Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's Called the Internet, Your Eminences

It has now become apparent to many, an inescapable uncomfortable conclusion to all of us faithful conservatives who would rather die than to find ourselves guilty of preferring manna to God, the Synod was an unmitigated PR disaster. But this disaster was not initiated just two weeks ago. No, this one was a long time in the making. It started when someone had the bright idea to do that most democratic of things and do a survey of Catholics' views on marriage, etc. I don't recall St. John Paul doing that, Bl. Paul VI, Leo XIII, Pius XI, Paul III, Innocent III, Gregory VII, Gregory I, Leo I, Callistus, or any other pope all the way down to Peter doing that.

This is not the age of hand-written letters, written with perfect penmanship, sent on a boat special delivery, from Baltimore to Rome, written by the Primate of the American Church with long-winded, elegance by someone deeply aware of the teachings of the Church, to address concerns that a Church Council should deal with, if His Holiness so deems it expedient to do so...

Nor, is it the 1960s when radio and television carried sound-bites delivered through channels that, it seems, were still fighting hard to prove their journalistic competence.

For better and for worse, this is the age of the internet. The relatios can be seen and translated within hours of their production.

But losing was a foregone conclusion ever before the Synod was convoked. It started with the surveys, which allowed people to remember the error that the Church can 'produce' doctrine. When did he ever say, 'no' simply and straightforwardly, that pope who says judge not? And every day since then doubt and uncertainty was propounded through lamentable lack of clarity. The pope is charged with one thing: to protect the deposit of Faith above all. No, this one is not the gifted theologian that Benedict and John Paul were, but I have now read up on his history, he has always been a very strong person, not a push-over. He exudes leadership, having been made Jesuit Provincial just two years after his final profession.

There is a significant learning curve here. When isn't there? Well, I suppose when you are Ratzinger, who spent the two decades previous to his elevation to the papacy in Rome.

Every pope must realize sooner or later that the only way to be loved and to create love in the world is to first be hated by standing for something. Jesus wasn't afraid of being hated. But He was hated in an unmerciful age for urging mercy, not for urging mercy in an age that does not believe in sin in the first place.

And again, this is an age that has no secrets. Like never before, the internet links the most
interested and insistent Catholics in the world to where they'd like to be. Liberals on the periphery of the Church will not check every word for spelling and punctuation, They are uninterested in the details and just make it up as they go along anyway. The conservatives will check every pen stroke.

Images like this permitted us to believe something great was occurring.
We couldn't see any closer, we couldn't see the warts and the politics.
This is no longer possible.
This creates unprecedented scrutiny and makes the task of being pope basically impossible. Pope Francis thought he could improve something. It was perhaps wishful thinking for a man who thought that in Rome he had still to contend with the same forces that had made him loved in Buenos Aires. No, love for the poor is not enough, as it was there, as it was for the Archbishop of a diocese in the Third World, as it was for Mother Theresa. It is not enough for a pope. Being poor is not a sin. Divorce, remarriage, homosexuality, adultery, these things do in some capacity or another involve sin and accountability.

Pope Francis came on the scene with all the largeness with which St. John Paul came on the scene. But that was a different man and this is a different time. Pope Benedict created no expectations he could not manage. He was not the 'size' of his bookend popes and yet, even still, had the wherewithal to stay within the humble frame with which he had been blessed by God.

But all is not lost, even when one crushing defeat after another has been delivered to him. Francis has now had his Pearl Harbor (as a Canadian, I should say, his Dieppe), I suspect, but not his Waterloo. It is interesting to note how he was able to manage his Jesuit province well even under the very difficult strain of liberation theology among his Jesuits, all the while contending with a brutal governmental regime. Francis gives the impression that he thinks that all problems can be worked out without recourse to force. Bergoglio the Jesuit Provincial was not that kind of man: he understood that there are times when we are confronted with an either/or choice: either I can be a Jesuit or I can be an Argentinian. He had had to let many priests go when it became apparent that it was no longer possible for them to remain linked to Ignatius because of their commitment to their politics. I suspect that soon he will see how far 'every opinion on the table' will get him. From one liberal to another, no, we are wrong, men do not by nature love the truth and naturally seek it. 

This age of the internet has recreated the theologians of the Vatican II era, the talking-head spin-doctors, like Schillebeeckx and his ilk, but this time it is the cardinals, not the theologians, doing all the talking out of turn.

Cardinals, of their nature, are advisers to the pope. Why are they talking to people other than the pope, then? It all comes down to Kasper. Silence this heretic and then there is a right to enforce discipline on the conservative cardinals. They shouldn't be speaking either.

