One of the surprising things I have found among priests and laity during the Pontificate of Pope Francis is that certain people who used to despise the word “obedience,” say ten years ago, now go on quoting “obedience” as if 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 public words of Jesus and John the Baptist were “Repent and Believe” and that the measure of a Pope is to the extent that the people have heard that same call to repentance and faith (as repentance and faith are the only two portals towards hope of loving Jesus Christ as He deserves.)
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 worry 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 also infallible. It too 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 false-synod was the 18th century Synod of Pistoia where Jansenism was promoted. Jansenism is the heresy of despair of God’s mercy. It’s sneaky that Satan may now be tempting the Church hierarchy towards presumption of God’s mercy, the opposite of the above. The devil’s tricky with that pendulum swing!
Thus, if the bishops go against the Bible in October, the Bible wins. This is not Protestantism.
I hope I’m wrong, but I predict error coming in the October 2015 Synod of the Family, followed by some form of beautiful or powerful Divine Intervention. This is not because I’m a Savonarola prophet of doom. It’s simply because of the manifest and public, shameless teaching of the Cardinals who have been recently promoted in these “family matters,” as reported by Life 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 (part 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. That’s because this synod is pastoral in nature, not doctrinal.
Speaking of “pastoral” men at the pre-synod last year, I wish I could have told them all that it’s not that hard to present the words of Love-Incarnate-Himself as “merciful and pastoral,” even on topics of marriage. I could have assured them of this by recounting many conversations I’ve had in bars, taxis and shady streets. So, why didn’t anyone at the pre-Synod (to my knowledge) present on how to reach real people with a real Gospel? I fear they know neither a concrete Gospel nor any real people.
So, unfortunately there is precedent for error in a synod. And, again, we have to be thankful that no synod can change the faith or morals of Holy Mother Church, especially that Faith articulated in Scripture, Councils, Creeds, Church Fathers and the Ex-Cathedra statements made by two Popes. These five things (not synods of pastoral discussion) are the transmissions of faith and morals that fall under Christ’s promise of the indefectibility to the Church:
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”—Matthew 16:18-19
The upcoming synod is not bound in heaven. It’s doctrinally Little League…but…It could still cause millions of souls to go to hell through misguidance towards presumption of God’s mercy on sexual matters. Thus, it could become the Major League for Satan.
That’s why we have to pray so hard.
As Padre Pio said, “Pray, Hope and Don’t worry.” God will straighten it out, even if things go down bad in October.