Rorate Caeli

Dutch Bishop: “God is out of the picture in this damned synodal process. The Holy Spirit has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

Once again, Bishop Robert Mutsaerts, auxiliary of Den Bosch, the Netherlands, has the right words for the right time.

In a better age, like Cardinal Pie, he would have long been created a Cardinal. Alas…


Synodal process as an instrument to change the Church?

Bishop Robert Mutsaerts

November 4, 2022

On Thursday, Oct. 27, the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in Rome presented the working document for the Continental Phase of the Synod "For a synodal Church: communio, participatio, missio.” This took place at a press conference chaired by Cardinal Grech held at the Holy See press center in Rome. The document was entitled "Increase the space in your tent" (Isaiah 54:2). Based on all the final documents of the meetings in the various Continents, the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops then compiles the Instrumentum Laboris, the working document for the 2023 and 2024 Synod meetings.

The mantra of the process is: listen. To whom? To everyone. The working document contains a good number of quotes. "These quotations were chosen because they express in a particularly powerful, beautiful or precise way feelings that are expressed more generally in many reports. The synodal experience can be read as a path of recognition for those who do not feel adequately recognized in the Church." The contours of the synodal process are becoming increasingly clear. It provides a megaphone for non-Catholic views. The document indicates what the synodal path should ultimately lead to: "This means a Church that learns by listening how to renew its evangelizing mission in light of the signs of the times, in order to continue to offer humanity a way of being and living in which all can feel included as protagonists."

Who are those who feel excluded? Par. 39: "Among those who call for a more meaningful dialogue and a more welcoming space, we also find those who, for various reasons, feel a tension between belonging to the Church and their own loving relationships, such as: remarried divorced people, single parents, people living in polygamous marriages, LGBTQ people, etc." In short, those who do not agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church. What the working document seems to suggest is that we compile a list of complaints and then debate them. The mission of the Church is a different one. That which it is not: to examine all opinions and then let's come to an agreement. Jesus commanded us something else: proclaim the truth; it is the truth that will set you free. Particularly curious is the comment that the Church pays no attention to polygamy. For that matter, the document does not pay any attention to traditionalists. Those also feel excluded. Indeed, they are literally so by Pope Francis (Traditionis Custodes). Apparently there is no empathy for this group.

To date, the synodal process is more like a sociological experiment and has little to do with the Holy Spirit supposedly sounding through all. That could almost be called blasphemous. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the synodal process is going to be used to change a number of church positions, with the Holy Spirit then also being thrown into the fray as an advocate, even though the Holy Spirit has really breathed something counterintuitive throughout the centuries. Above all, what can be gathered from the listening sessions is an evaporated faith, no longer practiced and not accepting the Church's positions. People complain that the Church does not accept their views. This is not entirely true, by the way. The Flemish and German bishops go a long way with them, which is actually much more tragic. They no longer want to call sin a sin. Hence conversion and repentance are no longer discussed.

Predictable is the call for the admission of women to the priesthood: "the active role of women in the governing structures of church bodies, the possibility for women with adequate training to preach in parishes, and a female diaconate and priesthood." A pointless exercise considering that the last three pontificates have explicitly stated that this is an impossibility. In politics, everything is open to discussion and debate. In the Church it is not. We have such a thing as Church doctrine that is not subject to time and place. But the working document really seems to question everything. For example, in par. 60 we read, "The call to the conversion of ecclesial culture, for the salvation of the world, is concretely linked to the possibility of establishing a new culture, with new practices and structures." And then this: “The bishops are asked to find appropriate ways to carry out their task of validating and approving the final document and ensuring that it is the fruit of an authentic synodal journey, respectful of the process that has taken place and faithful to the different voices of the People of God in each continent." Apparently, the office of bishop is reduced to is reduced to simply implementing what is ultimately the greatest common denominator as the outcome of a raffle of opinions. The final final stage of the synodal process cannot but turn out like a Polish country day [TN: Poolse landdag: humorous Dutch expression for a meeting where everything is debated and nothing is decided.] Predictably, all those who do not get their way will say they are being excluded. In advance, this is a recipe for disaster. If everyone gets their way - which is not actually possible - the disaster is complete. Then the Church will have denied itself and squandered its identity.

At the presentation of the working document, Cardinal Grech made a big deal about stating that the Church's task is to act as an amplifier of every sound coming from within the Church, even if it is contrary to what the Church has always proclaimed. That was once different. At the time of the Counter Reformation, the Church left nothing to be desired in terms of clarity as to what its views were. You convince people by standing for the Catholic faith with reasoned and full conviction. You convince no one by merely listening and leaving it at that. The annoying thing is that the bishops were instructed to listen and then document what was said. These reports were then collected at the church local level and then forwarded to Rome. Reports that included the necessary heresies with the signature of the bishops' conference. We could not do otherwise, but I am by no means happy about it. Many a cardinal, by the way, also ventilated this sound in Rome, asking even more once what synodality actually is. There was no clear answer.

Jesus took a different approach. He listened to the two disappointed disciples who were on their way to Emmaus. But at one point He took the floor and made it clear to them that they were going astray. That led them to turn around and return to Jerusalem. If we don't turn around we end up in Emmaus and are even further from home than we already are.

One thing is clear to me. God is out of the picture in this damned synodal process. The Holy Spirit has absolutely nothing to do with it. Among the protagonists of this process are to me a little too many defenders of gay marriage, folks who don't really think abortion is a problem and never really show themselves defenders of the Church's rich creed, wanting above all to be liked by their secular surroundings. How unpastoral, how unloving. People want sincere answers. They don't want to go home with more questions. You're keeping people from salvation. I have since dropped out of the synodal process.