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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Battle Cry for the Ordinary Synod: Defend the Family

The latest issue of The Truth, the newsletter of Les Femmes, is not online at our website yet, but I thought I would post the lead article with footnotes for those concerned about the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family. Catholics need to prepare to fight the attempts to attack the indissolubility of marriage. It's clear that many of the enemies of marriage are inside the Church. And so, Church Militant, you need to prepare to fight.  

A Battle Cry for the Ordinary Synod: Defend the Family
By Mary Ann Kreitzer

The Ordianary Synod on the Family is scheduled next October 4th – 25th in Rome. It continues the efforts begun at the Extraordinary Synod last Fall. The original meeting revealed a sharp divide between “progressives” and “traditionalists;”[1] among the bishops and, since the close of the synod, battle lines are drawn and grenades flying. On one side progressives like Cardinals Walter Kasper, Reinhold Marx, Donald Wuerl, Archbishop Bruno Forte, and Fr. Thomas Rosica (English language spokesman for the Vatican) insist that development of doctrine permits pastoral changes that can allow divorced and remarried Catholics in individual circumstances (without annulment) to return to the sacraments. The other major issue progressives are pushing is a pastoral approach affirming the good of homosexuality. 

The progressives' mud slinging against those holding the line on doctrine includes an accusation by Cardinal Donald Wuerl that Cardinal Raymond Burke is a dissenter.[2] Even worse, one of Fr. Rosica’s Basilian brother priests, former spokesman for the small order, Fr. Timothy Scott, tweeted that Cardinal Burke should just STFU.[3] (For those unfamiliar with obscenity by acronym, think about it.) Fr. Rosica himself escalated the battle to fever pitch when he threatened a lawsuit against a popular Canadian blogger, David Domet, for reporting his statements with comments that offended him..[4] Many bloggers think Rosica is attempting to intimidate and control material coming out ahead of the October Synod. If he hoped for that, his action backfired as multiple blogs and news services picked up the story.

On the other side of the battlefield, traditionalists insist that, no matter what, Church doctrine on marriage and sexuality cannot change and their opponents are distorting terminology to fit their personal agenda. They urge Catholics in the pew to defend the faith actively in the months leading up to the Synod including signing a filial appeal[5] to Pope Francis to clarify the teachings of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage and urging the faithful to write personal letters to the Holy Father.

Is this all a tempest in a teapot or is the family ground zero in a major battle between good and evil, the 21st century version of the Protestant revolt? A number of bishops commented on the obvious manipulation of the Extraordinary Synod which bodes ill for the objectivity of the Ordinary Synod. As Bishop Athanatius Schneider, Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan said in an interview with the Polish magazine Polonia Christiana:
 “During the Synod there had been moments of obvious manipulation on the part of some clerics who held key positions in the editorial and governing structure of the Synod. The interim report (Relatio post disceptationem) was clearly a prefabricated text with no reference to the actial statements of the Synod fathers. In the sections on homosexuality, sexuality and ‘divorced and remarried’ with their admittance to the sacraments the text represents a radical neo-pagan ideology…. [which] reflects the corrupt and pagan main stream morality of our time, which is being imposed globally by means of political pressure and through the almost all-powerful official mass media, which are loyal to the principles of the world gender ideology party.” 
Bishop Schneider expressed alarm that such an ideology had “penetrated such important levels of the life of the Church.”[6] As for the “manipulation” of which he speaks, more evidence continues to emerge. Edward Pentin, the reporter who exposed Cardinal Kasper’s disparaging comments about the African bishops and his lying attempt to deny them, recently revealed that Executive Secretary of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, apparently intercepted delivery of the book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ, to the synod fathers. The book, contained essays upholding Church teaching on marriage and refuting the Kasper protocol, including three essays by Cardinals: Raymond Burke, then-head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief Gerhard Müller, and church historian Walter Brandmüller. Baldisseri was reportedly “furious” about the book. Only a few Synod Fathers received it; most were seized and believed destroyed.[7]

This kind of manipulation is nothing new. Since 1968, dissenters, both clergy and laity, have waged an on-going battle to dissuade Catholic couples from following Church teaching on marriage and sexuality. The orchestrated dissent after the release of Humanae Vitae which condemned as gravely evil all artificial methods of spacing births confused several generations of Catholic parents. That confusion persists today among many, even most, Catholics. In view of the massive negative consequences of contraception, both moral and physical, one would expect the Ordinary Synod to explicitly address contraception as one of the major threats facing the family. But, aside from a few passing statements about “openness to life,” the birth control issue and other serious sexually-related evils: surrogacy, in vitro fertilization and other artificial reproductive technologies are almost totally ignored. Paragraph 57 of the Lineamenta, the preparatory document, at least refers to the issue, but in a way most Catholics will probably fail to understand. How many have ever read Humanae Vitae?

