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The Synodal Church Will be Guided by the Spirit of the Age

The Daily Knight

Complicit Clergy

The camera never lies; except that it does. A still photograph taken out of context can be wholly misleading. A video less so, since it provides context. The October Synod in Rome has produced two contradictory responses in observers.

Those who look at the still photograph have been saying “nothing has changed. The catastrophists were wrong. See, no women priests, no homosexual blessings, no change”.

But the opposite is the case. The video tells a different story. One might begin any assessment by asking, if there is no change, what was the Synod all about? Why the cost, the enormous expenditure of effort? Was it really all to enable a couple of hundred hand-picked people the opportunity to self-soothe and engage in ecclesiastical group therapy?

Clearly not. Instrumentum Laboris offered a clear indication that a new kind of theological language was being used, and for a purpose: to facilitate the evolution into a new kind of Church. Salvation was replaced by politics and therapy. The Catholic journalist Jeanne Smits argued that evolution was the wrong term.

She said: “It’s a revolution that’s fundamentally abandoning the definition of the Church as the mystical body of Christ, in order to see it as … a new Church.”

For observers who have watched other ecclesial bodies over the last 50 years, the strategies employed by the proponents of the new synodality look very familiar.

The Episcopalians in America trod this path in the 1980s, as did the Anglicans in England in the 1990s. When the Anglicans turned to the device of detaching theology from the tradition and moving it into encounter groups they chose the term “indaba”.

Indaba is a Zulu concept which describes a gathering for purposeful discussion. It was designed to facilitate “listening as well as speaking and the emergence of wisdom and a common mind”.

Does that sound a little familiar?

It does all the more so when you add the trope “listening to, or in, the ‘spirit’”.

The Anglicans failed to define what they meant by the “spirit”, in exactly the same way as members of the recent Synod bandied about the word as if it should deflect all criticism or save them from any further accountability of examination of what they meant by it.

The task of discernment was equally foreign to both Anglican and Catholic progressives. Traditional Christianity, on the other hand, has always placed considerable emphasis on being able to tell the difference between the different spirits.

Even Hegel knew enough to define what “spirit” meant for him, but political or therapeutic Christianity has no experience or expertise in this. The strategy was as clear as it was pneumatically incompetent.

It was intended to relocate the epistemology that defines the Church – to detach it from Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium and relocate it in the newly authoritative context of therapeutic “group encounter” precisely so that it could be claimed that the “spirit” had informed the Church. But all the indications are that this is not the Holy Spirit. How otherwise could one explain the Holy Spirit was contradicting what He effected in the past?

Instead this appears to be the spirit of the age, since the values it stimulates and promotes are the opposite of those of the apostolic or renewed Church. How is the anticipated revolution to be achieved, given that no significant decision were arrived at on this occasion?

Answer: by establishing two effective mechanisms to change what the Church believes and practises; the creation of the principle and process of synodality itself and the adjudicating concept of the sensus fidei.

In practice, this present Synod is of course only the beginning of a process. We have been promised that it will be followed with another one in 2024. It is, of course, a well-known principle of stalking that you don’t frighten your prey too early. There was never any intention for this Synod to take any heterodox decisions.

What was important was that it should be established as an alternative forum with a mandate to “listen to the spirit” and propose the Church change its teaching accordingly. Now that the mechanism is safely in place and the precedent has been established without being successfully challenged, the achievement of the change of doctrine can wait a few months.

The sensus fidelium is critical to this and when we ask what it is, we find that it is defined in impossibly vague terms.

The Synod document states: “All believers possess an instinct for the truth of the gospel, the sensus fidei. It consists in a certain connaturality with divine realities and the aptitude to grasp what conforms to the truth of faith intuitively.”

While this may be true in the most general sense, it fails in practical implementation in any historical context. If were true on the sense it was offered, there would be few or no schisms in Church history. It is either a piece of naivety of politically useful revisionism.

“Synodal processes enhance this gift and allow for verifying the existence of that consensus of the faithful (consensus fidelium), which is a sure criterion for determining whether a particular doctrine or practice belongs to the Apostolic faith.”

The audacity that lies behind this statement is as breathtaking as it is threatening. In a piece of progressive Gnosticism “intuitive” authority is being claimed for a handpicked group of people who have it in common that they support secular progressive values over traditional orthodox ones.

But that is exactly the strategy that is being adopted to achieve a revolution of dogma and teaching in the Church.

Special pleading has been adopted (exactly as it was with the Anglicans) that only our culture is sufficiently competent to understand complexities of sex and sexuality, unlike its more primitive and scientifically unskilled predecessors.

In a section entitled “Ecclesial discernment and open questions”, the Synod document proposed that “to avoid taking refuge in the comfort of conventional formulas” (which presumably means orthodox theology and the settled mind of the Church) “it was necessary to consider perspectives from the human and social sciences, philosophical reflection and theological elaboration”.

“Certain issues, such as those relating to gender identity and sexual orientation … are controversial not only in society, but also in the Church, because they raise new questions.”

And there you find presented both the platform and the mechanism for changing the Church’s teaching on the ordination of women and the blessing of gay relationships.

This strategy has clearly been in the pipeline for some considerable time and is being rolled out step by step, as a carefully conceived plan of action.

It has been preceded by a series of statements made by progressive spokesmen that have prepared the ground for the changes.

In a year’s time the next stage – the reconsideration of sex and sexuality in a way that is aligned with the better-scientifically informed values of secularity – will be intuited by the newly authoritative arbiters of faith who have been inducted into the new synodality.

The revolution is under way on on schedule. What remains to be discovered is how faithful and traditional Catholics respond to having the Church hijacked from under their feet and pews by dogma formed from the precepts of progressive ethics and therapeutic truisms.