So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dividing Line. Synodal governance?

Phil Lawler has written a brief but provocative piece about Pope Francis' continuing awkward and shortsighted vision entitled Pope Francis has become a source of division. The piece begins... .
Every day I pray for Pope Francis. And every day (I am exaggerating, but only slightly), the Pope issues another reminder that he does not approve of Catholics like me. (I, and many others, feel your pain!)
If the Holy Father were rebuking me for my sins, I would have no reason to complain. But day after weary day the Pope upbraids me—and countless thousands of other faithful Catholics—for clinging to, and sometimes suffering for, the truths that the Church has always taught. We are rigid, he tells us. We are the “doctors of the law,” the Pharisees, who only want to be “comfortable” with our faith.
The Roman Pontiff should be a focus of unity in the Church. Pope Francis, regrettably, has become a source of division. There are two reasons for this unhappy phenomenon: the Pope’s autocratic style of governance and the radical nature of the program that he is relentlessly advancing.
The autocratic style (which contrasts sharply with promises of collegial and synodal governance) has never been quite so evident as this week, when he has tossed aside the independent and sovereign status of the Knights of Malta. Writing of that remarkable coup in the Wall Street Journal, Sohrab Ahmari observed that it “has divided the church along familiar lines.” Ahmari (a recent convert to Catholicism) continued:
As with other recent disputes—communion for the divorced-and-remarried; the status of the Latin Mass; Vatican engagement with China’s Communist regime—conservatives are on one side and Pope Francis is on the other.
Pope Saint John Paul II reminded us to be faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church by holding fast to the unchanging teachings of the Church. Pope Francis sends very mixed messages that often leave the faithful Catholic unnecessarily perplexed. It is as if Pope Francis cannot tell the difference between a faithful disciple who, in response to Jesus' call, freely chooses to keep Christ's commandments—for the faithful disciple keeps Jesus' commands to show his love for Christ (St John 14:15)—and an apostate who, like so many in the Church and the world, are satans, adversaries of God who demand that we approve of their mortally sinful behaviour and be configured to their illusory beliefs. Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas!

Lawler is right to point out that Pope Francis' promises of collegial and synodal governance have not yet been realized. It may very well be that it is a good thing that synodal governance is restricted and that synods are limited to a consultative role. Synodal governance has reduced groups like the Anglicans to rubble. Synodal governance of a kind which threatens to usurp the design that Christ left for the Church should be consigned to the dustbin of history. One pope is enough to deal with at any given time. Imagine an entire committee of bishops behaving like popes.

Did Christ invent a committee to govern His Church in His name? The apostles were a college, not a committee, and a college has a head. Jesus gave Peter a unique position within that college, a role distinct from that which the other apostles enjoyed. The pope is under Christ; the bishops, like the apostles gathered around Peter, are under the pope. To carry the pattern further, though in keeping with Jesus' design for His Church, priests are under their bishop, and the people are under their priest. Got a problem with that design? Take up your beef with the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.

Of course, if a priest or bishop is an apostate, i.e., a heretic, the faithful have an obligation to defend the Faith and maintain communion with the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ. If a priest or bishop is a depraved individual, impenitent and a threat to the spiritual well being of others, then let him be subject to the full force of Christ's judgement.
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.—St. Matthew 18:6

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