PopeWatch: A Feature Not a Bug




Father Z asks the eternal question in regard to the release of the Relation:  Cui bono?



We continue to watch the spin and the spinning of the spin after yesterday’s Synod… what can we call it?…. debacle.  Yes, debacle.  The release of the Relatio post disceptationem, an unprecedented mid-point summary document, was a debacle.   It has provoked “wonder”, which is old Church code for “shock, scandal provoking confusion”.

It was telling that, during yesterday’s presser, for the presentation of the Relatio, the chair of the Synod, Card. Erdö, tossed a question about the now infamous homosexuality paragraphs over to Archbp. Bruno Forte (whom some suggest might wind up as Prefect of a Franciscan CDF… if it isn’t Archbp. Fernandez), saying: “the one who wrote the passage ought to know what it means”.

The Holy See Press Office spun the Relatio this way:

Declaration of the Director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod

The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, [Is that so?] reiterates that it is a working document, which summarises the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.
The work of the Small Groups will be presented to the Assembly in the General Congregation next Thursday morning.

A good example of spin – and the massive damage inflicted by the release of the Relatio – is found at CNN, which has a few slanted points:

Under conservative assault, Vatican backtracks on gay comments

Rome (CNN) — Under furious assault from conservative Catholics, [Furious assault?] the Vatican backtracked Tuesday on its surprisingly positive assessment of gays and same-sex relationships.
In a report Monday, the Vatican had said that gays and lesbians have “gifts to offer” the Christian community and acknowledged that same-sex couples can give “precious support” to one other.
The statement, an interim report from a closely watched meeting of Catholic clergy here, was widely praised by liberals. It is believed to be the first time the Vatican has said anything positive about gay relationships. [And yet it isn’t supposed to be an official document, a final document.  It’s just a working document.  Right?]

And that, even with its ominous language about conservatives and their furious assaults, is somewhat more responsible than what you will see at some other outlets, especially the even more openly pro-homosexual sites.

Again, my great worry is not so much what the Synod is talking about, but the expectations that are being raised because of gaffs, errors, bad decisions, weird language and, it must be said, the machinations of some within the Church.

So, let’s accept that the Relatio is just a “working document”.  Fine.

Did nobody in the Synod office or in the Press Office know that when the MSM got hold of it, people were going to go bananas?

Of course they knew that chaos would occur and that certain paragraphs would be read with strong reactions.  Of course they did.

Therefore, someone wanted the chaos.  Someone wanted those now infamous paragraphs to hit the press and then be spun into all sorts of false conclusions and false expectation.  They wanted to bump the needle, move the paradigm in a certain direction.  This seems like a classic exercise in creeping incrementalism.  They know that they are not going to get their way, or get everything that they want… this time.  But they toss things out, create the chaos, and then, even as they back away from it and do some clean up, they have managed to moved the paradigm a degree or two toward their goal.  That’s how they work.


Go here to read the rest.  “Therefore, someone wanted the chaos.”  Precisely.  The powers that be at the Vatican are banking on the chaos to create sufficient confusion to reshape the Church.

More to explorer


  1. “Specifically, the Pope wanted the chaos. This is all his doing.”
    I hope and pray that Elizabeth is incorrect.
    Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

  2. Paul, I’m afraid Liz is right. He’s the man in charge, and if he wanted to, he could put a stop to this wickedness now.

  3. “But they toss things out, create the chaos, and then, even as they back away from it and do some clean up, they have managed to moved the paradigm a degree or two toward their goal. That’s how they work.”

    The devil is a planner, obviously, but he usually oversteps and trips up in his enthusiasm, and I hope that this fiasco turns out to be more of a trip than a leap forward in his evil agenda.

  4. conservative assault is almost an oxymoron isn’t it we think of a conservative defense – a hold the line mentality. Assault seems so, to quote a buzz from the Left, “forward”. No conservative is not backward stepping; it is holding the line

  5. I thought he said “hagan lio” – make a mess. “Vaya lio” is “go mess,” which, under certain connotations, is rather accurate.

  6. With all this discussion about the Synod and what can or cannot change, maybe it would be a good time for a TAC primer on Canon Law 749?

    The Magisterium is protected from error on Faith and Morals but how does this play for a Synod, for documents that are preliminary to the Synod, and what is the line on what has been taught authoritatively?

    As we read more on more in the coming weeks and months, this may lend clarity to future discussions.

