Tags

No tags :(

The New York Times
Ross Douthat  Op-Ed Columnist

And a change of doctrine is what conservative Catholics, quite reasonably, believe that the communion proposal favored by Francis essentially implies.

There’s probably a fascinating secular political science tome to be written on how the combination of absolute and absolutely-limited power shapes the papal office. In such a book, Francis’s recent maneuvers would deserve a chapter, because he’s clearly looking for a mechanism that would let him exercise his powers without undercutting his authority.

The key to this search has been the synods, which have no official doctrinal role but which can project an image of ecclesiastical consensus. So a strong synodal statement endorsing communion for the remarried as a merely “pastoral” change, not a doctrinal alteration, would make Francis’s task far easier.

Unfortunately such a statement has proven difficult to extract — because the ranks of Catholic bishops include so many Benedict XVI and John Paul II-appointed conservatives, and also because the “pastoral” argument is basically just rubbish. The church’s teaching that marriage is indissoluble has already been pushed close to the breaking point by this pope’s new expedited annulment process; going all the way to communion without annulment would just break it.

So to overcome resistance from bishops who grasp this obvious point, first last year’s synod and now this one have been, to borrow from the Vatican journalist Edward Pentin’s recent investigative book, “rigged” by the papal-appointed organizers in favor of the pope’s preferred outcome.

The documents guiding the synod have been written with that goal in mind. The pope has made appointments to the synod’s ranks with that goal in mind, not hesitating to add even aged cardinals tainted by the sex abuse scandal if they are allied to the cause of change. The Vatican press office has filtered the synod’s closed-door (per the pope’s directive) debates to the media with that goal in mind. The churchmen charged with writing the final synod report have been selected with that goal in mind. And Francis himself, in his daily homilies, has consistently criticized Catholicism’s “doctors of the law,” its modern legalists and Pharisees — a not-even-thinly-veiled signal of his views.

Advertisement
Continue reading the main story

Advertisement
Continue reading the main story

(Though of course, in the New Testament the Pharisees allowed divorce; it was Jesus who rejected it.)
Continue reading the main story
Recent Comments
carla van rijk October 19, 2015

It is always fascinating to read the words for the hidden message behind Conservatives support for traditional thinking which,…
Dee Dee October 19, 2015

I was going to write a reasoned scholarly response to Douthat’s piece, but I think I’ll go trim my nails instead; …
treabeton October 19, 2015

Concerned about hell? Heaven? Purgatory? Annulment? Confession of sins? Ability to receive communion? Christianity? Islam? Judaism?Why…

See All Comments

And yet his plan is not necessarily succeeding. There reportedly still isn’t anything like a majority for the proposal within the synod, which is probably why the organizers hedged their bets for a while about whether there would even be a final document. And the conservatives — African, Polish, American, Australian — have been less surprised than last fall, and quicker to draw public lines and try to box the pontiff in with private appeals.

The entire situation abounds with ironies. Aging progressives are seizing a moment they thought had slipped away, trying to outmaneuver younger conservatives who recently thought they owned the Catholic future. The African bishops are defending the faith of the European past against Germans and Italians weary of their own patrimony. A Jesuit pope is effectively at war with his own Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the erstwhile Inquisition — a situation that would make 16th century heads spin.

For a Catholic journalist, for any journalist, it’s a fascinating story, and speaking strictly as a journalist, I have no idea how it will end.

Speaking as a Catholic, I expect the plot to ultimately fail; where the pope and the historic faith seem to be in tension, my bet is on the faith.

But for an institution that measures its life span in millennia, “ultimately” can take a long time to arrive.