Friday, 17 October 2014


There is at present a good deal of "Chicken Little-ing" going on amongst conservative Catholics with regard to the Extraordinary Synod of the Family now convening in Rome, under the questionable leadership of glib, grinning mountebank extraordinaire Pope Francis, nee "Father Bergoglio," as he apparently still likes to call himself when dispensing exceedingly dubious pearls of "wisdom" to members of his flock.

But while the concerned coterie of Cath Chicklittles are essentially correct in their grim assessment of the metaphorically falling sky, they mostly misjudge the source of the trouble. What they fear is that the flamboyantly humble pontiff with the impish moon-face and the endless supply of coy little bon mot asides to the press ("If a priest is gay, who am I to judge?" being among his greatest hits) will, with the assistance of his hand-picked company men, change the age-old rules of the faith on certain key issues, particularly regarding sexuality, perhaps to even include a blessing of same-sex unions.

Such a nefarious plot, however, is hardly in the offing. Indeed, even the puke-inducing document released on Monday affirms that sacramental marriage can only take place between a man and a woman. If you have a strong stomach and a healthy constitution, check out the unctuous pastoral drivel below collected by the "Midterm Report" scribe summing up the subjects still under discussion (one commentator has amusingly titled the style "bafflegab"), and try not to gag overmuch:
Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
Supposedly the bit about "valuing" the creamy, delicious queeriness of queers is lost in translation – the original Italian apparently reads more neutral and less-joyously affirming,  suggesting something more like "acknowledging" rather than "valuing"  but even with all of the egregious homophilia intact, the core of the message is "We should be nice to homos and affirm them for their inherent wonderfulness in every way imaginably possible, sorry.... homo 'marriage' is still a no-go." (By the way, I don't know what the hell a gay "fraternal space" is supposed to be, but I picture it featuring togas, candles and some weird Bohemian Grove-style chanting, and I know I'd really rather not be anywhere such a "space" once "fraternal" festivities really start kicking into high gear.) 

There are a few other odds and sods in the
already-notorious interim document which imply that the red-mitered lot in attendance are mulling a "kinder, gentler" Church attitude towards the divorced and the cohabiting 
 suggesting that, through a process called gradualism, these wayward church members might not be denied access to the sacrament of communion as long as they're assessed to be generally on their way towards correcting their sinful habits and in the process of twisting themselves back into accord with what's Catholically kosher. 

Again, though, we must recognize where things stand. Divorce, cohabitation, and fornication are still held, at least officially, to be mortal sins. In the sea of unbelief that is the contemporary West, the Catholic faith is not 
homoousios with mainline Protestantism or feckless modernist Anglicanism, wherein doctrines are jettisoned once they're considered "outmoded." For RCs, doctrine may "develop" at times, but it doesn't dramatically change.

This does not, however, make the standard-issue Catholic any more morally rigorous than his differently-faithed counterpart. Indeed, the "cafeteria" Catholic is as fickle and as faithless as anyone else. He completely ignores Church dogma when it doesn't suit his whims. And here is where, I believe, the real scandal lies with the upshot of this synod: when all is said and done, it will signal an even greater degree of tolerance of certain types of transgressions 
– sexual ones, natch!  to the point where no errant, perverted, or improper carnal deed will be a big deal; all will be pardoned instantly, because "God is merciful" and all that. 

Gradualism is obviously a concept ripe for abuse, and, in the minds of the more cunning liberal churchmen, that may in fact be the point; the setup is likely designed to normalize the indulgence of sins that they don't really take to be sins at all. "Mercy" is invoked in a manner that was first assailed by St. Paul, who wrote, "Should we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!" Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this abominable practice "cheap grace, the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance."

Which is to say, "cheap grace" in fact comes at a great cost: to the individual, to the family, to the culture, and to the future. Given the extent to which the concept seems to dominate the mindset of so much of the contemporary hierarchy, and given the fact that the "Midterm Report" has touched off such a fierce reaction from conservatives, one begins to wonder to what extent a coming split within the Church 
 be it a formal schism or an informal separation  is inevitable, and may even be a sign of health and hope, indicating that Traditionalism, though long held down, is in fact still alive and kicking.

Andy Nowicki, co-editor of Alternative Right, is the author of eight books, including Under the NihilThe Columbine PilgrimConsidering Suicide, andBeauty and the Least. He occasionally updates his blog when the spirit moves him to do so.

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