Monday, September 07, 2015
Ritually German bishops warn against exaggerated expectations of the Synod.
Finally Catholics may talk about sex. And then they do not know what to say to each other. In a month, the Synod begins in Rome, but it's just strangely silent. The conservative camp is sinking in prayer, so that the teaching should remain unaffected. This group has earned some rest as it has been worn out in a long campaign. Especially their top men Raymond Burke and Vitus Huonder have pounded away for the Catholic marriage and against feminization, effeminacy, and other weaknesses in the connective tissue of society. The liberal camp also was not idle- it has adopted position papers. They all praise the diversity of ways of life, but with vocabulary less than diverse. Roughly speaking, each should feel "valued" and "accepted" in their break-ups in life. Everyone, except perhaps Burke and Huonder.
Francis wanted a debate. What he got so far, was a self-assurance from the combatants. The Conservatives are even stiffer than usual, the Liberals explain the jitters to the reform movement. The Osnabrück Bishop Franz-Josef Hermann Bode, one of the German envoys to Rome, said in an interview with Herder Correspondence: "My great concern is that the synod remains in the camps and there remains in the end only winners and losers." There must be no winners and losers, for which also other brethren in ecclesiastical office pray. Why so scrupulous? Church history is full of victors and vanquished. The infallibility of the Pope was decided at the First Vatican Council of 1870 also because the German bishops were outvoted. Under protest they departed and had to henceforth accept infallibility. Also at the Second Vatican Council, there was for all important documents majorities and minorities. Whosoever was defeated, had to come to terms. Or construct their own church. It is as brutal as this when the Holy Spirit is to be captured by voting results.
Why should it now go easy? Ritually German bishops warn against exaggerated expectations of the Synod. Courage sounds different. In fact, the expectations of the base are rather too low than too high: Most Catholics are beyond the sex obsession. They look on the Synod as more sex-symbolic: Rome to make a few swings of the hips, loosen the corset easily, that's enough. No details, please. Francis is welcomed by the grass roots, because he does not get on the nerves of his subjects - like his predecessor – with narratives relating to the crotch.
Because the subject of sexual morality neither at top nor bottom is erotically arousing, the Catholic Church should put the matter behind them as quickly as possible. This includes the clear message: If bishops vote in a Vatican auditorium, it is a mater of defining power. Anyone who really wants to has to organize majorities, coolly and dispassionately. The Conservatives have it easy. They reach a blocking minority. You do not need to win to triumph. They hope for the weakness of the other.
The liberal camp shuns the power grab. It hides behind the Gospel of Mercy, which Cardinal Walter Kasper has proclaimed That sounds cute, all is well and woe to no-one. But the parable of the Good Father can also be read in a polarizing manner: The most interesting figure is the Prodigal son. He must accept that his brother after whoring around in a foreign country returns home burnt out and receives from his father not a punishment but gets a feast. As the Prodigal asks why he never received a reward, he gets to hear: The proximity to the father was reward enough. Because he must have felt like a loser, but he had to deal with it.
With the keyword mercy, the liberals have the empathic view of the sinner son. They take the Catholics in "irregular" situations, the remarried, homosexuals, the unmarried unchaste. But mercy belongs also to truth: it is a disgrace for the those faithful to the Magisterium. Before Francis moved into Rome, the Prodigals got one Pope-party after the other, now they should clean the dishes and be grateful. So what? For years, the liberals had let themselves to be brushed up by the Magisterium liberals. Why is this so hard for them, to draft others for dishwashing service? Do they not trust their truth?
Papa Francisco so far knocks neither his conservative nor his conservative-liberal sons on his shoulder. A flip side, however, is apparent: remarried were not excommunicated, he said recently. There were marriages, which it is not possible to save. Sticking to the rules does not make of Christianity. If nine out of ten Catholics have no problem with ignoring doctrine, then doctrine has a problem. Francis saw it differently, he might have spared himself the effort of the unloved linking of marriage and sexual morality. If the liberal camp from a lot of trembling knees at the end of October does not gain a two-thirds majority, Francis must do something himself. You could almost forget lots of democracy and debate simulation. Yes: The man is Pope.