Case in point: Synod 2015.
Most Catholic and secular media outlets approached the recently concluded Synod of Bishops with an apparent focus on obtaining an answer to the question:
Will the Synod, in some appreciable measure, create an opening for the Kasperian Proposal to take hold in the life of the Church?
Now that it has concluded its work, that question still seems to be driving most of the media’s reporting.
The problem is, however, that’s the wrong question.
For some time now, it has appeared obvious (to me anyway) that the right question to ask relative to the possibility of Rome approving (tacitly or otherwise) of an initiative to openly invite the civilly divorced and remarried, those who are cohabitating, and even those in active homosexual relationships to receive Holy Communion (apart from a remedy of their situation), is more properly this:
How will Pope Francis go about seeing to it that the so-called “Kasperian Proposal” – better understood as the Bergoglian Offensive – does indeed take hold in the life of the Church?
So, what’s the difference between the two questions posed?
The former places far too much stress on the Synod relative to how the so-called “hot button” issues will be treated moving forward.
More importantly still, it implicitly fails to take into account the fact that “the buck,” as the colloquialism states, stops with the pope, and the desire to turn the Communion line into a cattle call for public sinners belongs first and foremost to Jorge Bergoglio – the Generalissimo of the revolution to whom Walter Kasper has simply provided a battle plan; let’s call it “Operation Mercy.”
As for the plan itself, we were informed long ago (on February 21, 2014 to be exact) by Pope Francis himself, in no uncertain terms precisely what he thinks of Cardinal Kasper’s nefarious notions.
As readers may recall, on the very day after the proposals put forth by the “pope’s theologian” created a firestorm at the Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals, Pope Francis stepped forward to express his own passionate support for Kasper’s ideas; calling them an example of “profound and serene theology … done on one’s knees.”
This, however, was not the first time that Pope Francis hinted at the degree to which he and Cardinal Kasper are simpatico with respect to his convoluted concept of “mercy” as outlined in his book by the same name.
During his very first Angelus Address, Pope Francis informed the world that he was reading Cardinal Kasper’s book; making it perfectly clear that he and the German heresiarch are of like mind, saying:
In these days, I have been able to read a book by a cardinal—Cardinal Kasper, a talented theologian, a good theologian—on mercy. And it did me such good, that book, but don’t think that I’m publicizing the books of my cardinals. That is not the case! But it did me such good, so much good… Cardinal Kasper said that hearing the word mercy changes everything.
Don’t think that I’m publicizing the books of my cardinals … that is not the case!
Looking back, can there be any question whatsoever that this proclamation falls squarely into the category of he who proteseth too much?
Speaking of which…
Cardinal Kasper, when interviewed by Commonweal Magazine about the contents of his book in May 2014, some three months after Pope Francis heaped effusive praise upon his “profound and serene theology” before the Consistory of Cardinals, said:
There are those who believe the church is for the pure. They forget that the church is also a church of sinners … I have the impression that this is very important for Pope Francis. He does not like the people in the church who are only condemning others … This is also a problem when it comes to the question of Communion for divorced and remarried people, which is now under consideration in preparation for the Synod of Bishops this autumn.
I have the impression that this is very important for Pope Francis…
Who does Kasper think he’s kidding; pretending not to have intimate knowledge of the Generalissimo’s opinion?
These people have no shame!
In any case, technically speaking, it is true that Pope Francis wasn’t publicizing Kasper’s book during his inaugural Angelus address; rather, he was very deliberately floating a trial balloon in order to see how the world might react to his support for the German cardinal’s heretical ideas.
Apparently, reaction to this veritable imprimatur being placed on Cardinal Kasper’s book by the pope’s own hand offered encouragement enough for releasing trial balloon number two; one that floated a more detailed hint at the Bergoglian agenda.
Just about a month later, a rumor began to circulate throughout Catholic media suggesting that the Holy See was working on a document meant to address the topic of Holy Communion for the civilly divorced and remarried; with the implication being that a change was forthcoming.
