PopeWatch: Pressure



One of the biggest mistakes thus far of the current pontificate is those idiotic questionnaires which were ordered in preparation for the synod on the family in October, at least, judging from what Sandro Magister at Chiesa is reporting, that might well be the private assessment of Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri:

Finally, on Monday the 24th and Tuesday the 25th of February there will be a meeting of the council of the general secretariat of the synod of bishops, coordinated by the new cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri.

That assembly will begin to evaluate the responses to the questionnaire concerning the upcoming extraordinary synod in October, also dedicated to the pastoral care of the family.

The episcopal conferences of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have already seen to spreading all over the world, through detailed press releases, the responses that have come to them, tipped very much out of balance toward the progressive side.

But this diffusion has been judged as a “unilateral initiative” and “not correct” by Baldisseri, who reiterated in an interview how the publication of these materials, which were supposed to have been sent “confidentially” to the Vatican, were by no means authorized.

Not only that. The new cardinal – also in the same interview published in the “Quotidiano Nazionale” on February 11 – also defined as “a possible interpretation” that which sees the release of the data as a form of pressure for influencing the work of the synod.

Go here to read the rest.  The Catholic Church is a faith based upon revelations from God.  If the Church is going to be swayed by questionnaires and opinion polls, then the Church is on the path of being like the Anglican Church, a dying shell of a religion that reflects the zeitgeist of the dominant elites in Western societies.  One can imagine what the Church would have looked like if she had “adapted” the Gospels to the beliefs of the elites who governed the Roman Empire 2000 years ago.  Nothing is more permanent than a revelation from God, and nothing is more ephemeral than popular, or elite, opinion.


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  1. “The Catholic Church is a faith based upon revelations from God. If the Church is going to be swayed by questionnaires and opinion polls, then the Church is on the path of being like the Anglican Church, a dying shell of a religion that reflects the zeitgeist of the dominant elites in Western societies. One can imagine what the Church would have looked like she had “adapted” the Gospels to the beliefs of the elites who governed the Roman Empire 2000 years ago. Nothing is more permanent than a revelation from God, and nothing is more ephemeral than popular opinion.”
    Very well said. Very well said. Helter skelter into the progressive mind set is what this synod on the family in October is called to avoid.

  2. There is zero chance that the Church will alter dogma based on questionnaires. To be concerned otherwise is not compatible with Church teaching. Now, could the sense of the faithful inform certain practices of discipline and prudence? Certainly, that is possible, but I cannot see how these questions (I’ve responded to them, have others?) can work that way except perhaps in adjusting certain practices and procedures relating to annulments, which we all know are imperfect as they are. Are progressives assuming the questions will operate to adjust Church teaching on matters of life and sexual morality? Sure, but they are delusional. One can argue of course that the illuminatory value of these questionnaires will prove to be outweighted by the mischief caused by the predictible misunderstanding of their purpose, but I’m not sure that argument will prove to be right. I actually read the questions as very clearly reaffirming by assumption Church teaching, and therefore a two-way communication.

  3. Bl John Henry Newman, who had a high view of the Consensus Fidelium, explains that “consulting the faithful” does not mean conducting an opinion poll – “It includes the idea of inquiring into a matter of fact, as well as asking a judgment. Thus we talk of “consulting our barometer” about the weather:-the barometer only attests the fact of the state of the atmosphere. In like manner, we may consult a watch or a sun-dial about the time of day. A physician consults the pulse of his patient; but not in the same sense in which his patient consults him. It is but an index of the state of his health. Ecclesiastes says, “Qui observat ventum, non seminat” we might translate it, “he who consults,” without meaning that we ask the wind’s opinion. “

    He adds, what I suppose no one ever disputed, “I think I am right in saying that the tradition of the Apostles, committed to the whole Church in its various constituents and functions per modum unius, manifests itself variously at various times: sometimes by the mouth of the episcopacy, sometimes by the doctors, sometimes by the people, sometimes by liturgies, rites, ceremonies, and customs, by events, disputes, movements, and all those other phenomena which are comprised under the name of history. It follows that none of these channels of tradition may be treated with disrespect; granting at the same time fully, that the gift of discerning, discriminating, defining, promulgating, and enforcing any portion of that tradition resides solely in the Ecclesia docens [The teaching Church or Magisterium]

    He quotes Peronne – “ Some are accustomed wrongly to urge silence on the part of the Fathers as impugning the existence of some tradition … But what if that silence is compensated in some other way? … by the exertion of an active ministry, by usage and practice, and established rituals, so as to implant a Catholic and apostolic doctrine in the community of the Church.” I am sure that Peronne was not thinking in terms of questionnaires and focus groups.

