Catholics, and all Christians who value family values, should be praying earnestly for the Catholic Church as a struggle over critical family issues is coming to a head in the run-up to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which takes place October 5-19.
Augmenting the concerns is the fact that some of the cardinals closest to Pope Francis himself are increasingly in public disagreement over crucial matters related to faith and family. For some, the concerns reach right to the pope himself.
While Synod preparations have been going on for a year, Sunday’s weddings of 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica by Pope Francis presented a figurative, and perhaps foreboding launch.
In a press release prior to the ceremony, the Rome diocese inexplicably went out of its way to highlight the fact that some of couples the pope was going to marry were cohabiting. “Those who will get married Sunday are couples like many others,” it said. “There are those who are already cohabitating; who already have children.”
Unsurprisingly, the mainstream press took the bait and seized upon this statement to run headline after headline pushing the confusing notion that the event was a prelude to, or evidence of, a change in Church teaching on marriage.
- United Press International: Pope Francis marries couple who already parented child
- Germany’s Deutche Welle: Pope Francis marries 20 couples in taboo-challenging Vatican ceremony
- Times of Malta: Pope marries couples who cohabited and had children
- Time Magazine: Pope’s Marriage Celebrations Hint At Coming Changes for Church
- International Business Times: Pope Francis Marries Couples 'Living In Sin' In Vatican Ceremony
- BBC News: Pope marries 20 cohabiting couples in sign of papacy shift
All I can do is pray that the public fallout from these wedding ceremonies does not foreshadow the public outcome of the Synod. If so, we could be headed for a tragedy akin to the tragedy of the late sixties when, despite the proclamation of the truth of Humanae Vitae against contraception, the effect among ordinary Catholics was a near universal rejection of the teaching in practice.
What to expect at the Synod
The official list of those taking part in the Synod includes 114 presidents of Bishops’ Conferences, 13 heads of Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, 25 heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, nine members of the Ordinary Council for the Secretariat, the Secretary General, the Undersecretary, three religious elected by the Union of Superiors General, 26 members appointed by the Pontiff, eight fraternal delegates, and 38 auditors, among whom are 13 married couples and 16 experts.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of Cardinal Kasper’s intervention at the Consistory of Cardinals earlier this year, in which he laid out a contentious proposal to allow Catholics who have been divorced and then ‘remarried’ outside the Church to receive Communion.
Since then a bevy of heavy-hitter cardinals have fought that proposal, including:
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops
- Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy
- Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
- Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
- Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan
- Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna
Today, however, Cardinal Kasper said the “attacks” from these cardinals were not so much directed at him but at Pope Francis, since, claims Kasper, he discussed his intervention with the pope and gained his approval.
The claim has some basis, since the day after Kasper made the proposal, before it was made public, Pope Francis praised it publicly. According to Vatican Information Service, the Holy Father said:
I read and reread Cardinal Walter Kasper's document and I would like to thank him, as I found it to be a work of profound theology, and also a serene theological reflection. It is pleasant to read serene theology. And I also found what St. Ignacius described as the 'sensus Ecclesiae', love for the Mother Church. … It did me good, and an idea came to mind – please excuse me, Eminence, if I embarrass you – but my idea was that this is what we call ‘doing theology on one's knees’. Thank you, thank you.
Of note, Vatican correspondent Sébastien Maillard, writing for France’s La Croix, reports today that Pope Francis is “irritated” by the release of a book containing criticisms of the Kasper proposal by five cardinals.
As LifeSiteNews reported yesterday, one of those authors, Cardinal Raymond Burke, is being demoted from his headship of the Apostolic Signatura. The only post planned for the 66-year-old cardinal thus far is patron of the Order of Malta.
Cardinal Burke’s pre-Synod interventions go beyond the divorce and remarriage question and into the matter of homosexuality. In a recent interview Cardinal Burke gave a clear refutation of the misuse of Pope Francis’ famed ‘Who am I to judge’ quote to justify homosexuality.
While the issue of the Church’s teachings on homosexuality is seldom raised in reference to the Synod, with most of the emphasis being placed on the question of divorce and remarriage, it is mentioned in the working document, or ‘Instrumentum Laboris’, of the Synod.
As with the matter of divorce, no doctrine regarding homosexuality can be changed, but much confusion can still be sown under the auspices of adjustments to “pastoral” practice. Without a clear teaching from the Synod, the effects could be similar to the shift in “pastoral” practice among dissenting clergy after the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, which led to the use of artificial contraception by most Catholics.
Already and for many years there has been de facto broad acceptance of homosexual sexual practices in many Catholic schools, universities and many other institutions, with many staff being active homosexuals in open defiance of Catholic moral teaching.
Regarding the Synod’s deliberations on homosexuality, it does not bode well that one of Pope Francis’ personal appointees to the Synod is retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels. The selection is remarkable because of Danneels was caught on tape in 2010 urging a victim who had been sexually abused by a bishop-friend of Danneels, to be silent. Then, only last year Danneels praised as a “positive development” that states were opening up civil marriage to homosexuals.
Then, just this week, as reported on the Rorate Caeli blog, one of the three Synod presidents gave an interview with the leading Brazilian newspaper in which he said that while stable unions between homosexual persons cannot be equated to marriage, the Church has always tried to show respect for such unions.
The statement matches that of another prominent Synod participant, Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who in 2010 spoke of giving more consideration to ‘the quality’ of homosexual relationships. “We should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships. A stable relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous,” Schönborn said.
In the end, while there is currently a public battle in the Vatican that is unprecedented in modern history, the faith will not and cannot change. As faithful Catholics, and Christians, we must cling to the Truths of Christ regarding the family and live them out in our own lives first and foremost. That is difficult, to be sure, especially in our sex-saturated culture, but with Christ (and only with Him) all things are possible.
Plead with heaven for the pope and the bishops in the Synod. LifeSiteNews will be there reporting from Rome, and, with your prayers and support, be of service to those defending truth.