius, 1990).

      So, largely agreeing with you about celebrity, but also lamenting the burned bridges; and suggesting, therefore, that the dubia was not “irrelevant” (as you propose, further above).

      • “Would like to hear your thoughts on whether synodality is sabotaged by a procedural disconnect between past and present?”

        Good question. I think conservative and trad-leaning Catholics are bothered by the shift in culture. It might make some less willing to engage in the synod process. In that sense the sabotage is from below.

        That being said, Rome is but one of a few thousand dioceses. Other dioceses will find fruit or they will struggle depending on the local leadership. If the political desire to see PF fail stretches into some dioceses and especially their bishops, then certain voices will be lost. Other dioceses will forge ahead. Some places and individuals will choose to stay behind.

        My own sense is that the moment for synodality was just after Evangelii Nuntiandi. JP2 had the right spirit, but he and his advisors lacked the methodology or the will to find something new. B16 inherited a Church that had wandered a bit off the optimal path. The 1978-2013 era expended a lot of energy on political things, the so-called dictatorship of relativism, the role of women, the smaller purer church, and ultimately, mismanagement by most bishops (it seems).

        Fifty years on, we’ve lost a lot of the post-conciliar energy. And to be sure, the issues of managing sex predators, uppity women, fluid commitments to reason–these are all important. But mission has to be number one. It wasn’t. The prior two popes didn’t see it, and all the WYD feel-good events didn’t really address the challenge.

        So I have hope with synodality. Critics look like they’ve channeled Luke 15:28-32. That’s not a winning formula.

        • Todd, thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I agree especially on Pope Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi. My response here comes in three parts:

          FIRST, as for evangelization, let’s give credit for St. John Paul II for his follow-up and personal evangelization in 129 countries…

          And for his encyclicals. (Even Pope Francis’ Laudato si is an extended footnote to part of Centesimus Annus, 1991, nn. 36-39). Not to mention St. John Paul II’s key role in dismantling the Soviet Empire—no “provisional agreement” there, although the circumstances were riper.

          SECOND, as for the sabotage of synodality–coming from “the bottom” as you say…

          But not only, since we have timely signaling—exploitable photo-ops with poster-child Fr. James Martin, and the tutelage of synodal kingpin Cardinal Hollerich whose endgame is to upend (so to speak!) the Catechism on matters of sexual morality. So—from above—several drops of cyanide into the synodal punch bowl, as we are groomed into a pastorally social-scientific and plebiscite (c)hurch.

          THIRD, back to my original point, that burning bridges–and confusion of what it means to be “ahead” or “behind”–is actually a betrayal of the future…

          Agreed, no one is accountable to respond to you (or me) regarding the dubia. However, the living Church (still breathing?) is accountable to itself in the Deposit of Faith, and the Magisterium of which Veritatis Splendor (VC) is explicitly an integral part—and central to the dubia:

          “This is the first time, in fact, that the Magisterium of the Church has set forth in detail the fundamental elements of this [‘moral’] teaching and presented the principles [e.g., moral absolutes] for the pastoral discernment necessary in practical and cultural situations which are complex and even crucial” (VS, n. 115). AND “The Church is no way [!] the author or the arbiter of this [‘moral’] norm” (VS, n. 95).

          How soon we forget, or choose not to remember while “walking together.”

          • Likewise on yours, Peter.

            Yes, I think JP2’s efforts in dozens of countries were a fine example. But it never moved beyond the pope to the bishops and the laity, not in any large-scale effort. His writings, yes, certainly, and I’ve studied some of those in detail on my own site.

            I think the struggle was to move past the celebrity aspect of his papacy. He was undeniably a charismatic figure, larger than life. In some ways, that was a hindrance.

            I think Fr Martin’s detractors miss his purpose. He wants to gather/attract/drag people into the Church. Another commentator I read some years ago asked where a person steeped in modern culture is likely to have a come-to-Jesus moment: in nightclubs, bars, arenas, and parades? Or in church? I don’t find Fr Martin nearly as bothersome as some of the people at CWR do.

            Some might say Veritatis Splendor is a part of the deposit. If, in its implementation, it damages the qualities of accompaniment and mercy, perhaps the people using it as a tool have blundered. VS is a reference work. Valuable, yes. But elements of it are particular to its time, and perhaps today a different implementation is needed.

          • Todd: My Gawd, I think what we have here at CWR is a civil exchange of possibly different ideas about reality. Wonderful! Now, to continue:

            Is it really accurate to assert that “elements of [Veritatis Splendor, VS] are particular to its time…”? The counterpoint would be that this predisposition lends itself to historicism, that affirmations of permanent things are themselves only time-bound and culture-bound.

