Friday, October 31, 2014



For more than 30 years we have been lamenting the abysmal state of catechesis and spiritual/moral formation of our Catholics. And for 30 years all that has been done is to lament this fact and Cardinal Wurel does it once more:
One way to address the widespread confusion about the nature of marriage would be to properly catechize children and teenagers about the faith, the cardinal continued, beginning in Catholic schools. 

But in my most humble opinion the problem is much deeper than just light catechesis. It is a problem of faith or the loss of Catholic Faith to be exact.

What has contributed to this for the last 50 years? Change, change, change. The Church prior to Vatican II with all its warts was at least a rock and one knew exactly what the Church taught and there was little or no room for dissent.

After Vatican II even more warts came to be but now the Church wasn't a rock or any kind but a marshmallow! No one knew or knows what to believe any more and this has led to the ambivalence with have today and the fact that Catholics are more influenced by the secular culture and its ideologies than the Rock of Salvation, Jesus Christ and His Church!

Before we start with catechesis as important as it is, may I suggest a hierarchy of things that need to be addressed?

1. The Reform of the Mass to make it more like the EF Mass and more standard worldwide. Kneeling for Holy Communion and receiving on the tongue. This will emphasize the superiority of God to the individual and that God is to be adored!

2. Emphasize the four last things, death, judgment, heaven and hell! That should be the number one thing taught and everything falls thereafter! 

3. Make sure that all Catholic schools elementary through graduate school use proper catechetical materials, proper worship and teach reverence for God almighty and fear of displeasing God.

4. Continue what Pope Francis is emphasizing, popular devotions and the very real power of the very real Satan!


I copy this from "The Vatican Insider":
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Burke: “There is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a helm”


After his criticisms about the Synod being manipulated and censored, the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, is continuing to raise concerns – in an increasingly distressed tone – about the direction the Church is taking, criticising the Pope, whilst at the same time claiming he does not wish it seem like he is speaking out against he Pope.” His latest interview with Darío Menor Torres was published by Spanish religious news weekly Vida Nueva.

“Many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a helm, whatever the reason for this may be; now, it is more important than ever to examine our faith, have a healthy spiritual leader and give powerful witness to the faith.”

“I fully respect the Petrine ministry and I do not wish it to seem like I am speaking out against the Pope. I would like to be a master of the faith, with all my weaknesses, telling a truth that many currently perceive. They are feeling a bit sea sick because they feel the Church’s ship has lost its bearings. We need to set aside the reason for this disorientation because we have not lost our bearings. We have the enduring tradition of the Church, its teachings, the liturgy, its morality. The catechism remains the same.”

“The Pope rightly speaks of the need to go out to the peripheries,” the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura said. “The people have responded very warmly to this. But we cannot go to the peripheries empty-handed. We go with the Word of God, with the Sacraments, with the virtuous life of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying the Pope does this, but there is a risk of the encounter with culture being misinterpreted. Faith cannot adapt to culture but , must call to it to convert. We are a counter-cultural movement, not a popular one.”


Popes cannot change defined Church teachings, only clarify them or make doctrine what is already believed since the early Church. This is true of the moral law.

And Cardinal Wuerl has some encouraging words about the indissolubility of marriage as reported by EWTN HERE.

The Guardian out of GB has an interesting opinion piece by Andrew Brown. Press the title below to go to the link to read it. Personally, I doubt authentic Catholics would go into schism. We wait thinks out.  However, I do find Cardinal Pell's homily to traditionalists in Rome last week peculiar, very peculiar. Do you?

A Catholic church schism under Pope Francis isn’t out of the question

Thursday, October 30, 2014


This Mass which I saw over at Fr. Z's blog is amateur film taken of the Ordinary Form of the Mass on February 12, 1945 prior to Iwo Jima - 7000 killed, 20,000 wounded, probably included some of these men as Fr. Z writes.

Note that the ship is rocking and rolling and so is the priest and the parishioners. One could get sea sick simply watching this!

Please note the reverence of the men and their reverence in receiving our Lord in Holy Communion.
I am sure by now most of them are dead but maybe not all, keep the faithful departed in your prayers!

This Ordinary Form Mass in 1945 is rather awesome, completely reverent and in no way banal!


I must say that the enigma that Pope Francis is continues to baffle me. He is very traditional when it comes to devotions, angels, saints and the devil, especially the devil.

Yet His Holiness sends out conflicting or ambiguous messages about who should be receiving Holy Communion. Yes, all Catholics, in fact anyone whosoever, is invited into the door of the Church the Catholic Mass and other liturgies. Yet we don't invite everyone, whosoever, to receive our Lord in Holy Communion. We ask that Catholics, practicing Catholics, without any kind of impediment, to receive but only after being properly prepared (one hour fast, no mortal sin and if so, confession prior to Holy Communion or at least a "perfect contrition when confession isn't possible" and then Holy Communion and actual confession).

The Holy Father must make clear to us once again if Mortal Sin that is not forgiven or is institutionalized in a lifestyle alien to the Catholic moral law no longer prohibits a Catholic from receiving or any baptized Christian for that matter or anyone baptized or not who is seeking the Lord!

It would seem to me that any institutional change in Church teaching on the revealed moral law in Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law would be of the devil!

Here's Pope Francis' excellent homily this morning on the devil:

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis described Christian life as a continuous battle being waged against Satan, the world and the passions of the flesh. His comments came during his homily at Mass celebrated on Thursday morning at the Santa Marta residence. He stressed that the devil exists and we must fight against him with the armour of truth.

Pope Francis's reflections during his homily were taken from the words of St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians where the apostle urged Christians to put on the full armour of God in order to resist Satan’s temptations.  A Christian life, he said, has to be defended and it requires both strength and courage. It’s a continuous battle against the three main enemies of Christian life which are the devil, the world and the passions of the flesh.

“From whom do I have to defend myself? What must I do?  Pauls tells us to put on God’s full armour, meaning that God acts as a defence, helping us to resist Satan’s temptations.  Is this clear?  No spiritual life, no Christian life is possible without resisting temptations, without  putting on God’s armour which gives us strength and protects us.”

Saint Paul, continued the Pope, underlines that our battle is not against little things but against the principalities and the ruling forces, in other words against the devil and his followers.

“But in this generation, like so many others, people have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil. But the devil exists and we must fight against him.  Paul tells us this, it’s not me saying it! The Word of God is telling us this.  But we’re not all convinced of this.  And then Paul describes God’s armour and which are the different types that make up this great armour of God.  And he says: ‘So stand your ground,  with truth a belt around your waist.’  The truth is God’s armour.”

By contrast, said Pope Francis, the devil is a liar and the father of liars and in order to fight him we must have truth on our side.  He also underlined the importance of always having our faith in God, like a shield, when fighting this battle against the devil, who, he noted, doesn't throw flowers at us but instead burning arrows.

