St. John Paul II: The First Lesson In Surviving. Anything.

Ok, it’s the first official feast of St. John Paul II, a man who was known by more people than any other contemporary figure in history. By this I mean,…

Here I am, one of the thousands who got to meet personally a man who is surely one of the most impacting saints of all time.

Here I am, one of the thousands who got to meet personally a man who is surely one of the most impactful saints of all time.

Ok, it’s the first official feast of St. John Paul II, a man who was known by more people than any other contemporary figure in history. By this I mean, no one else in human history has been so familiar to so many people while he or she was alive. He was Pope for about 26 and a half years. Visited 129 countries, some of them repeatedly. Millions of people saw him, perhaps even more heard him, thousands met him. I know people who first became aware of their religious or clerical vocations just by seeing him. A classmate of mine was not even a practicing Catholic when he saw the Pope on a trip abroad. This man was in the crowds, just out of curiosity. But when he saw the Pope, he instantly experienced an interior call to conversion (reversion) and to religious life. All in an instant of seeing one man at a distance.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from St. John Paul II’s example stems from his first words as Pope, “Non abbiate paura.” Do not be afraid.  This has been a guiding principle that I continue to appreciate more and more. It’s certainly one that I relied on as we sifted through the news on the recent Synod.

I leave you with a post I wrote around the time of his canonization a few months ago in which I discussed how he affected our understanding of feminism and opened up possibilities that have yet to be explored fully. And nope, I don’t mean women’s ordination.

Throughout his pontificate, the Pope frequently recognized the situations of women who were abused or disadvantaged. In no way did he support an idea of patriarchy which required the domination of women. Rumor has it that when he saw a draft document of the UN Beijing Women’s Conference in 1995, he dryly noted that a document that concerned itself so much with women’s fertility should at least concern itself as much with women’s literacy.

Rather than hash out a really tired anything-you-can-do-I-can-do debate that had been heard for decades, John Paul II shifted the conversation from doing to being.

Read more.

Happy feast!

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Cardinal Burke – In or Out?

Buzzfeed has an interview with Cardinal Burke which makes it sound like he’s out. Sorta. But read carefully. Is he confirming a rumor or is it more? Nothing is formal….

Question_mark_(black_on_white)Buzzfeed has an interview with Cardinal Burke which makes it sound like he’s out. Sorta. But read carefully. Is he confirming a rumor or is it more? Nothing is formal. Then again, Pope Francis never confirmed him in his position as head of the Apostolic Signatura. Vatican watchers would be better able to judge the significance of that. For example, who else has not been confirmed in their positions? Read carefully this section from Buzzfeed:

In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Burke confirmed publicly for the first time the rumors that he had been told Francis intended to demote him from the church’s chief guardian of doctrine to a minor post as patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke said, explaining that he hadn’t yet received a formal notice of transfer. “On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust by accepting this assignment I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”


I find it interesting that he hasn’t met with Pope Francis. Too bad BuzzFeed didn’t ask him who told him. Also, interesting that he hasn’t yet received formal notice.

All we have is confirmation that there is a rumor and that Burke has been told the rumor. It will be interesting to see how things settle out after the close of the Synod, particularly in light of Cardinal Kasper’s most unfortunate comments concerning the African Bishops.

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3 Things You Can Expect From Synod 14.

Here are three things you can expect from the Synod – Chaos. The Vatican is not Italian. It’s Roman. Do not try to impose your standards on it. You want Romans to be in charge of things like food, fashion, all things epicurean and aesthetic. They do bureaucracy well if you think bureaucracy is a good thing in the first place, hence a Vatican that almost everyone acknowledges needs to be reformed/re-orged/rebooted/re-everything. Look at this. This is how Romans park their cars.

Here are three things you can expect from the Synod – Rome is a colorful place, to say the least, and it has certainly left its stamp on the Vatican.

