Making a lío

The more I read about the Synod in Rome, the less I know, and the less I am tempted to make any prediction. Attempts to subvert Church doctrine I can see, along with attempts to subvert the law of non-contradiction. In neither case are they likely to succeed. The Synod is a talking-shop only, a purely advisory affair, of no doctrinal significance whatever. Nothing it decides can encumber the pope in what he decides after it is over. Our worries could therefore easily be misplaced.

Disputes over the writing up of any final relatio, as over the substance of the Synod’s instrumentum laboris, are indicators only of chaos. The draughting committee is stacked with known “reformers” and incompetents. Baldisseri and Forte made fools of themselves, tampering with the preparatory Synod last year; it is hard to imagine why their appointments were renewed. If the purpose of the Synod were to hear out bishops, it is hard to explain why the pope would substitute unrepresentative reformers for the men chosen by several of the bishops’ conferences. It looks so obviously a fix.

Because the discussions are conducted in unprecedented secrecy, and reported only through interested parties (including the Vatican Press Office, which seems to have doctrinal positions of its own), we work with rumour and surmise. The rules governing the discussions seem to change day by day, and have changed at least once by comprehensive papal intervention; the final voting process remains unclear, two-thirds of the way through. And so on. Surely, no plot could be so transparent.

For the Catholic faithful, as I know from my inbox, as well as by touring the blogs, this is very discouraging. Matters fixed for centuries seem up for negotiation every day. All need remember that Christ does not change, in doctrine or praxis. Therefore anything we view to the contrary can be only the confusion, malice, and ineptitude, to which humans are notoriously prone. Alas, the entire hierarchy consists of humans. If the Holy Spirit has any role in their deliberations — and we as Catholics will say that He does — there is a plotline we cannot possibly follow. Yet how often, in this universe, order has suddenly emerged from chaos.

The most positive, accidental effect I have seen is the bringing to the world’s attention of a score of cardinals who are solid and reliable in the faith, and courageous by disposition. Several now strike me as papabili. Only under these circumstances could they have been discovered. One could never expect such men to be a majority in any hall; to find so many in this one is remarkable. Should they remain fixed in their orthodox positions, the majority, who are anchorless, will begin to swirl around them.

It is possible, perhaps even likely, that we are witnessing not something right going wrong, but something terribly wrong being painfully corrected. My speculation is that by “making a lío” (Argentine slang for a “mess”) the pope has done, whether or not intending, just what God wanted: to expose the rot in the Vatican and hierarchy to universal public view; to make it so apparent that something will have to be done to claw it out. But of course we cannot judge the movement of wheels within wheels within wheels, and I am only speculating. We know that God does not work according to our schedule; that everything might be transformed in a day, or in a thousand years. Too, that He gives us, invariably, much better than we deserve.

The best way to make a lío, if one is in charge of almost any human enterprise, is to try to give everyone what he wants. While I have entertained the notion, I do not think the current pope is plotting to undermine the Catholic faith it is his duty to uphold. Nor do I think he entertains, secretly, any consciously heretical position. Given the right audience, he will, as he said in an aeroplane recently, recite the Creed correctly. But he will then tell another audience what he thinks they want to hear, fatally raising their expectations. In this sense, if he is unkind or unmerciful, it is to the “progressive” factions. He cannot deliver what they have been taught to expect, except by an error that will turn loose irresistible forces against him. And I mean this charitably: the “reformers” cannot understand this. For if they understood, they would desist.

I do not hate this pope, incidentally, and for the record, I do not even hate Cardinal Kasper, though he makes me angry. I think Kasper is invincibly wrongheaded, and capable of personal animus, of vanity and hypocrisy, like other men; but also that he sincerely thinks he is serving the Church by putting forward his “proposals.” Also, that as Cardinal Danneels and many of the other reformers, he is too old to change his views, formed not only decades in the past, but confirmed for him daily in the lay and ecclesial environments through which he has moved, wherein he is almost a conservative. From listening intently to him speak, I sense some real loyalty, some real faith, along with logical disorder, and perhaps even desolation. He seems a man who is caught in an elaborate trap of his own making.

The former Cardinal Bergoglio, who is now Pope Francis, I simply cannot read. Perhaps as a creature of “North,” he is too “South” for me. Each of the little theories I’ve constructed to explain him to myself, has been blown away by subsequent events. To say that I do not trust him would be not exactly right; rather, I have come to trust that he will contradict tomorrow what he says today. The only observation of which I feel certain is that he cannot know what he is doing; that he is not mentally well organized; that he is out of his depth, in an office to which he is unsuited. He may have an “agenda,” but it is not thought through, and no amount of cunning or charisma can compensate for the mental clarity, and genuine humility, that his two most recent predecessors brought to that high office.

All of which might — just might — make him the very pope we required, to slay “the spirit of Vatican II,” while trying to revive it.