Thursday, February 13, 2020

Some Thoughts on Querida Amazonia

Yesterday, Pope Francis released his conclusions on the Amazon Synod. The "final statement" is called "Querida Amazonia". In it, he does not refer specifically to the proposal of allowing married deacons to be ordained as priests, but he clearly does not give a big thumbs up to it either. He also does not express approval of the idea of women being ordained as deacons. Most took this as a negative response to both of these issues (and traditional Catholics were pleased at that). Some complained that it was too vague and that those who wish to continue to promote these ideas will find a loophole. Maybe; maybe not.

Regardless of what people are interpreting from this (and I am sure there are numerous points of view on it), we cannot be sure what he actually thinks (and, to some degree, it does not matter--the Pope is supposed to guide us to Jesus, not to himself). All we can know is what the Holy Father said, and generally, most would acknowledge that if he does not give express approval of a change in Church practice, that the current rules remain in force. If it is actually as bad as many (who are wringing their hands in fear) say it is or if it is better than we think, we are always supposed to move on in faithfulness.

It is also likely that the Pope is aware of the fact that if he were to seek to change the rules on priestly celibacy (which could happen) and women's ordination (which could not happen) there would likely be a major schism in the Church. Aside from the potential lightning from Heaven, and the Earth opening up and swallowing the heretics (fire, brimstone, etc.), we can be certain that the Holy Spirit will protect us. The promise of the Church's endurance through every trial still stands firm (and even an erring Pope cannot overcome the Holy Spirit). Regarding the potential schisms, there would likely be a whole new surge of offshoots like the schismatic SSPX, and the ugliness that would follow could be beyond anything we have ever seen.

Just to be clear: the rule on male-only ordination in the Catholic Church cannot be changed; that one is set in stone. If, however, the customary rule of priestly celibacy (in the Latin Rite portion of the Catholic Church) were to be changed, it should only be under vastly different circumstances than what we are dealing with today. Right now they are saying "let's get rid of the rule so we can have more priests". That is merely a pragmatic motivation, and not one based on clear theological or biblical reasoning.

For the Church to reach a point where the Pope and Bishops can examine this issue without the "static" of modernist and irrational thought, it will likely take us at least a few more generations. The motivation and desire to change the celibacy custom must come from a conviction and a soundly reasoned doctrinal position; not from a desire to fix a problem that is entirely unrelated to the issue of celibacy. Changing it now would be like using a screwdriver to hammer a nail because it is possible to swing the screwdriver; it might work, but you are going to ruin the screwdriver.

As I read through some of the statements of the Holy Father on what must be done about the shortage of priests in the Amazon, it was interesting to see a distinctly standard Catholic position put forward (and quite gently at that). It appears as if Francis' encouragement is "stop whining, buckle down and deal with the situation, and teach parents to be better at raising their boys in the faith so that they will want to be priests"! I am sure that those who examine the tiniest details of what Francis wrote might disagree with me, but reading between the lines, this is a logical conclusion from the admonitions he makes about evangelism.

What if Pope Francis' intent is to "sneak something in through his vague statements" (as one commentator claimed today)? I say, "so what?" In other words, what would it really change? He is accountable for both his mistakes and any sinful intentions he may have (if any), and the Holy Spirit promises to protect us from ourselves. Whatever the intent of Pope Francis may be (even the intent of the liberal Catholics who want to protestantize the Catholic Church), we cannot behave like "chicken little", because the sky is not now, nor ever will it be, falling.

I will bet that at least some traditional Catholics will feel like we dodged a bullet. The Pope basically said "no" and now we should be able to move on. That seems to be the position that Cardinal Mueller seems to take in his comments on Querida Amazonia. Even if we had not dodged the bullet (if that is possible), we can trust that our Lord will get us through that as well. What would that look like? Many new married priests, many bad parish experiences, many unexpected consequences, lots of regret, and even more clean-up operations; this is not a pleasant prospect. Also, if people attempted to ordain women into holy orders, there would be various types of chaos from those who are holding to Catholic orthodoxy; there would be numerous invalid ceremonies, and lots of time cleaning up and backtracking. We should never want something like this, but we could get through it if we had to.

Remember, Christ is still on His throne and no errant teaching or mistaken practice can change that. The Church has endured 2000 years of much worse problems than this, and she will endure this as well. Thank our Lord for what we have, ask Him to protect us from what is coming, and seek to glorify Him in all you do.