Fr. Gerald Murray: Church Teaching on Trial

The recently published North American Final Document for the Continental Stage of the 2021–2024 Synod (NAFD) confirms suspicions that the discussions at the October 2023 Synod on Synodality will almost certainly center around the alleged failure of the Church to be inclusive, welcoming, and respectful. The supposedly aggrieved include well over half of the faithful: “women, young people, immigrants, racial or linguistic minorities, LGBTQ+ persons, people who are divorced and remarried without an annulment.” Not listed here are faithful Catholics, exiled from their parishes, who prefer to attend the Traditional Latin Mass. Not all grievances are created equal.

The NAFD takes for granted that there is a tension between being inclusive, welcoming, and hospitable and being faithful to Christ: “Alongside the desire to be a more inclusive and welcoming Church was the need to understand how to be more hospitable, while maintaining and being true to Church teaching.” The just-below-the-surface assumption here is that fidelity to the Church’s teaching needs to be re-imagined and re-worked so that various people will not feel that they are being excluded and rejected. Church teaching is put on trial. Rejection of that teaching is accorded pride of place.

What is going on here? Women who want to receive Holy Orders, people who are unhappy that their immoral sexual acts are categorized as being gravely sinful, divorced people who remarry outside the Church and want to receive Holy Communion—all of them claim that they are being unfairly treated. They claim that Church teaching is hurtful and un-Christian, and they will only feel fully welcomed and affirmed by the Church when their desires and actions are recognized as legitimate, and the Church changes her teaching. The NAFD considers all this to be up for discussion, which means that those pushing for doctrinal change are being treated as prophets needing to be heeded, and not as heretics needing to be rebuked.

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