Are Conservatives In Retreat?

As a parent, I notice avoidance. Laundry piles up. Dishes pile up. Homework missing, the email report cites. The young miss doesn’t seem communicative. Sometimes there are good reasons. Sometimes it’s the blame game. On occasion, she just messed up.

I tend to trust a veteran Vatican observer like John Thavis. When he says a synod is big news, I’m inclined to believe. And since I don’t get most of my news filtered through secular corporations, I also tend to trust what I read in the Catholic media outlets. I also pay attention when people are in avoidance.

On Monday’s “earthquake,” the reading of the relatio, the mid-meeting report, Mr Thavis wrote:

The media recognized in the text a profoundly new pastoral approach to a whole range of marriage and family issues, and in particular a welcoming tone regarding homosexuals. The bishops in the hall recognized the same thing, and not all of them were pleased. That’s why the synod hall quickly lit up like a pinball machine with questions and calls for clarification.

Maybe it was a hijacking. But probably not:

And after the relatio was read aloud, there was strong applause in the synod hall.

Part of the summary:

I think the alarm being expressed in some church circles over the synod’s direction reflects similar unease over some of Pope Francis’ statements during his first 18 months. When the pope said last year: “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will – well, who am I to judge him?” we heard the same kind of reaction: “no news here,” “the church is not changing its doctrine” and “pay no attention to those newspaper articles.” By now, it should be clear that the pope is proposing a paradigm shift in the church’s style of evangelizing, one that favors outreach and dialogue over doctrinal identity, and he wants the Synod of Bishops on board. This is news, and it deserves attention by anyone interested in the Catholic Church.

I think this is right.

I think this synod is the biggest church meeting since session 4 of Vatican II. Maybe the USCCB could take notice. All they need is a change in tone on sex abuse, and its cover-up–I think the message would get out.

For many years, conservatives have enjoyed the ability to attach mood and tone to doctrinal pronouncements. But I think we are on the cusp of something different. Few conservatives I know can do joy. Maybe no conservative in the US is left that can tap into it at all. Politically, the message is grandstanding on bad news, conspiracies, and a dark future. Churchfolk are coopted quite often by the tenor of society. They can’t help it. Especially when they engage secular news outlets of choice.

When a kid doesn’t get her way, she might complain. The other parent is attempted. In my household, the young miss knows the rule: two yesses, one no. I am sure we are the occasional topic of conversation with her peers. How unfair! How ignorant! How they don’t understand!

The synod seems no different, according to Catholic bloggerdom. There’s no change in doctrine, but there’s a lot of activity on the net, or on EWTN news pieces. Let’s be heartened by that: conservatives are getting heard. They just aren’t getting their way. And since doctrine has gone untouched, let’s be clear: they disapprove of the change in tone. That’s what’s going on. Disapproval of their private magisterium. Nothing to do with Christ.

My take: let ’em stay on the front porch for awhile. Clearly, they’re still within shouting distance of the house. But they don’t seem to have much influence on the mood these days, except maybe their own.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Are Conservatives In Retreat?

  1. Ray MacDonald says:

    I’ll sit back and observe the ruckus, but quite frankly my expectations of the institutional Church are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years.
    We still have to deal with an unprayable wooden English liturgy that I attend out of respect for my wife’s sincerity. Our local ordinary (who was on Vox Clara by the way) is busy running around investigating other prelates for their sex coverups.

  2. crystal says:

    I was not hoping for really anything from the synod, but I’m finding it more hopeful than I thought I would. If only the change in attitude they propose could become a change in doctrine too.

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