Confusion and chaos all around

from Fr. Ed Tomlinson (TunbridgeWells Ordinariate)



It is a bewildering time for faithful Catholics as the Synod on the Family lurches on from one scandal and rumour to another. Increasingly there is a sense of genuine chaos at the centre; with accusations of manipulation of process threatening the credibility of the Church. What is going on in Rome?

It is difficult to say given a total lack of transparency in the new process. As clericalism seems to take hold we can only hope and pray that the Holy Father knows what he is doing. That he is able, not only to bring order out of this chaos (which he himself created) but in a way that holds everyone together in unity. It will surely prove a defining moment in this papacy. Is Pope Francis giving modernists rope to hang themselves before he authoritatively defends Church teaching? Or is he part of the modernist crisis engulfing the church today? By the end of this Synod we should, at least, be nearer to answering this huge and significant question.

But it is not the only question. Indeed I am not sleeping well at present as many others keep going through my head. So here is a list of the questions I would love answered to clear up all the confusion.

A) Why is this Synod being held at all? It is not as if Catholic teaching on the family and sexuality was in doubt. Nor can fundamental teaching be changed. Didn’t  Humanae Vitae answer the questions being raised? Wasn’t the legacy of dear Pope John Paul II crystal clear teaching on family life as seen in his theology of the body et al? Which leads to another pertinent question; why aren’t his writings centre stage at this Synod? They are after all key texts for us all.

B) Why is the Pope allowing established teaching on sexual morality and family life to be eclipsed by some rather juvenile demands from  modernist clergy? It has me scratching my head. These voices wouldn’t be given a platform in my parish for they attack the faith and sow confusion amongst the faithful. So why does Pope Francis give them credence?

I speak of those who look to the world, not the Gospel, for inspiration; whose ideals are grounded in fear not faith. (This post from the archives explains the source of modernist demands) The ones who call for a new “mercy” but only offer us a rehash of the demands of secular culture. An embracing of the sexual revolution leading to an impossible tension between doctrine and praxis. No head master worth his salt would let school rebels set the agenda. So why are these men in the ascendency under Francis?

If you doubt the serious threat these men pose consider, as the letter from worried Cardinals suggested, the plight of liberal protestant bodies that have abandoned doctrinal beliefs. There we find not only decline and confusion but, in the most advanced cases, clergy involved in grave evil. Just ponder this image of American Anglicans and Methodist clergy holding a prayer meeting to celebrate the murder of unborn children. That is where capitulation to the secular culture eventually leads.


C) Next we must question the secrecy.  Why has the Synodical process been changed? What is being said that needs whispering in shadows away from public scrutiny? It is not those who behave well who fear the lights being turned on! Are we not children of light not darkness? This question becomes all the more serious given allegations of rigging and manipulation coming from very high ranking figures in the Vatican. Something is clearly not right.

Is the Synod genuinely seeking to uphold the faith of Christ crucified or has it been compiled to push forward a set political agenda? Ambiguous politician’s speech and the promoting of flexible luke warm observance should have no place in the life of the faith.

D) Why all the delight in chaos and confusion? It is fast becoming the most obvious characteristic of this papacy. God brought order out of chaos in creation. The great contribution of the church in all ages has been to bring order to a world plunged into chaos by the fallen human state. So why the delight now in stirring things up with no obvious goal in the stirring? Why does Pope Francis say he delights in messing things up? I cannot find any precedent for this in the life of the apostles after Christ.

Pope Francis delights non Catholics and the cultural elites of the West, and this is good for church PR, but increasingly he puzzles and frustrates the faithful. If the Holy Father does not wrap up this Synod conclusively it will cause great damage to the clarity of Church teaching. By debating what, in truth, the church cannot change it only encourages misinformed people to hunger and lobby for the impossible. How is this of service to the Gospel? Which leads to the next question…

E) Why does the Holy Father speak ill of faithful Catholics? Since the start of his papacy he has this tendency to taunt those who uphold church teaching. He calls them rigid. Cassock wearing clergy have been bashed, as have old ladies who offer rosaries. It is an extraordinary thing for any pastor to do.

Would an Abbot chastise the brothers who faithful kept to the rule? Or a head master attack the children who kept the school rules most faithfully? Why then does Pope Francis delight in attacking those who  uphold church teaching? No business flourished that did not care for its most faithful customers. And by bashing the few remaining faithful at a time of church decline seems suicidal to me. How the morale of faithful Catholics has plummeted during this papacy. What is the point?

Perhaps it would help if, instead of speaking vaguely, he named these rigid clergy? Who are they? I am not sure they exist, certainly on a scale that presents a problem to us all. Why you couldn’t keep a straight face suggesting the church in England is held back by rigid rule keepers! More truthfully churches have toned down teaching and fidelity has fallen in the years since Vatican II.

So who are these rigid clergy? Is it an Argentinian issue that has no rightful place on a global stage? Or just a straw man  erected to suit the modernist agenda? Is Pope Francis in danger of seeing the friends of the Church as enemies and it’s enemies as friends?

F) Where are the family in this Synod? Real family issues seem to be entirely absent. We hear  nothing of the needs of children. Nothing about parents as prime educators who need protecting from State interference. Nobody speaks of abandoned spouses when discussion centres on the divorced. Cohabitation seems a non issue whilst homosexual unions are ever placed before us. Yet surely the moral state of the sex within these two couplings is one and the same? Where is there any discussion on human trafficking or the effects of war and displacement on families?

Cardinal Dolan spoke out in defence of Catholic families this week. He said those adhering to Catholic teaching are heroically living out the faith but that they seem a minority today; the church must do more to support them. Quite. But his voice is a lone one at present and in contrast to the main thrust of this Synod. Why are homosexuals and those entering new relationships after divorce seemingly more important to the Cardinals in Synod than the actual families in their care? Should they not be championing marriage as the family is attacked not giving greater support to those living outside of it?

G) Is this really a Synod on the family then or just a platform to raise the demands of an ageing and modernist generation; the ones for whom this represents a last roll of the dice? Certainly nothing has arisen thus far that speaks powerfully to me as a parent or as a priest. How can it be that a Synod on the family leaves me, a family man, bewildered and increasingly demoralised? Why do I feel that my desire to uphold the teaching of the faith actually leaves me in the margins?

There then are my questions. It is a time of concern, I think, for all who look to the church for clarity and fidelity. What is to come of it? Will the Holy Father pull a rabbit from the hat and help us understand method in the madness? Will he use this Synod to show us how far from Catholic teaching many Cardinals have drifted and then call them to account? Or are we facing a most serious crisis for the church? As modernism- the mother of all heresies for it attacks all doctrines at once- shows itself not only in the church but at it’s very heart. We would be wise to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We may need to be brave in standing by the truth of all ages. So then to the final big question again-

H) Are barbarian modernists about to be dealt with once and for all? Or are the barbarians now in the camp and in need of robust condemnation?

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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26 Responses to Confusion and chaos all around

  1. Father Tomlinson is asking questions that many, many of us have had in mind for a very long time. We can only hope that these questions will be answered, one way or another, by the time the synod comes to an end.

    A friend asked me, “Yes, what is the point of this synod anyway? Father Tomlinson certainly has that question right. From what we’ve been able to learn so far, the main purpose seems to be finding a way to allow adulterers and sodomites to receive Holy Communion. I know, I know, language like that is “hurtful,” but I think it helps to articulate terms clearly. In the last fifty years or so, there have been too many attempts to ignore what we know is the truth.”


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    RJB’s imaginary friend asks: “Yes, what is the point of this synod anyway?”

    Couldn’t have said it better. CP&Sers might think about signing this petition, as I have done:


  3. Michael says:

    Whilst I agree with pretty much everything Fr. Tomlinson says here, and share many of his fears, there does seem to be a bit of a contradiction in that he opens the essay by admitting that basically we don’t really know what’s going on in Rome, as there is a total lack of transparency in the new process, but then makes statements like that Cardinal Dolan’s voice ‘is a lone one at present and in contrast to the main thrust of this Synod‘. How does he know this? Excellent piece otherwise.

    One of the major frustrations for me during this Synod is that, aside from the manifest problems we do know about (the invitation of people like Cardinal Daneels, the disproportionate number of ‘progressives’ on the board who will be (maybe) drafting a final report, the issues with the Instrumentum Laboris, etc), people are mainly responding to either hearsay or the false narratives put forward by people like Rosica. It is almost as if some people want these false narratives to be true, as they have already made their minds up both as to what the Pope ‘really’ wants and that the discussions are being dominated by those seeking to promote dissent.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Michael says:

    In other news, for those in the Church who want to seek ‘dialogue’ with the world, I would like to see them try and dialogue with this lot:

    Incidentally, it is not surprising that the Holy Father has spoken out so often on gender ideology and anti-family movements when you consider that these protests are an annual event in Argentina.


