The Great Synod Scandal

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee
Ludolf Bakhuizen, painted in 1695

This week has been a very trying one for Christian families around the world, particularly those families that seek to live in harmony with the Catholic Christian faith. On Monday, October 13th, 2014, on the 97th anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima, the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, led by Pope Francis and several liberal cardinals in Rome, dropped a bombshell on the world in the form of a draft relatio that appeared to question basic Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality. The press received this document before many of the bishops did, leaving us the still unanswered question of: 'who was responsible for that decision?' Headlines rang around the world, as the unholy 'Synod of the Media" kicked into high gear. The Times reported...
'In a marked shift in tone likely to be discussed in parishes around the world, an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops convened by Pope Francis at the Vatican released a preliminary document on Monday calling for the church to welcome and accept gay people, unmarried couples and those who have divorced, as well as the children of these less traditional families.' 
- New York Times, 10-13-2014
The document itself issued statements that shook faithful Catholics too their knees, questioning the very teaching of the Catholic Church on some of its most basic doctrines related to the family. In Paragraph 46 for example, the document appeared to instruct pastors to deal with divorce and unlawfully remarried persons in such a way that avoids "any language or behaviour that might make them feel discriminated against."  What does this mean? In the following paragraph, it seemed to leave the reception of communion for such people open-ended and unanswered, but cited an ambiguous "law of gradualness", which clearly suggested that reception of holy communion should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. However, in view of Paragraph 46, we got the definite impression that communion should be permitted so that they should not "feel discriminated against." While Paragraph 48 negatively critiqued those who question communion for the divorce and remarried.  While the document itself seemed disjointed, the general impression was clear. Divorced and remarried persons should receive holy communion, whether an annulment is attained or not.

The document continued with even more explosive language. Paragraphs 50 through 52 were by far the most controversial and dealt with the topic of homosexuality. The document appeared to clearly and boldly challenge official Church teaching by almost championing homosexuality. It radically called upon the Church to "accept and value" the homosexual orientation. The section appeared to suggest, no, not suggest but assert, that homosexual temptation (the temptation to sodomise people) is something to be "accepted and valued." Yes, you read that right, see it for yourself below, the temptation to commit the sin of sodomy (the homosexual orientation), a sin that if committed, cries out to heaven as an abomination, is to be "accepted and valued."
'Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?'
-- Paragraph 50, Synod 14, Relatio post disceptationem
As one can imagine, this lit of a fire storm in the press and in the synod. All over the world, the message was carried, and now the damage is done -- virtually irreversible. The expectation of the world is that the Catholic Church will soon accept homosexuality and divorce. Whether or not it does is no longer an issue. The expectation is there and people are already beginning to act on it.

If the Extraordinary Synod on the Family was supposed to help Catholic families around the world, it, in effect, accomplished the exact opposite. If anything, we are more harmed by the synod. Already pummelled on every side, by pressures unseen in 2,000 years of Church history, the release of this synod document was nothing short of a stab in the back. Speaking as a family man, a faithful Catholic husband and father, assailed for this by post-modern Western culture, the mainstream media, the national government, and now the local city government; my reaction to the Synod's midterm relatio was the familiar response of another besieged man centuries ago: Et tu, Brute? Et tu? I'm sure the same sense of betrayal was felt by many other Catholic husbands and fathers around the world. It would be difficult to plunge the knife in deeper.

This was a trying week. We learnt that the bishops responsible for the compilation and release of the draft document were hand-picked by none other than Pope Francis. We heard report after report from Cardinal Walter Kasper, who supposedly has the pope's ear, that the Holy Father is behind all this, that he wants this to go forward, and that the synod fathers were merely acting upon his will. It should be noted that this comes from the same man who also said the synod fathers pay no attention to the African bishops because of their taboo and backward beliefs. It is a statement the cardinal now denies, even though it was recorded. Perhaps this should lead us to now take Cardinal Kasper's words with a grain of salt, with the understanding that his recollection of recent events appears to be selective at best. If the poor man cannot recall a rather profound (and racist) statement he himself made just a few days ago, how can we possibly expect him to accurately recall conversations he had with the pope weeks to months ago?

Events at the synod deteriorated rapidly following the release of the midterm relatio. Reports surfaced of "shouting" from the floor over a dispute about the publication of conversations related to the small group follow-up debates, with one bishop allegedly "pounding his fist on the table." The pope, stone-faced and sombre through much of the proceedings, finally capitulated, granting the publication, and then placing an African bishop (a critic of the document) on the panel to draw up the next one.