  1. Chaos. The Vatican is not Italian. It’s Roman. Do not try to impose your standards on it. You want Romans to be in charge of things like food, fashion, all things epicurean and aesthetic. They do bureaucracy well if you think bureaucracy is a good thing in the first place, hence a Vatican that almost everyone acknowledges needs to be reformed/re-orged/rebooted/re-everything. Look at this. This is how Romans park their cars.  5869762-Smart_parking_in_Rome_Rome
    Actually, this picture doesn’t do them justice. It’s a little too organized. But still, note the directions of the cars. I love Rome and Romans; if you know them, you understand the Vatican better and you don’t allow yourself to be uber American and maniacal about media. Instead, you do as the Romans. You know, when in Rome, and all that… You ignore the chaos and go about your life, you use the chaos to your advantage either to create more chaos, or to get away with something, or you sit back and enjoy the entertainment. Take your pick. Why do you think Pope Francis arranged for two consecutive Synods on the family (and perhaps even a pre-Synod of sorts)? It takes time to sift through chaos.
  2. Ambiguity. Again. This. Is. Rome. This. Is. The. Vatican. #ThisIsTheUniversalChurch. You really think this is easy? Sometimes we barely agree on the articles of the Creed. Give everyone a little space to work things out and wrap their heads around things. Let them get over personal, geographical, political, and every other kind of difference so that they can see what they have in common. The great thing is that all of this chaos is making clear exactly what work needs to be done. St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio was largely ignored; so now things are even more of a mess than they were when he wrote it in 1981, after the 1980 Synod on the family. To change that, there’s going to have to be a lot of clear teaching. It’s everyone’s job, not just those who speak from the pulpit. St. John Paul II spoke of the “mission” that we all have to the family. Instead, way too many people ignored him or went back to sleep.
    Part of a monument inside St. Peter's, Rome.

    Part of a monument inside St. Peter’s, Rome.

    So now we’re back facing the tired arguments of the 70s as if the 1980 Synod on the family and Familiaris Consortio never happened. Start teaching. If you don’t like what the Catholic Church teaches, well, be honest. Decide whether you can work your mind around what she teaches or whether you can accept it without understanding it. If you can’t, then in good conscience, you really should find something that fits more with your beliefs. But, first, check out what the Catechism has to say about conscience and the “work” of forming one’s conscience. It really is work. It’s difficult. Part of that work is taking place now at the Synod. It’s messy. That’s normal.

  3. No change in doctrine.The Church cannot change her doctrine. A recent example (recent in terms of a 2,000 year old entity), is contraception. Pope Paul VI formed a commission to study the question of whether contraception could be consistent with Catholic teaching. It hadn’t been so far, but maybe something had been missed. The majority of the commission voted to approve birth control. Guess what. Despite majority opinion, Church teaching did not change. In fact, the confusion ensuing from Humanae Vitae proved fruitful in many ways. It demonstrated that there was a clear lack of teaching/understanding. After all, if the pre-Vatican II Church had been so strong, how could the sexual revolution have happened? Catholics as a whole had been experiencing a crisis of faith. Councils don’t get called except to address a crisis. There was no 1950s golden age of Catholic faith. Had there been, I maintain that the response to Humanae Vitae would have been very different and Catholics would have been a strong and beautiful witness that may have even kept the sexual revolution from happening with the quasi sexual intensity that it did. But the confusion paved the way for St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, a much needed presentation of the beauty of sex, marriage, and the family. I’ve also commented that Cardinal Kasper’s remarks have also borne fruit that we needed, albeit perhaps unintended by him. I’m convinced that more good will come. We just need to be patient about the process even if we don’t like it.

    Things in Rome have a way of lasting, despite the Romans and the various invaders.

    Things in Rome have a way of lasting, despite the Romans and the various invaders.

