The Drama of the Synod – hope springs eternal

As if the Synod and its prelude have not been fraught enough, Mgr Charamsa’s strategically-timed exhibitionism in outing himself, complete with beau at his side, has thrown so many into a, not unjustifiable, tizzy. It is a deliberate attempt to pervert the course of the Synod, and for that reason it is not to be ignored (though he is, to be blunt about it). But it was all rather pathetic. The 10 demands of his manifesto reflect a political method now obsolete and ineffective. The demands had little connection with reality. If he’s lucky, history will give him a brief footnote.

Much of the tizz and fizz results from the Vatican statement, which implied quite directly that Mgr Charamsa has lost his curial and teaching positions because his grandstanding constitutes

such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the synod assembly to undue media pressure.

Commentators, again not unreasonably, point out that the Mgr is not being dismissed for his violation of his vows or his immoral lifestyle, but for his poor form and provocativeness. In other words, not because he was a sinner but because he was not a gentleman. So, it is argued, the Vatican is playing down the moral aspect, pandering to the liberals and possible even signalling the tone of the Synod now upon us.

Further and deeper reflection reveals things to be not quite so dire, or so we might hope. Perhaps the Vatican is seeking to defuse the monsignor’s little bomb by refusing to engage with his sexual agenda. Why make a “gay” martyr of him? Why allow him to pose as a victim of “homophobia”? Why feed his cause in the eyes of the secular media? Far more effective, surely, is it to remove him for his grossly crude attempts to manipulate the Synod. Everyone can at least acknowledge the fact that what he did was not cricket, pursuing a political stratagem that carried it with significant risk if he failed in its execution. He did fail, his bluff has been called and he lost. Now we can forget about him, and the secular media will have to do some impressive manipulation themselves if they want to portray him in any convincing way as a martyr of homophobia. To the dispassionate observer he looks an idiot, and the papers are full of those already. Let’s move on; there is nothing to see here.

Indeed such desperation might give us cause to hope that the Synod may prove far better than the pre-synodal guerilla warfare might suggest. While we must avoid the sentimental piety that moves some to say, as at the papal election, that the Holy Spirit will get His way whatever happens. History shows that many councils, and many papal elections, had little of fragrance of the Holy Spirit about them. God permitted missteps as part of His larger scheme, in the service of a deeper aim. If synods, councils and conclaves were automatically conformed to the positive will of God, then why do we have Masses to pray for the Holy Spirit to move with power in these events?

Thus, perhaps it was the Holy Spirit who ensured that the opening Mass of the Synod would hear today’s readings from Genesis and St Mark. Genesis recounts the creation of Eve as the companion of Adam, for which reason “a man leaves his mother and father and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body”. St Mark recounts our Lord’s uncompromising teaching about marriage, that God made male and female, and it is they who can form one body together; and that to leave a wife to marry another woman is adultery, and the same for the woman who leaves her husband to remarry, because what God has joined no man can rightly divide.

Perhaps in this, the Spirit has spoken the judgement that the Synod must inevitably reaffirm. After all, the Synod Fathers all know that St Paul uses our Lord’s teaching on marriage as the basis for understanding not only the sacramentality of marriage, but also the sacramentality of the Church, which is the Bride of Christ, wedded to Him so that they are one Body (cf Ephesians 5, for example). Marriage is the only context for sexual intercourse, and so it must be between a man and a woman. If not, if sexual intercourse it outside marriage or not between man and woman, then it is not in the strict sense Christian.

Let the state do what it will, but the Church can only accept marriage as defined by our Lord because it is contiguous with the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church. If the Church were to forsake marriage as revealed by God, and thus to forsake God’s intended meaning for sexual intercourse, it would be forsaking its relationship to Christ, shattering the unity of Christ’s Body, and making herself an adulteress. With this in mind, read the following from 1 Corinthians 6, vv 13ff:

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The matters of marriage, sexual activity and the Church’s identity are so intimately connected that to change teaching on marriage or sexual activity would be to change the Church’s identity. But we cannot. Christ has bought us with is blood; we are not our own. If we rebel on matters of marriage or sexual intercourse, then we might unite our bodies with a prostitute but the we cannot drag the Church with us. She is eternally one with Christ. In fact, and this might shock some, the Church is not free to do or be anything else. Having died for us, Christ will never sign the writ of divorce; the Church certainly cannot.


So the coincidence of the Synod’s overture with the Mass of today alone seems a sure signal that the Spirit has spoken already, once and for all. The only revelation that will come from the Synod is which Fathers will prove themselves faithful, and which (if any) will show themselves time-servers and lovers of the world. Mgr Charamsa has already revealed his choice, and he will now fade into the obscurity that comes with that choice. Let’s look forward to seeing some heroes for that Faith which alone can save.


By the way, go to Adopt a Synod Father, and target your prayers for the Father it gives you to adopt. I was given Archbishop Diego Rafael Padron Sanchez of Cumaná, Venezuela. May the Lord be in his heart and on his lips that he may worthily proclaim the gospel.

4 thoughts on “The Drama of the Synod – hope springs eternal

  1. Wonderful words of much needed teaching Father–“God permitted missteps as part of His larger scheme, in the service of a deeper aim. . .”
    deep wisdom indeed–and a soothing peace is found in your observation–so yes, prayers and the joy of knowledge that in the end, God will truly have His way—
    Peace and joy Father–


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