Synod on the family

The Pontificium Consilium pro Familia has begun in Rome, God help us. This “extraordinary synod” will feed into a general synod next year, with plenty of opportunities for mischief along the way. Already, all over this continent, and I should think the world, liberal clergy are using the new signals from the Vatican — of which this unprecedented synod is the most spectacular — as their cue to “make a few changes.” We have a resurgence of the fever that swept the Church in the 1960s as “the spirit of Vatican II” — to my mind, a kind of spiritual Ebola that left churches closed and pews empty throughout the once-Christian West.

We now have two hundred bishops discussing e.g. how to deliver Communion to people who have failed to conform to the long-settled arrangements of Holy Church; and the dogma that follows, slam-dunk, from Christ’s plain words in the Sermon on the Mount. This is a marvellous opportunity — but only for the Devil to excite factional emotion and magnify dissension within the Church. Those who continue to adhere to what she has taught these last twenty centuries can now be cast as “a faction” in themselves, and faithful priests mocked as “old celibates.” (Jesus was a celibate male, incidentally.) Given our experience since Vatican II, our prelates should have known better.

There is no satisfying demands for “reform”; there never will be. It is a destructive force. It is a political rather than religious inspiration, directly opposed to reverence, and like a cancer it will attack every form of continuity which it is capable of reaching. It conducts the voice of worldly power — the howl of the wolf in his insatiable hunger — and when challenged it answers with a sneer. The vocation of the shepherd is not to negotiate with the wolf, but to guard his sheep. Read again the 10th chapter of Saint John.

“Reform,” in the sense of change and novelty, is what you wish upon your enemy. What you wish upon yourself is recovery.

Contrary to the argument of the wolf, circumstances have not fundamentally changed. Men have long been sinful, and long have tried sophistical arguments to justify themselves. It is for the Church to tell them they are in the wrong: the more brutally if they have convinced themselves they are in the right. The task of the Church, in this instance, is to change the squalid public view of marriage, not accommodate it. It is the task of restoration; of restoring Christendom. Paradoxically, it is most likely to begin again among the celibates — both male and female — rekindling the fires of the monastic life, and restoring the prayers by which the world is invisibly warmed and enlivened, against the cold shadow of the “culture of death.”

We might charitably argue the difficulty is that reading standards have sunk so low: an argument, I suppose, against spreading literacy too widely. Those who wish to finagle on the sanctity of marriage, point for instance to “if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out” in the same section of Scripture. No, Christ was not telling us to gouge out our eyes, immediately after noticing a pretty girl. This was an example of a rhetorical figure — it is called hyperbole — which Christ employed, along with many other figures of speech, and an array of parables. It was recognized as such from the beginning, for it required only moderate intelligence to get the point. It is indeed hard to help the clever types, who pretend to be unable to tell the difference between a rhetorical figure, and laying down the law. By context, and allusion to Moses, Christ’s ruling on marriage was made abundantly clear.

Modernists who imagine themselves very clever, as the Scribes and Pharisees before them, try to work around this unambiguous ruling by constructing hard cases. For instance, what about the guy who married some strumpet when he was very young and stupid, later resorted to civil re-marriage, and now has an adoring mate and five smiling children? Should the Church tell him to abandon them, now that he is starting to feel some compunction for his past mistakes, and instead resume his devotion to the little vixen who has moved to another country and is “married” for the fourth time?

No, the Church is not that obtuse. The man in this example should face the music, however. He should attend Mass like any good Catholic, and rather than take Communion in his present state, he should approach the rail and ask a blessing — alongside the mother of his children. And he should do so until his annulment comes through, and his marriage to her can be recognized.

Rather than demand the Church change her ways — which suggests the man is still too stupid to contract a valid marriage — he should use this potentially humiliating situation to wise himself up. He should set an example to his children of just how seriously marriage is to be taken; and Christ is to be taken. He should extract himself from the mess he has made in such a way to show — before Christ, and his fellow Catholic Christians — that he is now, finally, capable of love, and honour, and obedience. Likewise, this is an opportunity for the couple to show, before God and man, the sincerity of their attachment.

Demanding to have things both ways is not a sign of sincerity.

Communion is not to be taken lightly. It can be a source of tremendous strength: but only if it is received humbly, and faithfully, and reverently. To acknowledge the truth in the presence of Christ is also a source of strength. This is why men and women in a state of mortal sin attend the Mass and do not take Communion — until they have fully confessed their sins, and received full absolution, after the restitution that this may require. To take Communion some other way — as if it were an energy wafer — is to compound the sin. And liberal priests are doing their penitents no favours by helping them compound their sins. Nor — need it be mentioned? — are they doing themselves any favours, with respect to the fate of their own immortal souls.