A question of trust

We have never liked Depeche Mode as much as New Order. That said, we were put in mind of a certain 1986 single by Depeche Mode (out at about the same time as New Order’s “Shellshock,” which also seems somehow appropriate to our circumstances) by Father Ray Blake’s post “The Synod of Mistrust.” Blake argues,

What seems to have been at the heart of the Synod and its point of crisis is nothing to do with the issues on the table, nothing to do with family or homosexuals or communion, it is trust. Trust has broken down, no-one trusts the people who report the Synod’s discussions. Fr Lombardi and his crew seem more about obfuscation than clarity. Fr Rosica, his English speaking side-kick, has become a twitter by-word for bullying and is seen as presenting of his own pro-gay agenda. Both are seen as presenting the ‘spirit’ of the Synod, not the Synod itself. In the same way most, if not all of  those who are entrusted with responsibility by the Pope, like Cardinal Baldissieri and Archbishop Forte and other papal appointees, are regarded either as being corrupt or part of the ‘gay-lobby’. They are simply not trusted.

The great divide between the Germans and most of the rest of the Synod again underlines a break-down in trust, it is unfortunate that the Pope has allowed himself to be seen as allied to the German cause.

To an observer, mistrust seems to be at the heart of the Synod. There is a great contrast between those of a ‘liberal’ perspective and those who oppose them. The trouble is that the ‘liberals’ are incredibly inarticulate, rather like poor old Cardinal Dew or Cardinal Wuerl or even our own Bishop Doyle, who has never struck me as being in the avant guard of revolutionary, or even contemporary, thought. What are they saying? The truth is no-one knows, which means they inspire and capture no-one’s imagination, no-one will die for what they have to say, no-one will commit themselves to what they have to say, because ultimately they have nothing to say. It is merely vacuous prattle, which breeds confusion and becomes like the Holy Father’s, which tend to be nagging rather than edifying.

(Emphasis supplied and links removed.) Father Blake is a little gloomy, to be sure. However, we think he understates, if anything, the problem. The basic problem is that the Holy Father and most of his appointees are running a major deficit of trust with many Catholics.

Look at Mitis iudex. The basic standard of review for a nullity case is the same as always: the judge has to be morally certain that the marriage was void ab initio, and this is true whether the case proceeds on the ordinary contentious process or on the processus brevior. Yet, it is clear that many Catholics—including many intelligent, sensible Catholics, including some prelates—are convinced that Mitis iudex will result in Catholic divorce. Why? Well, they simply do not trust diocesan bishops to uphold the law regarding nullity cases. And they apparently do not trust that the Holy Father, through his Roman tribunals, to keep the dioceses in line.

Likewise, the debate over Laudato si’ has come down to a question of trust. Some Catholics think the Pope has sold out to the U.N.-backed leftist bloc on climate change. At the very least, these Catholics think that the Holy Father has given in to a bien-pensant consensus that pits, well, everyone against the developed, wealthy West. Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., has pointed out, convincingly, the ways in which Laudato si’ brilliantly criticizes the technocratic-anthropocentric outlook of modernity and the ways which that outlook opposes God and his creation. Likewise, we have yet to be convinced that Laudato si’ is out of line with Rerum novarum, Quadragesimo anno, or Populorum progressio—all of which, notwithstanding the Actonistas’ wishes otherwise, are solidly magisterial at this point. All that said, it is plain that many serious Catholics simply do not trust the Holy Father to agree with climate-change advocates where agreement is possible and to disagree on the (many) points where agreement is not possible. They think he’s going to give away the farm. There is no other conclusion to be drawn—except, of course, in the cases of those who have consistently resisted the Church’s economic teaching since Mater et Magistra.

And, of course, the paroxysms regarding the Synod, its leadership, and its procedures are well known. Certainly, John Paul and Benedict appointed their fair share of liberalizers and Modernists; there are not many cardinals named by Paul VI remaining (one, maybe?). Thus, almost everyone with a red hat got it from John Paul or Benedict. Likewise, there are not many bishops remaining who were not appointed by John Paul or Benedict. That said, the faithful plainly trusted John Paul and Benedict notwithstanding their mixed record of episcopal and cardinalatial appointments to hold the line in a way that they do not trust Francis.

Does the Holy Father deserve this atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion? Certainly not! Much of it is the result of the media, taking the Holy Father’s often broad, broadly encouraging statements and turning them into the veritable constitution of a new church that bears little resemblance to the one Christ founded. We doubt very much if the Holy Father intends this. But we think that the Holy Father likes to present a welcoming, compassionate face of the Church. (We have often said that were Father Bergoglio our confessor, we’d rave about him to all and sundry.) But the fact remains, the atmosphere is what it is.

Perhaps everything does come down to a question of trust.