A Wink And A Nod At #Synod15


This synod has been so odd that fanciful explanations are demanded. I haven’t any clear idea what will happen, so think of this as synodal spitballin’. First, some facts.

Fact. The Pope is a Jesuit, hence he knows the definition of jesuitical.

Fact. His Holiness likes to mix it up. He welcomes fights and said the only place there aren’t any is in the graveyard. This is manly, and is an under-appreciated aspect of his papacy.

Fact. In this vein, he has invited, inter alia, the possibly mad Cardinal Danneels, whose views and actions are so preposterous, so outrageously opposite of what is expected of a Cardinal that they’ve given rise to the rumor Danneels is the Pope’s Luca Brasi. (I started this rumor, incidentally. Right here.)

Fact. Pope Francis knows the traditionalists aren’t going anywhere, despite not being invited to the Synod. No matter what happens, we’re not going to see fellows like Cardinal Burke install rainbow pastel bunting in his office in preparation for a joint fondue party and rap session.

Fact. Everybody knows Dogma, most especially those running from it. It isn’t therefore necessary to “balance” the Synod. All attendees know what is required from them, what it means to be Catholic.

Fact. An unhealthy chunk of attendees don’t like what it means to be Catholic, and since, given their predilections, acting in an orthodox manner can be wearying to them, and since they don’t have enough guts to resign—what would a sixty-five-year-old ex-bishop do for a living, anyway?—they seek to make their own lives better within the Church by changing it into what it isn’t.

Fact. This can’t happen.

Now there are many unduly pessimistic interpretations of these facts floating about, but I think they possibly bear another, happier view.

Just think. Soupy Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago took a break from hectoring people about low-wattage light bulbs and openly said that, in re morals, all that really matters is personal conscience and that confession isn’t about forgiveness, but about seeing somebody “eye to eye”, about meeting them on “their journey.” The implication that sin is what makes you feel bad, that confession is just a friendly chat, is so ludicrous that you have to laugh. Cupich knows dogma. He knows, therefore, that what he has said and what he espouses is against dogma. And he doesn’t care.

Then consider the swimming-in-wealth German contingent. These guys have come right out and said—strutting while doing so—we shouldn’t take Jesus too seriously about divorce and that the Church needs to keep up with progress. And there are many more similar instances.

These guys aren’t speaking in euphemism or beating around the burning bush. They’re spouting plainly, so there can be no mistake. They know their views are against dogma. Yet still they say them. Why?

Because they expect the Pope will back them! I say he won’t. I say they’ve been tricked, duped into laying their cards on the table. It’s now clear where everybody stands and there’s no going back. I say there’s going to be plenty of weeping and gnashing of the teeth once Francis issues whatever document or decrees he’s going to release based on the Synod. Or, meditating on the example of Arius, that the Holy Father won’t have a chance to do anything heretical.

The case of civilly divorced and remarried is interesting. Jesus said directly such people commit adultery, a hell-worthy sin, and the Church has always said hell-worthy sins make one unfit to receive Holy Communion. But this hell-worthy sin has become so prevalent that Communion lines would be as short as a Hilary Clinton book signing.

Now many of the folks in these situations feel badly that they cannot openly receive communion, and their cries have reached the ears of modern bishops, who in turn have worked out “pastoral” solutions so that the aggrieved get what they want. Dogma remains dogma, the bishops say, but we won’t actually use it.

This doesn’t work. Dogma openly flouted becomes non-dogma. Rules are rules. Of course, sometimes people break them, and sometimes the breaking is winked at; or rather, a blind eye is focused on the breaking. And, surely, there must be instances where temporary blindness is merciful. But as soon as a sufficient mass (get it? get it?) of folk learn of systematized blindness, it becomes as if the rule doesn’t exist—and then dogma withers.

That means the only true “pastoral solution” must be open, consistent, and clear insistence on dogma, but where, in private and quietly, certain individual cases are handled as the Spirit moves. There isn’t space here to give a full theology of the Blind Eye, but I think you have the idea.


  1. I think Briggs is being overly optimist here. There seems little chance of a church-clearing on the order of Christ clearing out the money changers. The church wants money and power and are most certainly willing to sell their soul to get it. Many, many churches have done just that already.

    Today, immorality sells. It makes money, it fills the pews. Never mind it’s not a church anymore, or perhaps a church of Satan, it’s more important to be liked than right.

  2. Ken

    Confabs that normally hold an audience’s attention are things like a huddle among referee’s reviewing video to see if a goal counts, or what the jury verdict will be, & so on….

    What comes out of a Synod is now press-worthy!?!?!!!!!!!
    I don’t buy it.

    This Synod hoopla is a sign of the media’s influence on press reporting — the highly Left Wing media … wanting to see come fundamental compromise of the sort fundamentally at odds with core doctrine.

    That sort of wishful thinking won’t happen (I predict).

    This seems reminiscent of the USAF Kelly Flinn affair in the late 90s–a woman pilot courts martial for lying about an affair with a subordinate’s husband…which the press reported [misrepresented] as her being fired over moral grounds.

    No doubt that reporting about the Synod is similarly skewed.

    Though there might be surprises coming out of the Synod, those too will almost certainly be consistent with established doctrine (or be “doctrine-agnostic”).

