Of Fudge, Feelings and Fragmentation
So the dreaded synod on the family is now in session. There has been a lot of speculation on the blogosphere, much of it unhelpful, nearly all of it concerned with whether or not divorced and “remarried” Catholics should be admitted to Holy Communion. What I fear may emerge is a massive fudge: a ringing re-iteration of the Church’s perennial doctrine on the indissolubility of the sacrament of matrimony, coupled with an insidious change of practice by which individual cases will be decided on a “pastoral” basis.
Something like this happened before, following Humanae Vitae. The Church’s doctrine was preserved, but in practice it was left to couples to decide, in accordance with their “informed consciences” whether or not to contracept. How many people now know or care that the Church “officially” teaches that contraception is a grave evil? How many sermons on the subject have you heard during the past 40 years? Speaking personally, perhaps two or three–all from priests of traditionalist bent.
The merciful Cardinal Walter Kasper wants the Church to “tolerate” what it “cannot accept”. Now, it appears, doctrine must give way to feelings. We mustn’t offend the second couple by pointing out that they are in a state of ongoing adultery. That’s pastorally insensitive. (And don’t let’s talk about the feelings of abandoned spouses and children.)
Perhaps I ‘ve got it wrong, and Pope Francis will insist on orthopraxis as well as orthodoxy. In that event, we will have a very different scenario. Blogger Fr John Zuhlsdorf writes:
My concern… is that, after this extraordinary Synod does little or nothing, we are going to have a whole year of liberal grinding in the press and pulpits, thus raising expectations of huge changes. And then, when Francis doesn’t do what they want, the revolt really breaks out into the open. You will say that liberals are already in revolt against the Church’s teachings and disciplines. Sure. However, when their hopes are dashed they will break whatever tethers still remain. And let us not forget that the Synod can do nothing but talk. They can vote on anything, say, that French croissants are better than Roman cornetti. In the end, they can recommend things to the Pope. The Pope decides.
Whichever way it goes, one has to agree with Fr Ray Blake, who says he’s really beginning to resent the men with “ideas”, who never seem concerned about Christ or holiness or the Gospel or ultimately eternal life, who turn the Church into a debating chamber:
I hate their squabbles, I detest their clever solutions. The spiritual life is about muddling through, the muddle is the wound of concupiscence. I just wish we had men who recognise the muddle for what it is and point to Christ as our hope but no, it is about clever schemes to deal with the previous clever schemes that have got us into the mess we are already in. Why do so many of our Bishops and senior clergy sound like Enda Kenny or Nick Clegg rather than Christ? Why the strong reek of the politician? Stand by for a great deal more of wrangling, daftness, and horse dealing but ultimately the Kasperite and anti-Kasperite faction will have reached some kind of agreed statement in the final Synod document. In some cases the medicine can be worse than the cure and the big question is can the Church’s leadership hold it together or will unity be so damaged that we end up as some kind of federated Church, much like it looks as though the once United Kingdom will become under the Cameroons or the Milibanders? Fragmentation is in the air! And while mud wrestling goes on in public what really matters is going on in back rooms with sleight of hand by worldly men.
What should a loyal Catholic do if we are foisted off with some so-called “pastoral” compromise? I don’t really know, but I’ll be thinking about it over the next day or so.