Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Extraordinary Synod of Bishops. This last week, as 200 bishops from around the world gathered at the Vatican for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops discussing family and evangelization, the press was all abuzz about a supposedly new report from “the Vatican.” They acted almost as if the Church was about to set aside its ancient teaching on sexuality, marriage and family in favor of a more 21st century and worldly approach to divorce, remarriage, cohabitation and “gay marriage.”
The real story is that at the midpoint of every Bishops’ Synod a very small committee of bishops produces a brief report summarizing the open discussions (mainly speeches) of the Synod so far. This report is then distributed as a working document to help the Bishops during the second half of the Synod as they gather privately in small groups to intensify their discussions and work out specifics of final conclusions. At the end of those small group discussions, their conclusions will be summarized in a final report which will then be voted on by all 200 bishops in the Synod. If that document is approved (as I understand it, approval requires a two thirds majority of the bishops) it will then be sent on to the Pope as the Synod’s official recommendations. In this case, with this Extraordinary Synod, the Pope has announced that he will not issue the usual papal teaching document that follows a Synod (an “apostolic exhortation”). Rather he will forward this report to another Ordinary Synod of Bishops that is gathering this time next year (October 2015) to discuss “the vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.”
In other words, the document released this week was the equivalent of an “internal memo” not actually drafted or approved by the bishops themselves. It is meant to be used to facilitate internal discussions, not to teach, much less to change anything in the Church. It has no authority whatsoever, magisterially or disciplinary. These kinds of documents are so unimportant almost no one outside of the bishops gathered in Synods ever bothers to read them. Only the ignorant and biased press would place such great importance on them.
Moreover, many of the Synod bishops, seeing the outrageous press coverage, have publicly denounced both the press reports and the preliminary report as not only not accurately or fully reflecting the actual discussions of the Synod, but also being filled with theological and doctrinal ambiguity and errors, and to remind us that even the final report from the Synod has no teaching or disciplinary authority on its own since it only represents the suggestions of only 200 bishops (or even only two-thirds of those).
All this reminds me of the manipulation that took place during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), or “Vatican II.” It is well documented how certain factions of bishops and theologians at Vatican II used the press to manipulate public expectations and understanding of the Council and its documents. This “spin” led to the wide-acceptance of what Pope Benedict XVI called an erroneous “hermeneutic of discontinuity”—as if Vatican II changed everything about the Church. Both St. John Paul and Benedict, who as young men had played important roles at Vatican II, spent their whole pontificates trying to undo this gravely erroneous understanding. The same thing seems to be happing with this Synod, except this time the press is much more often a co-conspirator. I pray that this current manipulation will not cause the same kind of terrible confusion that happened after Vatican II.
Because of the almost total unimportance of the “preliminary report” I will not comment on either the content of the report itself or the particular claims in the media. Besides, they are already completely outdated, because as I write this column, the Synod bishops are meeting to work out their actual final recommendations to the Pope. And as you read this they would have most surely finished that process, and perhaps even voted on the final report to His Holiness. So let us pray that the Holy Spirit may save the Church from the terrible confusion that comes not from God but from weak and sinful men. And I encourage you to remember two things. First, whatever comes from this Synod, remember to be very careful in interpreting what you hear in the biased and/or ignorant press about Catholicism. And second, understand everything in the days ahead in the “hermeneutic of continuity”—there is one Catholic Church, before and after this Synod, and everything taught today and tomorrow must be understood only in the light of and as being consistent with the Catholic teaching of the past two millennia.
Annual Parish Financial Report. Today’s bulletin includes an insert providing a summary of our financial results for the fiscal year June 30, 2014. While the previous year saw a slight increase in collections, this year saw a 5% decrease, in the amount of $102,000. Moreover this year also saw a 5% increase in operating expenses of $87,000. As a result net income of $469,628, was down from the previous year by 33%, or $230,000. Increases in expenses were largely budgeted and attributable to additional paid staff and unusual maintenance and construction expenses (including cry room improvements, refinishing exterior doors, a new church boiler, and new rectory hvac units). The decrease in collections, however, was not expected, especially since there was a 3% increase in registered parishioners.
During the year we paid down our bank loan by $497,628, leaving us $1,687,143 in debt. Our cash balance at year end was a strong $1,193,697.
If there are any questions about this report or any other financial matters do not hesitate to contact me. I once again thank you for your continued generosity, and let us all thank Almighty God for his continuing munificence.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles