Amazon Synod Portends Change For Church
Well, here we go. The long awaited Amazon Synod kicked off today in Rome and will last till October 27. Already, the RadTrads are howling that heresy is making official inroads into the Catholic Community. Will this synod be just the beginning of the end of Catholicism as we know it? Hardly. I have already expressed my reservations about the synod, but the catastrophism evident in the attitudes of critics causes me to hedge my own critique. This is why. No matter what happens, no doctrinal change in Catholic teaching will be permitted. Two areas cause concern in the RadTrads’ minds. First, is the relaxation of celibacy. Second, is creeping syncretism.
A Relaxation Of Celibacy?
What very well might happen is a change in pastoral practice for the Church in the Amazonian culture. This could, indeed, be earth-shattering because chances are there will be a proposal adopted to offer priestly ordination to worthy older married men. Catholics in the West may well be startled, at first, since that seems to strike at the very nature of their Church. Unfortunately, Catholics are poorly educated on what counts as Church teaching and what doesn’t. Yes, celibacy is the practice of the Church in the West. But that’s exactly what it is–a practice, not a dogma of faith. We had over one thousand years of Church history with married priests and bishops, and the Church hummed along nicely, thank you.
I don’t want to minimize the effect of such a proposal being adopted by the synod. Anyone who thinks that such a move would only apply to the Amazon is foolish. Married priests in the Amazon would signal the death knell of celibacy for the secular clergy in the West. I truly believe this. To think that many Catholic priests could be married while prohibiting others from doing the same would cause a terrible morale crisis and lead to widespread rejection of the requirement of celibacy. That’s a big deal, but not the catastrophe the RadTrad heretics are predicting.
Celibacy is not a dogma; it is a discipline. It can be dressed up in a fine spirituality but in the end it is a discipline not necessary to preserve the Truth of the Church. It is a worthy thing to have a discussion over whether the 800 year mandatory practice should be kept, but whether it is kept or not will not matter a whit to whether the Church remains Catholic.
Syncretism Rears Its Ugly Head?
Syncretism is the adoption of pagan practices into the body of Catholic dogma. A tree planting ceremony with indigenous peoples and prayers at the Vatican this past weekend raised those fears again. It calls to mind the horror many of the early RadTrads had of Pope St. John Paul II’s meeting with world religious leaders at Assisi in 1982 where other religions were seen as getting equal status with Catholicism.
Perhaps the critics of the synod should look to Pope St. Gregory Great (c. 600 A.D.) and his advice to the missionaries to Britain. When asked what to do with the pagan shrines, Gregory encouraged the missionaries to accept what was consistent with Church teaching, letting local customs stay, and overlaying pagan dedicated shrines with new ones celebrating new saints of Christianity. In other words, he wanted a gradual conversion, not an iconoclastic revolution. Pope Francis seems to be willing to take the time for a similar conversion to take place.
A Time For Excitement And Calm
In the end, the Synod is a big deal. Many important things shall come of it. But it will not change the nature of the Church. No doubt, it will be revolutionary, but only in terms of Church practice. So prepare to be amazed, but also be prepared for the Church to remain as Catholic as she ever has been and will be.