By Irene F. Starkehaus -
The good news is that Synod 14 (delivered to world Catholics on October 18, 2014) indicates that the majority of Catholic Bishops and Cardinals worldwide are still unwilling to jettison five to ten thousand years of Judeo-Christian teachings (depending on who you ask) to appease the progressive, global hostility aimed at these views.
The bad news is that Pope Francis solidified the growing perception that he is willing to play ball with practitioners of moral ambiguity when he stressed his readiness to adapt Catholic views on marriage to incorporate non-traditional lifestyles.
Make no mistake. The Pope's equivocation endangers freedom and will ultimately jeopardize the lives of those who remain true to their faith. By vacillating, Pope Francis nurtures and cultivates the hostility that will lead to religious martyrdom in the free world. Additionally, he endangers countless souls who only know Catholicism through what they read in USA Today.
Regardless of what the MSM reported during last week's Extraordinary General Assembly, the Church has not modernized its approach to divorce, cohabitation or same-sex marriage. On display during the Synod was aggressive political maneuvering by the Church's progressives. Like many other organizational forums, the media was excluded from closed meetings so that parliamentary processes could move forward unobstructed. That left Bishops and Cardinals scrambling to microphones and cameras to spin their own versions of daily proceedings.
Moreover, as reporters recounted those unsubstantiated claims coming out of the Synod from its onset, they inserted themselves into the fabricated groundswell by collaborating with the political efforts of progressive, protestant Catholic clergy.
The "wag the dog" spin of events on display did nothing to address the real issues that are before the Bishops and Cardinals. They succeeded only in buoying irreverence while dispiriting the faithful. See this video from Church Militant for a better understanding of daily procedures at work during the conference. The growing frustration coming from conservative and traditional Catholics is palpable.
I encourage any Catholics and non-Catholics who wish to use the Synod as a spring board for moral upheaval to read the final message…which is the only one that counts by the way… offered in the report because the most shocking aspect of the document is that there is nothing extraordinary about it. The text reiterates the longstanding tradition that all are welcome to participate in Catholic communion with Christ but only after certain conditions are met. The criterion that one's soul must be free from mortal sin remains unmoved and the definition of mortal sin stands equally unyielding.
Moving beyond the blithering, anti-capitalist rhetoric that is now so typical, and in and of itself represents a malformed understanding of the faith in effort to mollify progressives, the most pointed phrasing in dealing with disfigured conjugal unions expressly characterizes them as impoverished:
"We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious."
Simply put, we must enter into marriage understanding what marriage is and is not. Ignoring the responsibilities of marriage may make the union prone to fissures and dissolution. Both can then drive people into new, poorly considered unions that are inherently misshaped and not Christian. So again, any union that goes beyond the fidelity and reason for traditional marriage is characterized as enfeebled, impoverished, impatient and lacking courage.
Given the Church's persistence in pacifying progressives, it should come as no surprise that the blame for growth in marital malformation is placed squarely at the feet of the free market. This mischaracterization of capitalists would be laughable if it wasn't so dangerous to the people who are just trying to live peaceful, prosperous lives.
Capitalist societies like the US are branded in this statement as spiritually deadened by prosperity at the same time that they are being blamed for not letting more immigrants across the borders so that they can be deadened too…the Church really needs a "Come to Jesus" on social justice because by the Church's own logic within this document, the US should be celebrated as doing God's work by blocking passage across our borders.
This irreconcilable argument for social justice that the Bishops are trying to make in favor of eating their cake and having it too is exactly why the Church should not be muddying the waters of marriage any more than it has so far. The Church's appeasement of economic socialism, which represents the schism from its own teachings on materialism, drives home an important lesson about playing footsie with progressives. Arguments in favor of the Left's warped definition of social justice are ultimately insupportable and will cause advocates to spiritually contort in their attempts to maintain lies and distortions…i.e. if the prosperity of free market societies is truly as soul deadening as Church leadership claims then the people of Central America should avoid it at all costs.
Prosperity isn't soul deadening, mind you. Materialism is soul deadening because it is a denial of the spirit, and materialism happens when religious institutions like the Catholic Church fail to educate people about God and truth, which are immutable. So when the Pope says, "God is not afraid of new things," as he calls for the Church to adapt to changing marital conditions because many of those unions ostensibly have something to offer society, he actually disorders Catholic teaching and perpetuates the materialism he would otherwise denounce if we could get a clear definition of what materialism is.
For the record, it is true that God wouldn't be afraid of new things because from God's perspective, there are no new things, so the Pope's statement is borderline meaningless unless we suspend our disbelief and pretend that something got lost in translation again.
The problem is that when Pope Francis misspeaks or his words conflict with Catholic teaching, he may believe he is embracing gradualism, which is the observation that the turn from sin often comes in fits and bursts. What he is really doing is undermining the devout Catholic's ability to defend the faith. So when a Catholic parent goes up against a school board to protect her child against the promotion of the nihilism that is inherent in gay marriage, she will have a hard time explaining that promoting this lifestyle infringes upon her First Amendment rights. The school board will merely respond, "Oh, really? That's not what your Pope says."
Now, that mother will possibly know that Pope Francis is playing fast and loose with the truth, but she also will identify that the rock on which the Church is built now dissolves into quicksand when she grasps for it. In this way, the Church has borne false witness against her in an ultimate betrayal of spirit. She must face possible persecution knowing that the Church will fold under pressure when progressives demand a shift in policy.
The danger in that betrayal is personified in a case that has now arisen in Idaho, where city officials have told ordained ministers they have to celebrate same-sex weddings or face fines and jail time. Houston pastors have been ordered by the city to turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity issues or the Houston mayor's sexual orientation. And quoting Fr. John Zuhlsdorf via Cabrini Center for Catholic Healthcare:
"In 2010, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago outlined the degree to which he believed religious freedoms (in the United States and other Western societies) were endangered. After the passage of legislation that enabled Civil Unions in Illinois, his eminence stated: 'I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.'
In February of 2012, Cardinal George reflected on the seriousness of the Obama administration's health-care mandate: 'At the present moment, Catholics in this country are facing challenges to our institutional existence and our mission that we thought would never arise here. … The laws that used to protect us are now being used to weaken and destroy us, and this quite deliberately.'
Shortly, thereafter, when the Obama administration and the media touted the fact that the Catholic Bishops are alone on the contraception issue and that most Catholics aren't supporting them in this battle, Cardinal George wrote: 'This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain. What isn't always understood is that the Bishops of the Church make no attempt to speak for all Catholics; they never have. The Bishops speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith, and those who hold that faith gather around them. Others disperse.'
It would seem that Pope Francis will not speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith and would much rather be popular than a shepherd for the Catholic people.