Posted on 26 October 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
Last summer during Acton University I had the chance to get to talk at length with Russ Douthat of Hell’s Bible (aka The New York Times… echo chamber of record for the liberal snob elite). Douthat is a voice of sanity in a dry place.
He has a piece about the recent Synod, which you ought to read. He got it right.
The Pope and the Precipice
SUCH a reversal would put the church on the brink of a precipice. Of course it would be welcomed by some progressive Catholics and hailed by the secular press. But it would leave many of the church’s bishops and theologians in an untenable position, and it would sow confusion among the church’s orthodox adherents — encouraging doubt and defections, apocalypticism and paranoia (remember there is another pope still living!) and eventually even a real schism.
Those adherents are, yes, a minority — sometimes a small minority — among self-identified Catholics in the West. But they are the people who have done the most to keep the church vital in an age of institutional decline: who have given their energy and time and money in an era when the church is stained by scandal, who have struggled to raise families and live up to demanding teachings, who have joined the priesthood and religious life in an age when those vocations are not honored as they once were. They have kept the faith amid moral betrayals by their leaders; they do not deserve a theological betrayal.
Which is why this pope has incentives to step back from the brink — as his closing remarks to the synod, which aimed for a middle way between the church’s factions, were perhaps designed to do.
Francis is charismatic, popular, widely beloved. He has, until this point, faced strong criticism only from the church’s traditionalist fringe, and managed to unite most Catholics in admiration for his ministry. There are ways that he can shape the church without calling doctrine into question, and avenues he can explore (annulment reform, in particular) that would bring more people back to the sacraments without a crisis. He can be, as he clearly wishes to be, a progressive pope, a pope of social justice — and he does not have to break the church to do it.
What a refreshing point of view… and prose style. After all the smarmy rubbish I’ve read about the Synod from the catholic Left and the spittle-flecked zany stuff from the extreme right, this is a great cleansing of the palate.
There’s more. Read and engage. I don’t go with everything he wrote, by the way. I am simply refreshed by a clear-eyed, well-written view.
And, in the balance, he got it right.