Stand By

Brushing up against the boundaries of doctrine, or even going outside the safe domains of catechesis: why do these events or opportunities always merit a reaction? From yesterday’s Vatican presser:

Although preparations for the 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family will include an assessment of Catholics’ attitudes toward relevant church teachings, the synod’s work will be based on Catholic doctrine and not on current public opinion, officials said.

Cardinal Peter Erdo:

Certainly the doctrine of the magisterium must be the basis of the common reasoning of the synod. It is not a question of public opinion.

Doctrine is derived from the Gospel. The Divine Revelation of Christ is the foundation. And to be sure, everything we Catholic embrace as authentic church teaching is based on the Gospel. But I think we have to begin with the Gospel. Those surveys I’ve heard about and seen online: I’m not sure they quite hit the mark. Nor do I think that curial handwringing is terribly helpful at this point. Archbishop Bruno Forte, special secretary of the synod:

Listening so openly naturally means running these risks (of rifts among Catholics). What we know in the church is that there is an ultimate reference point, which is the discernment of Peter.

That reference is interesting. Advocates of Peter are pleased to invoke the power of the keys when it suits, and point to Christ when it does not. Take Catholics remarried after a divorce. The crux of the problem is not the indissolubility of marriage. It is how to care for the souls of people who, for whatever reason, even their own selfishness, find themselves outside the sacramental life–something we acknowledge as divinely graceful. Who need mercy as much as that? Another person’s divorce is not a danger or an affront to my marriage. Nor is it a problem for any seriously committed couple. Even in pop culture, there’s a recognition and desire that love and commitment triumphs over all:

If the sky that we look upon should tumble and fall
All the mountains should crumble to the sea …

It doesn’t matter what disasters, or what appear as disasters, beset us. We know Christ stands by us. The question is: do the canon lawyers, the bureaucrats, and the beancounters believe it?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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