Progressives and conservatives should keep in mind Jesus’ promise to be with His Church until the end
By Deacon Bob Hunt
I am writing this in the middle of October, so by the time you read this mid-November, the Synod on Synodality taking place in Rome this month of October will be over. We await the Synod on Synodality chapter to be convened in Rome next year at this time.
There has been a lot of ink spilt on the matter of the Synod. So-called “progressive” Catholics are hoping the Synod will lead to new momentum in their decades-long effort to “reform” the Church, to make it more “modern,” and to change Church teaching to accommodate contemporary values, such as same-sex marriage, equality for women (which can only mean women priests, or at least deacons), and a more democratic Church, where bishops are less shepherds of their flock and more followers. Advocates of this agenda conveniently ignore the disaster that adopting such teachings has been for many other Christian traditions, especially of the liberal Protestant persuasion. This is not to mention the disastrous results of the sexual revolution on secular society: millions killed by abortion, rampant divorce, half of children being born and raised into single-parent households, etc.
On the other side of the equation are the so-called “conservative” Catholics who hope to hold down the fort against the tide of progressivism and of the vague and confusing leadership they see as the defining character of Francis’ papacy. Regardless of what kind of Catholic you consider yourself, one thing was certain during the papacies of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and that is that you knew what the Church taught. Whether you submitted to that teaching or not, you knew where the Church stood and, consequently, where you stood in your relationship with the Church. The complaint many have of Pope Francis, justified or not, is that his teaching and guidance have been so vague and confusing that it’s difficult to ascertain exactly where the Church stands. Some Catholics, even some cardinals and bishops, eager to push the envelope, have exploited this vagueness by putting forth interpretations of Church teaching that are contrary to what the Church has taught for centuries. The secular media, not to be outdone, have contributed to the confusion by picking and choosing what to report and what not to report, and providing a stage for talking heads that offer the most progressive take on whatever Francis writes or says.
As well, and in the spirit of the old claim that “it’s easier to get forgiveness than to get permission,” some Catholic priests and, again, even some cardinals and bishops, have ignored Church teaching and taken it upon themselves to bless same-sex unions. Perhaps figuring that a done deal can’t be undone, their hope is that the rest of the Church will shrug its shoulders and accept the new tradition. That hasn’t happened, and it’s not likely to.
Amidst all the brouhaha over the Synod, it seems to me that one thing has been forgotten, and that is the promise of Jesus to be with His Church until the end, and to send the Holy Spirit as Paraclete and guide. What do I expect of the Synod? Honestly, not much. Perhaps some bishops will adopt an attitude of listening to the faithful and of inviting them to participate in the daily decisions of their diocese. That would not be a bad thing. I do not expect Church teaching to change. I do not expect the great majority of cardinals, bishops, and faithful Catholics to simply set aside the centuries-old faith and morals of the Catholic tradition to accommodate those few who are eager to shape the Church into what they regard as a tool of human progress rather than to guard and keep her as the Bride of Christ. I do expect continued confusion. I do expect that some will exploit what they hoped the Synod would become in their effort to shape the Church into what they feel it must become. Ultimately, they will fail. Just as the Gnostics failed, and the Arians failed, and the Nestorians failed, and all those others who attempted to push their own agendas rather than to submit to the Holy Spirit and the revelation God has given through the apostles. Our faith is the faith of the apostles, and I cannot imagine St. Peter or St. Paul blessing same-sex unions.
Have faith in the Holy Spirit. Have faith in Jesus’ promises. This is not to say that we ought to be silent or inactive when others try to force teachings on the faithful that are contrary to our Catholic tradition. St. Thomas More prayed, “Give us, good Lord, the grace to work for the things we pray for.” Of course, we should pray for the Holy Father, for the cardinals, bishops, and delegates at the Synod. The work we can do is to be faithful ourselves. Never compromise our souls by compromising our fidelity to what Christ has taught us through His Church.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Deacon Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville.