Friday, November 3, 2023

Synodality to Synodolatry: The Imperial Narcissism of Team Francis

The pope with participants at the Synod on Synodality, 2023

Much digital ink has been spilled by faithful Catholics pretending to be confused by the Synod on Synodality. One can’t really blame them for adopting the pretense. It allows them leeway to maintain some of the reverence due the pope and our bishops. Still, what is happening at this synod is not confusing. So I will spill much less ink.

What they are doing in Rome at present is making an idol of the Church. They have largely written out Our Lord from the synod documents, and seek to worship in His place a Church reconceived as a progressive, well-meaning “community”. To judge from reports and documents so far, the essential core of this new religion is this mere fact of community itself, figured as “walking together”. According to one German bishop, such “walking together” is now to supersede Apostolic tradition.

That’s it. It’s a trite and shallow idolatry. It’s the self-worship of a right-thinking collective, with the “right-thinking” to be gleaned by "listening to" the western secular left. To do this particular listening is to hear “the voice of the Spirit”. Amazingly, this is the claim we get from clerics who otherwise can’t stop talking about the importance of “discernment”. Larry Chapp, always a sensitive interpreter, has got their number.

The ”synodal Church” is the Church reconceived as social media. It’s the Church looking for likes and shares. And they hope to pull this off by means of a clumsy sleight of hand.

Clumsy? Consider: They offer 1) a single neologism, synodality, and 2) the assertion that the queried desires of a hand-picked group of Catholics can tell us where the Spirit is leading. Based on these two magician’s tricks alone, they intend to remake the Church. “Everything will change!” they say.

Yes, the Church is to become yet another site for the self-worship of the current West.

Which raises the larger, universal meaning. After all, through “synodality” the West’s therapeutic self-worship will be imposed on the Church in Africa and Asia too. More than just a shoddy bait and switch on the part of western clerics, then, this synod is also a matter of cultural imperialism.

“Listen to the margins!” they tell us. Then they choose the same margins American corporate culture now chooses. They impose the same idea of “marginal” our State Department now imposes. Except note: Corporate America and the State Department got there first. Does the Holy Spirit then take directives from US coastal elites? Apparently.

Our current pope is supposedly a strident critic of American capitalist culture, yet we see in this synod that he hears the same Zeitgeist our corporate CEOs hear. And just as these corporate CEOs now pretend to make their companies into “diverse and inclusive communities” of the right-thinking, putting their investors and customers in second place, so the men around our pope seek to do with the Church. No longer is it the faithful Bride of Christ who serves His will, but a sublimated “walking together” during which “every voice will be listened to”. And just as with our corporations and fallen universities, that assertion regarding “every voice” is a bald-faced lie. Watch what happens to those who disagree with this new version of the Church, who seek to keep faith with long-established magisterial teaching. Such people are “rigid”, or even "dead". They are to be mocked or excluded.

Our pope then, by presiding over this remaking of the Church, makes himself the criterion by which Catholics are or are not part of the community. Given the context, it is a gesture of self-deification. He is the Vicar of Christ who presumes to change his Master’s teaching according to his own “right-thinking” as vicar, then to exclude those who point out what he is doing. He cannot cite magisterial teaching against them. All he can do is scoff and offer a version of the claim that they are “not in line with the values of our community”—values which are increasingly those of the secular western left.

The ideology driving the statements of synod participants and dictating the documents is thus more than familiar. It’s boilerplate 21st century identity politics. It’s the imperial narcissism of the self-obsessed western left. The only thing newsworthy about this synod is the fact that a pope and bishops are present, consenting to it. Yet that is very newsworthy.

“You are Peter, and on this rock I will found my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

I believe those words. Yet these men in Rome, the gates of secular self-worship have prevailed against them. So how will they fare with the gates of hell?

I believe it is still His Church. Which means I have to decide who these men are. These men who babble nonstop about discernment are finally forcing many of us to discern, though not along with them.

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