Sunday, October 29, 2023


The synod is described as a dull and tiresome experiment in promoting Church self-absorption and self-referentiality while trying to reinvent the wheel by erasing the essentials of what is needed for the wheel. And on top of that, Pope Francis’ desire for a poor Church for the poor saw a very, very, very expensive synod that was dull and accomplished very little that caused even more disinterest in it. It is kind of like those scandalous young priests going into expensive Roman shops to buy lace and frilly vestments!

John Allen has an interesting commentary in Crux following the Synod on Synodality. You can read the whole thing here, a bit convoluted, with a needed reading between the lines. 

This paragraph stood out:

The synod’s final act (came) today with the closing Mass, which means reporters and pundits have been preparing their wrap-up pieces all week – and, frankly, prior to Friday (with the pope being pressured to finally do something about Rupnick) the odds were good that the word “flop” would have figured prominently in many. Despite panegyrics from hand-picked participants during Vatican briefings about an internal climate of listening and communion, no one seemed capable of pointing to anything concrete that might have justified the time and expense.

The final report released Saturday night, technically styled a “synthesis,” mostly soft-pedaled difficult questions by calling for further discussion and study. One media outlet captured the bland result by referring to this as a “decaffeinated” synod.

Allen says that the Rupnick explosion on Wednesday showed again how slow Pope Francis acts when his friends are in trouble in terms of sexual abuse and that he defends them until he is pressured from outside forces to act. And thus on Friday, saying he (the pope) listened to the synod, removed the statutes of limitation on Rupnick so his case can be canonically litigated. 

This is what Allen wrote:

In light of the move on Rupnik, however, there’s at least one outcome to which anyone seeking to defend the synod can point, beginning with Francis himself: “The Pope is firmly convinced that if there is one thing the Church must learn from the Synod, it is to listen attentively and compassionately to those who are suffering, especially those who feel marginalized from the Church,” a Vatican statement said.

Granted, critics will say this decision should have come much earlier, and that if the pope is genuinely interested in listening, he already should have met Rupnik’s accusers and not just one of his principal apologists. If he really needed a month-long summit to reach those conclusions, cynics might say, things are even worse than we suspected.

Nonetheless, for those inclined to find a silver lining in the synodal experience, the belated concession on Rupnik is at least something.

Second, the move on Rupnik boosts the credibility of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which had pressed Francis to act, but also creates a new set of expectations.

Allen then points out the reason why so many are cynical about the synod on synodality and the pope himself:

The Rupnik affair now seems reminiscent of what happened in 2018, when Francis initially rejected criticism of Chilean Bishop Juan Barros over his role in a high-profile clerical abuse scandal in Chile, then pivoted after a contentious trip to the country and dispatched investigators, culminating not only in the resignation of Barros but an offer en masse by all the country’s bishops to step down.

Once again, Francis appears to have changed course after experiencing backlash. Now, however, explanations offered back then that the pontiff is on a learning curve likely will ring hollow, because he’s already played that card.

People are going to want an explanation of his conduct, including Francis’s still-mysterious role in the lifting of Rupnik’s 2020 excommunication, and the other vicissitudes in the story. The pope has said he wants to listen to the suffering, but what survivors are demanding isn’t simply a canonical process, however grateful they may be for that development.

To quote the movie “Tombstone,” make no mistake: What survivors are after isn’t revenge, it’s a reckoning. Francis will face growing pressure to deliver, and probably not just on Rupnik but on other problematic aspects of his record, such as the still-enigmatic case of Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta and matters beyond.

In a nutshell, that’s the problem with an October surprise. It changes everything, and even the guy who pulled the rabbit out of the hat can’t always control where it ends up.

In Sunday’s homily for the closing of the synod, wisely held in St. Peter’s, due to the lack of people coming to papal Masses these days, the pope pointed out his own Achilles Tendon:

Pope Francis voiced his dream for a Church that is a servant of all, one that “never demands an attestation of ‘good behavior,’ but welcomes, serves and loves. A Church with open doors that is a haven of mercy.”  

So often with Pope Francis, he speaks in terms of either/or rather than both/and as he does in the quote above. 

Of course he is wrong here through omission. Of course the Church should be the servant of all, but he is wrong in saying that being welcoming, serving and loving and Churh with open doors and a haven of mercy, that we never demand good behavior, ortho-praxis. That is simply ridiculous. 

Could you imagine a hospital that treats obesity telling people, we’ll treat you because we love love, but enjoy your food addiction, eat, drink and be merry and when you have a heart attack we will offer you CPR in a loving, soft and compassionate way.

Or the addiction clinic which says, we love you and we will help you when you are at the brink of death, but if your drug or alcohol addiction helps you otherwise, don’t worry about it, don’t change, just let us love you and help us show you compassion. 

That’s called enablement and it is not moral to do it. The same for the Church of welcome and mercy, if she doesn’t call for repentance and a change of life conformed to Christ’s, that is immoral enablement and the Church should be sued by God for malpractice!

1 comment:

TJM said...

“The Pope is firmly convinced that if there is one thing the Church must learn from the Synod, it is to listen attentively and compassionately to those who are suffering, especially those who feel marginalized from the Church,” a Vatican statement said."

Footnote: Faithful TLM Catholics are not entitled to this compassion. PF