Skip to comments.Synodical secrecy (2)
Posted on 05/30/2015 6:52:43 PM PDT by ebb tide
Here is the passage which I find enormously difficult. "A synod without freedom is not a synod. It is a conference. The synod, instead, is a protected space in which the Holy Spirit can work. And for this reason the persons must be free. This is why I will not allow the things that each one says to be published with name and surname. No, it should not be known who has said it. I have no problem with revealing what has been said, but not who has said it, in such a way that one may feel free to say what one wishes."[Pope Francis]
In order to explain, stage by stage, why I find this so very frightening, let me (1) remind you of a key sentence in the Decrees of the First Vatican Council; "Neque enim Petri successoribus Spiritus Sanctus promissus est, ut eo revelante novam doctrinam patefacerent, sed ut, eo assistente, traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum sancte custodirent et fideliter exponerent." [The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in order that, by his revelation, they might disclose new teaching, but so that, by his assistance, they might devoutly guard the revelation handed down through the Apostles, the Deposit of Faith, and might faithfully set it forth.]
(2) If such restrictions surround the Pope, surely they apply also to bishops. I do not see, having been a papalist all my adult life, how an individual bishop (or even a group of them) can be said to have more power than the Bishop of Rome to "reveal new teaching". I do not believe that Bishop von Bloggs, at this autumn's synod, can claim the revelation, or assistance, of the Holy Spirit, for anything other than the faithful and careful preservation and exposition of the Revelation given once for all to the Apostles and handed down through them and through their successors. The Pope can't, so why should Bishop von Bloggs claim such a power? Who does he think he is?
(3) Bishops may be clever men. They are entitled to be clever men. They are entitled to show their cleverness off to their private chums. But when they speak qua bishops, they have no entitlement to do anything other than to uphold the Deposit of Faith. If they claim the revelation or assistance of the Holy Spirit to advocate what is contrary to the traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum, they blaspheme. And against the Holy Spirit. The frightening Apostolic injunction dokimazete ta pneumata (I John 4:1) applies to them as much as to each one of us: perhaps, more so.
(4) Why, someone may ask, should they not be entitled to express their views privately and anonymously? Because a bishop acting qua bishop is not a private person. His authority is no greater than yours is or mine, unless he is speaking as a Bishop. And the synod members will have gone to Rome, expenses paid, not qua clever chaps, not qua individuals, at all, but qua bishops. The bishop teaches as the Successor of the Apostles; he teaches qua the Bishop of his See. What he says, he should say as the inheritor of the Apostolic teaching handed down since the foundation of his See, in his own Particular Church. His teaching should be recognisable as the teaching, not of Bishop von Bloggs as an individual, but of the succession of Bishops preceding him in his See. It ought to be publicly recognisable to his own clerics and laics as the teaching, not of von Bloggs only, but of the series episcoporum of the Particular Church which is both his and theirs. This was the crucial point made in the second century by S Irenaeus: the doctrine handed down in Catholic bishoprics all over the world is guaranteed as authentic because it has been asserted by bishop following bishop from the Apostles onwards, openly and in public.
(5) The Holy Father has frequently urged Parrhesia upon his venerable brethren in the Episcopate. I do not know what advice the academics at his disposal have given him about what that word means; in my humble opinion based upon my own reading it means speaking out boldly and courageously without any fear of even the mightiest. It has never occurred to me that it might mean expressing, anonymously behind closed doors, views which, outside the "protected space", one would be afraid to be known to have uttered.
CONCLUSION A bishop is not a distinguished individual; he is episcopus in et cum Ecclesia sua. Episcopacy is not a personal fashion accessory. I can think of few things more disgracefully clericalist, more ecclesiologically corrupt, than bishops meeting privately "in a protected space" in which they believe themselves free to stitch together something which might not be according to the traditam per Apostolos revelationem seu fidei depositum; and to do this without any element of the discipline and responsibility which comes from it being publicly known what each has said. Have their diocesan priests, deacons, and layfolk no rights whatsoever? Is Episcopacy simply a matter of lording it over the flock of Christ (I Peter 5:3) without oneself being answerable to the plebs sancta Dei? I am reminded of what an English poet called Kipling once said to an English Press Baron called Beaverbrook: "Power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages". I pray that at least the English bishops at the synod will behave like (and I borrow here a phrase Newman used about his own greatly loved bishop Ullathorne) 'straightforward Englishmen' as well as like Catholic bishops, and publish openly outside the aula, whatever they have said privately within it.
In the second paragraph, number (1) is the statement that is basic and foundational to the understanding of most informed Catholics.
I can’t imagine who of us does not know that warring against the Holy Spirit and His kind presence, revealed in the Church’s own dogma, doctrine, Sacred Scripture and the old Councils, is going to stand. Fruit is visible. The people shall know and wisdom shall confirm what is seen.
Dereliction of duty, in failing to devoutly guard the revelation handed down by the Apostles, is a condition no priest, bishop or pope should attempt to call up against himself, no matter what it may be called.
We will pray for conversions for the wobbly, and for inspiration to return them to their priestly calling and to love the Bridegroom, as well as His gifts in all forms, and His revelation that He has handed down to us.
“It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Lord.”
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