Through all of this, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, an American traditionalist, canon lawyer, and Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the equivalent of 'Chief Justice' on the Vatican's 'Supreme Court'), became quite vocal, expressing his concerns to the press about the nature of the process. From Burke (and others) we learnt that the sum of all fears had taken place at the synod. The whole thing was intended to be choreographed, orchestrated, and manipulated in such a way as to produce a pre-desired unorthodox outcome. Burke did not accuse the Holy Father of making this happen, but he did say that the pope's failure, to make his own position well known, was bringing great harm to the synod process and to the Church in general. Burke also confirmed rumours of his soon-to-be demotion by Francis to an obscure position outside the Vatican. While this is certainly within the right of the pope to do this, it does raise some eyebrows, especially since Burke has done such excellent work in the past, and was hand-picked by Pope Benedict XVI for that position after proving himself worthy under fire in Saint Louis, Missouri. Unless it's something personal between Francis and Burke, the move signals a strong deviation from the Vatican trajectory set by the Benedict and John Paul papacies. For his outspokenness, Burke may soon find himself exiled to the most remote region in the world, but he has done the Church a great favour in exposing the fa├žade that was unfolding in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.

If there is one thing the first, draft relatio of the synod will be remembered for, it will be the overreach of liberal prelates within the Catholic Church, in an attempt to impose their unorthodox (indeed heterodox) views, related to marriage and sexuality, upon the rest of the Church. Where Pope Francis fits into all of this remains to be seen yet, but one thing is certain. His reputation has been severely damaged. All over the world, many members of the clergy are upset with him for his handling of this situation. Some have even gone public with their disappointment by writing open letters to the pope and publishing them on the Internet. Some more traditional Catholic laypeople are even beginning to call into question the legitimacy of his papacy. (On a personal note, I've even heard the term 'antipope' floated around here and there, by people who don't normally say such things.) Francis has a lot of damage control to do over the next year, and perhaps the best way he can do it is by actually taking Cardinal Burke's advice and challenge. He needs to come clean with the world and reveal his official position (as pope) on these matters of family, marriage and sexuality. 'Off the cuff' casual remarks simply will not do any more. The pope must begin acting like the Vicar of Christ by defending orthodoxy on an official level, both in word and deed.

By Saturday, October 18, 2014, the controversial paragraphs of the relatio had been completely removed, and a revised (orthodox) version of the document was voted upon, and passed, by the majority of synod bishops. The second phase of the synod now begins, as bishops take the document back to their dioceses and use it as a reference point for discussions back home.  In October of 2015, the bishops will return to Rome for the third and final phase of the process, the Ordinary Synod on the Family. Only God knows what surprises lay in store for us then.

On a personal note, I have two reflections to offer on this topic.

The first has to do with the synod itself. How could this happen? How did we get to where we are today? I blogged on this extensively in my previous post: The Crisis and the Storm. In summary, the events that transpired in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family did not come about by chance. They were actually a product, of a long chain of events, beginning in the decades before the Second Vatican Council, and gathering momentum ever since. The revolutionary changes in the Church, that came after the Second Vatican Council, created such a weakened moral state within the laity that it was only a matter of time before this "tyranny of relativism", as Pope Benedict XVI put it, worked its way right into the college of cardinals. We can expect more of this to come. The overreach of liberal prelates at the synod may have been put down for now, but a more general overreach will continue to remain a threat until this older post-conciliar generation of clergy is retired.

The second has to do with what we, as faithful lay Catholics, should do in response to everything that has happened. I am convinced that the timing of this scandalous event was no coincidence. October 13th is the most important date in the Fatima message. What transpired at the synod was nothing short of a fulfilment of the Fatima warnings. Our Lady told the three seer children that more souls go to hell over sexual immorality than any other sin. The synod revealed that some members of the Church hierarchy, including some cardinals, are prepared to virtually sanction sexual immorality. Had they been successful in their push, the papacy of Francis, as well as the unity of the entire Catholic Church, would be at stake. For now the crisis is averted, but the danger remains. So with that in mind, what are we, as faithful Catholics, to do in such a time as this?  I'll tell you. We must do two things. One, we must be good Catholics. We must go to confession and mass regularly. We must follow the teachings of the Church, and make an effort to know what those teachings are, as well as understand them. Second, we must take Our Lady's rosary before the tabernacle of every parish church in the world. We must pray the rosary daily in this time of great distress, and then as often as possible, visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and say our rosary there.  In all of this, we must offer our intentions up for the two causes of the bishops and the family.