Here’s what paragraph 57 says: 
“Pastoral work in this area [transmission of life] needs to start with listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional openness to life, which is needed, if human love is to be lived fully. This serves as the basis for an appropriate teaching regarding the natural methods for responsible procreation, which allow a couple to live, in a harmonious and conscious manner, the loving communication between husband and wife in all its aspects along with their responsibility at procreating life. In this regard, we should return to the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI, which highlights the need to respect the dignity of the person in morally assessing methods in regulating births.”[8]
For those who already accept Church teaching, this may be clear, but most Catholics have been poorly catechized and need a more explicit discussion of why contraception is immoral. Many Catholics, perhaps most, see no difference between natural methods of spacing births and contraception since couples can use either to avoid conception. The difference is significant, however. 

One can speak (marital relations are the body language of love) or choose to be silent for a good reason. Or one can put duct tape over his mouth to prevent speech. The fact that the end (silence) is the same in both cases doesn’t make the means (choosing silence or applying duct tape) equal. Contraception (literally against conception) attacks the goodness of the couple’s fertility, a great gift that allows husband and wife to participate in the creative act of God Himself. Natural methods respect fertility and treat the mystery of the creative act with reverence, so when couples have marital relations they give everything. Couples using contraceptives, on the other hand, make themselves sterile (permanently or temporarily) pleasure objects refusing to share their fertility. Of course, natural methods can be misused just like fire can be misused, but in themselves they are morally neutral.

As part of the preparation for the Synod, the Lineamenta includes a survey to gather opinions about the family from around the world, and many dioceses in the U.S. are participating. The survey is long, complicated, and sometimes obscure. One diocesan website said it would take about two hours to read the document, 16 single spaced pages of heavy content, and answer the survey, 46 essay questions many of which involve multiple questions! Hello? Is that a joke? Some questions sound like bureaucratic gobbledygook; others require a level of knowledge most Catholics in the pew would not have. Let’s take a look at a few of the questions. #5 – “How do Christian families bear witness, for succeeding generations, to the development and growth of a life of sentiment? In this regard, how might the formation of ordained ministers be improved? What qualified persons are urgently needed in this pastoral activity?” Huh? What exactly is a “life of sentiment?”And what does it have to do with training seminarians? Who are “qualified persons” – the psychiatrists who served as seminary gatekeepers in the past?

#26 and #27 are head scratchers as well. #26 Are people aware of the importance of the collaboration of social and civil institutions on behalf of the family? How is this actually done? What criteria are used to inspire it? In this regard, what role can be played by family associations? How can this collaboration be sustained even in a bold repudiation of the cultural, economic and political processes which threaten the family?” #27 How can relations between family, society and civil life be fostered for the benefit of the family? How can the support of the State and the international community be fostered on behalf of the family?” Unfortunately, government “collaboration” is more likely today to involve an assault on parental rights with government bureaucrats and U.N. nannies seizing control of children from their parents.. Then there’s question “29, four questions which include this mystifying sentence. “What emphasis [in catechesis of Christian initiation] is given to the character of the catechumenate and mystagogy which is often a part of marriage preparation?”

Is this survey really aimed at your average parent? Hardly. The length, complexity, and terminology would likely mystify Mom and Dad in the pew with four or five little children struggling to live an authentic Catholic witness in their busy lives, or even Grandma and Grandpa who have more time to answer the questionnaire and received a better Catholic education growing up. Realistically, the survey is likely be completed by Church bureaucrats and dissent groups with paid staff. The average Catholic family juggling work, family, school, extracurricular sports, etc. will hardly be responding. Is it possible their response isn’t really desired?

According the National Catholic Reporter, two thirds of U.S. dioceses are collecting information.[9] Arlington is apparently not among them since I called the chancery and asked how I could participate and neither the Family Life nor the Communications Office knew anything about it. It’s unclear whether Rome intended the survey to be widely distributed and some dioceses are holding listening sessions in lieu of the survey. The results will be sent to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for collating. Which adds another level of concern since the bishops’ bureaucracy is notorious for dissenters in its rank. Will they spin the results? To paraphrase Stalin, it doesn’t matter who fills out the survey, it only matters who summarizes the content. That is an Alinskian tactic, and we have, unfortunately, too often seen community organizers running Church offices.

Which brings us to a serious question about the Lineamenta and survey content . Will the 2015 Synod bury Church teaching on contraception? Fr. Mark Pilon (One of Arlington’s own.) asks that very question in an article at The Catholic Thing noting that not one of the 46 questions in the survey directly addresses contraception. Here are a few of his observations.
 “This omission simply cannot be by chance. Contraception has undeniably had a serious impact on the institution of marriage….. And yet here we have a document that never directly mentions it. It has some general questions about encouraging generosity toward life and the essential relation between marriage and openness to life. And that’s all to the good. But it never touches the obvious relationship between contraception and the fact that many marriages are closed to both…. Moreover, there’s palpable obtuseness in not understanding the failure of catechesis and marriage preparation throughout the world on the moral evil of contraception…..[W]hile the document has questions related to catechesis and marriage preparation, for instance on the indissolubility of marriage, there’s no question related to the proper catechesis and marriage preparation when it comes to contraception – unless you believe that referring to ‘openness to life’ covers it, which is absurd.””[10] 
Right on, Father!