  7. Paul D,
    Read canon 749 very carefully. 1&2 require that the partiies must declare that the moral stand is inter alia to be “held definitively” along with #3 that says infallibility must be clearly manifest. Even the final document next year or so will fall beneath that level….especially the idea of an intrinsic disorder (catechism) producing gifts ( relatio).
    Even as exalted an encyclical as Splendor of the Truth had moral mistakes in section 80 where it calls slavery an intrinsic evil. That is an incorrect judgement because God gave slavery to the Jews ( of a perpetual/ possession type) over foreigners in Leviticus 25:44-46. Slavery saves petty criminals’ lives in nomadic settings otherwise petty thieves would be killed when there are insufficient prisons or none.
    Sect.80 also calls deportation an intrinsic evil. Is it? Not even the Pope is railing against our constant deportation proceedings each week vis a vis Central Americans who came illegally…. and when two muslim students were deported from Italy back to North Africa for planning to kill Pope Benedict, that Pope did not denounce the deportation.

  8. Bill-
    * Ok, so there are very specific parameters regarding teaching “ex cathedra”. But this raises the question of the normal teaching by the Magisterium which is not proclaimed from St. Peter’s chair and is no less authoritative.

    * I’m not convinced that your example demonstrates what you think it demonstrates. Splendor of Truth was referring to slavery in the sense of ownership of the person’s humanity. The Old Testament does not in any way have this in mind, so it’s not a valid comparison.

    * This demonstrates the need to truly understand what the Church does teach infallibly as part of the Deposit of the Faith so that these errors of understanding do not persist or creep into one’s thought process.

  9. PaulD,
    We differ. Splendor of the Truth used simply the word “slavery” and “deportation”. It did not specify the meaning you gave it which is your words not John Paul’s. In leaving both terms unnuanced and unqualified, it communicated all slavery and all deportation to the normal reader. If we read that premarital sex is wrong, we infer that all premarital sex is wrong.
    Likewise your defense of the Old Testament might also be an unjustifed amelioration…Leviticus 25:45-46 says of foreign slaves…” These you may possess, and bequeath to your children as their hereditary possession forever.”. Exodus 21:20 says…” When someone strikes his male or female slave with a rod so that the slave dies under his hand, the act shall certainly be avenged.21 If however, the slave survives a day or two , he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.” NAB revised edition.
    Canon749 is not only about ex cathedra but also about what took place in Evangelium Vitae three times….the other extraordinary magisterial mode. There e.g. abortion ( sect.62) was infallibly declared condemned not by ex cathedra but by the Pope having polled all Bishops worldwide and citing their agreeing with him that abortion was wrong always. The ordinary magisterium always said that but by 1995, Pope and others were admitting that the ordinary magisterium contains the infallible ( universal) and the non infallible in morals since e.g. Exsurge Domine (1520) affirmed killing heretics under pain of excommunication while sect.80 of Splendor of the Truth condemned ” coercion of spirit” as an intrinsic evil. Arguably from 1253 til 1960, affirming killing heretics was the ordinary magisterium view of that issue ( though John Paul’s view dominated the first millenium).

  10. Bill- The hermenuetic understanding of Church doctrine extends to all the Magisterial resources that have been provided to us. It has been my experience that regardless of whether a term is defined within a document it usually has been addressed elsewhere in multiple sources given the 2000 years of teaching. I’m relying on the CCC in this case:

    The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason – selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian – lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord.”194


  11. Paul D,
    But that catechism passage is talking within a largely non nomadic modern world. There is still a nomadic world among the uncontacted tribes of Brazil, Peru, North Africa and parts of the South Pacific where you had better hope there is still biblical slavery as in the somewhat nomadic OT times. Here’s why: where there are no prisons or very few, slavery is the solution to (inter alia) crimes that are less than murder…and to unpayable debt.
    God in Genesis 9:6 gave execution for murder only …to the sons of Noah…ie Jews and Gentiles. In nomadic settings there is a temptation sans prisons to execute for other things beyond that permission…like recurring petty theft of one large theft. Slavery in that context alleviates the problem and provides an outdoor productive prison without prisons in cultures that don’t build solid buildings that can be locked. They could tie a petty criminal to a tree and feed him daily but that like our prisons often is not penance but deterioration.
    In short, no catechism writer from the CDF is going to state out loud that God did not give slavery in Leviticus 25 to the Jews as the Bible says He did. But He gave it in a culture that did not have extensive buildings just for criminals and just war captures and in a culture that could not process hopeless debtors in great numbers. Slavery solved all three categories in nomadic and quasi nomadic settings.
    locked buildings etc. In short slavery saved lives in the Bible and may well do so in the Amazon right now in unwitting accord with Leviticus 25:44-46.

  12. We are talking circles around one another and creating a false dichotomy.

    You used the term “biblical slavery”. If you are using it in the sense that it is used within SOT and the Catechism then this distinction is strong enough to render it distinctly different from slavery that is not biblical.

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