So what can you do in the meantime? Here are some suggestions –

  • Have a drink, if that’s your thing.
  • Go for a run.
  • Spend some quality time with family, friends, etc.
  • Listen to music.
  • Wash your hair.
  • Organize your sock drawer.
  • Count the blades of grass in your yard.
  • Read Familiaris Consortio.
  • Read Humanae Vitae. (C’mon, it’s a short document. The Vatican English translation is arguably better than the Pauline edition.)
  • Have an opinion on marriage prep or annulments? Find out what you really know. Ask about your diocesan or parish marriage prep program. Read the annulment paperwork on the marriage tribunal’s page of your diocesan website. If they don’t have it posted, call and ask.
  • Read something to enrich your understanding.
  • Spend time in quiet contemplative prayers and let yourself hear God speaking to you.
  • Let the Holy Spirit do its work.

Yes, there’s chaos, but this too shall pass. Ignore the alarmists. Anyone who disrupts a Christ-centered peace is doing someone else’s work, not Christ’s. Read Church history. We have always been a rather muddled mess. That’s what proves the Church is divinely instituted. No merely human institution could withstand humanity and all its foibles as long as the Church has.

St. Peter's, with the tomb reaching towards heaven and the arms (braccie) of the piazza embracing and drawing together humanity.

St. Peter’s, with the dome reaching towards heaven and the arms (braccie) of the piazza embracing and drawing together humanity.

 

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The Annulment Process: A Right And A Healing

Here’s a thought – maybe the annulment process can be a good and healing experience. Last week, I posted a guest perspective from Christine Cavanaugh, an annulment advocate in Seattle….

Here’s a thought – maybe the annulment process can be a good and healing experience.

Last week, I posted a guest perspective from Christine Cavanaugh, an annulment advocate in Seattle. Christine compared the apprehension that people feel about the annulment process to the feelings that they have about a root canal. I was struck by that because the concept of root canal is worse than the procedure itself.

Based on colloquial expressions I thought that a root canal was one of the worst things to endure. Then, I had a root canal. It was a huge relief. When I walked into the doctor’s office, I had spent 24 hours vomiting from the pain. A late night trip to the ER was useless. The root canal took all of that away. After the procedure, I went out and had a big lunch. I felt fantastic. I became a fan of root canals. That procedure was certainly better than all the pain I felt before.

So I’ve continued with the idea that the annulment process can be a good thing in a new piece at Our Sunday Visitor.

Many people do not know they have a right to have the Church examine their marriage if they think that there are serious reasons why it might not be valid in the first place. Consider, for example, a couple who thinks their marriage may not be valid but wants to rectify whatever is lacking so that they can be in a valid marriage with each other. Canon law provides for this with a two-fold process called the clarification and sanation of the bond. However, this can only be done if the Church determines there was no marriage in the first place.

I would further argue that allowing people who have serious concerns about their marriage to petition the Church for a decree of nullity might have a therapeutic and pastoral effect… Read more.

 

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Marriage is – Gasp – a Sexual Sacrament.

The National Post  seems to be having a bit of fun with the response of a couple that has been married 55 years and recently gave their testimony at the…

marriageThe National Post  seems to be having a bit of fun with the response of a couple that has been married 55 years and recently gave their testimony at the extraordinary synod of bishops:

“The little things we did for each other, the telephone calls and love notes, the way we planned our day around each other and the things we shared were outward expressions of our longing to be intimate with each other,” the couple said in a joint statement to the closed meeting late Monday.

“Gradually we came to see that the only feature that distinguishes our sacramental relationship from that of any other good Christ-centred relationship is sexual intimacy, and that marriage is a sexual sacrament with its fullest expression in sexual intercourse.”

The audience of celibate men was a bit taken aback.

I have no idea how the audience actually received it, but I find their testimony endearing and honest. The same story reports:

“That’s not what we bishops talk about mostly, quite honestly,” a sheepish British Cardinal Vincent Nichols told reporters Tuesday. “But to hear that as the opening contribution did, I think, open an area … and it was a recognition that that is central to the well-being of marriage often.”

