The recently published, ruminative report of the Synod on the Family (which can be found in English here) has been throwing the Catholic blogosphere into conniptions. This has, in turn, driven me nearly frantic. I wrote about half of a rant last night, but then wondered whether it was quite wholesome to publish it, given the internet's incredible poutrage surplus. And then, I came across the following, in the combox of Mark Shea's post on the subject, from a commenter going by the name Linda Daily:
I invite all Catholic bloggers and commenters to schedule a one-week Shut Up Synod, during which no one reads, writes, or comments on things Catholic. Spend the week in silent prayer and humble service, minding your own business, working out your own salvation, and trust that God in his heaven can guide the Church without your analysis.
Nailed it. In the spirit of said Shut Up Synod, but with the concession that I find it very hard indeed to shut up, I will confine myself to the following few remarks.
Let's remember, brethren, that the Synod on the Family is about discipline, not doctrine. Pope Francis and the other bishops are not going to change the Church's doctrine of marriage or anything else (indeed, as Catholics, we believe they aren't in fact able to do so). It is the Holy Ghost who protects the Church's faith, He and no one else. On today's memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, who wrote and prayed earnestly for heretics to be recovered into the bosom of the Catholic Church and committed herself totally to its maternal care and authority even as a reformer, it is specially fitting to recollect that the faith did not come from us, and does not depend on us, and that we do not need to think, speak, or act as if it did.
"Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing dismay thee; all things pass; God never changes."
In the same vein, consider our Lord's saying: The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. The Church's pastoral practice -- which is nothing other than how she applies the truth she teaches to the lives of men -- is meant to serve man. We don't exist as mere vile bodies for confessors and canonists to practice their theological training upon. Still less should any pastoral standard be valued for the number of people it excludes from the Eucharist, ugly hints of which I have noticed here and there.
Whether to admit divorced Catholics to the sacraments without their relationships being regularized,* or what kind and degree of recognition the Church should give to a homosexual orientation and homosexual partnerships, are all questions of pastoral and prudential judgment. Nobody (not at the Synod, anyway) is proposing that the Church simply approve of divorce and gay sex, contrary to twenty centuries of dogma. And while acknowledging that there's lots to be said against altering current pastoral guidelines on these and other subjects, I would also venture to point out that, if the pastoral practices of the ancient Church were in force today, the line for Holy Communion would get very short indeed; I'm not certain I know a single person who would be eligible (certainly not me). And, since Confession back then was public, everybody would know why.
Lastly, one hears a lot from conservative Catholics about the dangers of scandal in irregular or apparently irregular relationships, and still more of the prospect of scandal in admitting these persons to the sacraments. I would ask my beloved brethren to consider gravely the scandal that may be given by people who profess total loyalty to the Catholic faith, and at the same time seem to set themselves up as competent judges of the words and actions of the Holy See. I don't say there is never a time to do so. But you had better be damn sure of it.
I found Calah Alexander's post on Barefoot and Pregnant wonderfully insightful; Sarah of A Queer Calling has written an open letter to Cardinal Burke that I appreciated; the ever-excellent P. E. Gobry of Inebriate Me has some illuminating remarks on the Synod's report; and my goodness does Elizabeth Scalia have a lot at The Anchoress. Enjoy.
*This would chiefly mean a Catholic who has been divorced and remarried civilly, without an annulment from the Church. Such relationships can be regularized ordinarily in one of three ways: if it's possible (which it may not be), obtaining an annulment; the new couple agreeing to separate; or the new couple agreeing to "live as brother and sister," i.e. continue living together but without sexual intimacy. This last is, I understand, commonest in situations in which there are children from the new union who of course need the care of their parents.