Now I may be wrong (it’s been known), but what I’m reading suggests that the infamous Synod is likely to result in what I’d call the ‘Orthodox option’ – by which I mean power being delegated to local churches to make what the Pope would call ‘pastoral decisions’. On the surface that’s sensible enough – except, as the Anglicans found out, if you have one local church saying you can have a gay bishop marrying his chum, and another one saying that is heresy, you have a bust up, not two brother churches getting along in amity. Perhaps no one at the Vatican knows this?
If this is where it’s heading, the results will be the same as in Anglicanism. The Africans and Asian will stick with what the Church has always taught, the Europeans and the Americans (some of them) will look for ingenious ways of doing what their society demands. The Africans and Asians will continue to see their churches grow, the Americans and Europeans will see a shrinkage, and in the end the latter will, as C commented to me in an email, end up sending missionaries to re-evangelise us.
But what, in all this, of the Pope? Seems to me that there won’t be much need for him. If each local church can do as its bishops decide, then they don’t need an umpire – especially one who has a problem judging – after all, that’s what an umpire is for, and if he can’t, or won’t judge, then there’s no need for the fellow.
That would open up interesting vistas in terms of Christian unity. One might expect to see the dwindling local churches of Europe finding some syncretistic formula that would allow them to unite to service their vanishing congregations – which would probably vanish even more quickly. That would allow those churches where there are orthodox believers who take the historic creeds seriously, to evangelise, with the help of the African and Asian churches, which, let’s face it, have vocations to spare. Within a generation or so, the United Church of tolerance of everything, would be down to a basement in Ecclestone Square, and the others would be expanding by evangelisation.
So, who can tell, for all the doom-mongering, perhaps rambling Pope Frank is following a path which will allow the progressives to expire slowly in their unholy huddle, and leave the way clear for orthodoxy to triumph. It’s all very well to have clever plans, but the Holy Ghost will lead, and he may well lead Pope Frank to a place where, all appearances to the contrary, he ends up doing something necessary. It would allow the Vatican II ‘spirit’ to die slowly whilst inoculating the rest of the Catholic Church against it.
Just a thought to cheer my Catholic friends here!