It’s an interesting answer. I don’t expect bishops to be sitting around talking about sex, although sometimes I do think a serious conversation about sex is exactly what the Church needs. But more on that another time.

If the audience was in fact taken aback – again, something which I can’t confirm apart from the article – then it suggests that there’s a very important segment of the Catholic population that has not studied St. John Paul II’s theology of the body (or his very provocative Love and Responsibility, written before he was Pope, as archbishop of Krakow.) Some less academic (not less specific, just more readable) resources include Patrick Coffin’s Sex au Naturel: What it is and Why it’s Good for Your Marriage and Prof. Edward Sri’s Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love.

Yep, marriage has a lot to do with sex. In fact, sex  is the consummation of the marriage. The marriage is only ratified until the married couple consummates (fulfills/completes) it with sexual intercourse, the specifics of which are very clear in canon law, namely vaginal intercourse that is unimpeded by a condom, withdrawal, or anything that would prevent the “deposit” of semen into the vagina.

Yes, there are some marriages which do not engage in sexual activity, starting with the model of Joseph and Mary, the earthly father and biological mother of Jesus. Such marriages are called “Josephite” marriages and are not the norm, nor are they something that should be entered into without serious spiritual direction. Some marriages become sexless after the consummation because of illness, injury, or other factors. Other sexless marriages resulting from dysfunction in the relationship are relationships that need serious attention to be healed.

In general, the Church does not intend for a marriage to be sexless. In fact, quite the opposite. Just skip ahead to chapter six of Karol Wojtyla’s (St. John Paul II’s) Love and Responsibility.

Sadly, the article contains an assertion that because the couple apparently received a round of applause when they told how they welcomed their son and his same-sex partner for Christmas that it’s a sign of a “homosexual agenda.” Maybe, but I think that’s a stretch. To my mind, that’s a family trying to keep itself whole and together. Just because we welcome someone who lives differently than we might, it does not necessarily follow that we endorse their choices.

Again, there are lots of layers to both of these issues. The National Post seems to have skimmed the surface. After all, sex sells. Sex and the Catholic Church really sells.

 

 

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Advice From An Annulment Advocate

The following is a guest post from Christine Cavanaugh, an Annulment Advocate in Seattle, Washington. Since we’ve heard a lot from experts in opinion but not quite as much from…

The following is a guest post from Christine Cavanaugh, an Annulment Advocate in Seattle, Washington. Since we’ve heard a lot from experts in opinion but not quite as much from the experts who are actually involved in the process, I asked her for her insights. Here you go! Constructive and charitable comments always welcome in the com-boxes.

 

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Photo courtesy of Christine Cavanaugh

When Catholics or RCIA candidates walk into a parish office to meet with an annulment advocate, they display all the eagerness of someone submitting to a root canal.

After all, these petitioners are about to answer a lot of highly personal questions while recollecting pain, failure, mistakes or abuse. Like the root canal patient, they are there because avoiding it is worse.

Petitioners are motivated by the desire to receive Holy Communion, marry in the Church, enter the Church, return to her, or have the sacraments of initiation for their children and want their own situation reconciled.  They have to wait one or possibly two years for news that might not be good. Meanwhile, they are suffering.

Cardinal Walter Kasper and Bishop Tobin rightly sympathize with this suffering, as should everyone.  But they err in trying to circumvent the problem.  Those in favor of leaving the tooth alone, so to speak, should remember that the real problem is not the prohibition against taking communion: the real problem is that these suffering people are lacking a sacramental marriage, which, as lay persons, may be their principal way of sanctifying the world to God.

Sacramental marriage, as opposed to natural marriage, occurs between baptized persons, and it is integral to the building of the Kingdom of God—that thing we’re all supposed to be doing.  This sacrament is an entry point for grace and mercy to come into the world.  Without it, cohabitating or illicitly “married” people are deprived of their vocations.

And, as theologian Sarah Bartel points out, we have a crisis of vocations to married life as young Catholics increasingly choose cohabitation or civil union.

