The musings and meandering thoughts of a crotchety old man as he observes life in the world and in a small, rural town in South East Nebraska. My Pledge-Nulla dies sine linea-Not a day with out a line.
Wednesday, 3 October 2018
A Synod Off the Rails. The Criticisms of the Archbishop of Philadelphia
Sandro Magister's take on the Synod and Abp Chaput's criticisms of it. From L'Espresso
Today is the beginning of a synod with a rather vague title: “The young, faith, and vocational discernment.” But even more flimsy is the document on which the synod fathers have been called to “work.”
The document is called, sure enough, “Instrumentum laboris,” working instrument, and it is the outline for the discussion to follow. Which for that matter has already begun, with strong criticisms that have been focused precisely on the formulation of this preparatory text.
These criticisms have been voiced above all by the archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, elected by the previous synod from among the select intercontinental group of bishops charged with organizing the current synod.
And then, seeing that the synod would be held no matter what, he published on Saturday, September 29 the following critique of the “Instrumentum laboris,” choosing as his platform the Italian opinion daily “Il Foglio”:
In Chaput’s judgment, the preparatory document of the synod “needs to be reviewed and revised,” because “as it stands, the text is strong in the social sciences, but much less so in its call to belief, conversion, and mission.”
The critique of Chaput - whose thinking is shared by the four bishops whom the episcopal conference of the United States has elected as its representatives at the synod - greatly irritated the Vatican control center, to the point that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the synod at Pope Francis’s beck and call, directly attacked Chaput, although without using his name, during the press conference for the presentation of the assembly, on Monday, October 1:
“Someone has said at first to cancel the synod and then that the ‘instrumentum laboris’ is not well made. However, he’s just one. And then the person in question has said that he does not agree because he had a theologian study the text. But the person in question is a member of the ordinary council of the secretariat of the synod, and was present at the time when the draft text was presented, and if he had any objection he could have expressed it, and we could have calmly inserted it. So I do not understand why he has made these statements. So much for loyalty and honesty.”
Properly speaking - unlike what Baldisseri said - Chaput did not “have a theologian study” the document. He instead made his own the criticisms of the “Instrumentum laboris” that a theologian had sent him some time ago. A theologian whose name has not been made public, but whom Chaput himself called “a respected North American theologian” in presenting him to the readers of “First Things”:
Chaput recommended that the criticisms of the anonymous theologian be taken seriously: they are “substantive enough to warrant much wider consideration and discussion.”
Here are a few of the passages.
- The first taken from the criticism of the “naturalism” of the “Instrumentum laboris,” abbreviated IL:
“There is much discussion about what young people want; little about how these wants must be transformed by grace in a life that conforms to God’s will for their lives. After pages of analysis of their material conditions, the IL offers no guidance on how these material concerns might be elevated and oriented toward their supernatural end. Though the IL does offer some criticism of exclusively materialistic/utilitarian goals (§ 147), the majority of the document painstakingly catalogues the varied socio-economic and cultural realities of young adults while offering no meaningful reflection on spiritual, existential, or moral concerns. The reader may easily conclude that the latter are of no importance to the Church.”
- These other three from the chapter entitled “An inadequate grasp of the Church’s spiritual authority”:
“The IL upends the respective roles of the ‘ecclesia docens’ and the ‘ecclesia discens.’ The entire document is premised on the belief that the principal role of the magisterial Church is ‘listening.’ Most problematic is §140: ‘The Church will have to opt for dialogue as her style and method, fostering an awareness of the existence of bonds and connections in a complex reality… No vocation, especially within the Church, can be placed outside this outgoing dynamism of dialogue [emphasis added].’ In other words, the Church does not possess the truth but must take its place alongside other voices. Those who have held the role of teacher and preacher in the Church must replace their authority with dialogue.”
“The theological consequence of this error is the conflation of the baptismal and sacramental priesthood. From the foundation of the Church, by divine command, the ordained ministers of the Church have been invested with the task of teaching and preaching; from her foundation, the baptized faithful have been tasked with hearing and conforming to the preached Word. Moreover, the mandate of preaching is co-instituted by Our Lord with the ministerial priesthood itself (cf. Mt 28:19-20). Were the Church to abandon her ministry of preaching, that is, were the roles of the teaching Church and the listening Church to be inverted, the hierarchy itself would be inverted, and the ministerial priesthood would collapse into the baptismal priesthood. In short, we would become Lutherans.”
“Apart from this serious ecclesiological problem, this approach presents a pastoral problem. It is common knowledge that adolescents from permissive households typically yearn for parents to care enough to set limits and give direction, even if they rebel against this direction. Similarly, the Church as mother and teacher cannot through negligence or cowardice forfeit this necessary role of setting limits and directing (Cf. § 178). In this regard § 171, which points to the motherhood of the Church, does not go far enough. It offers only a listening and accompanying role while eliminating that of teaching.”
- And this last one from the chapter headed “A partial theological anthropology”:
“Discussion of the human person in the IL fails to make any mention of the will. The human person is reduced in numerous places to ‘intellect and desire,’ ‘reason and affectivity’ (§ 147). The Church, however, teaches that man, created in the image of God, possesses an intellect and will, while sharing with the rest of the animal kingdom a body, with its affect. It is the will that is fundamentally directed toward the good. The theological consequence of this glaring omission is extraordinarily important, since the seat of the moral life resides in the will and not in the vicissitudes of the affect.”