Saturday 19 September 2015

Resume and Comments on the 'Shadow Synod'

On Monday 25th May 2015 there was a meeting at the Gregorian University in Rome organised by the Bishops' Conferences of France, Switzerland and Germany each represented by their respective Presidents: Mgr George Pontier, Archbishop of Marseilles, Mgr Markus Büchel  Bishop of St. Gallen and Cardinal Reinhard Marx.

This meeting was dubbed by outsiders as the Shadow Synod. At first sight it appears to be a pretty impressive meeting as these Bishops' Conferences are supposed to represent the collective views of the Bishops in their countries. However if you think of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales you have to remember that in representing the Bishops few of them have any views on anything very much and those that do are usually soon corrected by a spokesman for the Conference. It is probably much the same in these three countries.

Six papers were presented:

Professor Doctor Anne-Marie Pelletier said that sacramental marriage is a trap best to be avoided. This was the initial reaction of Christ's disciples but I doubt if she agrees with His statement that celibacy is the only alternative if you have the gift. Basically the modern world, according to her, has given the lie to Christ's teaching on indissolubility.

Professor Doctor Thomas Soding of Bochum next tied himself in knots saying we must accept and teach the very clear teaching of Christ on marriage but we must reinterpret that teaching as it was all too difficult and we must accept that those who do not have the gift of celibacy are inevitably into adultery and other things.

Professor Doctor Eberhard Schokenhoff from Freiburg im Breisgau is a Jesuit Priest and he talked about sociology where it seems God has no place. Basically adultery, marriage breakdown etc are all something new which did not occur in earlier ages and therefore the Church had better get with it and adapt.

Abbé Prof. Dr. François-Xavier Amherdt from Fribourg in Switzerland, another priest, next came on and turned out to be completely daft. The longer a trial marriage goes on the better and there are values to be found in every relationship. Priests could however persuade people to get married properly by pointing out what a wonderful party they could have when they do.

Father Professor Doctor Alain Thomasset, a Jesuit from Paris, relied on misinterpreting several documents to show that God is indulgent to whatever we do and there is no such thing as sexual sin if we have a good intention (such as wanting to enjoy it?)

The final paper was given by Professor Doctor Eva-Maria Faber of Chur in Switzerland, by some oversight not a priest. For her the teaching of the Church is incoherent and totalitarian. Marriage is not about couples but about individuals and it takes a lifetime to become a couple; in the meantime not being a couple the marriage is not “consummated” in her new definition of the word and therefore can be declared null and void. Indeed for her the marriage bond is just an invention of St Augustine!

Apart from these talks there were debates, coffee and lunch but there is no published record of what was said. Reading these six papers the word 'theology' does appear but there is virtually no mention of God or any theology. The Church is seen as being just a lot of rules irrelevant to the present age all based on ancient texts which may have been of use in their time but now need drastic re-interpretation.

There is no hint of what it is to be a practising Catholic – the life of the sacraments, the desire to gradually conform oneself to the teaching of Christ with the help of His grace, the devout life or the imitation of Christ. Instead it is all about sociology and psychology without however any concrete references to these subjects. The realities of marriage, divorce etc are completely ignored and we are really into some kind of late nineteenth century scientism.

One of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council is a greater emphasis on the possibility of everyone of us attaining sanctity through a personal relationship with Christ. These speakers do not seem to have taken this on board and nowhere hint that we can be anything other than a soulless individual as in a novel by Zola or Huysmans. They want the Church to conform to the world rather than the world conforming to Christ. One seriously wonders whether any of them are practising Catholics.

The published account of this meeting finishes with a resume drawn up at the end which just reflects what the speakers said with a bit extra. The only surprise is in the final paragraph which states “scission is not a work of the spirit”. I get the impression that at least some at that meeting looked over the precipice and saw that all this was leading to schism.

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