The Final Report of the Synod of Bishops in Rome

Source: FSSPX News

The Synod gives the impression of a deeply divided Church

Father Matthias Gaudron, of the Society of Saint Pius X, was ordained a priest by Bp. Tissier de Mallerais in 1990. For twelve years he was rector of Sacred Heart International Seminary in Zaitzkofen (Bavaria). Currently he is a professor at the Institut Sainte-Marie in the canton of Saint-Gall (Switzerland). Author of the Catechism of the Crisis in the Church (Angelus Press), he analyzes the Final Report of the Synod on the Family in this article, which first appeared in the monthly bulletin of the District of Germany, Mitteilungsblatt (December 2015), and on his website.

We thank him for kindly giving permission to DICI to publish it in French and English translations.

The Synod of Bishops in Rome, which inspired hope and fear in equal measure, concluded on October 25, 2015. The Synod neither recommended administering the sacraments to divorced-and-remarried persons nor called for a more favorable attitude toward homosexuality, as many progressive Catholics and bishops would have wished. Nevertheless the Synod did not defend Catholic truth in clear terms either. It is unfortunately true, as Cardinal Kurt Koch of the Roman Curia said: there are “no doors that are shut”. Finally, the question of whether, despite everything, a new sacramental practice will be introduced still remains open.

As far as homosexuality is concerned, the Synod found terms that are still clear enough when it declared, in no. 76, that homosexual unions are incompatible with God’s plan for marriage. The document also states that it is absolutely unacceptable for international associations to exert pressure on poor countries by conditioning financial aid to them on the official legalization of “marriage” between persons of the same sex.

Further on, however, on the subject of the divorced-and-remarried, no. 84 includes statements that are unacceptable. Is it actually true that “the Holy Spirit pours out His gifts and charisms upon them for the good of all”? Although strictly speaking one can still accept this sentence, inasmuch as “gifts and charisms” do not necessarily presuppose the state of grace, this is no longer the case in the following sentence: “They should not feel that they are excommunicated. On the contrary, it is necessary for them to be able to develop as living members of the Church.” It is true that divorced-and-remarried persons are not excommunicated, as long as they do not separate themselves from the Church or deny the faith. They remain members of the Church, therefore; nevertheless they are no longer “living” members thereof but “dead” members. A living member, in theological language, is a Catholic who is in the state of grace. With every serious sin, a member is lost; consequently the sinner indeed remains bound to Christ and to His Church but as a dead member in which the divine life has ceased to flow. Divorced-and-remarried persons live in a permanent state of serious sin. As long as they are unwilling to put an end to their marital life, which is against God’s will, they cannot receive forgiveness either through the sacrament of Penance as other people who are just as guilty of mortal sin do, for the simple reason that absolution is given validly only if there is contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. In this state, they cannot really “progress” but at most ask, by participating in the life of the Church, for the grace and strength that they need to leave their sinful situation behind.

We find ambiguities in no. 86 too. There we read that the dialogue of divorced-and-remarried persons with a priest, “in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and the steps that can foster it and make it grow”; what does that mean? It seems that a little door is left open so as to allow these Catholics—after having reflected maturely, decided in conscience, etc.—to approach the sacraments. Divorced-and-remarried Catholics per se pose no major theological problems. As soon as they abandon their life of sin, they can once again go to confession and then receive Holy Communion. But as long as they do not do this, no priest who respects the teaching of Christ and of the Church can give them permission to receive communion. This paragraph was the most controversial of the Synod and received the necessary two-thirds majority, with 178 votes, only with great difficulty.

Elsewhere Pope Francis already opened up another way that might resolve these “problems”. Acting on his own authority and bypassing all the institutions established to modify the laws of the Church, Pope Francis simplified the procedure for causes of nullity of marriage: there are serious reasons to fear that in the future there will be a plethora of dubious declarations of nullity, and that many civilly remarried couples will be able to have their marriage regularized in the Church. Thus in the realm of teaching, marriage remains indissoluble, but in practice a sort of “Catholic divorce” could see the light of day.

The Synod of Bishops gives the impression of a deeply divided Church. On the one hand, a majority of bishops could not be found who were willing to break openly with the traditional teaching of the Gospel, while on the other hand, no majority could be found either to set forth this doctrine clearly and unambiguously. After two questionnaires circulated within the Universal Church and two synods of bishops, there has been no result but a compromise document that recognizes divorced-and-remarried persons as “living members of the Church”, which of course does not permit them to receive communion but does not clearly forbid it, either. Thus the Synod could scarcely have ended in a worse way: the conservative bishops, who would have rejected an open break with doctrine, are reassured because the indissolubility of marriage was not affected. The progressive bishops, although they did not obtain all that they would have liked, can nevertheless continue along their path toward the relaxation of doctrine and discipline.

Father Matthias Gaudron

(Source: FSSPX/Germany - DICI no. 326 dated December 4, 2015)

Read also :
Declaration Concerning the Final Report of the Synod on the Family
Cardinal Kasper’s New Morality