Too many poor Catholics like me have given up too much and embraced too much suffering for the sake of the Church's teaching on marriage as taught in the catechism, in Humane Vitae and elsewhere, for it to be merciful to let this heretic continue to speak as if "everything's possible."

"If there is no God", said Ivan Karamazov, "everything's permissible."

"If marriage is not exclusive, permanent and fruitful, it is nothing."

"If there is no pope to defend the hard things I have done for Christ in my marriage, I have nothing."

Contraceptors chose against the Church. The divorced and remarried (not annulled) chose against the Church. Homosexuals who want their 'bond' equated with marriage and not to exercise the requisite self-discipline out of faith in the Church, the Bible and Christ, what have they chose and what will they chose once their demands are not given in to?

I know how to use contraception, by the way. And, I find women other than my wife attractive. But what I do and what I don't do means that the pope is mine, the Cardinals are mine. They answer to me, says Canon 212.3 (oh, just read the whole section: The Obligations and Rights of all the Christian Faithful (Cann. 208 - 223).

See what I did there? I went on the internet and quickly consulted Canon Law, in order to throw it back in the faces of the very people who crafted it. Today this is possible. Thousands of people may read this post. Today that is possible. Even twenty years ago this was not, after all, I am but a man without office, without mandate, without insider's knowledge, without much of anything.

This is the age of the internet, let the Church beware. This isn't your granddad's Church anymore, for better and for worse.

I have thought long and hard about how the changes in technology, economic changes, cultural, educational, and sociological changes, impact Catholic life and how the Gospel should be and must be presented now. I have arrived at some conclusions, though not many. I know the history of the Church quite well. Some of our institutions, of course, are not essential to the Church, some are. The Church has been a leader in using the modern means of communication, but we still have light-years to go, as the October Roman Marriage Debacle has proven.

Yes, as St. Athanasius spoke all the
enemies of Christ's divinity fell silent in
amazement. Or something like that.
There are no secrets anymore. St. John Paul's image was carefully crafted, and yet he beneath this he was still a saint, and yet the craft was there. Maciel's image was crafted too, but fell apart when, in part, technology brought an end to his lies. In addition to what I have said so far, one reason why the Synod has failed, has failed to promote that cherished institution called marriage, is because we have finally seen as never before, the very human nature of Roman politics. Cardinals fighting each other, that has always been the way of things, if you know Church history at all. What has changed? Well, before only the very few were privy to it. It's hard to see the Holy Spirit at work in this. There is no doubt that there was a lot of very earthly things going on in the minds of the Council Fathers at Vatican II, and the previous councils, but other than the people who were there, no one but the specialist-historian knows about these things.

I enjoy a good rip-roaring debate as much as anyone, but there are limits. I will not debate about things for which no reasonable quarter ought to be given. One ought not debate the morality of the Holocaust. With a Christian one does not debate whether or not Jesus is God. With a Catholic one does not debate the essential elements of the sacrament of marriage as found in the New Testament and in the Tradition of the Church. One is welcome to believe whatever one chooses to believe, but as a cardinal of the Church, a bishop of the Church, you espouse the clearly evident Faith or you go away. Origen did not know how to understand the 'subordination' of the Son to the Father. Ignorance about that today is inexcusable in a prelate. So too marriage. Augustine defined its sacramental profile in about the year 400 AD, but the Lord spelled it out pretty clearly four centuries earlier. Since Augustine, we have the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, the Catechism of the Council of Trent and now that of St. John Paul. There are no excuses here.

A captive audience was waiting to hear that, "no, it is impossible to commit sacrilege against marriage and yet receive communion, and why." But no one heard this, did they? Will anyone listen ever again?

The Apostle Luke does not flatter the Athenians when he says that they loved nothing more than to hear new things (Acts 17:21). The secular media and the people the Church hoped to reach out to were only interested in hearing something new. No, it wasn't served up quite as they had hoped, but then again, to them it was but a passing idle curiosity, which would have led them to no further thought about the authenticity of the Church as God's Church. These liberals try so hard to impress the world, a world which they can't imagine as other than deeply interested in their efforts to accommodate them. To the outsiders, especially homosexual activists, the Church is just one more opponent to conquer, to bring to compliance, the ultimate disgrace. No one respects an enemy that surrenders. Stalin and Hitler respected Pius XII, not by choice but by necessity; Napoleon Pius VII; Henry IV Gregory VII; Attila Gregory I.

A great theological mind is astounded that he had 'alienated an entire continent,' but it was a fact, he had said it, and the world of Catholic bloggers was writing about it even before his words had hit the ground. There are no more secrets and there are no more sacred Roman protocols.