It is perhaps hindsight at this point indeed, but who among us is so naïve as to doubt that this rumor was started with deliberate intent from within the pope’s own circle; all with an eye toward gauging the Church’s readiness for accepting his intention to push forward an initiative that would effectively open up Holy Communion to all comers?
Toward the end of April 2013, the Pontifical Council for the Family issued a statement denying the rumor, but by then its purpose had apparently already been fulfilled; namely, to ascertain just how steep a hill remained to be climbed in order to overtake the enemy; namely, churchmen whom Francis would later describe as those who risk causing “the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching to become a house of cards” due to their insistence upon “certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options” (cf Evangelii Gaudium 39)
Remember, this reconnaissance effort in preparation for the Bergoglian Offensive began less than a week into the Franciscan pontificate, and it culminated with a formal, albeit stealth, declaration of war some seven months later.
On October 8, 2013, Pope Francis announced his intention to convene an Extraordinary Synod; just the third such event since the Synod of Bishops was instituted in 1965.
While “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” was named as the overall theme, the Vatican Press Office never made any bones about the fact that access to Holy Communion for those from whom it has been traditionally (even if mostly in theory and not in practice) withheld was truly the main issue.
From where did an “extraordinary” need to address this matter come?
For one place, Buenos Aries, where as Cardinal Archbishop, Jorge Bergoglio reportedly encouraged his priests “to give communion to all, although four fifths of the couples were not even married.”
Can any reasonable observer fail to conclude that Jorge Bergoglio brought with him to the conclave a deep seated desire to see the scandalous practices that he promoted in Beunos Aries adopted throughout the Universal Church?
Indeed, this desire may very well be one of the primary reasons why the so-called “mafia club” of prelates that conspired to undermine the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI (as described by Cardinal Danneels in his recently published authorized biography) wanted to see Jorge Bergoglio elevated to the papacy.
Oh, and by the way; among the “made men” of said club was one Cardinal Walter Kasper.
With all of this said, what then are we to make of Synod 2015, and what might we expect moving forward?
Even though it is important to recognize how deeply this pope believes that the constitution of the Church as established by Christ is outdated and must be converted to a more “synodal” system of governance, it’s also crucial to understand that he’s entirely comfortable, when push comes to shove, with playing the role of the dictator if such should become necessary in order to get what he wants.
He has proven as much any number of times, not the least of which being during Extraordinary Synod 2014 when he forced into publication, in the name of the Synod, scandalous statements that failed to acquire the body’s requisite consensus.
Certainly, Pope Francis would have preferred for a majority of the Fathers to fall in line behind the Kapserian proposal whole and entire, and while he did little conceal his bitterness over their failure to do so, the Synod itself has ever been but one small part of a much larger agenda.
Its real value in moving the Bergoglian Offensive forward, as I see it, twofold.
First and most obvious is the “crack in the door” to be found in the Synod’s final relatio under the heading, “Discernment and Integration,” as described by Professor Roberto De Mattei:
The Relatio doesn’t affirm the right for the divorced and remarried to receive Communion (and thus the right to adultery), but it denies the Church, de facto, the right to publically define as adulterous, the condition of the divorced and remarried, leaving the responsibility for evaluation [of this] to the conscience of the pastors and the divorced and remarried themselves. Taking up again the language of Dignitatis Humanae, it is not about an “affirmative” right to adultery, but a “negative” right of not being prevented from exercising it, in other words, of a right to “immunity from any coercion in moral matters”. Just as in Dignitatis Humanae, the fundamental distinction between the “internal forum”, regarding the eternal salvation of individual believers, and the “external forum”, related to the public good of the community of believers, is cancelled.
What an excellent observation; one that brings into focus the degree to which one should expect Jorge Bergoglio – a man who lives not by a sensus Catholicus, but rather what we might call a sensus concilius – will leverage the Synod’s outcome to further his agenda.
