Synodality and Oblates, Part Six, A Pandora’s Box?

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Reforming the Church Book

Recently, practically every Catholic priest in the USA received in the US postal system a 100 page booklet The Synodal Process Is a Pandora’s Box: 100 Questions & Answers. Sent free by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), the accompanying letter is signed by President Raymond E. Drake and dated Aug. 20, 2023. An enclosed form seeks comments, financial contributions and further names of people to receive the booklet.

Originally written in Spanish by Jose Antonio Ureta and Julio Loredo De Izcue, neither of whom seems to have any background in theology, and translated by Jose A. Schelini, the booklet has a two page preface by Cardinal Raymond Burke, who claims that synodality has no history in the doctrine of the Church.

One may summarize the booklet’s thesis as claiming that a minority of progressive liberals have taken over the synodality process (#87). The main villain is the group of Germans pushing the Synodaler Weg (The Synod Way, #’s 53-91).

What is very noteworthy is the silence about St. John Henry Newman’s article “On Consulting the Faithful in the Matter of Doctrine,” in which he lists 20 examples from church history in which the hierarchy got it wrong and the laity did not. The most famous of these is the fourth century Arian heresy denying Jesus’ divinity. At the time, most bishops were Arians (with the notable exceptions of St. Athanasius, archbishop of Alexandria, and the popes). The laity maintained a staunch belief in the divinity of Christ (my thanks to Christine Schenk, C.S.J., for her article in the US Catholic of Oct. 6, 2020, for reminding us of this “Listen to laypeople, said John Henry Newman”).

As the Second Vatican Council began in 1962, it was not the bishops who were the Church teaching; they were being taught by the council priest theologians, led by Yves Congar O.P. and Karl Rahner S.J.

Reforming the Church Book

An author with a deep theological background who is much more positive about the Synod process is Serena Nocety and her book Reforming the Church, A Synodal Way of Proceeding, published by Paulist Press. My thanks to Lester Zapata for pointing out this book to me.

The Church Reform Section (IV, #’s 41-52) of Pandora’s Box does not seem to be as critical as the rest of the book. However, there is silence regarding those reformers who weren’t conservative bishops: St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Madeleine Delbrel.

The Wikipedia article on Cardinal Raymond Burke is quite extensive, detailing his opposition to the Synod and Pope Francis. It may be significant that Pope Francis named Cardinal Burke to be among the voting members of the upcoming October synod.

Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, O.M.I.
Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, O.M.I.

Three Oblates are among the 465 already named as voting members: Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, O.M.I., of Windhoek, Namibia; Archbishop Bejoy Nicephorus D’cruze, O.M.I., of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Bishop Radoslaw Zimitrowicz, O.M.I., auxiliary bishop of Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine. As more people are named for the supporting staff, there will probably be more from the Oblate Family.

The authors object very much to Father Timothy Radcliffe, former Master General of the Dominicans, to be the preacher for the October synod’s spiritual exercises (#96). Older members of the Oblate Family may remember Fr. Radcliffe as one of the two presenters at our 3rd USA Oblate Convocation, held in Pittsburgh, PA, from Nov. 5-9, 2007. (Fr. Ron Rolheiser, O.M.I. was the other).

The authors rejection of any meaningful effort to reach out to LGBTQ is evident from #26 through the “Postface.” Readers here may refer to Synodality and Oblates, especially #’s 2 and 3: click here.

Fr. Timothy Radcliffe
Fr. Timothy Radcliffe

I welcome comments on the matter of LGBTQ and any other issue raised by the Pandora book. The book may be obtained from The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), PO Box 341, Hanover, PA 17331, USA, I; tel. (888) 317=5571. It has been translated into Dutch, French, German, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish). The English edition has $10.95 on the back cover.

Instead of a clear line between the teaching Church (bishops and pope) and the learning church (laity), is not every person in the Church both a teacher and a learner, in different moments and ways?