Pope Francis may be trying to put a kinder, gentler face on the Catholic church but it is good to remember that he has not actually changed the doctrine in any way, just shifted attention away from church stances that are becoming increasingly unpopular. The Synod of Bishops is currently in session and there is clearly tension between the various factions in the church.
It was reported that some thirteen cardinals were so alarmed by recent changes the pope made to the synod’s entrenched (and predictable) methodology that they sent him a letter of appeal and protest (though a number of those identified as signatories have denied it). Nonetheless, Francis basically rejected their claims the day after allegedly receiving the letter when, in a rare intervention before the entire general assembly, he told the bishops to stop using the “hermeneutics of conspiracy,” which he called “sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful.”
The pope’s enemies — and there are many at every level of the church and in the media — have seized upon the bishops’ real and perceived hysteria to forge the narrative that Francis’ 31-month-old pontificate is now in grave danger of totally unraveling.
But there’s another storyline to what’s been transpiring in these early days of the three-week-long synodal assembly. It is this: for the first time in the half-century that the synod has existed, there is a pope who — with increasing evidence — seems intent on finally developing the potential of this permanent body and making it a constitutive element of universal Church governance.
This alarms many bishops and it scares the bejesus out the old guard in the Roman Curia. At least those who have been paying attention.
(I am amused that the National Catholic Reporter uses the term ‘bejesus’.)
But an archbishop in America has decided to tell parish clergy not to be confused by all this debate and instructed them to exactly follow the current doctrines. This means that anyone who publicly contradicts doctrine or joins or supports any organization that does, should not be allowed to receive communion or even use any of the church facilities.
This means that divorced people and gays are ruled out. Note also that church doctrine also forbids contraception so strictly enforcing this rule would, for starters, keep out pretty much all women.