Sunday, November 1, 2015

(163) Why All of This Fuss Over Pope Francis and the Synod on the Family?

Adulation and babies to kiss at Independence Square in Philadelphia
            He was adulated as a super star during his visit to the United States.  Yet he continues to have his share of controversy and is sometimes misunderstood, especially when he speaks off the cuff in interviews and the media interprets it according to its agenda.  Some points brought out in the Synod add more controversy.  Let’s put it all into perspective. 

Pope Francis is just a human being and he’s the first to tell you that.  When asked who is Jorge Brogolio?  His answer was: “a sinner”.  Below Pope Francis warmly greets prisoners in a Philadelphia jail, the Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility.  His speech there was beautiful. For the complete text, go to

His parents were Italian immigrants, who fled from Italian Fascism to Argentina; naturally the family spoke Italian at home.  His father was an accountant.  After graduating from a Salesian Catholic high school, Jorge Brogolio had no lofty ambitions, working for a couple of years as a bouncer and a chemical technician. On his way to propose to his girlfriend, he suddenly felt a strong calling to the priesthood during Confession.  The Lord would not let him forget his calling any longer.  Despite opposition from his mother, he joined the very intellectual Jesuit Order, which gave him years of intense preparation and study.  After ordination, he taught and was later removed as Rector of the San Miguel Seminary for being too conservative.  He was even told not to reside in Jesuit houses.  See for a detailed biography. 

Relegated to obscurity, St. Pope John Paul II rescued Fr. Jorge Brogolio S.J., making him Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires and later Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998.  Cardinal Brogolio was known for his love for the poor and simple lifestyle, but consistently faithful to Church teaching.  Despite being relatively unknown outside of Argentina in 2013, he was elected Pope under the guidance of the Holy Spirit which the College of Cardinals earnestly prayed for).  Suddenly he was thrust onto the world stage.  Soon he was adulated as a super star.  To handle all of that and not let it go to his head, one has to have deep humility.

From the very start he identified himself with the poor as Christ Himself did.  On being elected Pope he refused to move into the Papal Apartments, but rather lives in the same modest suite he occupied as Cardinal Jorge Brogolio S.J. during the Conclave.  Below Pope Francis has an informal audience in the Vatican with a few of the homeless of Rome.  He even had showers put in off of St. Peter's Square for them.  

Pope Francis chats with a few of the homeless of Rome in an informal audience in the Vatican.

Pope Francis deeply realizes that any adulation is not for him, but for his office as Vicar of Christ and the 265th successor to St. Peter.  After many if not most of his speeches, he asks the people to pray for him.  Pope Francis is clearly a man of prayer.

The coat of arms of Pope Francis below tells much about him.  He is devoted to his order, the Society of Jesus (IHS symbolizes the Holy Name of Jesus and the order) and its founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, a true soldier of Christ, who was wounded in battle before his conversion.  The eight pointed star indicates his devotion to Mary, the Morning Star, and the Spikenard flower symbolizes St. Joseph.  The keys symbolize the keys to the Kingdom attributed to St. Peter and his successors.  The miter symbolizes his other office as Bishop of Rome.  Below the shield is Latin for “By giving mercy and by choosing”.  Mercy is paramount in his love for the poor and desire to bring back those estranged from the Church……homosexuals, divorced and remarried Catholics, fallen away Catholics, drifting Catholics, etc.

Pope Francis called for the advisory Synod on the Family in 2014 and 2015 to learn more from church leaders all over the world (300 bishops, married laypeople, etc.) in order to make wiser decisions.  He called on Christian faithful to “embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church's journey in years to come."  The Pope's vision is reflected in his address to delegates at the opening of this second Synod on October 5 that the goal is “to read the reality of present times with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God.”  He also pointed out that the Church is not a museum which Christians are called to guard or save, but rather that the Church is a living force and witness in history to the love of God as salt and light.  Pope Francis, therefore, called on the delegates to enter into dialogue with one another in a spirit of humility, courage, and openness to the Holy Spirit through fidelity to the faith, the Gospel, and the will of God.