  4. Well, depending on your perspective one should worry very much, or not at all: What can be done is what was done at Vatican II:

    The massive number of interrogatories sent to bishops, cardinals and archbishops all around the world in 1960-1961 asking for their input for the schemata of the coming council were received and collated by the Roman Curia. The results? Their single largest area of concern was the need for the Catholic Church to officially condemn communism/socialism, as bishops and other episcopal leadership were seeing Leninist principles invading their seminaries and universities world-wide. Changing the liturgy or a redefinition of the theology of the Church was a minimal priority, if mentioned at all.

    And what resulted: This schema and all the other truly “collegial” schemas gathered from these questionnaires @ V2…were simply set aside at the first plenary session, shortly after the opening address by P John XXIII Oct 11, 1962. And if these arent set aside, one can always turn the microphone off, too, like Card. Alfrink of Utrecht (where now the Catholic population has dropped from 50% pre Vat2 to 15% today) did to Card. Ottaviani, during Ottaviani’s fiery speech objecting to the radical takeover of the council by the Congar-Kung-Rahner party (Oct. 30, 1962).

    So, either way, nothing to worry about here. I think.

  5. I honestly don’t understand how the Pope choosing over 50 years ago to ignore responses to questionnaires serves to predict that the Pope will choose today to rely on responses to questionnaires to change Church teaching. Again, the questions were obviously aimed at determining the degree to which Catholics are out of step with the magisterium, not determining the degree to which the magisterium is out of step with with Catholics — an important distinction. Steve, did you complete the questionnaire?

  6. As a convert, I find it very difficult to believe that the priests and bishops (and yes, the Pope) didn’t know ahead a time what the responses would be. (No, I haven’t seen the questions; I am basing this statement upon hearing that most Catholics disagree with Church teaching of family, sex, divorce, etc.) Before I was Catholic, before I really knew any, I actually believed that
    1) Catholics all used NFP [Scott Hahn was so simple and understandable in his and his wife’s tape series about contraception/sterilization/NFP, etc. Crystal clear. How could anyone argue with it, and why would anyone want too?]
    2) Catholics didn’t get divorced.
    Halfway through RCIA, I knew something wasn’t right. Something didn’t jive. By the time I was confirmed, I realized I was in the minority of people willing to use NFP, or even knew what it was.

  7. The doctor must always get a full picture of what ails the patient before diagnosing the illness and then pointing the patient toward health through prescription, more intense medical care and or surgery.

    There have been ‘questionairres before all the Synods in fact, it is just that this one obviously is ‘hitting Catholics closer to home’ and the media sees it as a ‘hot topic’. This will only intensify and we will be hearing all sorts of conflicting reports. First because the media has no idea (or interest etc) in Revelation-the word of God. Secondly there will be those forces in the Church who believe they can organize and pressure the Synod Fathers. By the way, this is not a new tactic. Even in the days of the First Ecumenical Councils laity and monks assembled at the sites of the Councils to pressure the assembled bishops for their position and against the opposite side. The pressure often came from the supreme layman-the Emperor or King or princes-but it happened in every Council. No Council was without this-it is actually part of ‘synodality’ (having a ‘council’)

    The Sensus Fidelium is not, I repeat not, the result of a poll, a vote etc. The sense of the faithful is that portion (hopefully most) of the Church which adheres to the truth of the Catholic Faith, even in the midst of a great deal of turmoil etc. An example of the sensus fidelium are those Catholics who hold to the teaching on the meaning of conjugal charity as stated authoritatively in Humanae Vitae [most would be familiar with this in terms of ‘birth control’, however that is only one dimension of the teaching] Those faithful found in the hierarchy (pope and bishops), priests, deacons, consecrated religious and laity who hold and believe that marital (conjugal) love is both unitive and creative. love giving and life giving, today are those among the faithful who recognize that ‘marriage’ cannot take place between two people of the same sex. Same sex marriage cannot be life-giving by its very nature. Polls might say that these faithful are a minority, but they do represent the sensus fidelium-united with the pope and bishops who teach this truth.

