L’Église, c’est moi!

[An edited version of a comment posted at Catholic Sacristan.]

It’s beginning to look like the “reformers” have put all their eggs in the ultramontanist basket. To extend the galline metaphor, the Vatican I chickens are coming home to roost.

It seems likely at this point that at minimum, a plurality of the Synod Fathers will reject the St. Gallen Mafia agenda–which means that they will set themselves in opposition to the pope. This will no doubt be extremely painful for men have spent their entire careers adhering to a zeitgeist in which the power and personality of the pope has become magnified to an unprecedented degree, far beyond that envisaged by the Council Fathers of Vatican I. This outsized authority was all very well when the men occupying the papal office could be relied upon to be a steady hand on the tiller, and could provide an overpowering counterweight against the enthusiasms and abuses of the liberal wing of the Church.

But so far in the Synod, the Holy Father has taken pains to emphasize that all the things that are troubling the bishops–the theologically problematic Instrumentum Laboris, the manipulation of synod rules, the committee stacking, the secrecy, the ongoing Fr. Rosica debacleare happening under his direct authority and supervision. There’s simply no room left for the old, implausible wishcasting that these events were all machinations of unscrupulous subordinates taking advantage of a well-meaning but naive pontiff. Nope. The pope is essentially ordering the bishops to buckle under to his authority, no matter where it takes them. In other words, he’s attempting to enshrine Mottramism as the governing philosophy of the Church.

Will they go along? When you’ve spent your entire career deferring to the Holy Father in all things and extolling him as the gold standard of orthodoxy, what do you do when a pope appears intent on attenuating (or effectively nullifying) settled Church teaching on critical issues like matrimony, and has shown himself willing to game the system in order to do so? Do you continue to defer in all meekness? Or do you speak forthrightly, knowing that by doing so you will not only risk your position in the hierarchy, but also strike a blow against the very papal positivism that you have clung to like a life preserver, lo these many years?

Will the gambit work, or will the bishops call the pope’s bluff? This will be an interesting couple of weeks.

L’Église, c’est moi!

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