He is even allowing individual bishops to state the ridiculous and lets them talk all they want in complete freedom to maximize creativity.  For the sake of diversity the liberals may have been disproportionately represented.  Pope Francis is a product of Jesuit thinking that the Holy Spirit often works through discussion, debate, and even contradiction that comes up in the process.  Hopefully, it will not open a Pandora’s Box of dissent, division, and off-the-wall ideas against Church teaching as had happened after Vatican II.  Yes, Pope Francis would like to have consensus, but the decisions up or down are solely his since the synod, like the parish council, is advisory and consultative.  The Church is not a democracy.  Clearly Pope Francis is open to reform, but not at the expense of doctrine.  Papal infallibility seldom comes into play except when the Pope, after considerable intense prayer, study, and deliberation, makes a solemn declaration on faith and morals.  The last prominent examples were the declarations of the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854 and her Assumption in 1950. 

The liberal press speculates that Pope Francis will change church teaching and allow those who are divorced and later remarried to receive the sacraments.  The gay community is pushing for the Church to recognize their life style as morally legitimate and allow gay marriage.  As Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he vehemently opposed the passage of the law permitting gay marriage in Argentina.  Of course, the Church has always welcomed those with same sex attraction, but it cannot condone the sexual lifestyle.  Sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman always has been and always will be morally wrong.  The Synod restated Church teaching that homosexual tendencies are not sinful, but homosexual acts are. 

Opening Session of the Synod on the Family October 6, 2014
There cannot be nor will there be any change in Church teaching regarding divorced and remarried Catholics.  They are most welcome to attend Mass and devotions, participate in parish life, but not receive the sacraments unless the couple promises their confessors to live as brother and sister.  The Synod did recommend flexibility on the divorced and remarried being allowed to receive Holy Communion on an individual case by case basis under the direction of each bishop, but that could be abused to the point of watering down the doctrine that marriage is insoluble.  Nevertheless, the Pope has the final word on that.  

St. Pope John Paul II reaffirmed and clarified Church teaching on marriage and the family in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio ( and  Pope Francis could update it, but would not contradict it.

In 1968 it was widely believed that the Church would change its teaching on contraception and Pope Paul VI was under great pressure to do so.  After much agonizing, Paul VI, wrote a landmark encyclical, “Humanae Vitae (On Human Life)”, a classic with the help of a great philosopher, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła (later St. Pope John Paul II).  It not only reaffirmed Church teaching, but was prophetic, predicting that contraception would be a slippery slope leading to more promiscuity, more divorce, and more abortion.  All of that came to pass and the world is suffering as a result.

Pope Francis like previous popes will be in union with his predecessors.  He may refine, clarify, or deepen our understanding of Church teaching, but he will not contradict it.  Remarkable is the evolution of Church social teaching, beginning with Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum on the Condition of Labor in 1891.  Pius XI updated it with Quadragesimo Anno (Forty Years After) in 1931, John XIII with Mater et Magistra in 1961, Paul VI with Octogesima Adveniens in 1971, John Paul II with Centesimo Anno in 1991, and Benedict XVI with Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) in 2009.  In no instance did one contradict the other.  It was always a case of reinforcing his predecessors, bringing the application of Church teaching up to date, confronting new evils in changing times, building upon, deepening, and refining.  For the original text of virtually every papal encyclical and many other papal documents, go to   
No Pope will ever contradict his predecessor(s) on basic Church teaching or change Church doctrine.  It is inconceivable that any pope would contradict 2000 years of Church teaching.  The Holy Spirit would not allow it.  A couple of past popes have assumed the papal office with an agenda for change in doctrine, but could not do it.  After all, Christ promised that He would be with the Church until the consummation of the world.  Pope Francis is looking for ways to reach the estranged and bring them back into communion with the Church to fulfill his God given mission, but not at the expense of changing basic Church teaching.  It won’t happen.  TRUTH WILL PREVAIL!

Our Lord Himself appointed Peter as the first Pope and established the office of the Papacy for his successors: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19)…….”I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20).  

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