    This Synod however may mark another significant turning point for the Church. That portion of the Church which is frequently named ‘liberal, ‘progressive’, ‘spirit of Vatican II’ in actuality has a very specific foundation and name going right back to the days of Vatican II. They are called “Concilium” after the (now defunct) publication that at first furthered Vatican II but shortly after the end of the Council took a more distinct and more radical direction-what many would call ‘progressive’ or ‘the spirit of VII’. Eventually they saw no limits to ‘reform’ in the Church because in their eyes little or nothing was based on Revelation nor did they see any real limitations to the nature, construction of the Church and thus of her mission. Everything was fluid, maleable etc Some notable names in this group were Hans Kung, Edward Schillebeecks, Karl Rahner

    In contra distinction to the Concilium group grew the Communio group, faithful to Vatican II and its real reforms but maintaining the Catholic Tradition, nature of the Church, etc. This group in its early days was led by such lights as Josef Ratzinger, Henri De Lubac, Hurs Von Baltazar, and others. It is from this theological powerhouse that the Church maintained stability in the first decade and a half after the end of Vatican II. From this the Extraordinary Synod of 1985 set forth the six principles of Interpreting Vatican II [the main one being the hermeneutic of continuity, set forth even more clearly by Pope Benedict in 2005]

    The Concilum group’s base is in Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries. Not al Germans etc belong to this mindset, but many do. Austria is almost in complete rebellion against the Church and one German diocese seems to be following suit. We might be witnessing the end of this seemingly endless tension between the Concilium model and Communio model now completely established in the mainstream of the Catholic Church. This may be the ‘setting sun’ for those who dream of a church that not only does not exist but cannot exist and call itself Catholic.

    The Church cannot and will not compromise on the Revelation received from Christ Himself Who taught that from the beginning marriage was meant to be between one man and one woman for life. Where the Church will probably look for pastoral solutions is to its canonical structures vis a vis divorce, annnulments. Since the first century the Church has had to deal with the reality of marriages that end for any number of reasons, and Christians who are less than ideal for any number of reasons. After all who among us can say we are ‘ideal’? (lol)

  8. Botolph,
    Since you mention Concilium and Fr. Hans Kung, Carl R. Trueman recently reported in “First Things” that:
    “Hans Kung is planning to take his life. Or so he said in an interview last week in the British Catholic weekly, The Tablet. Kung is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, and polyarthritis in his hands. Determined not to go gentle into that good night, he has apparently decided that he will at some point travel to Switzerland in order to be assisted in committing suicide. His reasoning is threefold: he does not wish to live when there is no quality of life; his life is a gift from God and he intends to give it back to God; and death, like birth, is “our own responsibility.”


  9. Slainte,

    Yes, indeed, a sad last chapter to Hans Kung’s life and legacy. In his early days, he was faith filled and brilliant, but soon after the Council led the Concilium in a direction that the Church did not follow, thanks be to God. If he had stuck with his real life’s work, which was the study of Luther, the Council of Trent etc, we might have seen the unification of Lutheran and Catholic Churches, however, he went off the rails and in many ways, became not just like Luther but far more radical.

  10. Fr. Hans Kung could radically redeem himself if he spoke out against Euthanasia in favor of a better, more sacrificial way; this might alter public opinion in Belgium regarding child euthanasia.
    There is a selfishness and a self-centeredness associated with members of the progressive movement. They think of themselves first.

  11. Slainte,

    You are absolutely on target concerning his witness about euthanasia. Instead he is witnessing to the anti-word, and the anti-gospel (as Pope John Paul II called it). The Concilium was totally taken by the Enlightenment. I remember how struck I was when I received that ‘summa’ of Fr Karl Rahner which was entitlted “the Idea of Catholicism”. It seems that everything was, could be, and even should be a ‘mental construct’. For a time he and the others had a wide readership in the Church bit not anymore, their time has passed. That’s why I believe this will be the ‘final showdown’ for the Concilium crowd. They were hoping Pope Francis was one of them but he is not. With these two approaching synods, the main focus will be the family and marriage, yes, but with that will be the Catholic vision and teaching on human sexuality and on the human person (Christian anthropology). This is why there will be two synods: and Extraordinary Synod in October 2014, the (regularly scheduled) Synod of 2015 [both on the family, et al] and then the meeting of world wide Catholic families in Philadelphia-which Pope Francis will attend in 2015 as well. It is a threefold move.

