Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the Amazon Synod has been released. Titled Querida Amazonia, the document proved to not be the bombshell Faithful Catholics were so worried about. While not on the caliber of anything we would expect from Pope St. John Paul II, or Pope Benedict XVI, and it does have some problems in the areas of social gospel and environmentalism, it produced no radical departures from the faith once and for all time delivered to the saints.
There was no call for female ordination to the diaconate. There wasn’t even a call for the ordination of viri probati (older married men) to the priesthood.
This was a surprise to many of us, but most especially to the Modernist Left within the Catholic Church, who expected at least the viri probati, if not the female diaconate. The Modernist Left has been pushing hard for both. It got neither. If you’ve read anything from their camp lately, you will see that they are very, very, very upset with Pope Francis. They’re looking at this as a betrayal and a major disappointment. If they can’t get the viri probati and female ordinations with Francis, who can they get it with? Maybe nobody.
Even I expected some concession on the viri probati, mainly because it seemed to already be a “done deal.” I was speaking with my priest about this last night, and we both agreed that the Church has proverbially “dodged a bullet” with Querida Amazonia, but as Father pointed out to me, this is what we should expect in the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit is doing his job with the Petrine ministry. This is, after all, why we became Catholic.
It seems the Holy Spirit is protecting even a wayward pope from going completely off the rails. While the Modernist Left is furious with Francis right now, I am inclined to confess that Pope Francis may have just saved his papacy and his legacy with this apostolic exhortation. Had he given the Modernist Left what they wanted, he might one day be declared an antipope. He may have just avoided that.
Anyone who has read my blog, and social media, knows I am not a fan of Pope Francis. He’s not my favorite pope, but at the same time I’m not one to get hysterical about his pontificate either. So many otherwise Faithful Catholics are calling him an antipope. I’ve said here on this blog, and elsewhere, that none of us has the authority to do that, and any such claim amounts to nothing more than name-calling if one doesn’t really believe it. But if one really does believe it — it’s schism! As I have said many times, the position every Faithful Catholic should always take is that a pope is legitimate, unless declared otherwise by a subsequent pope. Popes can be corrupt. Popes can be lousy. Popes can be mean. Popes can be tyrannical. Popes can even be heretics. But they’re always popes unless declared otherwise by their successors. So to my fellow Catholics out there, who may be tinkering with the idea of calling Pope Francis an antipope, I say “suck it up buttercup and learn how to deal with it.” We don’t always get the pope we want. And we don’t always get the pope we need. But we do get a pope, and what we do with that pope (regardless of how he is) determines how we will grow and mature as Catholics. The only promise we have is that God will not allow a pope to destroy the Church with heresy, and that the Church itself will never be destroyed.
Having reflected on Querida Amazonia, and it’s fallout, for a couple of days now, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that God has heard our prayers and answered them. The pope has been saved from a catastrophic error. Praise be to God!
What was that catastrophic error? Was it the viri probati? No. While relaxing the celibacy mandate in the Latin Church of the Catholic Church would have created quite a disruption, and upset a great many Catholics, it was not the catastrophic error that I feared might happen. The Catholic Church already ordains viri probati (“proven men” or “older married men”) to the priesthood. She does so in 21 of the 24 churches within the Catholic Church. Eastern Catholicism has never had a celibacy mandate, and has ordained both married and celibate men to the priesthood for 2,000 years. She also ordains married men to the priesthood who were formerly Protestant ministers. Such is the case in the Personal Ordinariates of English Patrimony. Finally, the Latin Church of the Catholic Church used to ordain viri probati alongside celibate men, as they do in the East, during the first millennium of her history. The celibacy mandate was definitively created for the Latin Church of the Catholic Church at the Second Lateran Council held in AD 1139. There had been local synods and rulings prior to this in various areas, but it was the Second Lateran Council that made it official and permanent. That being said, it was not a doctrinal issue, and it only applied to the Latin Church of the Catholic Church. Eastern Catholic churches were not bound to it. So it remains this way to this very day. Though as I pointed out above, the Latin Church does make exceptions to the celibacy mandate, especially in the case of married Protestant ministers who convert and wish to be ordained.
Pope Francis could have relaxed the celibacy mandate in the Latin Church if he wanted to. Indeed, he could have just gotten rid of it altogether, and it would have been perfectly legal for him to do so. He wouldn’t have changed any doctrine, and he wouldn’t have harmed the Catholic Faith. I know some people think otherwise, and some of them are very high profile people, but the fact remains that the Catholic Church ordains married men in the Eastern churches and nobody can say otherwise. If she can do so there, she can do so in the Latin Church as well. In the end, Francis chose not to go there, and that is his prerogative.