“Life is a military endeavour.  Christian life is a battle, a beautiful battle, because when God emerges victorious in every step of our life, this gives us joy, a great happiness: the joy that the Lord is the victor within us, with his free gift of salvation.  But we’re all a bit lazy, aren’t we, in this battle and we allow ourselves to get carried away by our passions, by various temptations. That’s because we’re sinners, all of us!  But don’t get discouraged.  Have courage and strength because the Lord is with us.”

My Final Comment: How many of you have heard your parish priest speak about the devil in this way? How many?!


Our choirs had their final rehearsal Wednesday night for Faure's Requiem on Sunday, November 2nd, at 12:10 PM at Saint Joseph Church, Macon, Georgia.

Our 12:10 PM Mass is "ad orientem" for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. However, it is an Ordinary Form Mass. We normally celebrate the EF Mass with this Requiem, but since it falls on a Sunday this year, we decided to celebrate it at one of our normal but extra-normal Ordinary Form Sunday Mass and what better Mass than the Ordinary Form celebrated ad orientem each Sunday!

We will incorporate, though, some EF elements into this Mass. It will be primarily in Latin, but with English for the Collects, Preface and readings. Vesture for Celebrant, deacon and subdeacon will be black!

However, we will substitute the EF's Gradual for the Responsorial Psalm, Gregorian chanted in Latin.
After the second reading (Epistle) the Dies Irae will be chanted in Latin as the Sequence. The Latin Tract will follow and act as the Gospel Acclamation. All the Propers will be chanted, the Introit and Kyrie from Faure's Requiem as well as the Offertory Chant and Communion Chant.

The Final Commendation will be as is in the Ordinary form (catafalque with six candles will be present at all our Sunday Masses). This means that after the Prayer after Holy Communion, prayed from the chair, the celebrant goes to the center of the sanctuary, faces the congregation and as the Introduction to the "Chant of Farewell." As the choir then sings Faure's "Libera Me" the catafalgue is sprinkled with Holy Water and incensed. Then there is the concluding prayer, Final Blessing and Dismissal with the "In Paradisum" sung from Faure's Requiem.  Both the Libera Me and In Paradisum are stunningly moving.

2012's EF Version of Faure's Requiem:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Cardinal George, outgoing Archbishop of Chicago gives a good interview in America which you can read HERE.

This is what he said about the inglorious English translation of the Mass in 1970 compared to the glorious new one we now use and are properly being formed in the Catholic Faith by it:

8. You were prominent in the work of  theInternational Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and the development of the new liturgical translations. Now that they have been in use for nearly two years, are you satisfied with the translations pastorally and theologically?

 It’s hard for me to give an unbiased judgment on the value of the new translations. First of all, the first full translation of the missal of Paul VI was ideologically charged. Since the liturgy, along with Sacred Scripture, is the primary carrier of the tradition that unites us to Christ, the loss of the theology of grace, the domestication of God, the paraphrasing that deliberately omitted nuances of understanding, the deliberate omission of biblical references in the liturgical text itself, etc. left the church for forty years without a way of worship that adequately expressed our faith. This was clear for those of us who used the Roman missal in Spanish during those years; their translation was far more adequate.

The bishops had the obligation to see that the translation into English of the third edition of the Roman Missal was faithful and also able to be used communally. I believe it has been well done. Some of the expressions in the Prefaces are a bit “clunky,” but the collects are truly beautiful if a priest takes the time to interiorize the structure of  dependent clauses and use his voice so that the prayer is comprehensible to the faithful. Normally, people paid little attention to the collect; they couldn’t tell you what the priest said as soon as they sat down. Hopefully, a more deliberate style of declamation with a more adequate text will help draw people into a climate of worship and prepare them to hear the Word of God in Scripture.

The canons are very well done, even the most difficult, Canon One, because it is a compilation from various sources. Criticism of the scientific inaccuracy of the word “dewfall” in Canon II is a bit absurd coming from those who easily accept and speak of “sunset.” Some of the criticisms have an extrinsic rationale. The bishops’ choice of experts meant that many who had been more involved in the work of ICEL previously were no longer engaged. The loss of a work to which one had given oneself is always hurtful. Some others just opposed any exercise of episcopal authority; in principle, the bishops were just supposed to rubber-stamp what the “experts” were doing. Some, surprisingly, objected to the re-introduction of the biblical metaphors and allusions, while others underestimated, I believe, the native intelligence of the average English-speaking worshiper. There were a few more justified criticisms of the process, which was open in places to accusations of last-minute manipulation. I have to say that I enjoyed going back and working through Latin texts, something I hadn’t done since minor seminary.


There is something unusual going on within the last two weeks. Pope Benedict seems to be reemerging from his self-imposed monkhood in the cloister at the Vatican Gardens and what a cloister it is! I've seen it!

First we see His Holiness concelebrating the Solemn Mass for the Beatification of Blessed Paul VI.

Then the next day, His Holiness' secretary reads a rather wonderful exhortation at a Roman academic symposium that shows the clarity of thinking of the Emeritus Pope and how unambiguous His Holiness is when it comes to teaching the faith.

Then later in the week, His Holiness welcomes the large gathering in Rome celebrating His Holiness' Summorum Pontificum. His Holiness praises the fact that the Old Use Mass has now been integrated into the liturgical life of the Post Vatican II Church. He also praises the "GREAT" cardinals who are celebrating this form of the Mass, which includes Cardinal Raymond Burke who celebrated the Solemn High Version of the EF Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the "Altar of the Chair of St. Peter!" I think it significant that Cardinal Burke is indirectly called by His Holiness a "GREAT" cardinal.

The on Monday, His Current Holiness, Pope Francis praised Pope Benedict XVI at the unveiling of a bust of His Emeritus Holiness at an academic institution in Rome. This is what Pope Francis said:

Pope Francis referred to Pope Benedict XVI as a “great Pope” as he unveiled a bust of his predecessor during an October 27 visit to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. 

Pope Francis assessed Benedict as “great for the power and penetration of his intellect, great for his significant contribution to theology, great for his love for the Church and of human beings, great for his virtue and piety.”His Current Holiness also stated that Pope Benedict's Magisterium would continue to influence the Church in the future.

Then His Holiness, Benedict XVI just yesterday (Tuesday, October 28) wrote the following about the Anglican Ordinariate which His Holiness established five years ago:

“Your thanks for the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has greatly moved me, and I ask you to convey my thanks to all its members,” wrote Benedict XVI, who was born in Bavaria.

“Naturally, I am particularly glad that the former Bavarian Chapel has now become your ordinariate’s church, and serves such an important role in the whole Church of God. It has been a long time since I have heard news of this holy place, and it was therefore with all the more interest and gratitude that I read the description with which you accompanied your letter.” 