Father asks “What’s going on?” and here’s his answer:
 “For a half-century, large segments of the Church’s leadership, priests and bishops alike, have gone silent, to put it mildly, when it comes to contraception and marriage preparation. And ditto for the confessional. It’s been a quiet revolution. They couldn't change the doctrine, so they just ignored the teaching….it seems clear that many Church leaders continue to be blind to the truth of the teaching of two great popes, that contraception is a poison pill for marriage and for society as a whole….If the Synod remains silent on this issue, it will almost certainly be taken to mean that the Church has abandoned this issue on the ‘pastoral’ level.” 
Amen! And is the same thing about to happen with Communion for the divorced and remarried undermining the indissolubility of marriage -- retain the doctrine but ignore it? Tragically, some bishops obviously want that.

The situation is, indeed, serious particularly since Pope Francis ordered the most controversial issues in the mid-term Relatio of the Extraordinary Synod (homosexuality and Communion for the divorced and remarried) to be retained in the final document despite not receiving the necessary two thirds vote. Bishop Schneider called the unprecedented act:
“the first time in Church history that such a heterodox text was actually published as a document of an official meeting of Catholic bishops under the guidance of a pope, even though the text only had a preliminary character…. This document will remain for… future generations and for the historians a black mark which has stained the honour of the Apostolic See.”[11]
Bishop Schneider praised a number of the synod fathers including Polish Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki and Australian Cardinal George Pell for holding firm on doctrine. He also praised laity exposing the evil:
“That in the very bosom of the Church, there are people who undermine the teaching of Our Lord became an obvious fact and one for the whole world to see thanks to the internet and the work of some Catholic journalists who were not indifferent to what was happening to the Catholic faith which they consider to be the treasure of Christ. I was pleased to see that some Catholic journalists and internet bloggers behaved as good soldiers of Christ and drew attention to this clerical agenda of undermining the perennial teaching of Our Lord.” 
Such action is not without potential for crucifixion by the Pharisees in the Church as blogger David Domet learned.

So what are the marching orders now for the “good soldiers of Christ” in the months ahead of the October Synod? Certainly prayer and a willingness to suffer. As Bishop Schneider advised, each of must be willing to say:
 “I refuse to throw grains of incense before the statue of the idol of the gender ideology, before the idol of second marriages, of concubinage, even if my bishop would do so, I will not do so; with the grace of God I will choose to suffer rather than betray the whole truth of Christ on human sexuality and on marriage.”[12] 
Beyond that we need to speak and act to defend authentic marriage witnessing to the truth of the gospel. Remember how first century pagans recognized Christians? By their love for one another. Bishop Schneider urges both teaching the truths and by action: supporting those in vulnerable situations like single mothers, those with homosexual tendencies, and those in broken family situations. It all begins with personal conversion and then evangelizing others along with offering practical assistance.

Lent is the perfect time to beg God to conform our wills to His. Once that personal conversion takes place we can be true witnesses to the world. Study the catechism. Teach it to your little children, discuss it with your adult children. Pray the rosary. Ask the Lord to use you to increase reverence for marriage in the world especially in the months leading up to the Synod. As a priest once told me, “If you want to be used by God, by God you’ll be used.” Let us pray to be used powerfully in these months before the Synod to build up the family of God especially through appreciation and reverence for the mystery of marital love as it imitates the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity! Changing the world began with a dozen apostles. Through the same Holy Spirit who descended on them at Pentecost, we too can change the world.

[1] Mary Ann Kreitzer, After the Extraordinary Synod, What’s Next?, The Truth Vol. 19 #3 Autumn 2014, online at

[2] John-Henry Westen, Cardinal Wuerl calls Cardinal Burke a ‘dissenter’: pot calls the kettle black, LifeSiteNews, Feb. 18, 2015, online at

[3]Michael Voris, The Vortex, February 23, 2015, See

[4] Vatican spokesman Fr. Thomas Rosica threatens with a lawsuit the faithful Catholic blogger, Vox Cantoris, Witness for the Church and Pope Blog, online at

[5]Filial Appeal to His Holiness Pope Francis on the Future of the Family, online at

[6]Izabella Parowicz, Bishop Athanasius Schneider on the Synod on the Family, LifeSiteNews, Nov. 5, 2014, online at

[7] Edward Pentin, Vatican Alleged to Have Intercepted Synod Book, Newmax, Feb. 25, 2015, online at

[8] Lineamenta Document with Survey, Available on line at:

[9] Most U.S. Dioceses Consult Catholics on Family Issues for Fall Synod, National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 23, 2015, online at

[10] Rev. Mark Pilon, Will the 2015 Synod Bury Church Teaching on Contraception?, The Catholic Thing, Jan. 24, 2015, online at