If you’re not invited to the Synod on the Family, what can you do to address the problem of divorced and remarried Catholics?

When divorced Catholics confide in you about their situations, tell them the good news that they have a canonical right to have the Church examine a failed marriage. This encouragement could impact generations of their families.

Respect the canonical rights of others.  If you worry about annulment abuse, speak cautiously: people in your community may have received a declaration of nullity or may need to seek one.

Support those who suffer because they cannot receive the sacraments.  They feel left out, so smile at them when they come to Mass. Incorporate them into your communities. They are dealing with the mystery of suffering, as many of us are in our own way. And there is no magic pill.

Christine Cavanaugh, PhD, is an Annulment Advocate for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

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Why I’m Grateful to Cardinal Kasper: “Remaining in the Truth of Christ.”

I am grateful to Cardinal Kasper. Indeed, I’ve long had a particular respect for him because I often attended daily Mass that he reverently offered at Santa Maria in Trastevere,…

712lpuKFawLI am grateful to Cardinal Kasper. Indeed, I’ve long had a particular respect for him because I often attended daily Mass that he reverently offered at Santa Maria in Trastevere, a beautiful ancient Roman church with a vibrant parish community. He was usually assisted by seminarians and he was consistently emphatic in his teaching and formation of the seminarians even during the Mass.

That made a lasting impression on me. I saw that he was a priest who took the sacrifice of the Mass very seriously.

Later, I learned that we might not see eye to eye on some issues. Well, it is the Catholic Church and there’s not always a whole lot of agreement under our big tent. Yet, we’re all Catholic and there’s something to be said for that.

In February, when the Cardinal addressed the extraordinary consistory in preparation for the Synod, he raised a very important pastoral issue (though by no means the only one): the admittance of the divorced and remarried to the reception of the Eucharist.

As the content of his presentation leaked out or was presented in other interviews, and finally the publication of his book, The Gospel of the Family, I found myself at odds with his solution to the problem – sort of a via media. Simply put: find a way for some couples meeting specific criteria in irregular marital situations so that they could perhaps undergo a penitential process and then be admitted to all the sacraments, including the Eucharist.

I get where he’s coming from. It’s a serious problem. But, not withstanding his scholarly expertise, his priesthood, and his ranking as a Cardinal, I did not find his solution convincing because I did not see that it took into account fully the deep tradition and theology of the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, he started a necessary conversation that could have hijacked the Synod had it been left for initial discussion until then. Having started what has become a dialogue of sorts has allowed time for thoughtful scholarly exchange to begin, most notably in the work of the upcoming volume Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, a collection of essays written by five Cardinals and four additional scholars responding to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal and claims.

It’s very important to have accurate scholarly analysis when addressing complex and emotionally charged issues like that of the divorced and remarried. As the internet has become the dominant form of publication and exchange of ideas, some debates have been obliterated by the very forum provided by the internet: quick responses, no editing, not so much academic work and careful research. Instead it turns into a rapid fire response that does not allow time for the true work of academia: seeking and discovering truth. It just becomes a way for more people to stay fixed in their opinions, something more in line with the tenor of cable news shows.

That said, I’m not betting that Cardinal Kasper’s opinion will change simply because of this volume. But I eagerly await his response so that the exchange can continue so that we can better understand our faith.

Remaining in the Truth of Christ includes historical analysis, Scriptural exegesis, theological study, and canonical analysis, all of it very carefully researched and presented. In order to know where we’re going, we’ve got to know where we’re coming from. We have to know what exactly the Church has done, thought, and promulgated over 2,000 years. Does the annulment process make sense when we look at it in its entire context or not?

