Thursday, October 29, 2015

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

We are still waiting for the other shoe to drop regarding Pope Francis and the Synod. I don't have a crystal ball, but here's my take:

It's clear that Francis wants to liberalize church policy. That was even more clear from the closing speech he gave at the Synod, excoriating the conservative faction. 

Evidently, he doesn't want to go it alone. He needed the Synod for cover. He didn't get as much as he wanted.

By definition, any change in church policy will either be a move to the left or a move to the right. In that respect, the liberals won, because they managed to nudge policy in their direction. 

In addition, we need to define the terms of winning. Ambiguity facilitates the liberal position, not the conservative position. All they need is an opening. 

They don't need an official statement that their position is correct. They only need removal of official language that says their position is wrong. 

In other words, they don't need their position to be mandated. Rather, they only need their position not to be prohibited. So long as their position is no longer forbidden, they are free to do as they please. Not taking an official position serves their interests about as well as a favorable official position. 

To the extent, moreover, that the Synod has left it up to each bishop to chart his own course, that destroys the unity and universality of church teaching and policy. Yet that's a raison d'être for Catholicism.

Finally, Francis has the last word, if he chooses to act on his own authority. The question is whether the Synod, having opened the door a crack, emboldens him to widen the opening. 

Since the Synod did not reaffirm the status quo, Francis can now take that a little further in the same direction. Whether he has the nerve to do so remains to be seen.

P.S. In this post I'm using "liberal" and "conservative" within a Catholic frame of reference. Most evangelicals don't think marriage is indissoluble. They don't think divorce and remarriage is inherently liberal. It depends on the grounds.

Likewise, the Catholic alternative (annulment) to divorce is typically a ruse. So we don't consider that conservative. 


  1. If they do go Liberal maybe Fox News will dump O'Reilly because he follows the Pope like a lost puppy dog, most if Fox is Catholic so I hope they all go and get replaced with Protestants. Remember the Catholic Church killed as many people as Muslims did, they will fit well with the Socialist left.

  2. This is a good analysis Steve. It will be interesting to see how far "Pope Francis" goes. It will depend, as you say, whether he has the nerve. He's an old guy, and he may not have the nerve to go further in the direction he has gone. In any event, he has opened a door, and at a minimum, this recent synod ended up confirming that the German bishops can do their own thing. There will be others who also go in their own directions, on other topics. And some, in the future, no doubt, will fall under the "doctrinal" heading. It will make it more difficult in case there is a "conservative" pope coming up to reverse this trend.

    A "best case" scenario from an RC perspective I think would include winks and nods to a titular "pope", and then business as usual (whatever the local bishops decide that business to be like). It could include "gay marriage" in the US or Europe, liberation theology in South America, emphasis in Africa on "traditionalism". Islands of little groups going through the same "Roman Catholic" motions but in reality, becoming their own regional or national "denominations".

    1. Very Anglican, with everyone using the same words and doing/believing as they please. ISTM the one thing nobody but starry-eyed converts believe is in the authority of "Holy Tradition," or these sorts of matters wouldn't even come up. Finally, so much for HT, as papists seem to be as confused about it as Evangelicals are with sola Scriptura; the former just do their business under the same broad tent.