I think I really am beginning to understand what Pope Francis is trying to do, he recognises the Church is already deeply divided and there are two ways of healing it. The first, is what Cardinal Burke spoke about to the CCC on Tuesday, he recognises the Church is divided but insists he is 'calling the Church to unity' around what has been revealed and what has been the Tradition.
The second way of healing division, is what I believe Pope Francis is recognising what has been happening in the Church for the past century, maybe since before the Reformation rather than being doctinally united we doctinally divided or diverse. He is recognising that we are disunited, the difference is that he is the first Pope (ever?) to seem to accept the status quo as a given rather than call to obedience and call into communion.
At the heart of everything is the question "Who is Catholic?" For Cardinal Burke, it is those who believe the entire Catholic faith, for the Pope, it seems to be anyone of goodwill who identifies themselves as such. One could caricature the Cardinal's position as one which excommunicates those who neither believe or act according to the Church's teaching, whereas the Pope position could be caractured by the stance of the German bishops: we accept any and everybody, the only people who are beyond the pale are those who don't pay Church Tax.
Cardinal Burke might be a idealist and Francis might indeed might be a realist, but the role of a Pope as any cleric is to set before us the ideal of faith, sociology is not a substitute for Jesus. The Successor of Peter, is "the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity" (Lumen Gentium, 23) but it is not unity for unity's sake but for Christ's sake.
The Petrine Ministry, excercised primarily by the Pope but by all those who have a role of service in the Church, including all bishops, priests and deacons, is not something low down on that fragile integrated structure, the 'hierarchy of doctrines' but a safeguard of the most fundamental doctrines, essentially it is about announcing the Incarnation, Resurrection and Redemption.
What is at the heart of next October's Synod is not merely divorce, marriage and the Eucharist but something touching the very nature of Christianity, can the Church be trusted to teach. What I find deeply worrying is that if the Church cannot be trusted, can Christ? Can Revelation?
The gloomy Remnant isn't one of my favourite reads but I was sent a link to this, an email it published. I think I could easily find a dozen similar ones from concerned clergy.
All over the world we’re seeing cardinals, archbishops and bishops affirming behaviors which are unequivocally condemned by Popes and Councils in previous centuries. As I listen and watch these events, in my mind, over and over, I hear the phrase, “the smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary.” Could it be that all that is happening is truly the work of Satan? I’m not ready to affirm that it is, but in my heart I fear that it may be true. If it is then it may also be true that many members of our hierarchy do not belong to Christ. I’ve had conversations with priest friends about all of this. We are all fearful for what is to come. None of us feels as if we’re standing on doctrinally solid grounds any longer. We all cringe every time Pope Francis steps in front of a group of journalists. What will he say next? How will he berate those who are faithfully serving Christ? How will he beat up on us this time? One of my priest friends asked me during a conversation what I would do if the Church does formally approve what it previously formally condemned. I had to confess in all honesty that I’d probably have to leave priestly ministry. He admitted that he’d probably have no choice but to do the same. My deepest fear is that if Pope Francis continues to push the Church toward heresy that we may experience a war among the faithful that would make Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s opposition after Vatican II appear like a simple objection! I know you’ll understand why I’m not signing my name to this email. May God preserve His Holy Church from the forces, visible and invisible, within and without, who seek to destroy it. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners!
Father AnonymousI have enormous sympathy for the anonymous priestly author. He is not alone in his anxieties, though 'to leave priestly ministry' is not something most priests would consider but there is a problem, a very serious problem. The Church approving what it previously formally condemned, is a serious problem, no-one with integrity can go along with that, without a crisis of faith. In the past this was not an issue, now suddenly it is very real.
Rather than healing divisions, I fear that the Synod will introduce deeper rifts in the Church, to the point where true Communion becomes a real fiction and we end up in the same doctrinal mess as the CofE, or any other Protestant sect and our Bishops will be left with more and more difficulty wallpaper over the cracks, with less and less success.