When my father was my age, it took weeks or months for news of Vatican happenings to reach the faithful. After Vatican II, it may have been until the point of its implementation for many in the pews to see what had been unleashed by the Council. That is clearly not the case in 2023. With the invent of the internet and the citizen journalist, news from the Loggia reaches around the world in a few clicks of a mouse.
This background has affected the goings-on of the Synod on Synodality. The organizers of the gathering responded to the spotlight and global interest with the imposition of a gag order. As Lifesitenews.com reported, there are to be no recordings, nor filming and disseminating of the speeches of the Synod, both now, and even after the assembly has ended.
Why is the whole world not invited to bear witness to the companionship of the Synodal path? It has been a two-year collaboration to get us to this momentous occasion. Why now abandon communication as we reach the culmination of this journey together? If this moment is indeed the inspired movement of the Spirit, or even if Synod organizers believe it is, why place a bushel basket over the warm lamp of outreach? This occasion should be marked with trumpets and tambourines.
In this vacuum of information, Vatican watchers and the common faithful are left to their own devices to discern what the Synod portends for the future of the Church. What have we been able to glean by reading the tea leaves? In short: Nothing good. Reports from before the blackout indicate a worst-case scenario for those who oppose heterodoxy and heteropraxy.
Known advocate for the blessing of unions and proclivities of homosexuals, James Martin SJ, is leading break out discussion tables. Additionally, in an afront to the authoritative hierarchy of the Church, we know that women are leading some discussions in what is a meeting of bishops.
We know that there have been at least two mentions of polygamy during or surrounding the Synod. Why not? When one heretical domino, like the approval of sodomy, falls, they all come crashing down.
This Father Radcliffe was personally chosen by Pope Francis to give a three-day retreat to the attendees of the Synod. But his comments betray this Synod as the logical conclusion of a listening and accompanying church – all are welcome, no right, no wrong, no judgement. It is become a chimera – an unnatural freak of nature. Odd that polygamy would be brought up now, seemingly out of the blue. It certainly seems like if radical feminists, BLM, GLAAD, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the 2030 Agenda, and NAMBLA all had a baby in some blessed union, it would be this Synod.
Meanwhile, there are some heroic and holy bishops and cardinals objecting. We know that several dubia have been submitted. And, unlike previous attempts to question or correct this Pontiff, the questions have been answered.
That being said, dubia are questions asked of the Pope for the purpose of clarifying his comments so as to prevent the confusion of the faithful. Dubia questions are posed in a manner that allows for, or elicits, a yes or no answer. True to his reign, Francis did not do so. The responses, whether they came from Pope Francis or Cardinal Victor Manuel “Tucho” Fernandez, the new Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, were elongated and vague. The replies were confusing enough to cause the five dubia Cardinals to re-write their questions, comment that they were more confused than before, and specifically request yes or no answers to the newly formulated dubium.
What is interesting about this dubia is the identity of those asking the questions. Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller are no surprise. They were authors of the original dubia questions, sent in response to Amoris Laetitia, and to which no answers were given. Cardinal Zen’s involvement after Francis rebuked his requests for a meeting regarding the suppression of Catholicism in China, makes sense, but it is of note as a public display of his frustration.
Cardinals Duka and Íñiguez are new names. Their involvement indicates that concern for this path is spreading to more mainstream and less combative or stodgy, conservative members of the Cardinalate. To this writer, the most intriguing name on the list is Cardinal Sarah. Sarah has always been admirably loyal to Benedict XVI. At the same time, he has managed to be noticeably restrained and respectful of Francis’ office. That this highly respected man, the preeminent moralist of our time, has chosen this occasion to raise his voice is a development. It is as much a development as his public exclusion from the Synod meetings to begin with.
Bishops, as a point of necessity and habit, choose their words very carefully. “…Leading souls from the truth of Christ…” is as large a smack down as can be uttered by a successor to the Apostles. But he raises an excellent point: This Synodal process appears to all onlookers, Catholic and otherwise, to be more interested in growing the tent, finding artificial ways to approve of any behavior, than it is in the salvation of souls. Especially the souls of those whose behavior the Synod is contorting tradition to countenance.
In 1994 John Paul II wrote the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. He stated, “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” This document, and this exact statement, are pertinent to these times because it is directly contrary to the Synodal recommendation to ordain women to the diaconate or priesthood. Both are sacramental acts of ordination to Holy Orders reserved for men. See Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC1554, 1538,1577. But this instruction to the bishops of the Catholic Church is germane to this conversation for a secondary reason; it carries the weight of, and reminds us of the existence of, an ex cathedra declaration. These declarations, from the Chair of Peter, are rare and binding to all the Church’s faithful, and nothing like it will emanate from this Synod. There is no way that, at the closing of this effort, the Holy Father will be able to validly make such a bold and binding declaration as John Paul II about any topic being discussed right now. It can’t be done with the authority and language used as Saint John Paul II for the same reason that the gag order was imposed by the Synod Fathers. They know that there is no valid path for the Church to officially embrace the ordination of women, the blessing of same-sex marriage, or approval of Communion for divorced and remarried couples.
Though this is doubtless the design of the Synod, it can’t be done in an unambiguous manner held to be binding because, in Truth, it is contrary to the dogma held by the Church. It would be an abuse of Francis’ faculty and a scandal. Francis would risk being openly disobeyed and the weakening of his reign.
Instead, what will most likely happen is that the declarations of the Synod will be vague, and will only trickle out in the form of statements by Cardinal Fernandez, the German church, and other mouthpieces for Pope Francis. They will proudly declare that a bold wind has blown and that the church is now open to change in some cases. Change will be lauded as acceptance and evolution. Francis will be asked about the statements of his surrogates and he will embrace them for their charity and compassion. Time will pass, and Francis will receive questions from some obscure South American diocese requesting direction on Communion for couples in irregular relationships and/or about a blessing for a same sex union. Francis will offer some vague and limp-wristed instruction in a publication to the bishops, guiding them to use their pastoral judgment for the benefit of the couples in question. He will further admonish them to always err on the side of compassion.
And that will be all that is necessary. It will not use the language of an ex cathedra statement. It will be a simulacrum, a poor facsimile, built on sand, but it will be enough to give precedent to any heretical bishop looking for cover in the shadow of Francis.
At that point it will leave the issues for every bishop in every diocese to decide. Though it won’t be a declarative statement in an Apostolic Letter, it will wreak havoc among the Church as if it had been. Each diocese will have different standards and instructions to its priests. Confusion will reign supreme and every layman will have to discern for himself if his bishop and pastor are acting in good faith secure in the Barque of Peter.
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