Mini-Synod with Old Friends

Our group was asked 'How has the Church helped you' and 'hurt you?'

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Community Faith

A read of the German synod documents reminds me that revisionists are keener on erasing than on building. But no one invited me.

I did get invited to a mini-synod session by classmates from the minor seminary that I attended for six years. What led to the mini-synod was an ongoing virtual class reunion, which was lots of fun — like a batch of surprise Christmas letters from old friends.

But then the reunion morphed into a support group. Turns out it was really tough in the old days; we were lucky to have survived! The chatter was akin to tales about British boarding schools. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with a support group. I’d been hoping, though, for something more.

Well, I didn’t join the mini-synod. Still, I did receive its “report document,” and I’m weighing in now. It’s a way to engage folks with whom I was once close. The seminary boys are sober seniors now. They’ve raised families and lived responsible lives of service. A few are priests. Sadly, some of our classmates have died, and these we have mourned.

What, then, of the mini-synod comments? Here’s a summary. When asked, first, “How has the Church helped you,” there were some positives. Respondents noted good parishes and pastors. People were thankful for the legacy of the Church’s saints. They welcomed Vatican Council II.

The next question was “How has the Church hurt you”? Lots of negatives, such as: Vatican II hasn’t been fully implemented; clericalism is widespread; celibates distort our understanding of sexuality; gay friends experience rejection; open opposition to Pope Francis is scandalous; the eucharist is being politicized.

The third question asked for suggestions. There were plenty: Open up the priesthood; declare infallible doctrine fallible; address the dissonance between Church teaching and science; accept divorce and remarriage; practice social justice; update teaching on sexuality to reflect modern knowledge; discard doctrines that engender exclusivity; recognize that clericalism is the cause of the abuse crisis.

The questions led to an aspirational conclusion based on “prayer and discussion.” “We envision,” says the report, “a Church that fully implements the spirit of the Council and follows ‘the way of Jesus,’ that lives out the message of love, justice and peace by having a strong commitment to the social Gospel.” This Church, moreover, will work ecumenically to stem the loss of young people.

Here’s my reading of this collection of comments and its conclusion: What’s said is sincere, and I join my voice to the positives. I wholeheartedly assent to the call to live the way of Jesus. Nonetheless, the prevailing tone and direction of the comments strikes me as ranging from the hackneyed to the vaporous. Here are some particulars: The “spirit” of the Council often ignores what the Council actually taught; the full implementation of Vatican II will come when we follow the hard sayings of the Gospel, some of which call for a radical identification with the poor; there’s far more anti-clericalism than clericalism; don’t blame Catholic teaching on sexuality for the current rampant promiscuity; the way of Jesus includes a commitment to the marriage of one man to one woman for life; when it was necessary, Paul openly opposed Peter; the real politicization of the Eucharist comes when culturally Catholic politicians who promote abortion present themselves for communion; “churchiness” without doctrinal integrity is fine for Rotary International but not for the Master who prayed that all may be one nor for the Fathers of the Church that He founded.

In the interest of promoting understanding, I propose a short reading list for my friends of yesterday.

St. Paul VI, Humanae Vitae

John Paul II, Fides et Ratio

Jacques Maritain, The Peasant of the Garrone

Elizabeth Anscombe, Ethics, Religion and Politics

Dorothy Day, By Little and By Little

Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos

Three of these are by converts; the last is by an atheist with an excellent sense of the limits of evolutionary naturalism. In reading them, note their sources. Look them up and read them next. We are to love the Lord with our whole souls, our whole hearts, and our whole minds.

Pope Francis speaks often and eloquently about mercy. But as much as we have God’s mercy, we need it.

Though statues of him are at risk, St. Junipero Serra says best what we need to hear most: Siempre adelante, con juicio!

 

Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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