Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 15, 2023 Column Father De Celles

Rome Has Been Busy. In the last few weeks the Vatican has been busy doing some things that warrant our special attention.

Synod on Synodality. On June 20, the Vatican issued its “Working Document” for the October 2023 “Synod on Synodality” (its “Instrumentum Laboris”, or IL). This is the document that lays out what will be done at the Synod, and how it will be done. Rather than comment on it myself, let me quote a few well known Catholic commentators.

George Weigel: “It would not be quite accurate to describe the Working Document for the October 2023 Synod…as ‘disappointing’…The better description of the IL, it seems to me, is that it’s vacuous: a great deal of clotted, trendy sociologese with a thin veneer of Christian language and imagery.

“The IL is Christologically vacuous. … IL reads as if it were prepared for an international non-governmental organization seeking to increase members and donors for its program of good works. …

“The IL is pneumatologically vacuous. The IL speaks at length of ‘conversation in the Spirit’ …But the IL says nothing about how the Church differentiates between the authentic voice of the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the age, which St. Paul warned the Romans to avoid…Nor does the IL affirm that the ‘voice of the Holy Spirit’ can never be self-contradictory, teaching the Church one thing at a particular historical moment and its opposite at another. …

“The IL is ecclesiologically vacuous. Over and over, the IL explores what a ‘listening’ Church… does… Very little is said about a teaching Church fulfilling the Master’s command in the Great Commission: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19-20). ….Moreover, …how can a process in which (at best) 1% of the Church has participated be considered an expression of the sensus fidelium, the ‘sense of the faithful’?’”

Fr. Raymond de Souza: “…An early criticism of the synodal process on synodality for a synodal Church was that it was a meeting about meetings. Now it is clear that, if not exactly a meeting about meetings, it will be a discussion about how to have discussions in the Church. Who should participate? Who should listen? Who should speak? How should all the listening and speaking be organized? What should be discussed is not the concern of the IL. …’We have no agenda,’ said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg.…’There was not a conspiratorial meeting with some people to come up with how we could add some progressive points of the Church,’ he snapped. ‘That is a very bad imagination of some people.’

“…What is the real agenda? Is it a bad imagination, or a well-founded suspicion that there is a real agenda afoot somewhere? As the previous eighteen months of discussions unfolded, people quickly tired of talking about talking, so at some point they began to talk about something… America magazine, wrote that the IL called for ‘discussion of women, LGBT Catholics, church authority and more.’ Where did he get the idea that some discussions about discussions would get more attention than other discussions about discussions?”

Fr. Gerald E. Murray: The motto for this new Synodal approach could easily be ‘People, not Doctrines, Я Us.’ This emotion-centered focus is the template for the hoped-for ‘soft’ revolution in the Church in which Catholic doctrines that contradict decadent Western sexual mores and radical feminist claims of oppression in the Church are framed as obsolete, regrettable, and needless sources of discord and alienation, as holdovers from a cruel past. These doctrines, of course, need to be jettisoned, lest anyone feel unwelcome….

“In the new synodal Church it is the people who instruct the bishops on the meaning of the Faith: ‘Since consulting the local Churches is an effective way to listen to the People of God, the Pastors’ discernment takes on the character of a collegial act that can authoritatively confirm what the Spirit has spoken to the Church through the People of God’s sense of faith.’

“….What if a bishop does not go along with a supposed …voice of the people? The IL responds with these revealing questions: ‘How can we deal constructively with cases in which those in authority feel they cannot confirm the conclusions reached by a community discernment process…? …

“…The Church of ‘Me, Myself and I,’ where each person recognizes himself in his personally curated set of beliefs, may promise satisfaction. In fact, it’s a make-believe, delusional religion of self-worship in which God is relegated to the role of the Divine Affirmer of whatever each one decides to believe. God spare us from such an outcome.”

New Prefect. Pope Francis has appointed his longtime personal theologian, Víctor Manuel Fernández to head the Dicastery (formerly “Congregation”) of the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF). Although his appointment is no surprise, considering his close relationship with the Pope, it was a huge disappointment to many. Some critics say Fernández lacks the scholarly theological gravitas or broad ecclesial experience of most of his predecessors: Cardinal Ratzinger, Muller and Ladaria were all well-respected “world renowned” scholars. They also note Archbishop Fernández’s most famous book is called “Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing.” Groups advocating against clergy sexual abuse have strongly criticized his handling of abuse cases as an archbishop in Argentina, something he will be in charge of at the DDF; (Fernández denies wrongdoing, but acknowledges he is not well versed in the “disciplines” involved in this issue). Moreover, many question his orthodoxy, something he did little to dissuade this week when he seemed to contradict Church teaching recently reiterated by the DDF (“God…does not and cannot bless sin”), saying that some “same-sex marriages” might be the subject of a Church blessing.

New Cardinals. The Pope also appointed 21 new cardinals, 19 of whom will be electors of the next pope. That makes a total of 83 cardinal-electors Pope Francis has appointed, or over 2/3 of the cardinal-electors. Many have noted that to be elected pope, a candidate must receive 2/3 of the total votes.

Among the new cardinals were several appointments that have caused much discussion, including Archbishop Fernandez (above). Also the auxiliary bishop of Lisbon, Bishop Américo Aguiar, who was widely quoted as saying recently, “We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all.” And of course, French Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the current apostolic nuncio to the United States. Archbishop Pierre has been seen by some as often at odds with many U.S. Bishops who have not adequately responded to movements and decisions coming from Rome.

Bishop’s Lenten Appeal. Thanks to all of you who helped us reach our goal for the BLA this year. Got that done.

Summertime. You know I love summer; I hope you are having a relaxing and recreating season. But don’t forget Jesus, praying, confession and Mass!  With the slower pace of summer, it should be a time of refocusing our lives on Christ. Be safe, have fun, but be holy.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles