I have tuned in a few times to Archbishop Coleridge’s site, including today’s update from the synod. When he described his recent experience with the rigorists, I was thinking of the nomenclature for the moons of Mars.
The archbishop has been surprised:
(T)he big surprise for me has been the ferocious reaction in some quarters to what I regard as my quite moderate remarks. Twitter has been frothing with invective, which shows what’s out there – by which I mean the fear, even the panic this Synod seems to have provoked in some. That sort of thing doesn’t look like the Holy Spirit to me – red-eyed joylessness cannot be of God.
Even Archbishop Chaput has some experience with that. I’ve had a few discussions with panicked Catholics over the years. Sometimes the movement of the Holy Spirit is invoked. In those instances, I often ask if it is the Holy Spirit bringing something to their notice, or if God has truly initiated the next step, namely anger.
All too often, the loudest voices of fear aren’t ones even directly impacted by possible adjustments in pastoral practice. And yet:
The impression is that, if you touch the slightest jot or tittle not so much of what the Church teaches but of what her pastoral practice has been or how her truth has been expressed, then the whole edifice built up over 2000 years will come tumbling down. If I believed that, I’d be panicking too and hurling lemon-lipped diatribes this way and that. But I don’t believe it and therefore find myself trusting in the path that’s opening before us, with the abuse rolling like water off a duck’s back.
It’s easy for a bishop to have waterproofed coating. Lay people tend to lose jobs over how moral issues are handled. Or denied the sacraments.
Voices of fear, even panic, have also been heard in the Synod Hall and the small groups, but what’s clearer to me now is that those voices within have strong links to similar voices without. It’s also clear that those voices, clinging desperately to some imagined or ideologised past, cannot point the way into the future. History will have its way, however much we try to cling to illusions of timelessness.
This is hopeful, in the sense of a synod participant recognizing and discerning in the midst of the greater experience.
To be clear, the future is the universal proclamation of Jesus. The Tridentine manifestation of the Church cannot point the way to the future. Honor the past, I say. But move ahead with the mission. I’m heartened that Brisbane’s archbishop is part of the synod and his people seem fortunate to have him as a shepherd and pastor.
Images from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter