One of the surprising things I have seen among priests and the faithful under the Pontificate of Pope Francis is that certain people who used to hate the word “obedience,” maybe five years ago, now go on quoting obedience like they were St. John of the Cross!
I walked into a tea-house yesterday and I got surrounded by three adults older than me who first wanted to know what I was, why I had a long black robe on and what I thought of Pope Francis. As to the third, I simply said that the first words of Jesus and John the Baptist were “Repent and Believe” and that the measure of a Pope will be to the extent that the people heard that same call to repentance and faith (because repentance and faith are the only portals of hope and love.)
Now that I think about it, judgment of a Pope does not belong to a priest like me, but to God…and maybe a bit to history, many centuries in the future: A pope will ultimately not be judged on his popularity, but whether he is bringing consciences to life—or allaying consciences to remain asleep. Thus, it’s my job as a priest not to judge the Pope, but to remain obedient and to preach the Gospel.
There is excitement and concern, from the left and right respectively, that the October 2015 “Synod on the Family” will change Church teaching on divorced and remarried receiving Holy Communion as well as those in homosexual unions being allowed to receive Holy Communion. You might imagine that I don’t participate in the excitement of “the left” that doctrine might change, but did you know that I don’t participate in the concern to “the right” either?
Here’s why: A synod does not carry the weight of infallibility. In my last post, I explained the levels of infallibility, the highest being the Sacred Scriptures, which speak clearly on the above issues of sexuality and worthy communion in Matthew 19:9 and 1 Cor 11:26-29. The Council of Trent is another example of an aspect of Divine Revelation that is both infallible, and speaks clearly on the sacraments of Marriage and the Eucharist.
However, a synod does not only not have the weight of infallibility, but there is precedent for error in a synod! This synod was the 18th century Synod of Pistoia where Jansenism was promoted. It’s crafty that Satan may be tempting the Church nowadays more towards presumption of God’s mercy, than the despair of God’s mercy within the Jansenism of the 18th century. He’s tricky with that pendulum swing!
I hope I’m wrong, but I predict error coming in the October 2015 Synod of the Family, followed by Divine Intervention. This is not because I’m a Savonorola prophet of doom, but on a very natural level, because of the manifest and public, shameless teaching of the Cardinals who have been recently promoted in these matters, as reported byLife Site News:
Cardinal Godfried Danneels: The retired former archbishop of Brussels was a special appointment by Pope Francis to the 2014 Synod of Bishops. In addition to wearing rainbow liturgical vestments and being caught on tape concealing sexual abuse, Danneels said in 2013 of the passage of gay “marriage”: “I think it’s a positive development that states are free to open up civil marriage for gays if they want.”
Cardinal Walter Kasper: A few days into his pontificate Pope Francis praised one of Cardinal Kasper’s books, and then selected the cardinal to deliver the controversial keynote address to the consistory of cardinals advocating his proposal to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive communion in some circumstances. This proposal led to the high-profile debate at the first Synod of Bishops on the Family. Cardinal Kasper has again been selected as a personal appointee of the pope to the second Synod and regularly meets with Pope Francis. Kasper defended the vote of the Irish in favor of homosexual “marriages”, saying: “A democratic state has the duty to respect the will of the people; and it seems clear that, if the majority of the people wants such homosexual unions, the state has a duty to recognize such rights.”
Archbishop Bruno Forte: The archbishop of Chieti-Vasto was appointed Special Secretary to the 2014 Synod by Pope Francis. He is the Italian theologian who was credited with drafting the controversial homosexuality section of the infamous midterm report of the Synod which spoke of “accepting and valuing [homosexuals’] sexual orientation.” When questioned about the language, Forte said homosexual unions have “rights that should be protected,” calling it an “issue of civilization and respect of those people.”
Father Timothy Radcliffe: In May, Pope Francis appointed the former Master of the Dominican Order as a consultor for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace despite his well-known support for homosexuality. Writing on homosexuality in 2013, he said: “We must ask what it means, and how far it is Eucharistic. Certainly it can be generous, vulnerable, tender, mutual and non-violent. So in many ways, I would think that it can be expressive of Christ’s self-gift.” In a 2006 lecture he advocated “accompanying” homosexuals, which he defined as “watching ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ reading gay novels, living with our gay friends and listening with them as they listen to the Lord.”
Let me (Fr. Nix, now) be very clear that I am obedient to Rome and the Bishops, but no Bishop can change the words of Jesus Christ and what He said about divorce or what the Holy Spirit has said through the Apostle Paul on acting out any sexual sin (heterosexual or homosexual.) Pray hard that I’m wrong about error coming down the pipes of this October Synod, but if I’m not, just remember that a synod can not change the words of Jesus Christ. This is not a Protestant who believes in Sola Scriptura. That is why I wrote on the hierarchy of doctrine in my last post, quoting Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on the Sacred Scriptures and Councils of the Magisterium.
I hope I’m wrong, but if I’m right and the synod disseminates error, “the right” will frenzy on how to explain the doctrinal confusion and “the left” will frenzy on how to rejoice over the doctrinal confusion.Either approach would be both unnecessary and superfluous. As I wrote above, there is precedent in history for error to be found in a synod, and no synod can change the articulated faith and morals of Holy Mother Church, especially as found in Scripture, Councils, Creeds, Patristics and Ex-Cathedral statements. A synod is none of these.
As Padre Pio said, “Pray, Hope and Don’t worry.” God will straighten it out and we’ll all be fine. Chilax, as the niños say, even if things go down bad in October.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.