  5. johnhenrycn says:

    “Father Gabriel Mestre, the Vicar of the Cathedral, stated that “one has to accept the dynamic and the dissent , and in fact in the Church we have to accept it because I think that more than half is in favor of legal abortion…”

    This is what the (institutional) Church has come to?


  6. dfxc says:

    …and if Pope Francis weren’t so “confusing,” we wouldn’t have all these voices being raised in support of established clarity…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Plain old Toad says:

    I, too, had an imaginary friend when I was small. He was called Jimmy.

    I’ve had little to say about the Synod because I don’t know what’s really going on, either. But the consensus on here seems to be that one lot are doing it because they are evil. Is it not possible they are acting from what they see as noble motives, to put the Church on the right course for the future? They may be totally wrong in their aims and means to achieve this, I don’t know. My sympathies are more with the Trads, here. A paradigm case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater Who wants to belong to a club that lets any old riff-raff in? Not Toad.
    (Actually Toad doesn’t want to belong to club at all. But that’s just him.)
    Who wants to spend Sunday mornings cheek by jowl with a lot of sodomites and adulterers? Not Toad. We get enough of that in Tesco’s


  8. Michael says:

    dfxc @ 04:04:

    Indeed! I think that, regardless of what the Holy Father’s actual intentions are, the Synod has at least brought to light just how radically divergent from orthodoxy the views of some bishops and cardinals are (who previously, whilst being known as ‘progressive’, have been able to dress their views up in obfuscatory language) and has provided a rallying point for those many faithful bishops and cardinals from around the world, giving them something to state Church teaching clearly against.

    Though I admit that there are some significant differences here (principally the fact that we are not witnessing the promotion of this or that heresy but a fundamental attitude which places contemporary social mores above Scripture and Tradition – the adoption of the Protestant principle into Catholic theology if you will) this is the same as it ever was really. Orthodoxy has always been sharpened against the whetstone of heresy, and dogma (via synods and councils) has always been shaped in the crucible of dissent and heated argument.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Michael says:

    johnhenry @ 21:59:

    and the rest of his comment:

    …and for that there are proper avenues, within a pluralistic and democratic society to generate policies which each from his ideological frame of reference considers as an appropriate way to progress, just like happened with ‘marriage’ equality or with divorce.

    What is he saying here? Either he is essentially saying nothing at all, providing a bland vacuous piece of political soundbite to appease the press, or he is actually suggesting that ‘policies’ like ‘marriage equality’ and divorce are actually a good thing precisely because they were the result of a pluralistic and (ahem) democratic process. Either way it is absolutely flabbergasting.

    Oh for a Saint Ambrose or Saint Thomas Becket to tackle the corporate Theodosius/Henry II of our culture…


  10. Michael says:

    Toad @ 07:06:

    Is it not possible they are acting from what they see as noble motives, to put the Church on the right course for the future?

    That’s very charitable of you Toad, and yes it is possible that some of them are convinced that after years of (in practice) conforming the Church to the world and witnessing only decline that more of this is actually a good idea, but I’m afraid after watching the people involved in pushing for this for a good while now, I can’t be convinced of such an idea myself.

    For some idea of the extent of the problem, and the lack of genuine conviction amongst the progressive ‘camp’ I’d recommend searching for ‘Damian Thompson’ and ‘Magic Circle’ – there’s a lot on his old blogs about this.


  11. Michael says:

    P.S. When I say that I can’t personally be convinced of such an idea, I mean principally the idea that they are acting from noble motives. Though it goes without saying that I don’t think the ideas they propose are sound either!


  12. Michael says:

    Whilst reaffirming the point that we just don’t know what the Pope’s intentions are with respect to the calling, organisation and implementation of this Synod, here is another very interesting article from Damian Thompson on the matter:


  13. dfxc says:

    This could all be a bit of genius actually. I mean, it’s not like all these…upsetting…bishops were suddenly ordained three years ago; they’ve all been around for quite some time. They knew better, however, than to make too much noise under Pope Benedict and, thus, stayed under the radar. Now they’re holding press conferences and admitting agendas and ‘coming out’ (some more than others) publicly.
    Want clarity? Who can really say they don’t have a clearer and more complete picture of where individual members of the hierarchy truly stand now than they did five or ten years ago?
    Whether he personally intended it or not, Pope Francis’ “tone” and style –though perhaps unclear (or at least needing interpretation) on his views– has generated a remarkable amount of important and needful conversation among clergy and laity.
    I can’t even count the number of under-catechized Catholics I’ve met who, in just the last year, have begun avidly engaging in study of doctrine (including Canon Law) and renewed an aspect of prayerful life that is directed towards praying for the good of the whole Church.
    I’ll await the final report before cheering or crying but, in the meantime, I see a lot of difficult and complex good going on here…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. DJR says:

    There is no “confusion” for the committed Catholic who knows his/her Faith. The Catholic Faith has been handed down to us already and is not capable of being altered by anyone. No pope has that power. If this synod and this pope do something that is contrary to the Faith, committed Catholics will resist and combat them. Who cares what their rank is? No confusion.


