Strange Days in Rome
I have been in Rome, by my rough count, 100 times during my adult life. Some visits had to do with secular matters of culture or politics, most with questions related to the Catholic Church. But I think I can say without the slightest doubt that yesterday was the strangest day I’ve ever passed in the Eternal City.
I’m sorry to say that with the exception of Cardinal Erdö, every one of them engaged in a level of spin unworthy of a Church that seeks to proclaim the truth about the Good News of our redemption by Jesus Christ.
I won’t mention the names of respondents out of respect for the nakedness of our fathers. But let me suggest some of the dynamic in the room. One female reporter for RAI Radio, the Italian state-run broadcast services, asked pointedly in response to the last section above about the rights of children, whether they don’t have a right to be raised by a male father and a female mother (an argument that in Europe, especially in France, has been very prominent)? The reply from an exalted cleric was to enter a thicket of platitudes about parental rights to educate a child, which no one objects to or has ever objected to, insofar as they were intelligible. But the fundamental question of having a real mother and a real father went entirely untouched – by a prince of the Church talking about a burning current question.
Boy, do I bristle at that “out of respect for the nakedness of our fathers.” A prominent conservative lay Catholic used that same formulation in an interview with me a decade ago to avoid telling me what he personally knew about a molester cardinal, who was never publicly held to account for what he did. Is there ever going to be a time when Catholics name the names of the prelates who are tearing the Church down?
Cardinal Burke is beside himself. Excerpt from the Catholic World Report interview:
CWR: How is that reflected in the Synod’s midterm document, released yesterday, which is being criticised by many for its appeal to a so-called “law of graduality”?
Cardinal Burke: While the document in question (Relatio post disceptationem) purports to report only the discussion which took place among the Synod Fathers, it, in fact, advances positions which many Synod Fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept. Clearly, the response to the document in the discussion which immediately followed its presentation manifested that a great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable.
The document lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium. In a matter on which the Church has a very rich and clear teaching, it gives the impression of inventing a totally new, what one Synod Father called “revolutionary”, teaching on marriage and the family. It invokes repeatedly and in a confused manner principles which are not defined, for example, the law of graduality.
CWR: How important is it, do you think, that Pope Francis make a statement soon in order to address the growing sense—among many in the media and in the pews—that the Church is on the cusp of changing her teaching on various essential points regarding marriage, “remarriage,” reception of Communion, and even the place of “unions” among homosexuals?
Cardinal Burke: In my judgment, such a statement is long overdue. The debate on these questions has been going forward now for almost nine months, especially in the secular media but also through the speeches and interviews of Cardinal Walter Kasper and others who support his position.
I suppose anything could happen, but it seems to me that the fix is in. This is a pastoral synod, not a doctrinal one. But the change in pastoral practices it mandates will be a de facto change in doctrine, because that’s exactly how it will be received by the Catholic public. Recall these 2013 remarks by Ross Douthat, commenting on Pope Francis’s “who am I to judge?” remarks:
But still, such a tonal difference … on a fraught, high-profile topic is surely newsworthy, even if the news media inevitably offered misinterpretations of its significance as well.
And it’s especially newsworthy since a latitudinarian statement on this topic is of a piece with the tone of Francis’s pontificate as a whole. Popes do not change doctrine, but they do choose what to emphasize and what to downplay, which issues to elevate and which to set aside, where to pass judgment and where to talk about forgiveness, and so forth. And we’ve seen enough of this pontificate to sense where Francis’s focus lies: He wants to be seen primarily as a pope of social justice and spiritual renewal, and he doesn’t have much patience for issues that might get in the way of that approach to Christian witness.
You can also teach falsehood by failing to teach the whole truth.