Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No Defeat for Francis

In Monday’s posting I mentioned that the Synod’s proposed statement that “men and women with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy” won a simple majority (118 in favor; 62 opposed) but fell just short of the required ⅔ to pass and be included in the relatio synodi.   We need to look at the other two proposals that also won a strong simple majority but failed to win the required ⅔ majority and so did not pass.  The first was paragraph 52.  It read:
The possibility for the divorced and remarried to accede to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist was considered. Several Synod Fathers insisted in favor of the current discipline, in consideration of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church and her teaching on indissoluble marriage. Others expressed themselves in favor of a non-generalized welcoming to the eucharistic table, in certain particular situations and in very specific circumstances, especially in cases that are irreversible and linked to moral obligations towards children who would [otherwise] be subjected to unjust suffering. The eventual access to the sacraments should be preceded by a penitential path under the responsibility of the diocesan Bishop. The matter should still be deepened, taking into consideration the distinction between an objective situation of sin and attenuating circumstances, considering that the "Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified" by several "psychological or social factors." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735)]
This proposal suggested that the Church’s ban on the divorced and remarried receiving the sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, should be reexamined and pastoral alternatives devised not for general use but for specific situations determined by the Diocesan Bishop.  It explicitly does not change the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble.  It passed 104 to 74, but failed to reach the required  ⅔ majority
A parallel and somewhat more vague proposal suggesting that couples in a divorced and remarried situation avail themselves of “spiritual communion” and a response by some synod members that further study be given to the topic of the divorced and remarried being given access to both “spiritual communion” and sacramental communion also passed with a strong simple majority but not the required ⅔ majority.  The statement reads:
Some Fathers maintained that divorced and remarried persons can fruitfully accede to spiritual communion. Other Fathers asked why they cannot accede now to the sacramental one. A deepening of this question is hereby demanded so as to make clear the particularity of both forms and their connection with the theology of matrimony. 
The proposal carried 112 to 64.   
I don’t see quite how this is seen as a “defeat” for Pope Francis, Cardinal Kasper or others who favor a change of policy.  Granted, without the required ⅔ majority they are not part of the synod’s proposals for the follow up meeting in 2015, but the very fact that they have a strong support among the bishops makes it much more likely that the more progressive agenda will carry in next year’s synod.  At the very least, it is an indication that the bishops are buying into Francis’ view of Church and not anxious to succumb to the fear of change and put on the brakes for genuine reform and renewal of Catholic pastoral life.   I am not saying that it is a done deal.  The krazies—including several with miters and even the occasional scarlet galero—are doing the old Gideon trick of making enough noise to create the illusion of a phantom majority, but they are clearly out numbered.  The more serious threat is some action against Francis personally and I think he is playing a somewhat dangerous game.  The anger being expressed against Pope Francis by once loyal Catholics is frightening and we live in a society in which violence is endemic.  I think we will see increasing polarization over the next year until the 2015 Synod meets and if next year’s meeting follows in the direction of this year’s I will not be surprised if some sort of a schism follows.  We will monitor this ongoing and deepening division over the course of the year, but watch Pope Francis both for his appointments to the hierarchy and for his homilies and messages where I think he will even more aggressively argue for change.  


  1. My concern is that the Krazies are all happy about the outcome of the Synod. They think that they won; Mundabor and Rorate Caeli are on sugar highs. Why is their take on this wrong? If next year's Synod doesn't lead to the correct outcomes, what will be gained from the process?

  2. well, to begin with, their take is wrong because it ignores the fact that all three controversial paragraphs carried with strong majorities--just not the 2/3 majority needed to pass as a "consensus" which is what the Synod rules require. The majority of the bishops, a large majority of the bishops, favored the statements about inclusivity of gay Catholics and exploring options to admit divorced and remarried people to the sacraments, The reactionary strategy is to create the illusion that the majority of the bishops "stood their ground" against Francis, Kasper et al on the side of change. It is the "Gideon Strategy" that I mentioned of creating the illusion of overwhelming numbers in spite of the fact that you represent only a small fraction of the numbers of your foes. Watch and see--Francis will use various homilies and talks this upcoming year to redefine his case and make it more difficult to argue against. He probably won't use Card. Kasper as much but do more himself. He also may get Wuerl, Nichols, and others to drum up support in various bishops' conferences. And I expect he will reshuffle the deck. It is all but official that Burke is out. Pell will probably stay, especially as he plays a key role in the Bank reform, but Francis will have a talk or two with him--not to win him over, but to make sure Pell doesn't lead an opposition. Francis will appoint those who support his position to key roles in the upcoming synod as he did in this one. I am not saying that it is all well and good. The wing-nuts are going to be screaming up and down this coming year, but if they attack Francis--as they have been doing--it will work against them as it will make it more difficult for bishops to oppose him in the Synod lest it look like they support the rebellion. The biggest danger is something happening to Francis as you can bet the next pope will be a step back onto more traditional ground--not all the way, but not out at Francis' frontier. I intend to write more on this over the coming weeks.

  3. I certainly hope Pope Francis makes much needed changes. He's not likely to get cooperation from many American bishops, due to JPII and BXVI stacking the deck in favor of their preferred company men.

  4. Don't give up hope A lot of the American bishops are climbing aboard the Francis train there are others, however, who are proteges of Cardinal Burke (Finn, Cordileone, et al) who are betting that after Francis there will be a swing back and that Burke, like Lazarus, will emerge from the grave to which he has been consigned we will see But enjoy the sunshine of Pope Francis while it lasts