  15. Plain old Toad says:

    “…not the all inclusive, lets all love each other regardless..”
    Isn’t that what we’re all obliged to do?
    Though – as Merton pointed out – thankfully, we are under no obligation to like one another.


  16. Michael says:

    dfxc @ 13:12:

    Who can really say they don’t have a clearer and more complete picture of where individual members of the hierarchy truly stand now than they did five or ten years ago?

    Exac-a-terly. As you say, whether Pope Francis intends this or not (and I am one that must admit I still don’t really know what his angle is), this Synod is shining a cold, hard light on both good* and bad elements within the Church. That you’ve witnessed a good number of people returning to the sources of what the Church actually teaches on all these topics is very encouraging as well. As per usual, the Holy Spirit does His best work ‘writing straight with crooked lines’.

    *Come the next papal conclave, there are quite a few names who will be just that bit more papa bile than they may have been seen as before. My money’s on an African pope next time around!


  17. Michael says:

    Btw, towards the end of the article I linked to above, Damian Thompson mentions his being in favour of ‘some of the changes espoused by the radicals’ – anyone have any idea which ‘some’ they might be? I’ve never noticed any support for change in Church teaching/practice in his writing before.


  18. johnhenrycn says:

    Damian is a sinner who might favour some changes that bear upon the specifics of his situation, which might let him participate more fully in the life of the Church. But I’ve always been an admirer of his and think highly of him.


  19. Michael says:

    johnhenry @ 21:38, October 15th:

    Well, yes – we are all sinners, for a start. And I presumed as well that by saying this he favours some changes which would make his situation easier. It’s just that I’d never (as someone who also admires his writing and thinks highly of him) seen him personally nail his flag to the mast in this way, and was curious as to what particular changes he might be in favour of.


  20. johnhenrycn says:

    Michael: I don’t why Damian left his remark dangling like that. Perhaps he will elaborate in a later article. Personally, I hope he doesn’t. Whatever liberal or radical changes he favours in pectore aren’t likely to go down well with his regular readers.


  21. Plain old Toad says:

    Bad idea to give a monkey’s [….] what your “regular readers” think. Write it the way you see it.
    If you lose reader”A,” you’ll pick up reader “B.”
    And if you don’t – so what?

    [A moderator: language please, Toad]


  22. Plain old Toad says:

    “Whatever liberal or radical changes he favours in pectore aren’t likely to go down well with his regular readers.”
    I can hardly believe you wrote that, JH.
    Do you really think Damian should waste his time sucking up to his “regular readers,” rather than telling them what he truly believes?
    Forsooth! Which would you prefer he did?


  23. Michael says:

    johnhenry @ 15:38:

    I’m afraid I must side with his Toadship on this one – at least in the sense that Damian Thompson shouldn’t ‘suck up’ to regular readers, but should be honest about where he stands. My problem is that he dangled out a half-confession of sympathy with the ‘progressive’ party, without specifying what the nature of those sympathies are. I’d rather he’d opened up completely or said nothing about his sympathies at all.


  24. Plain old Toad says:

    That’s what Toad would have said, if he wasn’t so thick.


  25. johnhenrycn says:

    “I’d rather he’d opened up completely or said nothing about his sympathies at all.”

    Probably not something I would disagree with, Michael. If Damian were to “open up completely” though, I do think he’d receive irate letters from some of his regular readers cancelling their subscriptions to The Spectator; in which event I wonder if he’d respond as William F. Buckley did many years ago when an reader incensed at something Buckley had written in his magazine, National Review, wrote a “Letter To The Editor” demanding that his subscription be cancelled, to which WFB replied: “Cancel your own damn subscription!”


  26. Michael says:

    johnhenry @ 21:29:

    Yes, but again I must throw my lot in with the Toadmeister and say that, if Damian wishes to publicly align himself with the radical party at all, it would have been more honest to lay it all out on the table, regardless of possible irate letters, etc. A welcome Buckley anecdote nevertheless 🙂


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