Wednesday, September 10, 2014


The makeup of Synod of Bishops on the family is disappointing

a disappointment to those hoping for reform of the Curia and for those who hope that the laity will be heard at the synod.
The appointment of 25 curial officials to the synod on the family is a sign that Pope Francis still does not understand what real reform of the Roman Curia requires. It makes me fear that when all is said and done, he may close or merge some offices, rearrange some responsibilities, but not really shake things up.
According to current law, moto proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo, an extraordinary synod is made up of major episcopal leaders of the Eastern Catholic churches, presidents of episcopal conferences, and three religious chosen by the Union of Superiors General. It also states, "The cardinals who head offices of the Roman Curia will also attend." The pope may also appoint additional bishops and clerical and lay observers.
Having curial officials as members of a synod fails to recognize that they should be staff, not policymakers. They could attend the synod as staff but should not be voting members. For the most part, they should be observers and not speakers. They have all the other weeks of the year to advise the pope. This is the time for bishops from outside of Rome to make their views known.
If Francis and the Council of Cardinals is not willing to change the makeup of the Synod of Bishops, it is hard to believe they will really fix the Roman Curia.
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The American prelates at the synod will be Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Cardinals Timothy Dolan, Donald Wuerl, and Raymond Burke. Kurtz is attending because he is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dolan and Wuerl will attend as members of the council of the ordinary synod. And Burke attends because he is prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
Besides the bishops who are members of the synod, there are collaborators (experts) and auditors (observers). Half the experts are clerics, which seems strange at a synod on the family. None of the 16 experts is from the United States; 10 are from Europe (including five from Italy), three from Asia, and one each from Mexico, Lebanon and Australia.
There are more laypeople among the 38 auditors, including 14 married couples, of whom two are from the United States. Many of the observers are employees of the Catholic church or heads of Catholic organizations, including natural family planning organizations.
For example, one couple from the United States is Jeffrey Heinzen, director of natural family planning in the diocese of La Crosse, Wis., and Alice Heinzen, member of the Natural Family Planning Advisory Board of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The other U.S. couple is Steve and Claudia Schultz, members of the International Catholic Engaged Encounter.
We will have to wait and see whether the auditors will represent to the bishops the views of lay Catholics, but it is hard to argue that they are representative of Catholics at large. Certainly any who think natural family planning is the church's great gift to the laity will not. And those who are church employees could fear losing their jobs if they spoke the truth.
At the 1980 synod on the family, the lay participants were remarkable for how totally out of touch they were with the views of average Catholics. I fear this is a rerun. 
Most of the collaborators and auditors were chosen on the recommendation of episcopal conferences, and this is the fundamental contradiction of Francis' papacy. He wants to change things, but he also wants to defer to local bishops on many things.
There is also some irony here. In the decades following the Second Vatican Council, Catholic progressives constantly called for decentralization in the church. Now that they like what the pope is doing, they want him to do things by executive order. Meanwhile, conservatives are beginning to see the advantages of subsidiarity in the church. God does have a sense of humor.


JusadBellum said...

Out of touch.

With whom? Christ or whatever passes for the quorum of 'elite' opinion makers in this secular world of ours?

Cause see, I'm Catholic only because I believe that the community that matters is the communion of saints, NOT self-proclaimed 'experts' or 'elites' from the coasts.

I don't give a damn what so-called "secular elites" have to think. Or for what any majority of low information people "think" when they're not emoting.

And neither did Jesus. He didn't think being followed by crowds was more important than the Father's will. He didn't seek population for the sake of being cool, "with the times", or "relevant".

If you don't accept Jesus' Gospel and the Deposit of faith, you're free to go away. But I sure as hell am not going to water down the faith revealed by God's Son to attract folk who can't be bothered with reality.

Reality is this: we're all mortal and popularity won't save us. We're all in a titanic war between Heaven and Hell, and being 'relevant' to the spirit of the age is no guarantee, no safe refuge from the hostilities.

The secular world has been wrong about pretty much everything in life that matter so why invest them with such moral authority? The secular world is the structure of sin -so why care what it has to say?

But wait, is it not curious that the writer of NCR neglects to ask how many representatives of Africa, Asia, and persecuted churches will be present? Isn't it interesting that they assumption is that the least faithful people ought to be courted for direction?

People who are both a) intellectually adrift and b) morally corrupt are neither 'elite' nor "leaders" we need to follow. Unless you are full of the evident signs of the Holy Spirit (which curiously don't include being secular, popular, and comfortable with sins they cry to heaven for vengeance) why ought any believer care?

Anonymous said...

What happens at the Synod and those who compose its membership is significant. However, what really counts will be the exhortation of the Holy Father which follows the Synod. So far, the pope has shown his sympathies to lie with the iconoclasts like Cardinal Kasper. If he caves in with his exhortation, the papal charism of doctrinal infallibility will be greatly called into question.

