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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Synod's 'Maginot Line'

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The Synod's 'Maginot Line'
After the experience of the First World War, French military geniuses (who’d long since abandoned their good Catholic sense), stuffed full of wine, cheese, and hubris, built a famous line of fortifications in the east intended to prevent Germany from invading again. They built a line of fixed fortifications, strong and sturdy.  

When completed in the 1930’s, these French military geniuses congratulated themselves on their foresight and sagacity, convinced that they had prevented another invasion from Germany from the east.

The Germans simply invaded France from the north. They simply went around the Maginot line. It seems the French military geniuses never thought of that.

I am reminded of the famous Maginot line today as I saw a flurry of stories these past days about how the “conservatives” are standing up at the synod, closing the door to this or that innovation in doctrine. Case in point, Cardinal Vingt-Trois (fittingly a French Cardinal) said that those expecting “spectacular change” of Church doctrine will be disappointed.

O goody.

We see breathless stories from those who would like nothing more than spectacular change, crowing how the “Conservatives Struck First”

In his 7,000-word opening address on Monday morning, intended to set the tone for the synod’s work, Erdő seemed determined to close a series of doors that many people believed the last synod had left open — beginning with the controversial proposal of German Cardinal Walter Kasper to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to return to Communion.

That Communion ban, Erdő insisted, is not an “arbitrary prohibition” but “intrinsic” to the nature of marriage as a permanent union. Mercy, he said, doesn’t just offer the possibility of forgiveness, it also “demands conversion.”

So the conservatives have learned the lessons from the first synod, we are told, and they will not let THAT happen again. They will not allow an interim document like THAT again. They will make sure to argue against changing doctrine on this matter and some may even argue against changes in discipline.

The conservatives are ready this time; they will not allow Germany to invade from the east again!!

Uh. Guess what? They saw you building these defenses last year and they have decided to go around.

None of these speeches matter. None of these discussions matter. They have already hand-picked those administrators writing the closing statement, which by all accounts is already under development.

As for the rest, all power remains with the Pope. The synod fathers can say whatever they want. It will have little or no impact on the final document or upon what the Holy Father will ultimately decide.

Further, we all know that the true threat here is no direct contradiction of Catholic teaching by the synod or the Pope. The real dangers are opening the doors of innovation on pastoral practice that undermine the very doctrine they hold as unchangeable. You have to be a fool or a French military genius to think that the front line of this war is doctrinal.

All is being setup this way, even by those ‘conservatives’ so highly touted now. For every nugget of opposition to innovation you hear, there is a boulder of exhortation to unity and avoiding division, with the Pope, of course, cited as the source and font of unity, the theme being "The Pope is the guarantor of orthodoxy and union." The changes to rule and rhetoric show us that front lines of this battle are not where the “conservatives” imagined they would be. They are setting up the most papalist Synod in centuries. But it is not ultramontane papalism, but pure papal positivism.

Whatever pastoral door is opened, we must all walk through it, they will argue, for to do otherwise is to break with unity.


Pray for the pope. 

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Last modified on Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Patrick Archbold

Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report and a Catholic writer on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company. Patrick, his wife Terri, and their five children reside in Long Island, N.Y.