Tuesday 4 March 2014
The Synod on the Family -A Humanae Vitae Moment for Pope Francis
As preparation for the Synod on the family continues we must pray hard for Pope Francis. While he has devoted supporters, he also has determined detractors; while some claim he is one of the most humble men on earth, others see him as one of the most self-promoting. It is not possible to know for certain which of these impressions is correct, but Francis himself may give us the answer when the Synod is completed and his Apostolic Exhortation released. I say this because one side or the other will be proved right: his supporters or his detractors.
This is so because, being as popular as he is, Francis has the possibility of using his popularity to bring Christ’s injunction against irregular ‘marriages’ to the world with a voice they are (currently) willing to hear. In other words, he can use his popularity for the spread of the Gospel. On the other hand, if he attempts to disregard the injunction of Christ in the Gospel and change the Tradition of the Church, it could be claimed that he is seeking his own popularity at the expense of the Gospel.
The Synod can only advise Francis to take one of two paths: it can advise a continuance of the Traditional practice or it can advise a change. It cannot do both. Nor can it advise a third path of upholding Traditional Teaching while advising him to allow even a restricted access to Holy Communion for pastoral reasons (what pastoral reason can be given to deceive a soul into thinking all is well when in fact they are at odds with the Lord’s own injunction?) No, the Synod cannot uphold Traditional teaching on the indissolubility of marriage while advocating a practice totally inconsistent with that practice; that would akin to a physician telling his patient that smoking is harmful but allowing it because it because makes the patient feel less stressed.
Francis must stay in line with the Traditional teaching if he is not to call down upon himself two criticisms: first, that he is courting his own popularity at the expense of the Gospel; two, that he has unsafe hands for the holding of the Church (solid Catholics are reminding us that the election of a Pope is not an act of God; that God does not chose the Pope with whom the Cardinals must work, but that the Cardinals choose a Pope with whom the Lord must work).
Pope Francis needs our prayers and our sacrifices if he is not to fall prey to the flattering voices of the world and doctrine-distorting voices within the Church. He must find the courage of Paul VI to stay faithful to what has gone before; this is his Humanae Vitae moment, and this is a dangerous time for him: all men are prone to the need to feel affirmed and loved, and the majority of voices today are for the abandoning of Christ’s injunction, which means a majority of voices waiting to applaud Francis. All men are in need of prayer, too. Our Holy Father is deserving of our prayers as he seeks to guide the Church according to the mind of Christ. Let us not abandon him.