Roman de Ventri said...

If infallibility can become "greatly called into question" then, why not now?

Either the charism is given to the Supreme Pontiff, or it is not.

If the Supreme Pontiff has it now, he will have it before, during, and after the post-synodal exhortation, will he not?

The gift of infallibility has been given to the Vicar of Christ. This is undeniable and defined.

newguy40 said...

Roman raises a good point about calling in to question the Holy Father's infallability. Why now?

If "remarried" are allowed in to take holy communion (in a state of sin), it calls in to question Jesus preaching on marriage. Which has been defended by the Church more or less forever. If the "Church" has been wrong on that point, how and where else has she been wrong? The Real Presence?, homosex? married priests? Perpetual virginity of the Holy Mother?

What shall we then say about the sacrifices of St Fisher and St More?

Gene said...

Synods such as this only serve to cause anxiety in devout Catholics who are paying attention. That, in itself, means that such synods are near occasions for sin for many of us. Personally, I do not believe there is a bottom to the abyss over which the Church is treading …or, if there is a bottom, it is made of wet copies of CCC. But, hey, we have stalwarts like Dolan out there…thank your lucky stars you've got representation. LOL!

George said...

Recent Proposals for the Pastoral Care of the Divorced
and Remarried: A Theological Assessment

JusadBellum said...

If the synod proposes to quintuple the number of staff per diocese to handle annulment cases AND the number of trained staff to help parishes in Pre-Cana, and begin explaining the theology and best practices of Christian marriage as young as confirmation courses.... with the aim to improve peoples' understanding of the Church's teaching and reasoning... then it's all good.

When vast numbers of low information people have wildly erroneous views of what the Church teaches and why, the answer is not to water down those teaching but to further elaborate them, better teach them.

When vast numbers of Catholics who are divorced and separated but not remarried think this means they can't go to communion...we've got a basic 101 problem of simple catechism.

But we know western society is hostile to Christianity and the Christian moral framework. We know kids as young as 8 years old are exposed to a secular view of sex and relationships in movies, sitcoms, literature, etc.... so their entire milieu prepares them to be good little hedons not good Christians.

Given all this, why not spend much more on Youth programs and teen programs for the 50% who don't go to Catholic school...and insist that ALL teachers in Catholic school are not only Catholic in name but in weekly practice of the faith so we can recreate our own cultural milieu in which to raise confident Catholics?

If that happened the problems of the present would wither and diminish and we'd actually begin to be salt, light, and leaven on the greater society once more.

D. Harold said...

Firstly, you say thay the Holy Father celebrated the Ordinary Form of the Holy Mass in an 'unusal way'. Not true. The Altar was 'fixed' and could not be changed facing the Congregation. That's all. The question of Papal Infalliblity does Not enter into the forthcoming Synod. Vatican I therefore carefully enumerated the conditions under which the Pope was in fact infallible -- the same conditions which logic demands, which Scripture suggests, and which tradition shows us in action down through the centuries.

When the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error. His teaching act is therefore called "infallible" and the teaching which he articulates is termed "irreformable". The Holy Father relies and appointed Cardinal Kasper to give the lecture to thwe cardinals on the Family and the readmission of people to Holy Communion. Obviously, since Cardinal Kasper was the Only one invited specially by Pope Francis , Pope Franmcis seemingly favors his stance on the matter. The Church in adopting the posiiton of Cardinal Kasper will not be changing anything at all. Just re-interpretating doctrine in the light of modern comptemporary thought and culture. That's all. The essential truths of the Church can never change but can and must be re-interpreted. Have confidence in Pope Francis and His recent Homily about NOT putting new wine into old wine skins !

Gene said...

Well, now, D. Harold…just what do you call re-interpreting (or "reinterpretating" as you wrote)? Would you say that Rudolph Bultmann, for instance, was merely reinterpreting Scripture in light of modern contemporary thought and culture? How about Hans Kung…merely reinterpreting? Schillebeeks had some really thoughtful "reinterpretation," and how about good old Teilhard and his Cosmic Christ. And, how about so-called "existential theology" and its "reinterpretation" of the Resurrection as merely an internal self-renewal of the individual based upon a "Word" encounter with Jesus of Nazareth? Then, there are the "reinterpretations" of several modern paraphrases of the Bible…you know, the ones that change "a Virgin shall conceive" into "a young girl will conceive." Just where do you draw the line between reinterpretation and rewriting? You are on dangerous ground.

D. Harold said...

Well my dear friend remember that Our Good Pope Francis recently said in a Magisterial Homily that you cannot put new wine into old wine skins ! The Church has always reinterpreted dogma in the light of modern contemporary thought. For example the doctrine that outside the Church there is mo salvation. The Boston Fr Fenney misunderstanding ! Dogma has been reinterpreted by great minds in the Church like Rahner and Congar
So there is nothing new in this. Theological Praxis much more important than a purely literal approach. That is something the declared excommumicated sspx cannot seem to either grasp or understand but rather go back or lapse into a mere external medievial cystalisatiom of an out dated for of now obsolete catholicism.