November 4 marks five years since Benedict XVI issued the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which led to the creation of the personal ordinariate. The ordinariate enables groups of former Anglicans to retain elements of their patrimony within the Catholic Church.

My Comments: On the heals of the tempestuous Synod on the Family where Pope Francis was publicly and privately criticized for trying to manipulate the Synod with post-Catholic ideologies concerning marriage and sexuality and perhaps even castigated for trying to erase the Papal Magisteriums of both Pope Benedict and St. Pope John Paul II, I find all this emerging Pope Benedict stuff interesting. Do you? And if so, Why?


When the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal was issued in 2002 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops with the approval of the Congregation for Divine Worship and disicipline of the Sacraments' Prefect, Jorg A. Card. Medina Estevez allowed for an American adaptation  for the "Norms for the Distribution and Reception of holy Communion under Both Kinds in the dioceses of the United States of America.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, then President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the American decree or adaptation on March 28, 2002, Holy Thursday.

The following are the pertinent excepts from this American Adaptation in the 2002 GIRM:

1. (42)Among the ways of ministering the Precious Blood...Communion from the chalice is generally the preferred form in the Latin Church, provided that it can be carried out properly according to the norms and without any risk of even apparent irreverence toward the Blood of Christ."

(Other Forms of Distribution of the Precious Blood)

2. (48) Distribution of the Precious Blood by a spoon or through a straw is not customary in the Latin Dioceses of the USA.

3. (49) Holy Communion may be distributed by intinction...(a brief description on how to do this is included)

My final comments: #42 contains a fib. Communion (by drinking) from the (common) Chalice cannot be seen as the "preferred" method of distributing the Precious Blood in the Latin Rite because it simply is not done in Rome or at the Vatican. It is always done by intinction there, not drinking directly from the chalice and even by the concelebrants at a papal liturgy. In fact this norm of intinction for all concelebrants in the Latin Rite is indicated in #249 of "The Different Forms of Celebrating Mass) in the normal GIRM!

I see an agenda in this liturgical norm of the USA perpetuated by some liturgist who wrote this lie.  However receiving the Precious Blood by intinction is receiving the Precious Blood from the chalice which can rightly be understood as the "preferred" form in the Latin Church, as opposed to receiving by way of a spoon or straw. I've never seen a spoon or straw used in a Latin Rite parish, but certainly in the various Eastern Rites this may well be the case.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014



“So the Synod—when speaking of the pastoral care of those who after divorce have entered on a new union—rightly praised those couples who in spite of great difficulties witness in their life to the indissolubility of marriage. In their life the Synod recognizes that good news of faithfulness to love which has its power and its foundation in Christ. Furthermore, the fathers of the Synod, again affirming the indissolubility of marriage and the Church’s practice of not admitting to Eucharistic communion those who have been divorced and—against her rule—again attempted marriage, urge pastors and the whole Christian community to help such brothers and sisters. They do not regard them as separated from the Church, since by virtue of their baptism they can and must share in the life of the Church by praying, hearing the word, being present at the community’s celebration of the Eucharist, and promoting charity and justice. Although it must not be denied that such people can in suitable circumstances be admitted to the sacrament of penance and then to Eucharistic communion, when with a sincere heart they open themselves to a way of life that is not in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage—namely, when such a man and woman, who cannot fulfill the obligation of separation, take on the duty of living in total abstinence, that is, abstaining from acts that are proper only to married couples—and when there is no scandal.”


Pope Francis distributing Holy Communion to First Communicants by way of intinction. He also does it this way for the deacons at Mass. Also at the Vatican concelebrating cardinals and other deacons intinct themselves and do not drink after one another from the chalice. It makes perfect sense and does not offend anyone's sense of proper hygiene.

This past weekend we eliminated the common chalice for the congregation. I had/have mixed feelings. Let me explain.

I have no problem with the laity being allowed to received our Lord's Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity under either the Sign of Bread or Wine or both together.

What most Catholics in the 1970's did mind (and I would include myself) was drinking after others from a common chalice. For a brief period of time, intinction was the prelude to the common chalice, but liturgists didn't like the idea of intinction. They disparaged it as "dunking donuts" and no one eats and drinks like that. How silly, especially for this Italian who loved to dunk bread in to pasta sauce, toast and pastries into coffee and yes bread into wine!

The problem with these darn liturgists is that they wanted the fuller sign of eating and drinking, not eating and dunking and they wanted more extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to be present at Mass as a sign of full, conscious and active participation during the Mass of both men and women, women especially. They were not worried about being unscrupulous about the handling of the Body and Blood of our Lord, contamination of the Precious Blood by gum, germs and deadly viruses. All that mattered to them was the sign of eating and drinking and the "many" helping out with this.

I don't trust liturgists as they have singlehandedly caused our revised Mass, known by some as the Ordinary Form, to become banal and horizontal. It did not have to be this way if the Ordinary Form had simply been allowed to be celebrated in continuity with the Mass from which it came.

The other ideological agenda of these liturgists was that there was to be no distinction between priests and laity at Mass. If the priest stood to receive Holy Communion, so should the laity. If the priest received the Precious Blood, so should the laity.

In fact, when EMC's were first introduced, liturgists insisted that they approach the altar, stand by it or around it and that EMC's receive Holy Communion as con-celebrants do meaning they would place the Host in their mouth to consume it (eat it) when the celebrant did and all would receive from the chalice at the same time too!

I do not recall being taught in the seminary (although I believe it is in the Baltimore Catechism) that the celebrant is the one who completes the Sacrifice of the Mass by consuming both the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood of our Lord. He has no option, both must be consumed, the Holocaust must be consumed to complete the Sacrifice. And the celebrant must consumed what He has consecrated at that Mass, not from the tabernacle.

This privilege of ordination was considered by some  liturgists as clericalism, not dogma, but it is dogma and required of the priest to complete the Sacrifice of Christ. 

And while the current GIRM of the revised Mass states that the laity "should" receive Holy Communion consecrated at the Mass in which they are attending (not from the tabernacle) it is only a "should" not a "must" as it isn't required that they receive Holy Communion from the Sacrifice they are present for Holy Communion to be valid for them.

On top of that, while eating and drinking are important sacramental signs, these are not the most important. Receiving our Lord is. And if one only receives a tiny speck of Holy Communion, no one is shortchanged in anyway whatsoever from receiving our Lord completely and all the graces that come from a worthy reception of our Savior. They might be shortchanged in external signs, but NOT interior spiritual value!

Liturgists for the most part were concerned with the signs and actions of the liturgy, what the bread looked like, what the wine tasted like, who baked and procured these, the eating and drinking. In doing so the element of Faith in the One who saves us was omitted. Jesus was neglected!