    Maybe a resolution that this Pope act more overtly & harshly about pedophiles in the ranks (consistent with Cardinal O’Malley’s well-published views) will occur. And even if that happens (a big ‘if’) it will be framed in such a way as to minimize any financial liabilities the Church might have to pay as a result of past transgressions.

    Other house-cleaning might include some criteria that ordained authorities that deviate from established doctrine be de-frocked…

    All of which is to say that it seems extremely unlikely that the attendees, in the aggregate (well publicized exception here or there aside), will give in to being “luke warm” about their oaths, knowing the implications of that kind of faith & exercise of faith…

  3. Briggs


    I was talking to a certain Church official and was reminded that Soupy Sales always ended with a pie in his face.

  4. That’s my impression of the synod as well… though you put it much more amusingly. I think a lot of people are in for a surprise. Pope Francis means it when he says he wants to hear what everyone has to say. I don’t think that willl change anything, thoug.

  5. Mark Brown

    Your conclusion is roughly what from a Protestant perspective I’ve always argued. You need the formal confessions and the bishops/church hierarchs to uphold the dogma. And preachers from the pulpit do so as well. That gives those same pastors the ability to say “I forgive you sins, go and sin no more”. The episcopate is a function of the law, the pastorate is a function of both law and gospel. The comparison is that the state is of the law while the family is law and gospel. The problems always come when the institutions of the law wish to be loved and start being merciful. That just ends up in losing the gospel.

  6. CuiPertinebit

    So, I want to make a serious enquiry, Mr. Briggs; my post is not merely rhetorical, I really do want to know what you and others who desire to be affiliated with the Catholic Faith think.

    Your average neo-Catholic always tries to stretch the truth in every direction, finding some way to pretend that the conciliar prelates are not openly flouting dogma. Here, you distinguish yourself from such types and have flatly stated that many bishops are contradicting dogma, and that they *know* they are doing so. This is the definition of formal heresy; you also acknowledge that it is public. Now, the Law and Doctrine and Tradition of the Church all tell us that every public heretic, and especially a public, *formal* heretic, automatically severs himself from the Church, incurs excommunication ipso facto, and, if he is a cleric, obliges the faithful to avoid his Sacraments and to break communion with him. This is the Church’s first “auto-immune” response to heresy; historically, this is the main reason why heresy came to Rome’s attention in the first place – the Catholic faithful nearest to the event severed communion with the heretics in fulfilment of their Catholic duty, and the hub-bub eventually made its way to Rome, if it wasn’t resolved locally.

    I also point out that these men are denying the very obvious dogmata concerning marriage, but if you also considered the Church’s dogmatic teaching on the Enlightenment, abstract “human rights” rooted in the “dignity of man,” the social kingship of Christ, the condemnation of ecumenistic and syncretistic thought, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” etc., you would find that it is not only Danneels and Marx and Kasper who contradict Catholic dogma, but every single man at the synod… “conservatives” included. It seems as if most people who consider themselves Catholics, nowadays, have reduced their concept of the Faith’s dogmata to the mere level of natural law, plus a few Christological, Trinitarian (and Marian) doctrines. To deny natural law on Marriage is a bridge too far, since even virtuous Pagans know this; but to deny the dogmata on liturgy and the social order is par for the course. Why take only the Natural Law seriously, and not the other sacred dogmata given by God to the Church? To deny only one dogma, even upholding all the rest, as the Church has always taught, is to sever one’s self from the Faith.

    Why, then, is the Sedevacantist position considered so extreme, when, really, it is the more probable opinion given the facts? And, setting the papacy aside for the moment, what explanation can one give for continuing to recognize men as Catholic bishops, even when one admits that they are openly and knowingly contradicting dogma? And why take it in stride, when open heretics continue to receive the approval of a supposed supreme pontiff, and receive personal invitations to attend his synods, despite not merely grotesque behavior and moral breaches (which has certainly happened before), but even despite their admittedly manifest, formal, public heresy? Does one not see the seriousness of such a situation?

    It seems to me, to be clear proof that this conciliar monstrosity is not the Catholic Church (since Catholic popes and prelates uphold ALL the Faith – not just Natural Law – and do not hold communion with manifest heretics); rather, this conciliar movement is a large conventicle of heretics – some more egregious than others, but in the end, all birds of a feather. They have all agreed not to be Catholics; at this point, they aren’t fighting over *Catholic* teaching, so much as basic morality. It is actually risible to imagine Kasper and Dolan fighting over a point of peculiarly Catholic orthodoxy! How quaint and archaic they would find that to be! Imagine them, caring about the communicatio idiomatum or whether the Blessed Virgin merited her subordinate participation in the redemption de condigno or de congruo! I’ll bet you that if I mentioned these topics, neither of them would even know what I’m talking about, let alone understand the basic theological principles involved. No, no, they are not fighting over Catholicism; Catholicism is dead and buried, so far as they’re concerned. They are fighting over mere common sense, and at this point an heathen shaman would have more common sense than some of these Cardinals. We don’t wonder whether they will defend the Catholic Faith from heresy (they already don’t); we wonder whether they will defend obvious facts of nature from obtuse stupidity. And what a sad commentary, that we’re all sitting on the edge of our seats to find out!

    What account can a man give, who acknowledges Bergoglio as his supreme pontiff?

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