I think this will be a foundational book for anyone, scholar or not, interested in the questions not only of the divorced and remarried, but also marriage, the Eucharist, the role of law, the meaning of what it means to be pastoral. In many ways, it’s a great compliment to St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981) [the resulting document of the previous Synod on the family (1980)] and also to his Theology of the Body, along with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Each essay presents unique themes and insights. In particular, I was probably most interested in an observation by Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ. He brings out a special ontological significance to Genesis 2,24 (“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his woman,and they become one flesh”) that could further our understanding of St. John Paul’s theology of the body. [I hope to post more on this in another post once I’ve obtained permission to excerpt the text before its publication.]

Cardinal Burke’s contribution is brutally honest, putting forth serious shortcomings of various tribunals while at the same time arguing for the integrity of the annulment process. He clearly sees a need for reform, too, even if it’s not the same one that Cardinal Kasper enunciates.

The historical analysis by John Rist, not to mention the overview of the various Orthodox approaches to marriage, divorce, and remarriage, by Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, SJ, provide an essential basis to any serious conversation on the topic. So far, there’s been casual mention of historical and Orthodox practices, but very little discussion and analysis of the actual practices.

If we’re going to move beyond the realm of opinion and emotionalism, we have to encounter the truth face on. I don’t expect this volume to be the last word, even though each expert makes a very important contribution, and I certainly hope Cardinal Kasper responds in kind so as to keep the conversation going until we have a better grasp of the truth as the Church in her entirety.

And as things begin to become better understood at the academic and hierarchical levels, they need to trickle down to pastors and other lay leaders so that every parishioner, indeed every person who comes into contact with the Church, is greeted with the truth, even when it’s difficult.

I’ve always been put off by the practice of hiding or denying truths that are “too difficult.” In psychological parlance, that’s a bad form of co-dependence. I don’t like it because it doesn’t respect the dignity of the human person to think and act for herself.

In some cultures, for example, the patient is not told the full extent of her illness in an effort to “protect” her. Many have noted that we are sick because of our sins and Pope Francis has called the Church “a field hospital for sinners.” And that’s precisely why I think that it’s so very important to not only arrive at the truth, but to promulgate it. A patient can’t get better or prepare for a terminal diagnosis without being fully informed.

It’s my hope that this volume will be foundational in the field hospital that is our Church. It’s also my hope that Cardinal Kasper and others who agree with his thinking will respond for the sake of the pursuit of truth.

After all, as Christians we believe that Christ is the only means of obtaining eternal health and well being: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14,6). We cannot follow Christ or live as Christ if we do not have the truth.

If you’re interested in the truth and want to inform yourself about a debate that will surely continue beyond this Synod and onto the next in 2015, pre-order Remaining in the Truth of Christ. Read it and study for yourself and for all those in your life who will also be asking questions related to the topic at hand.

You might also enjoy my recent post on how Pope Francis may have organized a pre-Synod, sort of a release valve, to make the upcoming Synod more effective and focused.

Pia de Solenni is a moral theologian and cultural analyst. Her dissertation was recognized by St. John Paul II in 2001.

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Pope Francis’ Pre-Synod

Opinions have not been lacking in the lead up to the Synod on the family, which begins in Rome on October 5. And now, as I read a preview copy…

Source: Google Images - Licensed for Reuse

Source: Google Images – Licensed for Reuse

Opinions have not been lacking in the lead up to the Synod on the family, which begins in Rome on October 5. And now, as I read a preview copy of Remaining in the Truth of Christ, the response to by five Cardinals and some additional scholars to Cardinal Kasper’s The Gospel of the Family, I am more convinced than ever that Pope Francis essentially arranged a pre-Synod.

First, there was the survey that was sent out to all the episcopal conferences around the world. It was not an unprecedented step, it was just unprecedented in the media coverage that it generated. As the results came back, some understood them to be an indication that the Church should change her teachings on the typical hot button issues: contraception, allowing divorced and remarried couples who have not received a decree of nullity to receive the Eucharist, accepting the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex marriage, and so on.

But, secondly, in December 2013, as the Vatican awaited the survey results, Francis addressed the International Theological Commission on the topic of sensus fidelium (the sense of the faithful – a somewhat complex theological term).