But with that said, I hope our bishops who have ideologies from the 1970's concerning intinction will have a change of heart and allow it. I have no problem with intinction and allowing the laity to receive under this method. Receiving in the hand, from an EMC and allowing to "eat and drink" should not trump Who it is we receive in either Form (Species) of the Holy Eucharist.

Protecting the health of communicants at Mass as well as protecting the Sacred Species should be what is paramount.


In the southern states, the Bible Belt, Catholics have long worked together with Protestants, prayed with them and shared common interests especially in the work of helping the poor. Daybreak, a ministry of DePaul USA is a prime example of it here in Macon.

The pope's message of ecumenism makes sense to me:

Sunday, October 26, 2014


With proof now that the communal chalice with up to 20 people drinking from the same chalice, does spread the flu, other viruses and contagions, I wonder how many parishes are foregoing liturgical correctness to protect parishioners from communicable diseases that can be caught from the common chalice? What about your parish?

This weekend St. Joseph Church out of an abundance of concern and caution for our parishioners stopped the practice of the communal chalice. 

To the lawyers out there, could the Church be sued for liturgical correctness in the face of a health epidemic?

On the lighter side, we have placed hand sanitizer at our Church entrances. Would it be kosher to bless it and make it Holy Hand sanitizer? Just wondering and maybe thinking about doing it!


The Pope and the Precipice

Ross Douthat

TO grasp why events this month in Rome — publicly feuding cardinals, documents floated and then disavowed — were so remarkable in the context of modern Catholic history, it helps to understand certain practical aspects of the doctrine of papal infallibility.

On paper, that doctrine seems to grant extraordinary power to the pope — since he cannot err, the First Vatican Council declared in 1870, when he “defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.”

In practice, though, it places profound effective limits on his power. 

Those limits are set, in part, by normal human modesty: “I am only infallible if I speak infallibly, but I shall never do that,” John XXIII is reported to have said. But they’re also set by the binding power of existing teaching, which a pope cannot reverse or contradict without proving his own office, well, fallible — effectively dynamiting the very claim to authority on which his decisions rest.

Not surprisingly, then, popes are usually quite careful. On the two modern occasions when a pontiff defined a doctrine of the faith, it was on a subject — the holiness of the Virgin Mary — that few devout Catholics consider controversial. In the last era of major church reform, the Second Vatican Council, the popes were not the intellectual protagonists, and the council’s debates — while vigorous — were steered toward a (pope-approved) consensus: The documents that seemed most like developments in doctrine, on religious liberty and Judaism, passed with less than a hundred dissenting votes out of more than 2,300 cast.

But something very different is happening under Pope Francis. In his public words and gestures, through the men he’s elevated and the debates he’s encouraged, this pope has repeatedly signaled a desire to rethink issues where Catholic teaching is in clear tension with Western social life — sex and marriage, divorce and homosexuality. 

And in the synod on the family, which concluded a week ago in Rome, the prelates in charge of the proceedings — men handpicked by the pontiff — formally proposed such a rethinking, issuing a document that suggested both a general shift in the church’s attitude toward nonmarital relationships and a specific change, admitting the divorced-and-remarried to communion, that conflicts sharply with the church’s historic teaching on marriage’s indissolubility.

At which point there was a kind of chaos. Reports from inside the synod have a medieval feel — churchmen berating each other, accusations of manipulation flying, rebellions bubbling up. Outside Catholicism’s doors, the fault lines were laid bare: geographical (Germans versus Africans; Poles versus Italians), generational (a 1970s generation that seeks cultural accommodation and a younger, John Paul II-era that seeks to be countercultural) and theological above all. 

In the end, the document’s controversial passages were substantially walked back. But even then, instead of a Vatican II-style consensus, the synod divided, with large numbers voting against even watered-down language around divorce and homosexuality. Some of those votes may have been cast by disappointed progressives. But many others were votes cast, in effect, against the pope.

In the week since, many Catholics have downplayed the starkness of what happened or minimized the papal role. Conservatives have implied that the synod organizers somehow went rogue, that Pope Francis’s own views were not really on the table, that orthodox believers should not be worried. More liberal Catholics have argued that there was no real chaos — this was just the kind of freewheeling, Jesuit-style debate Francis was hoping for — and that the pope certainly suffered no meaningful defeat.

Neither argument is persuasive. Yes, Francis has taken no formal position on the issues currently in play. But all his moves point in a pro-change direction — and it simply defies belief that men appointed by the pope would have proposed departures on controversial issues without a sense that Francis would approve.

If this is so, the synod has to be interpreted as a rebuke of the implied papal position. The pope wishes to take these steps, the synod managers suggested. Given what the church has always taught, many of the synod’s participants replied, he and we cannot.

Over all, that conservative reply has the better of the argument. Not necessarily on every issue: The church’s attitude toward gay Catholics, for instance, has often been far more punitive and hostile than the pastoral approach to heterosexuals living in what the church considers sinful situations, and there are clearly ways that the church can be more understanding of the cross carried by gay Christians.

But going beyond such a welcome to a kind of celebration of the virtues of nonmarital relationships generally, as the synod document seemed to do, might open a divide between formal teaching and real-world practice that’s too wide to be sustained. And on communion for the remarried, the stakes are not debatable at all. The Catholic Church was willing to lose the kingdom of England, and by extension the entire English-speaking world, over the principle that when a first marriage is valid a second is adulterous, a position rooted in the specific words of Jesus of Nazareth. To change on that issue, no matter how it was couched, would not be development; it would be contradiction and reversal.

SUCH a reversal would put the church on the brink of a precipice. Of course it would be welcomed by some progressive Catholics and hailed by the secular press. But it would leave many of the church’s bishops and theologians in an untenable position, and it would sow confusion among the church’s orthodox adherents — encouraging doubt and defections, apocalypticism and paranoia (remember there is another pope still living!) and eventually even a real schism.

Those adherents are, yes, a minority — sometimes a small minority — among self-identified Catholics in the West. But they are the people who have done the most to keep the church vital in an age of institutional decline: who have given their energy and time and money in an era when the church is stained by scandal, who have struggled to raise families and live up to demanding teachings, who have joined the priesthood and religious life in an age when those vocations are not honored as they once were. They have kept the faith amid moral betrayals by their leaders; they do not deserve a theological betrayal.

Which is why this pope has incentives to step back from the brink — as his closing remarks to the synod, which aimed for a middle way between the church’s factions, were perhaps designed to do.
Francis is charismatic, popular, widely beloved. He has, until this point, faced strong criticism only from the church’s traditionalist fringe, and managed to unite most Catholics in admiration for his ministry. There are ways that he can shape the church without calling doctrine into question, and avenues he can explore (annulment reform, in particular) that would bring more people back to the sacraments without a crisis. He can be, as he clearly wishes to be, a progressive pope, a pope of social justice — and he does not have to break the church to do it.

