After a heated debate and vote in October 1963 on whether a newly written document on the Virgin Mary should be kept separate or be incorporated into Lumen Gentium, the Vatican 2 document that dives into the nature of the Church, the New York Times ran the headline, “Council Votes to Downgrade Mary.” This headline gave an impression incongruent with what actually happened at the Second Vatican Council, and in particular at that specific debate. The bishops of the Council voted that there should be no separate document on Mary, but rather, that chapter eight of Lumen Gentium should be where the role of Mary in the Church would be explained. Mary had not been downgraded, but the secular media misunderstood it so. I remember an elderly priest tell me years ago that he saw a priest rip apart a Rosary during a homily, announcing to the congregation that the Rosary was something from the past. Many of the faithful received news on the proceedings of the Council from sources that did not understand what was happening in Rome, creating much confusion and unnecessary disappointment, especially in regards to the devotional life of the Church.
Forward seventy years to 2023. Many today, rather than seeking information from sources directly connected to the Synod on Synodality in Rome, are relying not only on the secular media, but unfortunately also on Catholic media that has already sentenced Pope Francis at worse as a heretic, and at best as someone who is not worthy to sit on the Chair of Saint Peter. Why are so many relying on third party sources rather than focusing on what is actually unfolding?
A solid insight on the Synod is the recent interview by ACI Prensa of Archbishop Jose Miguel Gomez Rodriguez of Manizales, Colombia. The Archbishop shared thoughts on his experience as a delegate to the Synod. When asked if the Synod could approve same sex unions and women ordinations, the Archbishop clearly responded with a resounding, “no.” He added, “but this answer was already known by the Church.” The Archbishop noted that days before the opening of the Synod, Pope Francis responded to the Cardinals who raised concerns – including the topic of same sex unions. Reading this response would be appropriate, rather than relying on interpretations by others. You can easily find the Pope’s response to Question 2 online. It is abundantly clear that the Church has not, nor does it intend to deviate from defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Archbishop Manizales responded to questions about changes in Church teaching stating, “the Synod cannot suppress pages of the Bible. The Synod does not have that authority, and the Pope does not want that.” The Archbishop continued, “there is bad press against the Holy Father which is not just… it wants to divide us Catholics against the Pope, and the Pope against Catholics.”
Pope Francis has said that the Synod is “not a parliament for demanding rights, but a journey in accordance with the Spirit.” He has further said, “if we want harmony let us seek the Spirit, not worldly substitutes.”
I find the lack of trust and love for the Church and Pope Francis by so many Catholics scandalous. If a Catholic ceases to recognize a legitimately elected Pope, that person ceases to be in communion with the Pope, and with the Catholic Church. If a Catholic affirms a Pope is actively not teaching sound doctrine, then shut down the Catholic Church because suddenly the core of what we hold to be true is no longer true. It is all a farce.
History has shown us that in times of uncertainty and turmoil, we turn to prayer and obedience. If reform is needed, we conduct it from inside, and not by destroying and tearing down the Church that we love. Where do we find today the obedience of Saint Francis of Assisi who was obedient to Pope Innocent III who requested that a Rule of Life be written for his new community of brothers? How is the openness to the Holy Spirit alive in the Church today, the same Spirit which allowed Pope Innocent III to recognize the new Franciscan Order in 1223 even though just eight years prior, the Church had forbidden in an Ecumenical Council the establishment of new religious orders?
We pray for greater trust in the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised would continue to lead us and teach us. If you are a Catholic upset and concerned, take a deep breath. Stop reading or listening to the news sources you are consulting. God is in charge, He will see us through.