            What about the affirmation in Veritatis Splendor that this mindset is a deception, coming in the form of a schizophrenic (my word) nod to doctrinal truths, surely, but then combined with contradictory “pastoral” approaches? Here are two relevant citations from the Magisterium, and then a related link:

            FIRST, “Each of us knows how important is the teaching which represents the central theme of this encyclical and which today is being restated with the authority of the Successor of Peter. Each of us can see the seriousness of what is involved, not only for individuals but also for the whole of society, with the REAFFIRMATION OF THE UNIVERSALITY AND IMMUTABILITY OF THE MORAL COMMANDMENTS [italics], particularly those which prohibit always and without exception INTRINSICALLY EVIL ACTS [italics]” (VS, n. 115).

            SECOND, “A SEPARATION [caps added] or even an opposition, is thus established in some cases between the teaching of the precept, which is valid and general, and the norm of the individual conscience, which would in fact make the final decision [no longer a ‘moral judgment’!] about what is good and what is evil. On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called ‘pastoral’ solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a ‘creative’ hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept [thou shalt not!]” (VS, n. 56).

            THIRD, now, in the promised link, I propose, or ask, or possibly only imagine that even the Nicene Creed itself might be cross-dressed as only a creature of the moment, that such revealed and articulated dogmatic messages of Ultimate Reality are themselves essentially time-bound, and also can now be obsolesced by “a different implementation” under plebiscite synodality–that now “the process is (!) the message”: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/category/the-dispatch/

            What are we to think about what C.S. Lewis labeled as “chronological snobbery,” even in a red hat? Are we to steadfastly walk the talk, or only talk the walk?

          • I suppose my aversion to the “adultery” charge on divorce and remarriage (it was the 4th dubium, I think, and strikes me as dismissive or even ignorant of CCC 2380) is based partly on witnessing the experience of people who have made errors in marriage, especially outside of the Catholic Church. Each of my parents was an example. In my mother’s case more directly, it blocked her from ever becoming Catholic, despite a long association with the parish where my siblings and I were baptized. She admitted to me decades later in her 80s she was married, very briefly, to a man before my dad.

            To be sure, marrying to escape rural poverty at the end of the Great Depression is a poverty itself, even for a Baptist. But what would the dubia cardinal have us do years later when my parents were engaged in a marriage that lasted fifty years? Before I was born, my parents wanted to adopt a Catholic girl whom they fostered. It was denied, despite promises of church attendance and Catholic school enrollment. Decades later, a conversation between my “foster sister,” in her 40s, and me in my 20s, remarking how the Catholic girl ended as a fundamentalist Protestant, and the son of Protestant parents landed as a Roman Catholic. And wouldn’t the Catholic Charities priest be scratching his head over how that happened. I suspect the former bishop of LaCrosse too.

            A subjective story, I know. But it illustrates the problem with theologians and canon lawyers having the last word in every situation. Under JP2, there was little enough trust (and perhaps training too) for clergy to work with couples to make thoughtful, prayerful discernments on situations that those cardinals (cruelly, I think) label as “adultery.” Looking at the Gospels, we are not yet advocating the removal of hands, or eyes, or other organs to comply with the Lord’s particular preaching aimed at particular people in a certain time and place.

            I think people can discover personal regret, fault to the point of serious sin, and, with a spiritual guide, move forward in the good graces of the sacramental life. Now, to be clear, I don’t need to advocate for that for myself, or for any particular person. My parents are dead now. I’d also dismiss the method of the priest who had his couples for RCIA fill out the form for a declaration of nullity, file it in his desk, and bring it out six months later, telling his charges they were good to go for Easter.

            Bottom line: I have no problem with Pope Francis leaving things rather open to a local interpretation. But y’all knew that before I typed it.

  8. May I ask, why did you read the rather lengthy post, and then take the time to respond to it? Perhaps it would be better if you did just what you suggest we all do.

  9. Todd Flowerday, responding to your post January 12, 2023 at 1:08 pm, above, to mine; but using this new space.

    Yes I could see you are prompting discussion. Pope Francis calls it dialogue and walking and he stresses on a need for invitings and promptings.

    Your comments have distracting clutter in them, for eg., what the Orthodox do is unquestionable, or, nullity is for the removal of the stigma of adultery.

    Or, as if Amoris “opinion” trumps dubia “opinion”, that it happened already and it’s time to move on because it’s worthily settled; and those who feel settled with it have respectable positions that is automatic and must get respect.

    What you say about Cardinal Burke is truly confused and I think quite wrong.

    The dubia contain and are rooted in foundational and perennial Church teachings that can never be removed and that are -as well- part of the pastoral care in the different dimensions of the Church:

    a) they have a universal instructional and discernment authenticity/authority
    b) they are not dissolved or made impotent or irrelevant, by “exceptional situations” and
    c) “exceptional situations” do not escape them because “exceptions are in process/at work”.

    There is another aspect to this. Amoris would (seem to) be assuming that the people it envisages who need exceptional care, can be spared these teachings for the time being, for compassion and mercy’s sake.

    First, Amoris does not admit when and how the teachings provide the explanation and insights where the people got into trouble in the first place; or, why and how the teachings are their salvation.