Our Lady of Fatima told us that, in the end, her Immaculate Heart will prevail. That will happen. Until then however, our duty is clear. The time of sleep is over. Catholics must be awake, alert and ready for spiritual combat. The mainstream press is reporting the final synod document (which removed the controversial paragraphs and restored orthodoxy) as a "setback" for the pope. I don't know if it's really a setback for the pope or not, since the pope has not yet officially told us what his beliefs and intentions are. I do think, however, that this was a huge setback for the mainstream media and liberals within the Church, and all I can say to that is... THANK GOD!


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Dc Calamity said…
Cardinal Burke, who has been stalwart in his support for traditional teaches was slated to be demoted from the Tribunal of the Signatura (the Canon Law Supreme Court) to the head of the Order of Malta. Hence Burke had not nothing to lose speaking out forcefully for a perceived railroading of the relatio.

You are quite right that prayers and traditional piety are means to invoke the Holy Spirit's guidance and protection of sacred tradition and the Magisterium. But do not discount your role (or mine at DC-LausDeo.US) in being faithful Catholic bloggers.

Prior to the Internet 2.0 with the rapidity of information sharing via social media, the skewed relatio from Card. Forte would have totally dominated the "Synod of the Media" and cemented the changes for the October 2015 Synod on the Family.

But the 75% of Synod fathers who did not buy into this skewed summary were bolstered by social media sharing and educating the People of God about the Synod scandal. The summary was corrected and there will be a more balanced working document for the future synod.
Claudio said…
I wish I could continue to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt on where he stands in regards to the sexual morality issues raised at the Synod but given what transpired including the confirmation by Cardinal Burke himself that he is being demoted, I have no choice but to conclude that Pope Francis is part of the liberal hierarchy that wants to relax Church discipline in contradiction to Church dogma. Thankfully he does not want to directly confront his conservative cardinals and bishops and so he backed off for now. However he will continue to replace those cardinals and bishops like Cardinal Burke with liberal counterparts until he has the majority to change the discipline to his liking which will be a direct attack on the Faith and so I consider Pope Francis a danger to the Faith that I pray to God to either convert him or remove him from office. I believe all faithful Catholics need to closely examine what just happened in the last two weeks and if they come to the same conclusion that I have then they need to make their views known publicly such that the groundswell by the faithful will make Pope Francis realize that he either needs to change his mind or resign.
As a Benedict convert, I am stunned by the Synod and the realization that a significant number of bishops -- approaching a majority -- appear to be ready to chuck the Catechism's teachings on sin. Just...stunned.
Catharine said…
Thank you for this very excellent article. The only "quibble" I would have is that, I actually lived through the changes in the Mass which occurred in the mid and again in the late 1960's. There was never any pressure from the people to make these changes. Never. What occurred was, various bishops and priests, acting on who-knows-what self-appointed authority, imposed, or more properly, rammed those changes down the throats of the faithful.
The faithful were extremely traumatized, and the evil fruits of the changes were: destruction of their faith and mass exodus from the Catholic church; something on the order of 20-25% of all priests worldwide abandoning their vocations during the years 1965-1975, and the near-total collapse of sound Catholic religious education. The mess continues unabated today.
Unfortunately, far too many cardinals, bishops and priests have become "sheeple," pathetically eager to be one of the crowd, to "go along to get along." Those who adhere to Traditional Catholic teaching are vilified, esp. by other priests, bishops, or cardinals. The Church and the faithful have suffered horribly.
Catharine said…
As a further comment, your very excellent article correctly points out many of the problems afflicting the Catholic church on a worldwide basis today. These exact same problems were identified and spoken of by the Blessed Virgin Mary at her third apparition at Akita, Japan on Oct. 13, 1973 (like you, I don't believe the date is any coincidence):
"[t]he work of the devil will infiltrate into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres (other priests). Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord."
Also, the BVM also said,
"As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity ... the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests."
It is an unfortunate truth that most of the Church hierarchy in the USA are in a state of de facto schism with the traditional Catholic faith. The situation appears to be even worse in western Europe and Canada. The Church is strongest in Africa and Asia, but, again, dicey in Latin America.
By continual prayer and offering of sacrifices, I believe we can help to effectuate the conversion of many, even if only via final repentance at the hour of death. But I have serious doubts about the longterm survival of either the USA or western civilization. All actions have consequences which play out in real time, and the major apostasy which has been ongoing since approx. 1960-65 appears to be coming to full fruition.