When you get rid of the red shoes you invite people to look at your feet and yours alone; when you chose to live in a smaller room, your room replaces the entirety of the tradition of which you were meant to be but a part. When you undo tradition, you become the sole focus of scrutiny. Only Christ could stand that, and have it declared, there was nothing in Him lacking.

But where did these prelates come from? We had thirty years of perfect popes. I was in the seminary for one year with him who is now the Archbishop of Toronto. In that time homosexuals and others advanced to ordination while the less slippery did not. It's not that the popes were incompetent; they were, alas, imperfect. I don't know how Kasper continues to get away with these things. he was elevated by Saint John Paul, survived under Benedict and now seems to thrive under Francis. How?! Well, have you met the bishops in Canada, for instance? We could ask the same question about school teachers in the Catholic system, about the priests in the parishes, about the lay-workers in chanceries. What were you expecting - people who know and love the faith and are not influenced by the world?

Here is a very good article by Russell Shaw on the very topic I attempt to address in the above post . He entertains the idea that the Synod was not a display of profound incompetence, but a shrewdly managed farce ordered toward furthering the aims of liberals.

And, again, here is Canada, we are expected to believe the pablum served up, for instance, by Father Rosica over at Salt and Light. Some will, but not those who will play a much more active role in the Church in the years to come. Wow, how insightful. Let's all have abortions so we can all have one child too.

I guess Fr. Rosica does not understand that such a sentiment is a favorite one of abortionists. It's not meant to be so. It's just more of the mushiness that Salt and Light attempts to pedal as if all things are a-okay. We don't need to be reminded that there are irregular domestic arrangements in the world today. We need to be reminded about the norm from which they depart. We need to be reminded about why the abnormal is also the unhealthy. It's not a statistical aberration, mind you. No, the irregular is the statistical norm. But thanks for opening our eyes, Father, to what everybody sees around them all the time anyway, while continuing to keep us in the dark about the real division between the City of God and the City of Man.

Again, where did these cardinals comes from? From the same place Father Rosica did - the staus quo that attains power and importance through avoiding the issues that really matter. Not from a coherent political party. No, from the very predictable tendency of majority who would do anything to avoid looking like an outsider, a persona non gratis.

Pope Francis is not afraid to be that person. I am sure of that. He does not dwell in the mushy middle out of fear. He does so out of holy conviction. He is not afraid of anyone or anything. Unlike most of the clerics who adore him, we add. Yet he fails to grasp - so far - how the one job of the pope is not to advocate for the poor, but to teach and defend the Faith of the Church. In Argentina it was cool for clerics to look down on advanced learned as esoteric and decadent. So too did Marx, though quite inconsistently, in The German Ideology. The head must lead.

Doctrine is usually advanced through the pushing away of shadows. Perhaps the point of all this in the great and holy history of the Church, is just that, to teach the faithful that the head leads the body and that doctrine is not superfluous in comparison with orthopraxy. One cannot do rightly when one does not understand rightly.

There is much more to come from this pope. The chaff will have to be blown away. And they will be as the result of this debacle.

Let me just conclude with two points:

1) The Church does not need another document on marriage. You might not like that I have said this, but I am 100% correct.

2) No Synod has ever been surrounded by this much kerfuffle. Indeed, you reading this, can you even name another Synod? Whether you love or hate Francis, love or hate NFP, love or hate Kasper, you cannot disagree with me on this one. And what does this fact tell you?


  1. Truly excellent post. Thank you.

  2. I guess this is why you must remain an independent, Colin! because you have boldness, that could not be exercised if you were constrained by an institution.

  3. Thanks, ladies! Oh Julie. That is, unfortunately, my lot in life it seems. I was bratty as a kid, bratty now. No one can tell me anything. But I would like to believe that God made me this way for a reason. Celibacy - as I have said many times - was meant to make the preachers of the Gospel free, but we don't see that today. Priests and bishops have too many commitments to preach freely. So that means others have to. This is not the way it is suppose to be. But, as William Wallace said, do not the commoners bleeding in the battle field have as much to lose as the nobles? That's a misquote, but the sentiment is there.

  4. "It started with the surveys" - indeed. What an outstanding symbol of lack of leadership and intellectual rot.

    1. I agree that there was fault with the surveys David M. 1) they were not all designed or exactly like the one from the Vatican, and this could be manipulated to a degree. 2) not all dioceses extended the feedback to Joe parishioner in the pews. In Toronto, the Archdiocese made the decision to only have deaneries and clergy write the survey and the office sent out its results. No input from laity, unless people like myself sleuthed around the Internet and found out the direct address/email to the Synod.

  5. Excellent post, well thought out. Thank you.