After Drubbing in Rome, Catholic Left Still Claims Victory

Tony Gentile/Pool via AP
Tony Gentile/Pool via AP

The left wing of Catholicism just concluded a two-year campaign to convince the universal Church to change its teaching on marriage, divorce, communion, and homosexuality.

On each question, however, the world’s bishops, meeting in what’s called a Synod, handed the left defeat after defeat. Even so, they are claiming victory.

Laurie Goodstein, who covers the Catholic Church for the New York Times, claims that the conservative bishops did not “block the Pope” from doing what he wants to do. Goodstein does not seem to know that the bishops do not have any power to block the Pope from doing anything ever, that the Papacy is a kind of monarchy that can overrule its aristocracy—the bishops—willy-nilly.

Goodstein’s headline claims the Church cracked open a door to the divorced and civilly remarried whom the Church would see as living in adulterous relationships.

Grant Gallicho, associate editor of the left-wing journal Commonweal, also claimed victory because the Synod document did not explicitly reject the notion of communion for the divorced and remarried. He did admit defeat on the question of homosexuality.

Gallicho, picked recently to be communications director by Archbishop Blase Cupich, one of America’s most left-wing bishops, said the Synod “punted” on the gay question. In fact, the Synod fathers did not simply kick the gay ball down the field, they debated various progressive propositions for a solid year and in the end rejected them.

Jesuit priest James Martin, editor at large of the left-wing America magazine, was a regular commentator, cheering on the German bishops in what some consider heretical efforts to change Church teaching. After the Synod’s close, he tweeted various victory spins.

What really occurred over the past two years is the Catholic left—led by the German bishops and echoed by a coterie of American activists and journalists—campaigned globally for divorced and remarried Catholics to be able to receive Holy Communion. This proposition didn’t even receive a mention in the final document.

The group also campaigned for homosexual couples to be recognized by the Church in some fashion. Instead, Synod fathers rejected the idea that gay marriage is in any way analogous to heterosexual marriage. The document did say that homosexuals should not be subject to “unjust discrimination,” though that already exists in the Catholic Catechism.

In short, the non-binding document that will advise the Pope on something called an “Apostolic Exhortation” on the family was a resounding defeat for Church progressives. Even so, the left wing is still claiming victory or at least trying to capture the narrative coming out of Rome.

At the close of his Commonweal piece, Gallicho wrote, “In other words, this listening Synod, if it is to be true to the stirring vision of the pope who established it, can never truly come to an end. It is only the beginning.”

Ross Douthat of the New York Times called Gallicho’s final lines “…a pretty grim threat indeed.”

 Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse.


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