    Second, to start with, Amoris remains ambiguous about the essential teachings, deferring instead to spending a lot of time reviewing the supposed human -humanistic- nature of familial love. There appears to be an idea that this human -humanistic- love was sacramental from Adam/Genesis.

    Third, the silence of Pope Francis is fueling the ambiguities.

    Fourth, Pope Francis has specifically endorsed the Argentinian and Maltese on each of their “practices” but without reconciling the dichotomies just described or those falling between their separate practices.

    Overall, what I outline works and holds true both inside and outside the rabbit holes, if that metaphor has any real bearing.

    • Thank you, Elias.

      “Your comments have distracting clutter in them, for eg., what the Orthodox do is unquestionable, or, nullity is for the removal of the stigma of adultery.”

      Obviously, I disagree. I’m pointing out in this instance that VS doesn’t describe the only valid sacramental system. Adultery, as a mortal sin, requires the intent of the person committing it. It doesn’t seem applicable in all cases of divorce.

      “The dubia contain and are rooted in foundational and perennial Church teachings that can never be removed …”

      I didn’t address teaching as much as promote a more careful and discerning pastoral practice.

      “Amoris does not admit when and how the teachings provide the explanation and insights where the people got into trouble in the first place …”

      Did it have to do so? It doesn’t mention Real Presence either. But one would be hard pressed to make a case that PF denies this. People get into trouble for all sorts of reasons. They are baptized, possibly not in a Catholic Church, but never catechized. The spouse was abusive. There was drug use. The marriage was forced by an outside party. There was a medical condition before or during the marriage. I would stress a carefully formed pastor is better placed than a cardinal or even a pope who is long removed from pastoral ministry.

      ” … the silence of Pope Francis is fueling the ambiguities.”

      He didn’t address the cardinals personally. Mmm. Nor in public. Frustrating, but it doesn’t change what anybody wrote. More accurate to say he didn’t offer public dialogue with the cardinals, only one of whom was currently serving as a pastor, and Meisner was already retired. It seems PF is more interested in dialogue with pastors who have real problems, not theoretical ones.

      We know every pope has detractors, and it seems all of those popes were selective in the persons with whom they dialogued.

          • When you are at odds with the truth you are apt to miss and/or spoil the entirety of everything in faith and outside of faith.

            This applies whether or not you do it in the name of your parents and/or of rabbit holes. You get sacrament, tradition and life, wrong.

            Even should you not listen. Terrible.

            You have appropriated all the new technique: this split from that and everything stays in process with things said now not said earlier.

          • “… you are apt to miss and/or spoil the entirety of everything in faith and outside of faith.”

            You are describing the human condition. People who wrap themselves in the mantle of truth and orthodoxy are as likely to give the faith a bad reputation.

            Otherwise, you are missing the point.

  10. Indeed, indeed, how sweet it is! But not for the reason you folks are thinking/hoping. Our Lord promised that the very gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. It will prevail!

    During the time the Church was considering the issue of the Immaculate Conception, a large group of theologians (many, Dominicans) were completely against, after all, for example (and as many Protestants have said for centuries), why would she call God her Savior, he she were sinless. Well, as a Franciscan theologian explained, there are two ways to save a person from a pit: (1) prevent the person from falling into the pit, (2) or take the person out of the pit after falling into it. In the case of our Mother, God prevented her from falling into sin; that is how He saved her.

    It is purely my speculation, but I believe, that with Mary as the model of the Church, and the personification of the Church, Christ will do the same for His Church, as God did for His mother: prevent her from falling into the pit.

    To many, it may seem as if the Church is in the pit already, or at least has a foot in it. I reply to such with a reminder of the three Hebrew teenagers in the book of Daniel: they were thrown into the fiery pit, but came out without so much as the smell of smoke on them.

    Thus, with so much turmoil in the Church – including a pope who seems embarrassed to be Catholic, and seemingly bent (hell bent, you could say) on over turning two millennia of Church teaching – people are fearful about the future of the Church. As Christ said many times, as Pope St John Paul the Great said at the beginning of his pontificate: Fear not! Christ still reigns, Christ still loves His Church, Christ still protects His Church.

    And if the wounds the Bride is suffering cause you to worry, worry not! Rarely are the times the winner of a combat sport won unscathed. Rarely has the winner of a winning team won without some members being injured – some even carted off. Christ promised that His Church would prevail, but he did not promise that His Church would prevail uninjured.

    So, what are we to do? Be Catholic! Happily and joyfully! If I may borrow from St Paul: Rejoice! I say, again, Rejoice. If I may borrow from St Peter, our first pope: Rejoice, for what is happening is nothing new! It is just a refining our faith. Therefore, rejoice and be glad. If I may borrow one last time, and this time from Habbakkuk, (and re-word for our situation): even if there be nobody in the pews, even if there be nobody in seminary, even the would I believe, even then would I rejoice!

    Our Lord still reigns! Our Lord still loves and guides His Church! Be joyful!

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