It was probably a good decision. While it is possible for the pope to relax the celibacy mandate in the Latin Church, it’s probably not the right thing to do at this moment in history. We live in a Modernist world now. The argument of many Faithful Catholics against the viri probati was that while allowing their ordination may be licit, the Modernists would use it as a gateway to introduce more things, like female ordination and same-sex “marriage” rites. While I disagree with any connection whatsoever between viri probati and female ordination and homosexual rites, I am not a Modernist, so my mind doesn’t work that way. I am an orthodox and Faithful Catholic, so I can’t make the leap between viri probati and the other things, namely because there is no connection whatsoever. But Modernists don’t think in rational terms. They operate purely on emotion and abstract movement, following the heart not the mind, in ways that are inconsistent, irrational and contradictory. They pride themselves on their ability to do this, and somehow think it shows “courage” and “virtue.” Anyone who calls them out on the danger of their actions they decry as a “bigot” and a “hater.” Again, any rational thought escapes them. Had Pope Francis opened the door to the viri probati, it would have most certainly emboldened the Modernists to try harder on the other things. If there will ever be a change on the celibacy mandate, it must come at a different time, and for more positive reasons, rather than just trying to shore up a priest shortage which could easily be remedied in other ways.
The catastrophic error I feared the pope might make had nothing to do with the viri probati, but rather the ordination of women to the diaconate. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, figuring he would probably opt for a lay-deacon (or lady-con) position that looks like a clerical position but really isn’t. As it turns out, it doesn’t appear that even that materialized in Querida Amazonia. What we got instead was an encouragement to find new ways for women to serve in the Church, but at the same time to do nothing that might “clericalize” them. The way he put this was nothing short of an atomic bomb detonated over those pushing for female ordination. The Holy Father did not budge on this issue. He held firm to orthodoxy and to the decree of Pope St. John Paul II in Ordinatio sacerdotalis. Had he caved into the Modernist demands for female deaconesses, it would have been a catastrophic error that would quickly begin the process of ripping the Church apart. This is because the issue of female ordination crosses over from the area of Church discipline into Catholic doctrine. In short, the ordination of women is impossible on a doctrinal level based on both Scripture and Apostolic Tradition. To ordain women is to deny the Catholic Christian faith. The pope not only avoided this error, he countered it, and in doing so he may have just saved his papacy.
So now, in this post Querida Amazonia world, we have a new paradigm that has radically changed the dynamics in the Church today. The Modernists in the Church are not going to give up, but they no longer have the ally in Pope Francis that they thought they did. The German Bishops Conference, where Modernism rules supreme, had hoped to use the results of the Amazon Synod in Rome as political cover for the radical changes they will soon make to their region in their two-year-long German Synod. They had hoped the pope’s apostolic exhortation would open the door to viri probati and female deacons for them. This would make it much easier for them to “move the ball forward” in Germany toward female priests and married gay-priests. Now, they no longer have the hope of this cover. Anything they do now, they will have to move forward alone. Honestly, I don’t think this will stop them. I don’t think they can stop. They already know what they want, and they’re intent on getting it. They just have to go through the formality of having a Synod first, just to make it look deliberative, but this time they have nothing from Rome to say they are “expanding.” When the German Bishops move to ordain the viri probati, and they will, they will be going it alone. This may not be enough to solicit disciplinary action from Rome, but it will cause a stir in Europe and the West. However, when the German Bishops move to ordain women, and they will, the formal schism in the Catholic Church will begin.
What has changed is that prior to Querida Amazonia, the German Bishops were acting from a position of strength, appearing to be controlling the papacy. After Querida Amazonia, it is now clear they don’t have nearly as much influence over Pope Francis as everyone thought they did. In fact, their position is considerably weaker than previously thought. I suspect it’s even surprised them! Their position of strength has evaporated rapidly over the last 48 hours.
Here’s my take on this. I still believe there is going to be a major schism in the Catholic Church, and I still think it’s going to happen within this decade. However, because of Querida Amazonia, and Pope Francis’ refusal to play along with the Modernist agenda on some very key issues, that schism is going to be considerably smaller than it would have been had he played along. The Modernists may have a lot of influence over the papacy right now, but Pope Francis just proved they don’t own it.
He will most certainly pay a price for this. The Holy Father will soon know what it means to cross the Modernists. They will show him no mercy. The smartest thing he could do at this point is move back toward the center of the Church, and maybe a little toward the Traditional Right. In the end, he may find that his biggest critics on the Right could turn into his greatest allies. That, however, would require some pretty shrewd thinking. Is Francis capable of that? Only time will tell.