D. Harold said...

Jesuits Avery Cardinal Dulles and Francis Sullivan and Joseph Ratzinger have commented on a necessary reinterpretation / change to a longstanding dogma.

Regarding reinterpretation of inadequate dogma – a prominent Catholic theologian – suggests that it may be entirely necessary to discard the human concepts as well as the words of ancient dogma – essentially discarding the original meaning – in favor of reframing it - within our present point of view - to bring out its intended meaning.

As an example - Jesuit theologians Avery Cardinal Dulles and Francis Sullivan - attribute reinterpretation of the long standing, exclusivist doctrine “No Salvation Outside the Church” to cultural conditioning, historical and cultural factors, mental and social structures, limited horizons and medieval mentality – stating:

“…to bring out the deeper and divinely intended meaning, which alone is inseparable from faith, it may be necessary to discard the human concepts as well as the words of those who first framed the dogma.” Dulles

“…traditional statements of the faith are conditioned by a cultural situation no longer our own, they must be reinterpreted.” Dulles

“The limited horizons of the medieval Christian mentality, on the one hand, and the expansion of those horizons that began with the discovery of the new world just five hundred years ago, are elements of the ‘historical conditioning’ which the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has told us we must take into account in interpreting church teaching…” Sullivan

D. Harold said...

Formally, as of the 1949 Holy See letter regarding Leonard Feeney, the “exclusivist” interpretation (i.e. doctrine) is no longer binding, no longer to be understood in its literal sense - and in fact - condemned:

"Mystici Corporis also recognizes that there are persons who, while they may not be baptized, belong to the Catholic Church because they so desire (cf. DS 3921). It was for this reason that Pope Pius XII in 1949 had condemned an exclusive interpretation of the axiom "Extra ecclesiam nulla salus".9 9 Letter from the Holy See to the Archbishop of Boston (1949), in: DS 3866-73.

“The occasion of the letter [from the Holy See] was the controversy in Boston over the rigid interpretation which the Jesuit Leonard Feeney and his followers were putting forth as the authentic Catholic position on the question of salvation outside the Catholic Church. Feeney insisted that the pronouncements of the medieval church, such as those of Pope Boniface VIII and the Council of Florence, were still binding, and had to be understood in their literal sense.” [The Church We Believe In, Francis A. Sullivan, S.J., Published by Paulist Press, 1988]

D. Harold said...

Joseph Ratzinger (excerpted from What It Means to Be a Christian):

“Everything we believe about God, and everything we know about man, prevents us from accepting that beyond the limits of the Church there is no more salvation, that up to the time of Christ all men were subject to the fate of eternal damnation. We are no longer ready and able to think that our neighbor, who is a decent and respectable man and in many ways better than we are, should be eternally damned simply because he is not a Catholic. We are no longer ready, no longer willing, to think that eternal corruption should be inflicted on people in Asia, in Africa, or wherever it may be, merely on account of their not having "Catholic" marked in their passport.

Actually, a great deal of thought had been devoted in theology, both before and after Ignatius, to the question of how people, without even knowing it, in some way belonged to the Church and to Christ and could thus be saved nevertheless. And still today, a great deal of perspicacity is used in such reflections.

Yet if we are honest, we will have to admit that this is not our problem at all. The question we have to face is not that of whether other people can be saved and how. We are convinced that God is able to do this with or without our theories, with or without our perspicacity, and that we do not need to help him do it with our cogitations. The question that really troubles us is not in the least concerned with whether and how God manages to save others. [Excerpted from 'What It Means to Be a Christian – Three Sermons.'.

Gene said...

D. Harold, Jesus said you cannot put new wine in old wine skins. You did not address my question…but it does not matter because I think you have revealed your liberal/progressive leanings.

Gene said...

Karl Rahner is hardly anyone upon whom to model Catholic/Christian belief. His entire theology is predicated upon anthropology, the "existential" condition of man and his encounter with a "Word-Event" (Ebeling…a neo-prot)." Rahner does not view the resurrection of Christ as a historical event, but rather an internal event/encounter of man with some "mystery" that transforms his self-awareness. Christologically, he appears to be a modalist…although I know such terms mean nothing to our modern breed of liberal theologians. Being German, Rahner draws heavily upon Hegel and Kant (whom he misuses), and tends to obfuscate theological and doctrinal issues with a lot of dialectical gobbled-gook, pseudo-theological language. Rahner was all the rage when I was in grad school…the neo-prots love him. Half the problem with Vat II was Rahner's considerable influence.