So,the Synod is over, and there we have it – the final statement which is, we are told a great improvement on the working drafts. Already liberal Catholics are ‘virtue signalling’ by tweeting and writing about ‘mercy’ as though they have just discovered it and think they own it. The spin machine of the German bishops is in overdrive, with claims that they got what they wanted. But one wonders? The Pope chose to make some sour comments about ‘closed hearts’, following the modernist view that an open heart is synonymous with an empty head, which hardly suggest he feels that the liberal agenda is now approved. It is clear what the Pope would like, but a Pope is a Pope, and they come, and they go, and this one has done what one suspects his backers wanted – and their throw of the dice has failed – although they will loudly proclaim otherwise.
There is a generation, which for the sake of convenience, one might call the ’68ers’ – it makes better sense in French where they refer to the ‘soixante huitards‘ – who thought that the tide of liberalism of 1968 marked a decisive change in the direction of history; they thought they were riding that tide. Those who did so in the secular world were right, but their religious counterparts were not so fortunate from the point of view of their careers. It is true that being so many, some of them have reached senior positions in the Church, but John Paul II and Benedict XVI proved stout defenders of orthodoxy, and with a younger generation of Western priests coming through in that mould, and with African and Asian priests of impeccable orthodoxy, the 68ers were running out of time. Benedict XVI’s unexpected abdication led to their being able to get their man in. The two Synods were their throw of the dice – and they have lost. The tide of history was not moving in their direction – they are dinosaurs stranded on sandbanks as the tide goes out.
They will, as is their wont, try to use words to mean what they want the words to mean, and those who agree with them will do the same; but that is hardly a new development – they have been doing it for fifty years – and longer – there is a reason the English use the word ‘Jesuitical’ as a synonym for casuistry. However, the speed of modern social media has meant that attempts to rig the Synod have not only been spotted, but called out and combatted. Those who were worried about a liberal triumph will continue to be, but many of these seem uncomfortable with the very existence of a liberal Catholicism; what is notable here is that even with a rigged Synod, the liberal agenda did not prevail. Given the age profile of the liberals and the fact that the rising generation is the John Paul II one, with heavy reinforcement from Africa and Asia, the demographics are against the German Cardinals. A group who can call for mercy towards those who reject established Catholic teaching, but show none to people who don’t pay their Church tax, and who are presiding over emptying pews in a Continent where the faith is ebbing fast, are in no position to claim to control the future.
Back when these men in their 70s were young, the culture they were in was one in which many were Catholics without thinking about it, and some such went into seminaries in much the same way. Some left in the sixties and early seventies, some stayed on thinking that things would change and that they could help. The passive-aggressive bitterness which marks so many of their utterances is the produce of hope deferred, and it feels almost cruel to tell them that they are a dying breed – but they are. As I commented in a recent piece in the Catholic Herald (not alas on line) the liberal option in religion leads to the Dignitas euthanasia clinic. The Faith, and the Church, will march on, and the soixante huitards will become yet another interesting sociological phenomenon to be studies by those with a taste for such things. Men attached to once-fashionable nostrums have their opinions, God has his Law, and we should be in no doubt about who will prevail.