But if he seems to be choosing the more dangerous path — if he moves to reassign potential critics in the hierarchy, if he seems to be stacking the next synod’s ranks with supporters of a sweeping change — then conservative Catholics will need a cleareyed understanding of the situation. 

They can certainly persist in the belief that God protects the church from self-contradiction. But they might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him. 

MY FINAL COMMENT: That final comment of Ross Douthat is striking, shocking and I fear true. At this synod, the bishops against the pope prevailed. Normally orthodox Catholics trust the pope and fear the bishops but in this case a reversal occurred and unprecedented for the orthodox Catholics. 

We are at a precipice and I pray the edifice of the Church is not moved to a sandy foundation where the whole thing collapses. It can't of course or can it and how will the Lord rebuild it?  If the Church is merely a man made social organization for its members to help them help people (an NGO) and nothing else and certainly not endowed with sueprnatural graces and headed by an Invisible but potent Leader, Christ Almighty, then we're in trouble folks. 

It boils down to this. Is there a crisis of faith in God or a crisis of faith in the Pope? Or both?


John Allen of Crux seems to think that the recently completed Synod on the Family rivals in drama and characters the two movies of the Da Vinci Code and maybe a mix of final Godfather trilogy.

It is sad, although John Allen thinks it humorous, that a Synod with the pope of the Catholic Church could be thus skewered. But he has a point!

You can read John Allen humorous but sad article HERE.

But here are the Oscar winners from John Allen's point of view and the winners are....

The “A Bridge Too Far” Award: This honor recognizes the personality at the synod who most spectacularly overplayed his or her hand, trying to unilaterally achieve a result for which the synod just wasn’t ready.
And the Oscar goes to … Archbishop Bruno Forte of Italy, who was the lead author of a controversial interim report described by veteran Vatican-watcher John Thavis as an “earthquake” for its stunningly positive language on gays, cohabitating couples, and the divorced.

In retrospect, Forte’s mistake was using the report to try to drive the synod forward, rather than doing what the document was actually designed for, which was to summarize its discussions at the midway point. Conservative backlash against the Forte text may have helped make the final report more cautious than it might otherwise have been.
The Alfredo Ottaviani Opposition Figure Award: Ottaviani was the legendary leader of the conservative faction at the Second Vatican Council, and so this award recognizes the most outspoken voice of dissent at the recent synod. (Ottaviani’s motto was Semper Idem, Latin for “Always the Same,” a whole political philosophy in miniature.)
And the Oscar goes to … Cardinal Raymond Burke, the American whose fierce criticism of the interim report, and of proposals to allow the divorced and remarried back to Communion, framed much of the synod’s controversy. At one stage, Burke even suggested that Pope Francis owed the world an explanation for fostering confusion about Church teaching.
One can love Burke’s positions or hate them, but there’s no denying he was a star of the show.

The Dirty Harry “Make My Day” Award: This prize goes to the synod personality who delivered the single most spectacular one-line comment, a sound-bite that sent eyebrows soaring and tongues wagging.
And the Oscar goes to … Cardinal Walter Kasper, who in brief comments to journalists on Oct. 15 said of conservative African prelates pushing back against his permissive line on Communion for the divorced and remarried that the Africans “should not tell us too much what we have to do.” To make matters worse, he initially denied saying it, only to be confronted with the audio tape.

The Alfred Hitchcock Award for Best Direction of a Suspense Story: No explanation needed for this one, and there’s also no real debate over the winner.
And the Oscar goes to … Pope Francis, for having set this whole process in motion.
There’s another, bigger Synod of Bishops set for next October, after which Francis will have some big decisions to make. At this stage, no one seems confident about what he’ll do, which only makes the intrigue more intense.
However this year-long process shakes out, Pope Francis is providing the most riveting drama Catholicism has seen in an awfully long time. For that, the viewing public can be grateful.

My final comment: UGH! But I prefer Scarlet's philosophy and famous line from Gone With the Wind...

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Pope Francis to Schoenstatt movement: Marriage never been attacked so much as now

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis said the institution of Christian marriage has never been under so much attack as nowadays where a temporary or throw-away culture has become widespread. He said marriage should not be seen just a social rite  and urged priests to stay close to couples and especially children experiencing the trauma of a family break-up. The Pope was replying to questions put to him on a range of topics during an audience with more 7000 pilgrims belonging to the Schoenstatt movement, an international Marian and apostolic organization that is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding in Germany.  The movement now embraces members, both lay and clerics, from dozens of nations around the world.  

Mistaken views about marriage and its true meaning, our temporary or throw-away culture, the need to be courageous and daring, Mary’s missionary role, the disunity of the Devil and why the concept of solidarity is under attack.  These were just some of the wide-ranging issues which Pope Francis spoke about in his off the cuff remarks during the question and answer session with the Schoenstatt pilgrims held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall on Saturday.

Asked about marriage and what advice he can offer to those who don’t feel welcome in the Church, Pope Francis stressed the need for priests to stay close to each one of their flock without becoming scandalized over what takes place within the family.   He said a bishop during the recent Synod on the family asked whether priests are aware of what children feel and the psychological damage caused when their parents separate? The Pope noted how sometimes in these cases the parent who is separating ends up living at home only part-time with the children which he described as a “new and totally destructive” form of co-habitation.

He said the Christian family and marriage have never been so attacked as they are nowadays because of growing relativism over the concept of the sacrament of marriage.  When it comes to preparing for marriage, Pope Francis said all too often there is a misunderstanding over the difference between the sacrament of marriage and the social rite. Marriage is for ever, he said, but in our present society there is a temporary or throw-away culture that has become widespread. 

Turning to the missionary role of Mary, the Pope reminded people that nobody can search for faith without the help of Mary, the Mother of God, saying a Church without Mary is like an orphanage. When questioned as to how he maintains a sense of joy and hope despite the many problems and wars in our world, Pope Francis replied that he uses prayer, trust, courage and daring.
 To dare is a grace, he said, and a prayer without courage or daring is a prayer that doesn’t work.
(Here His Holiness slips back into ambiguity and I really can't say I understand what he means for it can be taken more than one way): Asked about reform of the Church, the Pope said people describe him as a revolutionary but went on to point out that the Church has always been that way and is constantly reforming itself.  He stressed that the first revolution or way of renewing the Church is through inner holiness and that counts far more than more external ways such as reforming the Curia and the Vatican bank. Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of having a freedom of spirit and warned against closing ourselves up in a mass of rules and regulations, thus becoming a caricature of the doctors of law.  ( My comment: Yes inner renewal in what holiness is all about and if one is inner-renewed, one would never receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin or deny the teachings of the Church)

The theme of our throw-away society was also touched on again by the Pope in another reply when he said our present-day culture is one that destroys the human bonds that bind us together. And in this context, he continued, one word that is at risk of dying in our society is 'solidarity' and this is also a symptom of our inability to forge alliances. Pope Francis also warned about the Devil, stressing that he exists and that his first weapon is disunity.


