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Letters from the Synodal Abyss

Letter #4: Shepherds or Hired Hands?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
October 21, 2015

Monday’s press conference at the Vatican Press office provided a window into the process by which this Synod on the Family — with complete predictability — is serving as a vehicle for subversion of the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage, family and human sexuality. 

Summarizing what he contends is the sense of the proceedings as they enter their third and most crucial week, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane trotted out the slogans that thinly disguise an attempt by the Synod’s radical progressive agitators to have the Church embrace situation ethics (as John Vennari has noted) repackaged as a “new pastoral approach.”

Coleridge referred to a tale told to the press by a handpicked Spanish-speaking priest, who related how a First Communicant in his diocese broke his Host in half so that he could give half to his divorced and “remarried” father.  This was presented as a “moving” testimony of how cruel the Church has been in her constant teaching on the impossibility of Holy Communion for people who are living in adultery and refuse to abstain from adulterous sexual relations.  In fact, it demonstrated an appalling lack of spiritual formation in the child, who apparently did not know (or did not care) that he was committing a sacrilege, as well as a shocking display of arrogance and contempt for the Blessed Sacrament on the part of the father and a sad example of criminal clerical negligence on the part of the priest who apparently went along with this outrage.

Archbishop Coleridge did not hear the testimony himself, but said that a “real human experience like that one… would have touched me deeply” and that he did not know whether, had he witnessed it, he would have changed his position on the Church’s discipline.  Please!  In the manner of a politician, Coleridge and the other promoters of this tale of woe are making a demagogic appeal to emotion in order to suggest an overthrow of the teaching of Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and every Pope before them on the impossibility of Holy Communion for public adulterers.

Speaking of adultery, Coleridge seriously suggested that the word “adultery doesn’t say enough” about “the truth of human experience” because “not every case is the same” and it would be unreasonable to “say that every second marriage is adulterous.” Reciting what has become a mantra of the progressives, he opined that “enduring, stable and loving” second “marriages” are somehow not adulterous, as if an adulterous relationship could be morally validated by the passage of time and the emotional state of the adulterers. One might as well argue that an “enduring, stable and loving” cohabitation without benefit of marriage does not constitute fornication. And that is exactly what the synodal progressives do argue.

Reeling off a string of meaningless mantras, Coleridge declared that in the pastoral approach to people living in adultery the Church must “listen to their story,” which is “the beginning of a process of dialogue.” The Church must “start with a kind of listening” because a “synodal church is a listening church.”  Moreover, “we need to listen in new ways” in order to find a path “between all or nothing,” “black or white.”

Speaking of the “issues” of the divorced and remarried, cohabitation and homosexuality, Coleridge said that “the teaching of the Church in these areas will remain intact”­ — awfully generous of him! — but “we will move toward a whole new pastoral approach” that involves  “a new listening for the sake of a new language” as well as “public enactments of mercy” to remedy  “centuries of thinking about mercy in private.”  This is because a pastoral approach “relentlessly geared to the facts… does not put down roots in the soil of human experience.”  Yes, let us not trouble ourselves with the facts!

What all of this Modernist gobbledygook boils down to is the maximum progressive demand at the Synod: that the Church institutionally accommodate herself to mortal sin of various kinds because it is unrealistic and even cruel to expect people to live according to the standard of Christian morality, which is but a lofty ideal.  This is nothing but a Pelagian capitulation to human weakness that ignores the role of divine grace, and thus the very role of the Church herself, in enabling people to rise above sin and live virtuously. Not for the “synodal Church” is Our Lord’s divine assurance regarding the life of virtue in His grace: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What can one say in face of such open admissions of surrender to the spirit of the age on the part of prelates who are supposed to be shepherds of souls, leading them away from sin and the threat of damnation and toward eternal beatitude? One can reply only with the words of Our Lord pertaining to the situation that now obviously confronts us:  “He that is a hireling, and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, beholdeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth them: he fleeth because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.”

And so a Synod ostensibly devoted to tender solicitude for the sheep in modern circumstances now labors mightily to abandon them to the wolves. How ironic, yet how utterly predictable in this epoch of diabolical disorientation in the Church.