This witness pertains to the People of God, a People of prophets, in its entirety. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the members of the Church possess a ‘sense of faith’. This is a kind of ‘spiritual instinct’ that makes us ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’ [think with the mind of the Church] and to discern that which is in conformity with the apostolic faith and is in the spirit of the Gospel. Of course, the ‘sensus fidelium’ [sense of the faithful] cannot be confused with the sociological reality of a majority opinion. It is, therefore, important—and one of your tasks—to develop criteria that allow the authentic expressions of the ‘sensus fidelium’ to be discerned.For its part, the Magisterium has the duty to be attentive to what the Spirit says to the Churches through authentic manifestations of the sensus fidelium. There come to mind the two numbers, 8 and 12, of Lumen Gentium, which is so strong in fact about this.  This attention is of greatest importance for theologians. Pope Benedict XVI often pointed out that the theologian must remain attentive to the faith lived by the humble and the small, to whom it pleased the Father to reveal that which He had hidden from the learned and the wise. (cf. Matthew 11:25-26. Homily in the Mass with the International Theological Commission, December 1, 2009). [Emphasis mine.]

This was a very important preface to the survey results. The Pope was clearly indicating that the survey was not an opinion poll. From my point of view, it was a performance review. The survey showed just how poorly Church teachings are understood. In other words, we as a Church have done a mediocre job of living and communicating what the Church teaches.

The survey results continued to generate a lot of media hype.

Then, thirdly, the extraordinary consistory in preparation for the Synod happened in February 2014. Cardinal Kasper addressed the Cardinals and introduced some very challenging themes, ideas that seem to go counter to existing Church teaching. The Vatican reported:

The introductory presentation by Cardinal Kasper, which will not be published as it was intended for use within the context of the meeting by participants only – occupied almost the entire morning, with the exception of the last ten minutes in which a few comments were made. However, this afternoon and tomorrow morning will be dedicated to comment and discussion.

In all honesty, I don’t find the reporting to be all that forthcoming as later reporting and the Cardinal’s own book indicated quite clearly that his presentation had been innovative, to say the least.

Again, step back and look at what happened. It was sort of a release valve. Debates and unpleasantries that could’ve happened during the Synod happened before instead. The media has hammered the issues requiring responses which have been forthcoming from many, many Catholic voices, turning the preparation for the Synod into a teaching moment as well as allowing participants to prepare more carefully.

Now as I read Remaining in the Truth of Christ, I am seeing a really necessary catechesis and exegesis put forth by some of the Church’s best minds. It’s also refreshing to see the Cardinals, including Cardinal Kasper, doing the work of really testing what the Church teaches. So often, it becomes very easy to see them as having little more than a decorative role, you know, showing up in fancy vestments for big Church events. Even if they’re disagreeing, they are doing the thoughtful and necessary work of helping the Church to conform more to Christ.

Cardinal Burke recently commented on the media hijacking the Synod. I agree that it looks like they might be trying to do so. But I also think that Pope Francis’s words, decisions, and actions may have been a brilliant strategy to essentially hold a pre-synod, one in which Cardinal Burke’s contribution, as in this new book Remaining in the Truth of Christprovide a fantastic basis for moving the conversation in a constructive direction. As the interview above reports:

The danger, Cardinal Burke continued, is that “the media has created a situation in which people expect that there are going to be these major changes which would, in fact, constitute a change in Church teaching, which is impossible.”

“That’s why it’s very important for those who are in charge to be very clear,” he said.

I’ve never attended a large meeting that didn’t require a lot of management to stay on track. This pre-synod of sorts may just have accomplished a great deal. It’s allowed for a lot of work of clarifying to be done. No doubt the upcoming Synod and the time until the companion Synod in 2015 will generate even more controversy, resulting – one hopes – in conversation, additional clarification, better teaching, and – most importantly – lives lived closer to the truth of Christ.

 

 

 

 

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