Exit strategies

There is a growing sense that, notwithstanding the concerns expressed by many about the composition of the Synod and its procedural dispositions, that the Kasperite proposal for communion for the divorced and remarried is not achieving lightning success among the Synod fathers. Robert Royal has a lengthy essay at The Catholic Thing about where the Synod is. He notes,

One hears through the grapevine that Archbishop Cupich has made several proposals in his small language group, which have been opposed nearly unanimously. So while the media pays most attention to stories like his and those even farther out, on the fringes of the Synod, the reality is that majorities of the Synod Fathers seem really to be where Catholics have always been on those hot-button issues. And, it’s a reasonable hope, that will be reflected in the final decisions to come from the Synod Fathers this week.

At the beginning of the Synod, it would have been greatly reassuring to know that significant majorities of the Synod Fathers did not favor Communion for the Divorced and Remarried (CDR), let alone proposals about “welcoming” gay couples and those who are cohabiting – the three things the media and “the world” believe make the difference whether this has been a “successful” Synod for Pope Francis. That might even have prevented the media, Catholic and not, from creating a false sense of a Synod in chaos. Synods going back to the early centuries of Christianity have been beset by controversy, sometimes even violence. Many things might yet come out of this synod that will puzzle the faithful on top of the puzzlement many already feel. But the worst has probably been avoided – though no doubt even a tolerable final statement may, in the wrong hands, lead to considerable mischief.

(Emphasis supplied.) Of course, no one really thinks that the matter will be resolved with the Synod vote, one way or the other. Cardinal Kasper didn’t take “no” from St. John Paul, he didn’t take “no” from Cardinal Ratzinger, and there is no reason to think he’ll take “no” from Francis. Assuming, of course, Francis is inclined to say “no.” The Kasperites undoubtedly have their exit strategy marked out. And, while it might involve a strategic retreat from this position, it by no means involves capitulation at any level. The battle will continue! And the Holy Father has very helpfully drawn the battle lines for us. Royal, again:

The place where Coleridge and other Synod Fathers seem to want to turn now is partly to the possibility of local bishops’ conferences having local jurisdiction. (We’ll have to see whether that Plan B surfaces in the Final Document as an end run around the significant majority that wishes to keep the doctrinal clarity on key points where it has been for 2000 years.) But partly – in Coleridge’s case it’s a more personal thing – bishops are still asking: are there ways to “accompany” people in hard situations without really changing doctrine? Are there ways to speak of sexual sins without changing doctrine (or denying they are sins)? It’s worth keeping an eye on how that will play out. “Changes in language” are never merely changes in language.

(Emphasis supplied.) An “end run”! Le mot juste! That is exactly what devolution is for the Kasperites—an end run around the conservative bishops who say nice things about Wojtyla and Ratzinger even now. An end run around Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Napier, and the other Africans. An end run against Cardinal Müller and the doctrinal watchdogs. Of course, Ross Douthat has argued—convincingly, we think—that devolution will result in Rome assuming even more importance, since someone has to mediate between the Germans, the Africans, and everyone else. But there will be time for that later. What matters in the hic et nunc—our computer just auto-corrected hic to chic, which seems hugely appropriate in this context—is that the Germans get what they want.

However, it seems as though there is a glimmer of hope that the Kasperites might not get what they want. We have commented elsewhere that conservatives on Catholic blogs and on Twitter have spent a lot of time preparing to discredit the result of the Synod. The fix was in all along. The bishops should just walk out in protest. You, undoubtedly, are as familiar with the various lines of argument as we are. But Royal tells us that the liberals, if thwarted, have their lines of argument, too:

But the dramatizers have one thing right: the voices coming out in these last few days seem to be trying to create a narrative according to which the resistance to a more open Church stems from groundless animus at best, something more crudely “conservative” (or sinister) at worst.

(Emphasis supplied.) In other words, if the Synod fails to produce the long-hoped-for goal, the Kasperites will start in about the bishops who simply don’t like the Holy Father and the bishops (read: Africans) who are simply biased against the divorced-and-remarried and men and women struggling with same-sex attraction. Cardinal Kasper’s slip to Edward Pentin last time about the African bishops was but a sneak peek at the furious denunciations of the bishops who stood up for two thousand years of orthodoxy.