As I meditate on this photo above, it creates a "sense" of mystery (in the sacramental meaning of the word) and wonder for me. What about you? As I look at it as a properly formed Catholic, I know the most important element in the photo is the image of the Sacred Host. Our Lord is clearly the focus juxtaposed before the image of the crucifix as our Lord present for our worship and adoration is offered in a few moments by Christ Himself to His heavenly Father in the Sacrifice of Love of the Holy Cross. The heavenly Father accepts this love and is pleased with the loving sacrifice of His most Beloved Son more so than He is displeased by our sins.

In effect the wedding image above creates a sense of mystery and acknowledgement of what is made visible in the two images below:

I could be wrong in my diagnosis, but I don't think modern Catholics or those reared in the Church without the Extraordinary Form Mass would get the same sense of mysterion/sacramentum as is portrayed in all the images that I have thus far highlighted. For example what sense of mysterion/sacramentum and wonder do the following photos of Holy Mass elicit in you? The exact same ones that the photos above do? I don't think so! But I could be wrong. What do you think?

In my most humble opinion, the sense of the sacred, the sense of wonder and the sense of reverence are lost in the modern photos of the Mass. Can this be but one and a major one, reason for the decline in Mass attendance over the past 50 years. There's nothing inspiring about these photos and these photos don't cause us to meditate on them. In fact, we want to turn away from them because of their ugliness and sterility, just as people have turned away from Mass when the priest turned toward them!
What do you think?


The following is from Rorate Caeli and their English translation! I highlight important points in red.

First Major Text of Benedict XVI Ratzinger following resignation
On Catholic Faith, Missions, and World's Religions - Full translation by Rorate

Message of the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
for the naming of the reformed Aula Magna
of the Pontifical Urbaniana University

October 21, 2014

I would like to in the first place express my heartfelt thanks to the Rector and to the academic authorities of the Pontifical Urbaniana University, to the staff and to the student representatives, for their proposal to name the rebuilt Aula Magna [Main Hall] in my honor. I would like to thank in a special way the Chancellor of the University, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, for having organized this initiative. It is a cause of great joy for me to be able in this way to be always present amidst the work of the Pontifical Urbaniana University.

In the course of a number of visits that I was able to make as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was always struck by the atmosphere of universality in the very air that one breathes in this University, where young men and women coming from practically all the countries of the world are preparing for service to the Gospel in the whole world of today. I also see today facing me in this lecture hall, a community formed by so many young people, a community that makes us see in a living way the stupendous reality of the Catholic Church.

This definition of the Church as “Catholic”, which has been part of the Creed since ancient times, possesses something of Pentecost. Let us remember that the Church of Jesus Christ has never related to only one people or only one culture, but that from the beginning she was ordained to the whole of mankind. The last words of Jesus to his disciples were: “Make all people my disciples”. (Mt. 28:19). And at the moment of Pentecost the Apostles spoke in many languages, in this way being able to manifest, through the power of the Holy Spirit, all the fullness of their faith.

From that time the Church has grown in a real way on every Continent. Your presence, dear students, reflects the universal face of the Church. The prophet Zechariah had announced a messianic reign that would extend from sea to sea and that would be a kingdom of peace. (Zc. 9:9) And in fact, wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, as from the Lord, and men, become among themselves one body, there is present something of that peace that Jesus Christ had promised to give to his disciples. That you, dear friends, be collaborators with this peace is becoming more and more urgent within a violent and lacerated world in which Christ’s peace needs to be built up and safe-guarded. For this reason the work of your University is so important, in which you desire to learn how to draw closer to Christ in order to be able to become His witnesses.

The Risen Lord gave this task to his Apostles, and through them disciples of every time, to carry his Word to the ends of the earth and to make all men his disciples. The Second Vatican Council, reprising in the Decree “Ad Gentes” a constant tradition, has illuminated the profound rationale for this missionary effort and has called upon the Church of today to take on this task with renewed strength.

But is this still possible? Many ask this question, both inside and outside the Church. Is this mission really possible in the world as it is today? Would it not be more appropriate that all religions get together and work together for the cause of peace in the world? The counter-question is: Can dialogue substitute for mission? Today many have the idea, in effect, that religions should respect each other, and, in dialogue with each other, become a common force for peace. In this way of thinking, most times there is a presupposition that the various religions are variants of one and the same reality; that “religion” is a category common to all, which assumes different forms according to different cultures, but expresses, however, one and the same reality. The question of truth, which at the beginning of Christianity moved Christians more than anything else, in this mode of thinking is placed within parentheses. It presupposes that the authentic truth about God, in the last analysis, is unobtainable, and that at best one can make present what is ineffable only with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems convincing and useful for peace among the religions of the world.

This is, however, lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and seriousness, if everything is reduced to symbols that are at the end interchangeable, capable of referring only from afar to the inaccessible mystery of the divine.

Dear friends, understand that the question of mission places us not only in confrontation with the fundamental questions of faith but also with the question of who man is. In the context of a brief address meant to greet you all, obviously I am not able to try to analyze in an exhaustive way this set of problems that today we all face. I would like, however, at least to touch on the direction upon which we should embark with respect to our task at hand.


1. The common opinion is that religions are, so to speak, side by side as the Continents and the individual Countries on a map. This, however, is not exactly true. Religions are in a state of movement on the level of history, just as are peoples and cultures. There are religions that are “on hold”. The tribal religions are of this type. They have their moment in history and nevertheless are waiting for a greater encounter that brings them to fullness.

As Christians, we are convinced that, in silence, they are waiting for the encounter with Jesus Christ, the light that comes from him, that alone is able to lead them in a complete way to their truth. And Christ is waiting for them. The encounter with him is not a barging in of a stranger that destroys their 
own culture and their own history. It is instead the entrance to something greater, towards which they are journeying. Consequently this encounter is always at the same time a purification and a maturation. Furthermore, the encounter is always reciprocal. Christ waits on their history, their wisdom, the way they see things.

Today we see ever more clearly another aspect as well: while in countries with a great Christian past, Christianity in many ways has become tired, and some of the branches of the great tree that grew from the grain of mustard seed of the Gospel have withered and fall to the ground, but from the encounter with Christ in the religions that are looking forward in expectation new life is springing forth. Where at first there was only tiredness, new dimensions of faith are arising and bringing joy.

