Preparations for the Synod on Synodality are being “welcomed with great enthusiasm,” we are told. And who brings us this good news? Why, the people responsible for those preparations, of course.
To be fair, the Office of the Synod did concede, in its rosy progress report, that the preparatory process, with its countless local meetings and listening sessions, has failed to reassure skeptics. “There is also a certain mistrust among the laity who doubt that their contributions will really be taken into consideration.”
So some people (the folks organizing the process, I’d suggest) are enthusiastic. And others (everybody else) are suspicious. Some people are happy to discuss the process of establishing a process by which the Church should be directed. Others, impatient for actual solutions to the problems that plague the Church, will be frustrated by round after round of inconclusive discussions. Theoretically the preparatory sessions—and eventually the Synod meeting itself—could reinvigorate the Church. But my colleague Jeff Mirus has expressed the skeptics’ reservations succinctly:
But the largest probabilities remain: (a) That the overwhelming majority of highly-committed Catholics will (based on long experience) distrust the process; (b) That those who are fashionably dissident will take the opportunity to remake the Church in their own image; (c) That nearly every expressed concern will be translated by professional ecclesiastics into high-sounding phrases which emphasize inclusion over fidelity; and (d) That the very presence of nearly all suggestions in some final document will, by the planting of small new seeds of infidelity, give added legitimacy to the latest ways in which the Church can become less faithful to her essential mission.
If those predictions strike you as overly pessimistic, consider how for 50 years, references to a vague “spirit of Vatican II” have been used to promote ideas and actions thoroughly at odds with the actual teachings of the Council. Consider how the German bishops’ “Synodal Path” has already embraced radical changes in Catholic doctrine and discipline. Consider how the Office of the Synod has encouraged contributions not only from dissident Catholics and lapsed Catholics but even from non-Catholics. And consider how during the current pontificate, every meeting of the Synod of Bishops has been blatantly manipulated by a clique of liberal insiders, to produce their desired results.
For the Synod on Synodality, the opportunities for manipulation will be multiplied during the two-year preparatory process, with liberal activists given their chances to stage-manage the local meetings, the national meetings, and the regional meetings leading up to the final Synod assembly. Then when the bishops gather in Rome in October 2023, the most important role in the meeting will be filled by a prelate who has been outspoken in his own calls for change in Church teachings.
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, who was appointed by Pope Francis to be “relator general” for the Synod. He is a Jesuit, like Pope Francis, and he received his red hat from Pope Francis in 2019. Obviously the Pontiff holds him in high regard. In fact, the veteran Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister is convinced that Pope Francis wants Cardinal Hollerich to succeed him on Peter’s throne.
As relator general, Cardinal Hollerich is responsible for introducing the report on which the Synod will base its discussions, and supervising the preparation of a final document when those discussions have concluded. It is fair to expect, then, that the Synod’s final report will be influenced by his own thoughts.
- If you wonder whether Cardinal Hollerich might allow secular ideology to trump Catholic doctrine, consider that he said: “Solidarity, the fact of sharing, of wanting to share riches with the poorest, of respecting human rights: these are the distinctive elements of Christianity.” (The distinctive elements?)
- This is the same Cardinal Hollerich who announced, in an interview earlier this month, that “it is time for us to make a revision” of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, because “the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct.”
- Who said that “ecological conversion” is “a matter of life and death,” and that the drive to reduce carbon emissions is “a profound moral imperative.”
- The same Cardinal Hollerich who argues that undocumented refuges should be welcomed into Europe, but Catholics without Covid-vaccine passports should not be admitted to churches.
- The same Cardinal Hollerich who said: “The change in civilization we are witnessing today is the greatest change since the invention of the wheel.” Who told an interviewer that “we cannot give the answers of the past to the questions of tomorrow,” and that the Church today “must be faster” in adapting to the times. (“Otherwise, we lose contact and can no more be understood.”)
- The same Cardinal Hollerich who said that he would not oppose the ordination of women as deacons, except that “the danger of schism would be great,” because “many bishops would possibly not go along with it.” The same Cardinal Hollerich who said that “The Pope has nothing against conservatives, if they learn from life.”
If conservative Catholics have learned from life, they will remain deeply suspicious of Cardinal Hollerich and of the Synod process in which he plays a pivotal role.
The above comes from a Feb. 16 posting by Phil Lawler on Catholic Culture.org.