Rorate Note: The heterodox and their compliant media are trying hard, but there is no way to spin the Synod: it was a huge defeat for pope Francis.
We had already mentioned it, and Roberto de Mattei explains with more detail below, but it suffices to say the following: in a structure such as the Catholic Church, in which the Pope has such an overwhelming presence (in which he can name, remove, eject, shame, promote, demote, humiliate, praise, suppress, almost at whim), and in which he has a duty and a position that is almost unrivaled in any other organization, an uprising such as that of the past week in extremely debilitating to him.
Let us try to explain it in three different aspects, using the triple approach favored by His Holiness.
First, as several commentators have explained (including Yves Daoudal, here in French), the most controversial paragraphs were not even that controversial. The first (52), on communion for "remarried" divorced is a mere statement of fact: "many fathers" spoke against it, "other fathers" in favor, and that is it. But not even this managed to reach the 2/3 level. The same can be said of paragraph 55 on homosexuality, which in a sense just repeats what had already been written in a CDF document -- but its rejection shows that even this language was too much for many bishops (and indicate that even Joseph Ratzinger's CDF did not take into full consideration the sentiment of bishops in orthodox regions, including Africa). The new spin for the mainstream media is that "the fact that they discussed previous taboos at all means Pope Francis scored a victory" -- which would in other terms mean that Trent was a huge victory for Lutheranism considering the fact that Lutheran theology was fiercely debated in that Council... Absolutely nonsensical.
Second, precisely because of the overwhelming presence of the Pope in the ecclesial structure, when the majority of bishops are aware of the pope's position, they rarely vote and act against him. The comparison with Vatican II is inevitable: as de Mattei explains below, even in those most controversial final votes of the Council, the mere fact that Pope Paul VI wanted them was persuasive enough to hand him two enormous victories: 2,308 votes in favor and 70 against (3.03%), in Dignitatis Humanae; 2,221 in favor and 88 against (3.96%), in Nostra Aetate.
If the non placet votes in those conciliar votes had reached the levels of the rejected paragraphs in the Synod, it would have been a matter of between 850 and 1,000 votes against the Pope's position! This would have been understood then as a complete and utter rejection of the papal project, and a clear blockage of the conciliar project at least regarding those items. And remember that in the Council Popes John XXIII and Paul VI did not choose the Fathers at will: other than some minor criteria the composition was formed of almost all bishops and superiors of religious orders. Meanwhile, the Synod is a much smaller body whose composition is picked by the Pope almost at will (the national Conference choose many, but the Pope can pack the numbers in his favor as much as he wants, which he may presumably try to do more strongly in 2015).
A change of a 2,000-year-old unchangeable teaching coming from Scripture and the clear words of Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and Saint Paul the Apostle demands much more than fewer than 2/3 of the handpicked members of a Synod... It was therefore an unprecedented defeat also in numbers. A Odon Vallet said, the risk of a schism is too great - or, at very least, of a complete and enduring estrangement between faithful and pope that is simply unbearable for the very structure of Catholicism. Yes, the structure of the Church has Divine origin, but it also depends, on human terms (as every association of men and women), on mutual identification and respect, and at this moment the Pope is about to lose all support from those Catholics most dedicated to the Church as an organizational structure. The Pope, as any other pope, by the very fact that he is Pope will have the simple majority, but the fact that he does not have an overwhelming majority in those specific questions that were dear to his heart weakened him immensely.
Third, one cannot but remark once again (and be sure that the Synod Fathers themselves noticed it even more) the absolute ungracious attitude of the Pope in having not just published but kept in the final relatio the paragraphs that were indeed rejected. So the paragraphs that we got were those written by his 6-liberal commission (including Tucho Fernández, with the addition in extremis, after Kasper's anti-African interview and Pell's Thursday intervention, of one African and one Australian), regardless of what the consensual Synodal position was. It was an act of brutality -- of course it was in his power to do so, but so is in his power not to have a Synod at all. Once he asks for their advice, he should "listen" (isn't that one of his favored words?) to what is not consensual, not impose his will. Then we are not speaking of a Synod or a Council, but of a Party Congress - the papal version of the Supreme Soviet. Will he force his will down the throats of bishops and faithful? Possibly, but once again the division he will sow will certainly end tragically for everyone and for the very special claims that the Church makes for herself and for the papacy itself.
So we must understand the great and unprecedented defeat: the numbers don't lie. It is not a matter of getting a simple majority, it is the fact that an absence of an almost unanimous consensual will in a matter that is deeply in the interest of the Pope by a body picked by him is a motion of non-confidence in him and in his views. The great division has just begun, what Le Figaro religious correspondent Jean-Marie Guénois calls (here, in French) the "silent schism" is ready to take hold in vast portions of the Church - and the claims of the papacy are at stake. A large portion of the faithful, the most active and influential, will just dig in. They can wait very patiently, under the mantle of the Virgin.