2. Religion in itself is not a unitary phenomenon. It always involves a number of distinct dimensions. On the one side there is the prominence of reaching out beyond this world towards the eternal God. On the other side we find elements that have arisen from the history of men and from their practice of religion. Among these elements certainly there are beautiful things but also things that are base and destructive, wherever the egoism of man has taken over religion and, instead of an opening, has transformed religion into a closure within its own space.

Therefore, religion is never simply a phenomenon that is only positive or only negative. Both aspects are en-mixed within it. From its beginnings the Christian mission has discerned in a very marked way especially those negative elements in pagan religions that it encountered. For this reason, the Christian proclamation at its very beginning was extremely critical of religion. Only by overcoming those traditions that the Christian faith understood as demonic could the faith develop its power of renewal. On the basis of these types of elements, the Evangelical theologian, Karl Barth placed religion and faith in opposition, and adjudicated religion in an absolutely negative way as an arrogant behavior of man that tries, on his own initiative, to lay hold of God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer took up this formulation in his advocating a Christianity “without religion”. Without doubt we are dealing with a unilateral way of seeing things that cannot be accepted. And nevertheless it is correct to affirm that every religion, to remain on the side of what is right, at the same time must also be always critical of religion. This is clearly valid, from its origins and according to its nature, for the Christian faith, which, on the one hand, looks with great respect upon the great expectations and deep richness of religions, but, on the other hand, the Christian faith looks at what is negative with a critical eye. It stands to reason that the Christian faith again and again must develop such a critical power even with respect to its own religious history.

For us Christians Jesus Christ is the Logos of God, the light that helps us to distinguish between the nature of religion and its distortion.

2. In our time the voice of those who want to convince us that religion as such is obsolete is becoming louder and louder. They say that only critical reason should be the basis for man’s actions. Behind similar conceptions stands the conviction that with the positivist way of thinking reason in all its purity has achieved supremacy in a definitive way. In reality, even this way of thinking and living is historically conditioned and bound to a specific historical culture. To consider it as the only valid way of thinking about things diminishes man in some way, taking away from him dimensions that are essential for his existence. Man becomes smaller, not greater when there is no longer any room for an ethos, that, by its authentic nature, goes beyond pragmatism, when there is no longer any room for the gaze turned towards God. The proper place for positivistic reason is in the great spheres of technology and economics, but this does not exhaust all that is human., And so it is up to us who believe to open wide the doors again and again that, beyond mere technology and pure pragmatism, lead to the wonderful greatness of our existence in the encounter with the living God


1. These reflections, perhaps a bit difficult, should show that even today, in a world that is profoundly changed, the task of communicating the Gospel to others remains a reasonable one. And, moreover, there is a second way, more simple, to justify this undertaking today. Love demands to be communicated. Truth demands to be communicated. Whoever has experienced great joy cannot keep it simply for himself. He must pass it on to others. The same thing is true for the gift of love, through the gift of recognizing the truth that manifests itself.

When Andrew met Christ, he could not do anything but say to his brother: “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41). And Philip, who was also given the gift of this encounter, could not do anything but to say to Nathaniel that he had found him of whom Moses and the Prophets had written (John 1:45). We proclaim Jesus Christ not to get as many members as possible for our community, and least of all for the sake of power. We speak of Him because we feel that we have to share that joy with others that has been given to us.

We will be credible proclaimers of Jesus Christ when we have encountered him in the depths of our existence, when, within the encounter with Him, we are given the great experience of truth, of love, and of joy.

2. The deep tension between the mystical offering to God, in which one gives oneself totally to him, and the responsibility to one’s neighbor and for the world created by God, is a natural part of religion. Martha and Mary are always inseparable, even if, time to time, the accent can fall on one or the other. The point of encounter between the two poles is the love in which we touch God and his creatures at the same time. “We have come to know and believe in the love that God has for us”. (I John 4:16) This phrase expresses the authentic nature of Christianity. That love, which is realized and reflected in multiform ways in the saints of all times, is the authentic proof of the truth of Christianity.
[Translation by Fr. Richard G. Cipolla, DPhil]


This is in the "religion section" of Saturday morning's Augusta Chronicle. The metro area has always had witches, no kidding! And there is the occult there as I guess there is everywhere. When I was pastor of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, we discovered at least twice the ripped apart remains of a cat that had been sacrificed on our grounds in honor, we think, of the Spring solstice. It was not a pleasant discovery and we knew it wasn't another animal that did it as there was a small fire used in the ritual!

But I digress: the article on the Pagan Pride parade in Augusta!

Augusta Pagan Pride Day, harvest ritual set for Nov. 1

By Lisa Kaylor Paganism gets a lot of negative attention around Halloween, but local groups will invite the community to see what it’s really about on Nov. 1.
Michelle Boshears (right) demonstrates a pagan ritual as Jezibell Anat looks on in preparation for the first Pagan Pride Festival in 2009. A similar ritual will be deilvered during the 2014 Pagan Pride Festival that will take place Nov. 1 at Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.  FILE/STAFF
Michelle Boshears (right) demonstrates a pagan ritual as Jezibell Anat looks on in preparation for the first Pagan Pride Festival in 2009. A similar ritual will be deilvered during the 2014 Pagan Pride Festival that will take place Nov. 1 at Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.
A Pagan Pride Day festival will offer information about the different pagan groups in the area, plus activities, workshops and rituals. It will be held at New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam Park, which offers a pavilion in case of rain.

The event will include a performance by Bardic Fire Drum Circle, and the festival will end with a harvest ritual to honor the Earth’s bounty.

The idea behind Pagan Pride Day is to let people know that while it’s a different religion, it’s about honoring the Earth and is nothing to be concerned or frightened over, said festival spokeswoman and main ritual leader Jezibell Anat.

“It’s a different type of spirituality,” she said.

It is a diverse faith made up of many types of pagans, ranging from Wiccan to Asatru to Druidry, but they all stem from ancient roots and revere nature. Practitioners find their own path and develop their own theology, she said.

“Pagans honor the harvest and the cycle of the seasons,” Anat said. “Halloween is based on the ancient festival of Samhain, honoring those who have gone before. Honoring ancestors is a tradition that we’ve inherited.”

She said the purpose of the festival is to let the community know that pagans are here in Augusta, for those who might be searching for a group to join or for non-pagans interested in learning more about the religion.

Around town, many small circles meet in private homes, but open circles are held on Sundays at Universalist Unitarian Church. A group meets regularly for dinner and socializing. Smaller events are held throughout the year, but Pagan Pride Day is intended to be a community event.

“What we want to do is have a major public event. We want this to be a much wider outreach,” Anat said.

Admission is free, but donations of nonperishable items will be taken for the Universalist Unitarian Church of Augusta’s food shelf.

