It seems to me that many on both sides have quickly forgotten the substance of the Relatio (not to mention its context) in favor of finding the best ways to dismiss the other — at least on social media. Social media being what it is, we all tend to reduce other people’s positions to soundbites, GIFs, or memes. It makes them easier to swallow and spit back out. But this Synod is pretty serious stuff. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that souls hang in the balance, and souls shouldn’t be easily dismissed.
I’m a convert, like many who write at the Patheos Catholic Channel. I confess that I’m a little confused by the genuine distress the Relatio has wrought among many of my fellow Catholics — but more than that, I’m perturbed by the distress I’m seeing.
It brings me no pleasure to see my fellow Catholics express genuine fear, much less abandonment and betrayal. Cradle Catholics are my elder brothers and sisters in the faith…without them, I wouldn’t be here. They have safeguarded the teachings of the Church all this time, in spite of the decay of society all around them. I owe them more than snark and condescension. We all do.
Despite leaving the fold to search for the one lost sheep, the shepherd did not abandon the 99 to the elements. He didn’t leave the gate open and say, “to hell with you, I only care about the one who didn’t follow the leader.” The lost sheep matters because each soul matters…it doesn’t matter because it’s worth more than the 99 already safely ensconced in the fold.
I don’t think that the Synod is doing that, leaving the gates open and abandoning the faithful to the elements…at least not intentionally. I do, however, know that many of my friends, many of my brothers and sisters, feel abandoned. I don’t think that’s funny, and I don’t think it should be taken lightly.I suspect that we converts are having an easier time with this Relatio, regardless of where we stand on the content of it, because most of us jumped into the Church feet-first, willing to leap but not quite head-first. I know I thought the Marian teachings were a crock of borderline pagan nonsense for a few years. But converts are told to trust, to have faith, and to accept the wisdom of Christ’s Church, protected always from error by the Holy Spirit “even unto the end of the age.” Most of us do just that, because we’re not John Henry Newman and we don’t have the time or intellect or Latin prowess to think our way into the Church. And we find, to our surprise, that it all makes sense in the end — or that we believe it, anyway. Which is good enough.
Part of assenting to the Church is having faith that the Church will prevail, as Christ promised — not as a stunted, withered remnant hiding out in an Arkansas bunker, but as the Holy Catholic Church. Sometimes there are going to be horrible detours to assbackwardville along the way (Cadaver Synod, anyone?). I don’t think this Synod is one of those detours, but there are plenty who do. Furthermore, they seem to feel so marginalized by the sneering and jeering of their fellow Catholics that they no longer recognize this Church as their Church, and they feel they have no place in it. Is that really what we want…to be so eager to bring lost sheep into the fold that we shove out the sheep already here in the process?
Perhaps it’s not the best idea to try and explain to those in doubt or despair why they’re modern-day Pharisees worthy of our streetwise-yet-enlightened disdain. I know it’s a difficult temptation to resist, since…well, since so many of us were craptacular sinners and only John Henry Newman (oh fine, and Scott Hahn) reasoned their way into the Church. The rest of us were loved into it, or went to a 40’s night at UD and woke up Catholic and confused. Nevertheless, we’re here now, and we think the Synod is on the right track because Catholic is the best place we’ve ever been, and the place we don’t ever want to leave, and we want everyone else to be Catholic with us, too.
But it should be at least as important to us that the Catholics who were here before stay here, and not feel chased off into the borderlands of the SSPX. The Church being for everyone means that the Church IS for everyone…not just for those of us who happen to sin the trendy way. It’s hypocritical to make a big show of extending one hand out in love to those in need of mercy without also extending the other hand in love to our brothers and sisters in need of solace.
Let’s be better than that. If our goal is to show love to the culture, let’s remember that the best way to do that is to show the culture how we love one another.