The Catholic Herald reported that Voice of the Family have called the midway document of the Synod “the worst document in Church history” (see here). Cardinal Burke’s response to it (see Rorate caeli, here) typifies many responses that can be found on the internet and heard in private conversations between Catholics, a response which says the document is “one of the saddest documents that I could imagine ever coming from the Church”: “Many of us were horrified with this idea that was presented in the report, that there could somehow be good elements in mortally sinful acts. This is impossible.” Indeed the document includes statements that cannot be squared with the official teaching of the Church in the post-Vatican II Catechism. Indeed, as Lifesite News indicates (here) Cardinal Baldisseri has suggested the Faith (as contained in the Catechism) can change:
“In its most controversial sections, the Relatio post disceptationem, or “report after the debate,” asked whether “accepting and valuing [homosexuals’] sexual orientation” could align with Catholic doctrine; proposed allowing Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics on a “case-by-case basis”; and said pastors should emphasize the “positive aspects” of lifestyles the Church considers gravely sinful, including civil remarriage after divorce and premarital cohabitation.
Cardinal Baldisseri stated that: “It was the Pope’s decision to include [in the reflection document for the 2015 Synod] the points that did not receive the two-thirds majority”. “The Pope said: These three points received an absolute majority. They were therefore not rejected with a ‘no,’ as they received more than 50 percent approval. They are therefore issues that still need to be developed. We as a Church want a consensus. These texts can be modified, that’s clear. Once there has been further reflection, they can be modified.”
The Cardinal explicitly stated that “dogmas can evolve and that there would be no point holding a Synod if we were simply to repeat what had always been said.”
Putting aside the odd ideas that what the Church aims for is consensus and that what Christ the Unchanging Truth taught can change, the propositions of the Relatio run contrary to the teaching of Christ and to the constant teaching of the Church (see Pius XI Casti connubii; through Paul VI Humanae vitae to John Paul II Familiaris consortio). Each of these papal documents is consistent with the teaching of the Church as summed up in the Catechism:
1605: Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The woman, "flesh of his flesh," his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been "in the beginning": "So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
2397: The covenant which spouses have freely entered into entails faithful love. It imposes on them the obligation to keep their marriage indissoluble.
2398: Fecundity is a good, a gift and an end of marriage. By giving life, spouses participate in God's fatherhood.
2399: The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).
2400: Adultery, divorce, polygamy, and free union are grave offenses against the dignity of marriage.
2357: Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law...Under no circumstances can they be approved.
[Emphasis added -GD]
(And we must not forget that the Catechism was a work of the entire episcopate and as such holds an authority over and above that of the Synod and its relatio.)
The sad thing is, we are now told the relatio is to be regarded as approved by the Pope before its publication and indeed, that he insisted the statements which did not gain the 2/3 majority should be included in the preparation document for the Synod this year. That has to be disturbing to anyone who agrees that the mid-term relatio is one of the worst documents in Church history, because it indicates the Pope, by ignoring the Synod vote and the constant teaching of the Church, is one of the worst popes in history (unavoidably so, since a pope is measured against his duty to defend, protect and hand on what he has received). Francis needs to be aware that many see him this way. Sadly, he is also being seen as supremely arrogant in indicating that all previous Popes and their bishops were wrong –and to imply that Tradition, the Scriptures and even words of the Lord Himself (who “is the same yesterday, today and forever” Heb. 13v8) can be over-ruled by His Vicar as ‘dispensable’. This is simply not possible. No one can deny that Francis is seeking to be a pope of mercy, but Francis must remember that Christ saw no contradiction between His mercy and requiring a change of life and that no Pope, Cardinal, Bishop or Priest, can imply that there is such a contradiction by attempting to extend mercy to those who do not change their way of life.
Francis needs to be aware that if the relatio (and its follow-up reflection document) is seen as the worst document in Church history and it was approved by him for publication and dissemination, then he is one step away in the minds of many from being seen as the worst pope in history.
Where does that leave the faithful Catholic? Repeating with Paul: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Gal.2v11). Disobedience to a pope (and public challenge of him) must always be respectful because of the human dignity which belongs to the man and because of his office as Pope, but not to oppose him is to allow evil to flourish -and if that route is taken by the faithful Catholic, the faithful Catholic himself becomes unfaithful, and will stand equally condemned.
A Filial appeal has been launched asking Pope Francis to re-affirm the Church’s teaching. (Sign it here).