31 August 2022

Did the Pope Really Say the Church Ceased To Exist?

This is from Francis's infamous 'Pilgrimage of Penitence' to Canada, but I missed it when it was first published. It's still timely, however.

From Catholic Culture via the WayBackMachine

By Phil Lawler 

Here, I believe, is the ultimate expression of the “hermeneutic of rupture.” In his July 29 conversation with Jesuits in Canada, Pope Francis seems to have said that the Roman Catholic Church ceased to exist!

Read his words and check my logic. The Pope said that “the Church is either synodal or it is not Church.” Then just a few moments later: “Certainly, we can say that the Church in the West had lost its synodal tradition.” So it follows that the “Church in the West” was not Church.

The Pope does concede that synodality— thus, the Church, by his definition— continued. “The Church of the East has preserved it.” But this astonishing statement from this astonishing Pontiff seems to dismiss the authenticity of the “Church in the West”— that is, the Roman Catholic Church, which he now leads. And notice that he does not make this claim as a hypothesis; he begins the crucial sentence with the word “Certainly.”

The Pope’s statement does not specify the historical point at which the Western Church lost its synodal character. But he does point to the time when it was recovered: after Vatican II:

Paul VI set up the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops because he intended to go ahead on this issue. Synod after synod has gone ahead, tentatively, improving, understanding better, maturing.

In his famous 2005 address to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict decried the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,” which alleged “a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church.” But nowhere has that “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” taken such a radical form as this: the suggestion that the Church had ceased to be the Church prior to the Council.

In his remarks to the Jesuit community in Quebec, the Pope does not clearly explain what “synodality” means, apart from a statement that it is a movement of the Holy Spirit. The synod is not a parliament, he says. It is not a matter of debating and voting; “nor is it a dialectical confrontation between a majority and a minority.” But then what exactly is this crucial element, without which the Church cannot exist?

”If you want to read the best book of theology on the synod,” the Pope says, “then re-read the Acts of the Apostles.” That’s another very interesting remark. Because in the Acts, the most conspicuous exercise of synodality comes at the Council of Jerusalem, where the assembled bishops rejected the position held by St. Peter. If the next full meeting of the Synod of Bishops produces the same result— a correction of St. Peter’s successor— we can count it a great success.

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