The saying goes that the people get the government they deserve. A bad tree yields a bad harvest of leaders. This follows the natural law that God has placed in the world. He also directly intervenes—at least the bishops of the Church have, in the past, held this to be the case. When Joshua followed God’s instructions, the walls of Jericho fell. When the Hebrews and their high priest, Aaron, chose to worship a calf, God was harsh but merciful in response.
In Joshua’s case, a course of action was directed by God, the leader commanded it be followed, and the people obeyed.
Aaron chose differently. The people were leaderless while Moses was away. They could not or would not hear God. Lesser men such as Aaron grew fearful—and maybe ambitious—and gave the people a choice against waiting: they could contribute their gold rings to melt into a calf. The people had seen the works of God and had received great blessings for which they should have been endlessly grateful. Instead, they chose to worship a thing of their own making. They created an idol to the specifications of the pagan world back in Egypt. Aaron even declared the next day’s worship of it to be the “solemnity of the Lord.”
How is the Synod of Synods any different?
We are finishing up the process of each diocese and national assembly of bishops submitting their golden rings of wisdom to be melted down into the future ways and worship of the Church. Fallen Catholics, those not practicing, and apostates were invited to participate. Even nonbelievers were encouraged to give input. In my own diocese, and across the country, the session discussions were more directed at those groups rather than the practicing faithful.
Would a farm group invite city dwellers to design their farming manuals or explain animal husbandry to them? Would a baseball team gather geishas for ideas on how to hit and catch? Would a homeowner in a bad neighborhood open the front door and give tours to passersby and inquire how best to secure the goods of the home?
What could be the intent? The result will be obvious unless tightly controlled toward orthodoxy. That is not likely. The Vatican has been opening the door since the start of the last council, when it appointed non-Catholics into key positions, including the revisers of the Mass. This process has accelerated in the past ten years with such horrors as the Pontifical Academy for Life now including advocates for abortion and euthanasia.
Is the thought that Catholic teaching, refined by 2000 years of vigorous challenge and debate, is no longer sufficient? Any brief appraisal of the past shows that Catholic teaching triumphs against all heresies and sees nothing truly new. Is the intent to adjust to those who disagree in the hope of bringing them into the fold? Opening the governance of the Church is to invite heresy. Our Lord made clear that we walk a narrow path. All else is damnation.
Is the synodal process needed because the pope cannot effect the desired change on his own? Clearly, this pope is comfortable ruling motu proprio—literally “on his own” authority. He has eliminated customs, titles, practices, teachings, communities, and even bishops in good standing. He has added innovations with a circular, self-referential style that heretofore was only demonstrated by authoritarians in funny uniforms. He has shown that there is not a need for a groundswell in the Church to violently redirect her members and movements.
So, I ask again, what is intended? Is Aaron calling us to participate in his sin?
The only thing clear is the intentional vagueness of the process. Even Pope Francis admits he cannot define the meaning of his invented word “synodality.”
In a USCCB interview, the bishop of Lexington says that the process is to keep pushing the envelope of the “spirit of Vatican II,” an equally vague and demonstrably dangerous trope used to bludgeon the Church for almost 60 years. Another bishop, in the same interview, says the intent is to remove the harshness of the Church, yet he gives no specifics. They both say that the Church needs to listen, as though this is a new skill being introduced to Catholicism.
Much more is being introduced. The direction of the intended changes was clear from the beginning. The German synod has been the skunk works of what is to come. The only bump in the road was that the Germans were getting a little ahead of the process and were recently told to slow down. One cannot help but conclude that universal implementation will have the feel of German engineering.
These changes could still be introduced by motu proprio and were already on the horizon regardless of any synodal listening. The overcentralized Church groans as the Vatican flexes its muscles. Obsequious bishops give way, even to the destruction of their own flocks, with lockouts and Latin pogroms. Assent is not needed to radically change the Church.
What is needed is guilt. Aaron needed the people to donate their rings to make them complicit. Until now, the laity could say that they were not fully part of the sexual or liturgical abuses, not as a whole.
The synod brings the laity, and—by invitation—the whole world, into the process with full knowledge. The “synodal fathers” will claim that the changes were demanded by the people.
After a long period of trials and waywardness, the Jewish people demanded a king. They were warned of the costs. The prophet Samuel listed them in detail, starting with, “he will take your sons” and ending with, “And you shall cry out…and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” The people suffered defeats, humiliation, exile, famine, and idolatry because of their kings. They were the bad tree and their kings were their fruit, freely chosen.
The kings of the Jews, the first to the penultimate, were flawed and often despicable. Only the God-man king was perfect, yet He was unrecognized and persecuted after centuries of anticipation. He was also murdered at the instigation of the temple priests. The chosen people cried out for His blood and within a lifetime saw their temple destroyed. To this day, they have no temple worship.
After crying out for the innovation of synodality, we summon the same fate. Yet, knowing that the Mystical Body of the Church will endure, I suspect we will have a Moses—a layman—return to smash the new idol with the very Word of God and grind it to powder.
[Photo Credit: synod.va]