More specifically, as I wrote last month with respect to Pope Francis’ reform of the annulment process, his adversaries were thereby put on notice that this pope intends to get what he wants:
In short, this motu proprio represents the formal beginning of that process whereby the indissolubility of marriage will be undermined in a way that allows the “reformers” to claim adherence to tradition, even as they set in motion its undoing.
I suggested that it did so by placing power in the hands of men like Cardinal Reinhard Marx of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, who has made no bones about his intent with respect to opening pathways to Communion for the civilly divorced and remarried.
In his article, Professor De Mattei lays it out in more detail; further connecting the dots between the call for “discernment and integration” made in the final relatio, and Pope Francis’ desire “to promote a sound decentralization” of Church governance in such way as to encourage “local Bishops in the discernment of issues which arise in their territory” (cf Evangelii Gaudium 16) relative to his recent annulment reforms:
The Relatio finalis, integrates well, in this respect, with Pope Francis’ two Motu Proprio [with respect to the reform of canonical procedure for the annulment of marriage] … The conferring of the diocesan bishop’s faculty, as sole judge, to direct a short process with discretion, and arrive at a sentence, is the same as conferring the bishop’s faculty in the discernment of the moral condition of the divorced and remarried. If a local bishop retains that the path of spiritual growth and an in depth analysis of a person who is living in a new union is completed, this person will be able to receive Holy Communion.
My sense going into this Synod has long been that the end result will include a move to defer to the various national bishops conferences in deciding who is, and who is not, openly invited to Holy Communion, and I still suspect that they will be invited to play a role.
Specifically, look for Pope Francis to encourage them, as he did in his motu proprio reforming the annulment process, to exhibit “apostolic eagerness to reach the lost faithful … strongly aware of their duty to share in the aforementioned conversion, and fully respect the right of the bishops to organize the judicial power in their own particular Churches.”
In other words, surely he recognizes the benefit of episcopal peer pressure in places where the national conferences tend toward liberalism (i.e, the overwhelming majority of them) and can therefore be expected to leverage it.
At this point, while it would seem that Pope Francis is pleased to encourage local bishops to individually “discern” who is able to receive Holy Communion, rest assured he will not be content to let the matter end there in places where a “rigorist” bishop might deny Holy Communion (at least in principle) to unrepentant public sinners.
In these cases, it will be necessary to establish a sort of “appeals” process similar to that which has been put in place for the reformed annulment process; one that includes recourse to the Ordinary of the Metropolitan See.
As I wrote with respect to annulments, this would mean that decisions rendered, for example, in the Diocese of Peoria under Bishop Jenky (a so-called “conservative”), would be subject to being overturned by the Metropolitan See of the Archdiocese of Chicago under Archbishop Blaise Cupich.
How Pope Francis will do all of this remains to be seen, but issuing a motu proprio would seem to be the boldest way; so bold, in fact, that I tend to doubt that he will, even as I wouldn’t rule it out entirely.
In any case, if all of this is true, one of the major tasks remaining in bringing the Bergoglian Offensive to fruition is to ensure that as many dioceses as possible, especially the Metropolitan Sees (not to mention key positions of power within the Roman Curia), are overseen by men cut from “Franciscan” cloth.
And therein lies the other noteworthy contribution to the Offensive made by the events of Synod 2015.
As I wrote more than one year ago:
It may very well be that the interventions given at the Extraordinary Synod, and the reactions of bishops worldwide thereto, is going to serve as the mechanism by which Pope Francis will separate the sheep from the goats, such as he sees them, in the year to come. In other words, he will use what he has learned in order to further identify those in the episcopate and the College of Cardinals who do not share his most merciful agenda…
The same, I suspect, is true of Synod 2015.
This being the case, men like Cardinal Pell and the other twelve signatories of the Letter of Thirteen may want to begin consolidating their belongings sooner rather than later.