Friday 19 September 2014

Keeping Faith In Francis and In The Synod

I have never (I hope) tread upon the reputation for personal holiness ascribed to any man, and I hope that I stay clear of that in this post, for in this at least I am at one with Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?”.  I am not about then, to judge the holiness of Pope Francis or the members of the up-coming Synod. That said, and taking seriously the duty to point out Truth from error and good from evil, it is clear from the Catholic blogosphere that many Catholics are distressed by Pope Francis and some of the hierarchy, almost to the point of being theologically scandalised by them, scandal being the loss of faith due to the actions of another:

Scandal is an attitude or behaviour which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbour’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. CCC.#2284

Many Catholics fear that the up-coming Synod is pre-determined to rid us of defined moral doctrine in order to gain acceptance of the Church by the contemporary world. Personally, I retain hope that Francis will not allow the Synod to deviate from our moral doctrine as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, since he will not want to endanger his own soul or the souls of the people of God. This loss would be the result of truly scandalising the faithful by throwing out the teaching of a Catechism which was prepared by Rome in collaboration with the entire hierarchy of the Church and the assistance of numerous theological consultors; put together under the authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and promulgated as the ‘sure norm’ for the teaching of the Faith by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. 

If Francis does allow the Synod to deviate from the Catechism, we may be obliged to respectfully call him and the Synod to account, for their influence over people for good or evil can be great even though neither a Synod, Council or Pope have the authority to overturn the Deposit of Faith.

As the Universal Pastor, Francis is personally responsible (at the cost of his salvation) for ensuring the Synod does not deviate from the Faith of two Millennia because, as the Catechism reminds us:

Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing. CCC.#2285

We surely do not want Francis to go down in history as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We have had enough Popes in the past who have scandalised the faithful of their own time and whose reputations still tarnish the Church today. We do not need another. Let us then pray for the faith, humility and courage of the Pope and of the Synod members. Our parish have been saying the following prayer at Sunday Mass for the last few months, and we will continue to do so until the Synod is over.

Most Holy Trinity,
from whom all families take their origin and meaning,
as we pray for the exaltation of Holy Mother Church,
and for the conversion & peace of the world,
we ask you to bless and guide the forth-coming synod on the family.
Open minds and hearts to the place of marriage & family in your plan for our salvation.
Help your holy Church and the world in which she lives,
to uphold the sanctity of human life from natural conception to natural death;
the rightfulness of natural marriage,
and to find grace-filled solutions to the breakdown of marriage and family life.
Seeking the intercession of Our Blessed Lady, of St Joseph her spouse,
of St Michael the Archangel and of all the angels and saints,

we make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.


  1. Dear Father,thank you for this post.For myself,I am probably the most likely to be scandalized by what appears to be happening in our Holy church,and yet I have reached, by the grace of God,a calmness when contemplating the upcoming synod.Whatever happens,whatever comes from it,be it good, or from orthodoxys point of view bad,then I am bound to my adopted Faith with cords of love woven by Our Great Lady,who threw me a lifeline a few years ago.It was, in times gone by,a handful of good and holy priests and brave lay people who kept the faith alive in this country.So,it might be so again.I have found that it is possible to be orthodox in your own life,in spite of what is happening around you,to keep the faith as passed down,to follow the truth,and not to be coerced into believing in any other creed.The truth cannot be changed,man cannot change it,however holy we might perceive them to be.I consider that I am a weak catholic,one who struggles alone,but then the call to follow Christ was never meant to be easy was it?

    1. Thank you for this. Praise God that you are calm about the Church and the Synod.
      I have to say that Francis is his own worst enemy. If it is difficult for many to have confidence in him it is because of his off-the-cuff statements that suggest he has no grasp of (or attachment to) the defined faith of the Church, along with the destruction of a young order of solid Franciscans (FFI) being battered to death under his watch for ideological reasons. If people have lost confidence in him, he can only blame himself.
      Like you, we are ALL bound to the faith, including the Pope (which is why I have every hope that he will not allow the Synod to deviate from defined Doctrine). If the Synod deviate and it is left to individuals to keep the faith of the centuries while Rome teaches something different, we are at a bad stage in the life of the Church. One of the tenets of the Faith is that it is unchanging, so for a Synod or Pope to (attempt) to change it, leaves us to adopt the tack ascribed to Dietrich von Hildebrand: “We obey, but we do not agree”, which I put as “We obey for now, but do not agree, and we seek a revocation and revision in line with the revealed Doctrine of the Church”. Indeed, if the Synod or Francis go wrong, we can call them to account as Paul challenged Peter. We are certainly bound to faith in and obedience to the Church of Rome, but only because that Church is bound to defend the Deposit of Faith; Rome’s charism of infallibility is not magic, it requires cooperation with grace, and its authority is limited to defending and penetrating the Faith, not to the changing and repudiating it. Francis, I am sure, knows this, which is why we have to expect good things from the Synod. The Synod will be a testing of Francis true colours, which one hopes will leave his detractors relieved that they have been wrong about him, rather than sad that they have been right about him. The ball is firmly in the court of Francis to prove that he is -as he claims- a faithful son of the Church.
      God Bless.

  2. A beautiful prayer for a synod which in other times we would not be anxious about. Our Lord did not promise a perfect Church only that it would be protected from teaching error.

    1. Thank you Paul.
      I think protection from error requires a willing cooperation with grace, rather than being a magic touch. I stand willing to be corrected, however.
      God bless.


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