Some good folk have wondered why the recent Extra-ordinary Synod was ever called, given that we already have Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae, Casti Connubi, Humanae Vitae, and especially Familiaris Consortio and the Catechism. It is a good question.
For many, the assumption is that the Synod cannot have been called to look at streamlining the Annulment process, because a Commission to look into this was established before the Synod began. Nor can it have been called to seek ways to support families, because this does not seem to have played any real part in discussions as indicated by the Interim and Final Reports of the Synod. What is left is the possibility, denied by the proponents of change, that it was called in order to overturn previous teaching so that those living in occasions of sin (‘irregular unions’) could be admitted to Holy Communion.
The so-called basis for readmission to Holy Communion is mercy, yet mercy can only enter where repentance and amendment of life are present, and if persons remain in occasions of sin, where is the repentance and amendment? Only the intellectually dim or the unfaithful could suggest that a period of penance which does not include amendment of life makes sense. Hope for eternal salvation however, has to be held out to those who struggle to do the right thing in the wrong circumstances; in wrong situations from which they cannot extricate themselves. And while the living of a chaste life is possible but difficult, it does make readmission to the sacraments possible, as already stated by John Paul II in his closing address to the 1980 Synod:
...the fathers of the Synod, again affirming the indissolubility of marriage and the Church’s practice of not admitting to Eucharistic communion those who have been divorced and—against her rule—again attempted marriage, urge pastors and the whole Christian community to help such brothers and sisters. They do not regard them as separated from the Church, since by virtue of their baptism they can and must share in the life of the Church by praying, hearing the word, being present at the community’s celebration of the Eucharist, and promoting charity and justice. Although it must not be denied that such people can in suitable circumstances be admitted to the sacrament of penance and then to Eucharistic communion, when with a sincere heart they open themselves to a way of life that is not in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage—namely, when such a man and woman, who cannot fulfill the obligation of separation, take on the duty of living in total abstinence, that is, abstaining from acts that are proper only to married couples—and when there is no scandal.
Nonetheless, the lack of sacramental reconciliation with God should not deter them from perseverance in prayer, in penance and in the exercise of charity, in order that they may eventually receive the grace of conversion and salvation.
The thing is this: Church teaching is the transmission of Divine Revelation which comes to us from the unchanging God via Scripture and Tradition, and we are to hand it on undiminished and uncorrupted to the next generation. A useful scripture reference to this is from Hebrews 13:
“Marriage should be honoured by all and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’...Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” (Heb.13v4-9).
It is not that good folk think we are dealing with a Pope who is heretical, but simply that they see something very wrong here, for while Modernisers may claim that the desire of the Synod was simply to change practice rather than doctrine, practice flows from Doctrine, so to change practice is to change doctrine implicitly. But this allows for an implicit change to be made explicit in years to come, claiming it is based on practice. This dangerous scenario would avoid Francis or any future Pope being called a heretic, since Francis will only have changed practice, not teaching, and a future Pope would simply be drawing doctrine from established practice. The plan of the Modernisers may be much more long-term than many think. It may be that they intended nothing more than the sowing of new seeds, but these seeds are tares; tares that faithful Bishops must ensure are never sown.