If and when the time comes, what will you do? Will you go along, stay silent, or speak out?
That is the question that confronts me and has confronted me since the day Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. For better or for worse, I chose to speak out in opposition to that unprecedented action and was roundly criticized for it. Again, for better or for worse, I made the decision to occasionally speak out during this year of living ambiguously and for this decision I have made no friends.
For these decisions I have been called a reactionary, a pompous jerk, unmerciful, and even a sedevacantist. That’s ok.
The ‘reactionary’ thing is probably the most common pejorative used against most who have voiced concerns over events of the last year or even the last 50 years. When something happens and you ‘react’ to it in a negative way, you are branded a reactionary. That is the nature of the beast.
So I thought I might approach the problem from a different angle so that everyone can understand that a decision to ‘react’ is not necessarily reactionary. Rather it is a difficult conscious decision, but perspective is needed to see that.
In order to avoid the ‘reactionary’ label, let us take the react out of it. Let’s look together at a possible future scenario and ask yourself how you would choose to behave and why?
Say, for the sake of hypothetical but plausible example, the outcome of the Synod on the Family on the question of admission of divorced and remarried to communion follows the suggestions of Papal advisers Cardinals Marx and Kasper. That the remarried are admitted to communion after some pastoral counseling and the annulment process is moved from tribunal to pastor. In this case, the Church does not change its immutable teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, but the newly implemented pastoral praxis dramatically alters the landscape.
Let’s leave the predictable liberal cheering of such moves aside for the moment and focus on those orthodox Catholics who rightly understand the dangers associated with such change in praxis. For such as these, I see three options, go along, stay silent, or speak out.
The first group will go along. They principally see orthodoxy as simple adherence to the current magisterium. They are generally unconcerned with whatever prior teaching and practice might have been. In essence they are magisterialists and view orthodoxy through this lens. If this is what the Pope and Bishops say today, then that is what orthodoxy means today. That the Pope and the Bishops have practically and pastorally erred historically and allowed schism to develop and harden is of no consequence. The Bishops must have their reasons and we are not to question them. They will be the most vocal critics of any that do not share their magesterialism.
The second group will stay silent. They recognize in part the dangers that such a break from tradition represents and that such practices risk undermining the doctrine itself. Yet, they will focus almost entirely on the simple fact that the Church has not formally changed her teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. If they talk about it at all, they will focus on that aspect, the Church has not changed its teaching so there is nothing to get upset about. They are generally orthodox Catholics who seek to remove to the castle keep only the immutable doctrine, no matter the losses of souls and tradition that occur outside the walls.
The last group will choose to speak out. They recognize that such a a change in praxis is a complete contradiction. That the very idea of readmission goes against all tradition and undermines the doctrine to the point of irrelevance. Further, they recognize that moving the annulment process to pastors would defacto make for quick and easy Catholic divorce.
Those pastors who resist it would be pilloried as merciless and Catholic divorce seekers would simply find a more agreeable pastor. They would rightly understand that such changes in praxis undermines the whole understanding of marriage and can lead to other worse woes such as those openly hoped for by the Bishop of Middlesbrough, Terence Drainey when he says that the synod should ” call[ed] for a “radical re-examination of human sexuality” that could lead to a development in church teaching in areas such as contraception, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage and cohabitation and the role of women in the Church.”
This group would realize that this current magisterial ‘praxis’ is not infallible and is in direct contradiction to all the tradition that came before it that sought to uphold the critical and immutable understanding of marriage. Recognizing the danger to doctrine and souls, this group would feel compelled to speak out and actively oppose the implementation of this praxis. The also understand that if such initiatives become rooted, there is genuine danger of real and lasting schism within the Church on these issues. I say schism because one assumes there may be Bishops, priests, and lay people who refuse to go along and as such will be seen as separate.
As such, this group will choose to speak out even though they will likely be pilloried by liberals and the magisterialists. But nevertheless, they feel compelled to support and restore the traditional understanding and praxis that support the doctrine.
So if something like this was to happen, which group would you be in? What would you choose to do? Would you agree that the latter group above are merely reactionaries and that their intransigence hurts the Church?
I would ask you to think about it. For my part, I have made my choice. In the case of schism, break glass. We can clean up the mess later.