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Letters from the Synodal Abyss

Letter #5: Archbishop Coleridge Tips His Hand

by Christopher A. Ferrara
October 21, 2015

Prick a Modernist and you’ll get an indignant Modernist.  As Saint Pius X said of this behavior in Pascendi Dominici Gregis, his landmark encyclical on Modernism: “The Modernists express astonishment when they are reprimanded or punished. What is imputed to them as a fault they regard as a sacred duty.” 

So it is with Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, a leading progressivist light at Phony Synod 2015. Coleridge is shocked — shocked! — at the severe reaction throughout the Catholic blogosphere to his remarks at the daily press briefing of October 19, which were the subject of my Letter #4: “Whatever about the press conference itself, the big surprise for me has been the ferocious reaction in some quarters to what I regard as my quite moderate remarks,” Coleridge huffed on his archdiocesan blog site.

Moderate? The Cardinal must be kidding. This protestation of dismay was followed by the usual demagogic ploy of the crafty ideologue — my critics are all crazed fanatics:  “Twitter has been frothing with invective, which shows what’s out there – by which I mean the fear, even the panic this Synod seems to have provoked in some. That sort of thing doesn’t look like the Holy Spirit to me – red-eyed joylessness cannot be of God.”

Within a few lines, however, Coleridge provided abundant confirmation of the worst suspicions of his critics, myself included:  “The impression is that, if you touch the slightest jot or tittle not so much of what the Church teaches but of what her pastoral practice has been or how her truth has been expressed, then the whole edifice built up over 2000 years will come tumbling down.”  When a Modernist is subverting doctrine he claims he is merely suggesting a change of “pastoral practice” — that is, a change of practice by which the doctrine is ignored.

Another standard Modernist ruse is to propose an updating of “how her [the Church’s] truth is expressed.” As Coleridge would have it, when God declared: “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” He neglected to employ language suitable for “contemporary man.” But, as one saw at the press conference, Coleridge offered no examples of suggested “new language” for expressing the Church’s teaching on such matters as the sin of adultery. The vaunted new expressions he and other Modernists are always prattling about will never be forthcoming because what the Modernist is really up to is getting rid of the traditional expressions, which effectively gets rid of the doctrines they express.

And then this dead giveaway: “Voices of fear, even panic, have also been heard in the Synod Hall and the small groups, but what’s clearer to me now is that those voices within have strong links to similar voices without. It’s also clear that those voices, clinging desperately to some imagined or ideologised past, cannot point the way into the future.”

So, Coleridge and his ilk are encountering opposition within the Synod itself, which he imperiously dismisses as the ranting of people clinging to an “ideologised past”.  But of course it is precisely Coleridge who is the ideologue, for Modernism is nothing if not an ideology — the ideology of the ecclesial revolutionary who thinks doctrine and dogma must yield to the march of history. Here Coleridge clinches the case against himself: “History will have its way, however much we try to cling to illusions of timelessness.”

Well, there we have it: for Coleridge, as for Modernists in general, the teaching of the Magisterium is not timeless but rather subject to the dictates of history as an evolutive force not to be resisted.  While Catholics know Christ as the Lord of History, for the Modernist history is the lord of Christ, His Gospel and His Church. This is the essence of Modernism: the evolution of dogma as a matter of historical “progress,” requiring changes in the dogmatic formulae, which really mean changes in the dogma as such. As St. Pius X explains:

Consequently, the formulae too, which we call dogmas, must [according to the Modernists] be subject to these vicissitudes, and are, therefore, liable to change. Thus the way is open to the intrinsic evolution of dogma. An immense collection of sophisms this, that ruins and destroys all religion. Dogma is not only able, but ought to evolve and to be changed. This is strongly affirmed by the Modernists, and as clearly flows from their principles. For amongst the chief points of their teaching is this, which they deduce from the principle of vital immanence: that religious formulas, to be really religious and not merely theological speculations, ought to be living and to live the life of the religious sentiment.

This is what someone like Coleridge means when he says the Church must find new ways of expressing what she teaches: Church teaching must be fashioned according to the religious sentiments of the day. As Coleridge put it during the press conference: “words create worlds. In other words, a new language that can open new doors that we might not even see at the moment, and can create new possibilities.”  New doors and new possibilities = new dogmas.  In this case, as we saw in Letter #4, the new dogma that not all people who put away their spouses and purport to marry another are guilty of adultery, no matter what Our Lord says to the contrary. This means as well a new dogma on Holy Matrimony: that validly contracted sacramental marriages are not ipso facto indissoluble, but rather indissolubility would depend on the circumstances of a particular situation. In short, situation ethics — the death of Catholic moral teaching.

Coleridge indignantly dismisses the storm of criticism his blatant Modernism has rightly provoked because, just as Saint Pius X noted in his acute reading of the Modernist mind, “What is imputed to them as a fault they regard as a sacred duty.”  But the real sacred duty is our own: the duty to oppose subversive prelates like Coleridge and thus any harmful outcome of a Synod that has, quite predictably, become the instrument of their subversion.