Heading Towards the 2015 SynodRoberto de MatteiCorrispondenza RomanaOctober 22, 2014
«Das Drama geht weiter!» (The show will go on) said Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich, Bavaria in an interview to “La Repubblica” of October 20th 2014. The show is the Bishops’ Synod that witnessed an unexpected turn of events take place in the Hall. The Relatio post disceptationem presented on the 13th October, despite the rehashing it underwent, didn’t obtain the expected majority of two-thirds on two crucial points: the admittance of the divorced and remarried to Communion and the opening up to homosexual couples, attesting 104 in favour, 74 not in favour on the first point and 118 for, 62 against, on the second. In spite of the evident débâcle, Cardinal Marx, one of the most passionate exponents on the progressive wing, said he was satisfied, since revolutionary processes are done in successive stages. On some themes, he explained, “we took two steps forwards and then one backwards”. The retreat, nonetheless, was forced by a much wider resistance from the Synod Fathers than what had been envisaged. In order to understand the significance of the event, we may recall, that at the Second Vatican Council, regardless of the bitter debate in the Hall, the most contested documents, like Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate, were approved by 2,308 votes against 70 in the first, and 2,221 against 88 in the second. If then it was a majority consensus, today the split is evident.
The Church today is a battlefield, as it has been many times since Nicaea to Vatican II, where there have always been clashes, not between conservatives and progressives, but between Catholics who don’t want to touch an iota of the Divine deposit and those who want to introduce novelties to this deposit. Pope Francis’ sentence “God is not afraid of novelty” should be understood in a different sense than what the Pontiff intended: it may simply mean that God is not afraid of the “innovators”; he destroys their works and assigns the task of defeating them to the defenders of the unchangeable Magisterium of the Church.
In the field of faith and morality, every exception introduces a rule and every new rule opens the door to a normative system that overturns the old one. Novelty has a revolutionary importance which should be caught at the embryonic stage. In an interview to “Catholic News Service” Cardinal George Pell, defined the request for Communion to the divorced and remarried as a Trojan Horse which opens the way for the recognition of homosexual unions. The number of divorced and remarried who ask to receive Communion is, in reality, irrelevant. What is at stake is something else: it is the acceptance of homosexuality on the part of the Church - considered not as sin or disordered tendency, but as a positive “tension” towards the good, worthy of pastoral care and juridical protection.
Cardinals Marx and Schönborn have been very clear regarding this and the assistant secretary of the Synod, Monsignor Bruno Forte, student of the Tubingen heretical school, carried out their wishes, revealing himself as the author of the most indecent passages in the first Relatio. The great majority of the Synod Fathers rejected the scandalous paragraphs, but what doctrine does not admit is admitted in praxis, waiting for sanction at the next Synod. For many lay, priests and bishops, homosexuality may be practiced, even if not accepted by law, because it does not signify grave sin. This is linked to the question of extra-marital cohabitation. If sexuality outside of marriage is not a grave sin, but a positive value provided that it is expressed in a stable and sincere way, it deserves a blessing from the priest and legalization by the State. If it is a value, it is also a right, and if sexuality exists as a right, the step from cohabitation of the divorced to homosexual marriage is inevitable.
The doctrinal Magisterium of the Church, which has never varied in the span of two thousand years, teaches that the practice of homosexuality is to be considered a vice against nature, which causes not only the eternal damnation of individuals, but the moral ruin of society as well. Saint Augustine in “The Confessions” sums up the thought of the Fathers: “Sins against nature, therefore, like the sin of Sodom, are abominable and deserve punishment whenever and wherever they are committed. If all nations committed them, all alike would be held guilty of the same charge in God’s law”. (The Confessions, c. III, p. 8).
Over the centuries the Pastors of the Church have gathered and passed on this perennial teaching. So Christian morality has, without reserve, always condemned homosexuality and established that this vice cannot expect at all to be legalized by juridical order, nor promoted by political power. When the European Parliament voted its first resolution in favour of pseudo-homosexual–marriage in 1994, in his address of February 20th John Paul II reiterated that: “the juridical approval of homosexual practice is not morally admissible […]With this resolution the European Parliament was asked to legitimize a moral disorder. Parliament wrongfully conferred an institutional value to deviant behavior which is not in conformity with the plan of God. […] Forgetting the words of Christ – ‘The truth shall set you free’ (John, 8,32) – they have attempted to suggest to the inhabitants of our continent, that moral evil, deviation and a type of slavery are a way to freedom, falsifying the essence of the family itself.”
A crack in this doctrinal edifice opened on the 28th July 2013, when, on his return flight from Brazil, Pope Francis pronounced the explosive words: “Who am I to judge!” and from then on they were destined to justify any transgression. Judgment, with its resulting definition of truths and condemnation of errors, is the jurisdiction par excellence of the Vicar of Christ, supreme guardian and judge [in matters] of faith and morality. Citing Francis’ words, some bishops and cardinals, inside and outside the Synod Hall, asked for the recognition of the positive aspects of unnatural unions.
However, if one of the gravest of sins ceases to be such, the concept of sin itself fails and the Lutheran idea of mercy which had been anathematized by the Council of Trent reappears. In the Justification Canons promulgated on January 13th 1547, we find: “If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy (Canon 12); “that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey” (Canon 21); “that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity” (Canon27); “let him be anathema”.
We are dealing here with theological themes that have social repercussions which even lay people have the right and duty to face, as it is not only the Synod of 2015 that approaches, but also the year 2017, the fifth centenary of Luther’s Revolution and the first centenary of the Fatima Apparitions.
What is now underway is not the playful show that Cardinal Marx implied, but an arduous battle which involves both Heaven and earth. The last acts will be dramatic, but the epilogue will certainly be triumphant, according to the Divine promise confirmed by Our Lady at the Cova da Iria in 1917.
May the Immaculate, deign to bestow continuous purity of thought and action to all those in the heat of the battle and who defend the integrity of the Catholic Faith with courage.
[Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]