Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Fat is in the Fire: Those Wily Jesuits

Pope Francis at the Opening Mass

of the Synod

Well the Synod of Bishops opened today and the fight is on.  I was reading the responses to Father Anthony Ruff OSB’s posting on the blog Pray Tell (http://www.
/2014/10/03/where-does-pope-francis-want-the-synod-to-go/) and was surprised even there to find vociferous arguing about where the Church should go in its pastoral outreach to the divorced and remarried.  Usually the Pray Tell folk are, like most blog groupies, pretty homogenous and, given the direction of the blog site, on the liberal side of things. However, this issue of whether the Church should officially change its disciple regarding the sacramental life of those who are in second marriages stirs up very strong responses across the board and fights are breaking out everywhere from Rome to Rangoon.  And here is why I think Pope Francis is pretty, well how else can I say it, Jesuitical. 
Despite Cardinal Burke’s desperate yelps to the contrary, it is clear that Cardinal Kasper is the front man for Pope Francis and his ideas.  Francis can’t speak for himself and Cardinal Burke is not only disingenuous in saying that he can but downright duplicitous.  In fact, you would think that Burke was the Jesuit here in his manipulation of the truth.  Yes, Francis has active vocal cords and can speak.  I am sure he speaks a lot through the course of the day.  But he can’t speak on this issue without short-circuiting the processes of the synod.  The moment Francis says that he wants the discipline of the Church to change, the Synod is over.  All this is left for the prelates attending is to say “Yes, Holy Father,” and go home. 
Francis wants the bishops to do the deed and recommend a change in discipline.  For Francis, and rightly so, the days of the monarchial Church of Pius XII is over.  He is trying to reintroduce the collegiality so badly twisted under the last two pontificates.  But that is not to say that he hasn’t decided on the outcome that he wants.  He knows where he wants the Church to go.  He has entrusted Cardinal Kasper to be his point man and Kasper has done the job well.  But here is where Francis’ strategy kicks in.  The 2014 Synod, an “extraordinary” synod,  is only preparatory to the 2015 “ordinary” Synod where the final decisions will be made.  (Or, I should say, somewhat final because the Church is always in process and its pastoral practice, like its doctrinal life, continues constantly to evolve.)  In two weeks the various delegates (mostly bishops, archbishops, and cardinals) will return home after arguing both sides of the matter.  Once back home in their various dioceses the delegates will meet and report on the Synod with the various national conferences of bishops to whom they belong.  There will be discussions and arguments there as well as the delegates prepare to return next October for the ordinary and definitive synod.   Antonio Socci, an Italian journalist who is part of the Communione e Liberazione (Communion and Liberation) Movement in the Catholic Church says that “Never before in the History of the Church had it happened that a majority of the cardinals had had to take public positions against an inversion of the Magisterium and of the discipline of the Church, that had been proposed by Cardinal Kasper, but that in reality had come from Bergoglio himself.” I am glad the Socci, unlike Cardinal Burke, is truthful enough to admit that Kasper’s proposals are really Francis’; but “A majority of the Cardinals?”—I don’t know if Socci is just outright lying or if the narrow and right-wing movement to which he belongs has limited his exposure to a certain segment of the clergy whose refined tastes and upper-class life-style has removed them from the daily realities of today’s faithful.  I would be very surprised if a clear, though not necessarily overwhelming, majority of the clergy, including the hierarchy, is not desperately praying for more effective pastoral solutions to minister to the divorced and remarried.  I suspect that behind the closed doors of various episcopal conferences there is going to be long and hard wrangling, not as to whether the discipline should be changed, but as to how can it be changed?  Cardinal Kasper, for his part (or for Pope Francis’ part) is not suggesting an “olly olly in free” for those in non-canonical second marriages, but a process by which those in such marriages can, after a period of reflection and penance, be reconciled to the Church and fully re-integrated into the Church’s sacramental life.  There will be prelates—like Cardinal Burke—who will be opposed, at least initially, to any change in Church discipline.  Most of these prelates, like Cardinal Burke, will be men who have spent their careers in church administration and not in pastoral work.  But those members of the hierarchy who at some point on their journey to the episcopate have walked the walk with the People of God and have, as a result of that walk, “a shepherd’s heart,” will comprehend the imperative of finding effective ways to let the Love of God shine into the hearts of those who feel lost or alienated from the Church not only because of a non-canonical marriage but for any one of dozens of reasons that so many today find themselves in some ecclesial pain. 
Francis’ strategy of two synods, synods a year apart, to devise a strategy of reintegrating the divorced and remarried into the sacramental life of the Church will not only permit the synod delegates to go back to their episcopal conferences and garner support for change, but will give Francis’ “Team Kasper” time to develop effective theological arguments to counter the “Team Burke” claims that no change in the discipline can be made.  This year’s synod is for the discussion and debate; next year’s is for concrete proposals as to how the discipline can be changed.  It means that the currently raging battles in the Catholic Press and the Catholic blogosphere will continue to storm on, and there are no guarantees that Francis’ strategy will be successful but it should be an interesting and energizing year.  And in any Church fracas my money is always on the Jesuit. They are a wily bunch, those Jesuits.  


  1. Ah, Communion & Liberation is but one of the secret societies that JPII encouraged during his papacy,

  2. Well, I am not as negative on Communion and Liberation as others might be; I just think we always need to know the socio-political-economic agendas of the various factions in the Church--but again that is my background as a historian. I am very positive on the Community of Sant Egidio, another lay group John Paul was very supportive of