“We want to be contributing members of our community,” she said. “We just want people to know we’re here, and we want to be a part of the community and be accepted for our beliefs the way we accept other people’s beliefs.”

Friday, October 24, 2014


My only comment is the critique of the German bishops and how they see themselves as the center and gravely offended the periphery, like the Church in Africa! This is the best critique of the synod and is found in the National Catholic Register, here.

10/23/2014 CNA
Before the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome began Oct. 5, I wrote that my first hope for the fortnight would be that “it does no harm to those efforts in parishes around the world to propose the blessed and demanding vocation of Christian marriage.”

The danger of even low expectations is that they can be dashed.

The synod was not primarily concerned with offering encouragement to young couples eager to embrace the great adventure of Catholic marriage. The couples who are living with quiet heroism the blessings and burdens of that adventure appeared in the background of the synod’s focus.

On the contrary, the synod stirred up giddy excitement among those — both within and without the family of faith — desirous that the Church would finally make its peace with the “sexual revolution.” The beatification of Pope Paul VI at the conclusion of the synod should have signified that rank capitulation on moral teaching was never in the cards, but it was destabilizing to hear some prelates speak rather loosely about the Christian tradition on marriage, chastity and family life.

Yet what left me astonished was that, after 18 months of Pope Francis dominating world headlines, the synod seemed strangely out of sorts with his priorities. This synod badly failed Pope Francis’ bold vision for the Church in 11 distinct ways.

First, the methodology of the synod did not allow sufficient space for the heart of the Church’s missionary proclamation, namely the joy of the Gospel.

While several fathers spoke of the moving testimonies of married couples that began each day’s proceedings, they were an exception to the synod’s work. From the initial worldwide survey to the daily press conferences, the topics that were consistently placed at the forefront were the problems and difficulties of marriage and family life. The supposed topic of the synod was the care of the family in the context of evangelization, and evangelization begins with a conviction that there is a Gospel — the Good News — to share. The synod focused on the problems and not the proclamation.
There was too much hand-wringing and not enough joy.

Second, the agenda for the synod was decidedly worldly.

On his return flight from the Holy Land, the Holy Father said that his agenda was to address the “global” situation of the family, and he “did not like” the dominance of the issue of civilly remarried divorcees. The Church’s principal worry is not that too many people are getting divorced and remarried, but that too few are getting married in the first place. The world’s agenda is divorce, cohabitation and same-sex “marriage.” The synod succumbed to the worldliness Francis inveighs against constantly. The practical agenda for this synod was too much New York Times and not enough New Testament.

Third, the manipulation of the synod’s proceedings and messages was unworthy of a Roman Curia that the Holy Father has almost daily urged to avoid gossip, intrigues and ambition.

Senior bishops from all five continents publicly denounced the behind-the-scenes decisions that only selectively reported on the content of synod interventions, culminating with the midterm report that captured world headlines but did not capture honestly what had actually been said by the participants.

Francis famously denounced the power games of the royal court as the “leprosy” of the papacy, yet the synod was infected by just that. If it is not corrected soon, we have to look forward to an entire year of not listening to the Holy Spirit, but, instead, continued backroom machinations, mendacity and maneuvering.

Fourth, the synod turned inside out the Holy Father’s preference for the peripheries rather than the center.

The world’s most bureaucratic, wealthy, institutionally heavy and intellectually credentialed national Church — Germany — was granted an influence completely disproportionate to the diminishing vitality of its life of worship and witness. Meanwhile, the young local Churches on the periphery were sidelined and even disrespected. It must have been gravely insulting, though he bore it in patient silence, for the first pope from the global south to listen to lectures from the privileged, professorial, clerical caste of the European episcopate as if it was 1869 again, when at the First Vatican Council fully half of all the bishops were either Italian or French. The witness of ordinary Catholics in the young Churches of Africa and Asia took a backseat to the preoccupations of the clerical establishment in Europe. In Francis’ Church, the rich should not get a bigger say than the poor. At the synod they did.

Fifth, the synod was not about the Church going out of herself, but looking inward.
When which cardinal gets appointed to which drafting commission is a dominant story, the Church is in danger of becoming exactly what Francis does not want — self-referential and closed in on itself.
Sixth, the synod did not highlight the encouraging accompaniment of Pope Francis.

At his Valentine’s Day encounter with engaged couples, Francis spoke to them simply and directly about what makes for a happy marriage — spouses who say “thank you,” “excuse me” and “I am sorry.” This wholesome and homey engagement with married life was missing at the synod, replaced instead by more controversial questions.

Seventh, the synod was not a collegial exercise in its major pronouncements.

An elite group of managers did not pay heed to what the majority of the synod participants said. It is not always the case that they have to do so, but Francis speaks of the synod as “journeying together.” On this journey, there were certainly some fathers who seized the direction and expected the others to follow.

Eighth, as was noted after the midterm report was released, the synod seemed to forget about sin.

It was hardly mentioned. Very strange for a synod convened by Pope Francis, who, when asked to describe himself last year, said simply, “I am a sinner.” It is key to Francis’ thinking that the “privileged” place of encounter with the Lord is experiencing Divine Mercy upon our sins. Francis talks about sin and mercy together; the synod seemed to forget the former, which makes the latter less urgent.

Ninth, at the canonization of Pope St. John Paul II in April, the Holy Father proposed him to the Church as the “Pope of the Family.”

At the synod, he was almost entirely forgotten. A pope who wrote the very rich Familiaris Consortio after the 1980 synod on the family and devoted four years to the theology of the body should have been the starting point for the synod. As for mercy, St. John Paul II devoted an entire encyclical to Divine Mercy. Yet his teaching and the scholars from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family were overlooked in the synod’s work.

Tenth, the synod ignored Francis’ repeated exhortation that all generations need each other — the young need the elderly, and the elderly need the young.

Even in his affectionate references to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as a “grandfather,” Francis has a deep sense of the extended family as a bridge between generations. In the focus on the divorced, cohabiting and same-sex couples, the younger and older generations were neglected, even though they are a critical part of the family.

Eleventh, if the Church is to be the “field hospital” for a modern world full of wounded people, it is necessary to know the nature of the diseases and wounds that the modern world suffers from.
The hearts of contemporary men and women have been hurt grievously by the “throwaway” culture bequeathed by the sexual revolution. Doctors who do not diagnose properly are of little help in offering effective treatment. In his closing address, Francis identified this as a lack in the synod, which was tempted to bind up wounds without curing their causes.

The Church now waits for another synod next October. Will it be more recognizably what Pope Francis proposes to a Church of missionary disciples? Or will it remain a worldly exercise?

The experience of synod 2014 is not promising.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is editor in chief of Convivium magazine.
He was the Register’s Rome correspondent from 1998-2003.