  12. I actually took the survey and found myself incredulous as I answered one question to the next. It suggested to me that either they were completely out of touch with reality, or were simply putting on a show by the questions asked. If they did not know the answers already then we are really in trouble. And another element was the unfounded and ridiculous assumption that the average Catholic would have read certain documents, or even be vaguely familiar with them. I wish they were but know they are not. It was in my estimation an exercise in futility and clearly demonstrates the wrong people- as usual – are conducting what should be a very important endeavor.

  13. Kevin,

    What you say is disturbing. If that is the case then no wonder there is so much divergency in the various episcopal conferences’ responses. One more reason that we have in calling for a real reform of the Curia.

  14. It seems there’s a wide agreement that the curia needs to be reformed, which might really only mean changes in personnel, with perhaps a possible additional office to be set up. Is that it?
    I would like to know how the pope sees the rationale for the existence of the curia— what it Should be and how the current situation could change for the better if it were “reformed”. I’d like to know what we are hoping for, what is the goal here?

    I hope it is not just changing out personnel (Burke, Rigali, etal ) to strengthen a more progressive agenda.
    I would hope the curia would be catholic or universal in its make up and in the way it addressed the many functions of the Church with a well rounded approach. Including transcendence, dogma and moral teaching, reaching out to the poor and needy, protecting the unborn etc.

  15. The modern curia is the creation of Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) who, through his reforms, created the first modern bureaucracy in Europe. It was part of his genius that nothing more than assiduous mediocrity was needed for the system to function; its disadvantage was that it gave no scope to real talent.

    Now, as Walter Bagehot points out, “It is an inevitable defect, that bureaucrats will care more for routine than for results; or, as Burke put it, “that they will think the substance of business not to be much more important than the forms of it.” Their whole education and all the habit of their lives make them do so. They are brought young into the particular part of the public service to which they are attached; they are occupied for years in learning its forms—afterwards, for years too, in applying these forms to trifling matters. They are, to use the phrase of an old writer, “but the tailors of business; they cut the clothes, but they do not find the body”. Men so trained must come to think the routine of business not a means, but an end—to imagine the elaborate machinery of which they form a part, and from which they derive their dignity, to be a grand and achieved result, not a working and changeable instrument.”

    In this connection, he notes the old proverb that “Frederic the Great lost the battle of Jena”. It was the system which he had established—a good system for his wants and his times—which, blindly adhered to, and continued into a different age, put to strive with new competitors, brought his country to ruin.”

  16. Botolph: “conjugal charity” the perfect phrase to express true love of one’s spouse.
    slante: “”His reasoning is threefold: he does not wish to live when there is no quality of life; his life is a gift from God and he intends to give it back to God; and death, like birth, is “our own responsibility.” ”
    Man, the human person, gives consent, free will consent, to his life and existence from the hand of God. The only ” responsibility” of man to God for his life is religion, man’s response to the gift of faith from God. The chasm between “consent” and “responsibility” is telling. “Consent” as in the “fiat” of Blessed Mary is allowing God to tell us how to live, to live and let live according to the will of God. “Responsibility” is taking unauthorized authority from God and telling God how to tell us how to live. In short “playing God”. All human sacrifice, abortion, euthanasia and indiscriminate killing usurps God’s sovereignty over mankind and mankind’s human, rational, immortal existence, mankind’s soul.
    The devil, human sacrifice in the form of euthanasia, suicide and abortion is the chief form of worship of the devil; the devil wants Hans Kung’s soul. Let us pray for Hans Kung’s soul. The devil did not create Hans Kung’s soul. God is our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.

  17. “The devil, human sacrifice in the form of euthanasia, suicide and abortion is the chief form of worship of the devil; the devil wants Hans Kung’s soul. Let us pray for Hans Kung’s soul. The devil did not create Hans Kung’s soul. God is our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier”
    Amen Mary De Voe

  18. Collecting relevant data points, information and reference material is rarely an issue. Only how that information is utilized .

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