22 October, 2021

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Vatican Synod: Struggle For A New Church

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Three of my four grandparents were Catholics though the fourth, a Protestant, was a match and more in the internecine religious wars that assailed my ancestry two and three generations ago. I may well have been corralled within some Christian flock had I not fled to godless opium-averse Marxism. Catholicism has lived up (and lived down; Borgia Pope Alexander VI fathered seven, it is thought by four partners) to its all inclusive name, flushed with life, incarnadine of complexion. I have it on the authority of my old friend Father Paul Cxyz, SJ, that the fabled prayer of St Augustine (“Oh Lord give me chastity, but not yet”) is no myth. I envision the good saint, on bended knee, thus imploring the Almighty each night, at bedtime – double-entendre not intended!

Seriously though, Catholicism is the church of the masses, of the hundreds of millions, it is existentially refracted in the life of toilers, reflected in the poor, it is the refuge of the huddled throng. From a left vantage I see in the Church of Rome, a kindred spirit to great trade unions and the million strong social-democratic parties of the inter-war years. Could Liberation Theology, for example, have issued from any other church? Prissy evangelicals, Born-Agains who bore you to tears and the ISIL-avatarish rampaging fundamentalists cannot resonate to the revolutionary credo of activists fired up in a mass church. However, the Catholic Church is also the habitat of hardnosed throwbacks to ideologically Neanderthal times as the voting in the Synod illustrates, but I am running ahead.

Pope Francis, at VaticanIt is not surprising that the Interim Report of the just concluded Synod of Bishops in the Vatican broached a new stance on homosexuality and contraception. It was a ground-breaking initiative, earth shaking to stay with the metaphor, considering the vast spread of the flock. The Church is waking up to the practices of its faithful billion; it has turned progressive unlike those prissy sects. The ordination of “them that hold up half the heavens” and maybe even matrimony for the clergy, are not inconceivable down the road. What the hell; how long can you keep women out of the inner sanctums, and why not formalise what a not negligible number indulge in on the side anyway?

What the Synod said

It is only possible to touch briefly on the sections dealing with homosexuality and birth control in the Interim Report issued on 13 October during a pause in the Synod. Here are the crucial paragraphs; the ellipses […] are in the text, not inserted by me.

Providing for homosexual persons

50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing […] them […] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

51. The question of homosexuality requires serious reflection on how to devise realistic approaches to affective growth, human development and maturation in the Gospel, while integrating the sexual aspect, all of which constitute an important educative challenge. Moreover, the Church affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same level as marriage between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that the pastor’s outlook be pressured or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations based on gender ideology.

52. Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to […] children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

The transmission of life and the challenge of the declining birth-rate

53. Today, the diffusion of a mentality which reduces the generation of life to accommodate an individual’s or couple’s plans is easily observable. Sometimes, economic factors are burdensome, contributing to a sharp drop in the birth-rate which weakens the social fabric, thus compromising relations between generations and rendering a future outlook less certain. Openness to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love.

54. Realistic language is probably also needed in this instance, language which knows how to start by listening to people and acknowledging the beauty and truth of an unconditional openness to life as that which human life needs to live life fully. This serves as the basis for an appropriate teaching regarding the natural methods of human reproduction, which allow a couple to live in a harmonious and conscious manner the communication between husband and wife, in all its aspects, along with their responsibility at procreating life. In this regard, we should return to the message of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI, which highlights the need to respect the dignity of the person in the moral evaluation of the methods of regulating births.

Paragraphs 50 and 51 are an astonishing departure both in content and tone from anything the Church has said before. Previous texts were marked by frustration with teachings not well-received and instructions not followed. Here the emphasis is on going to the people, in their own world, and exudes a sense of humility; it is pastoral. Previously, the furthest the church would go in sympathizing with homosexuals was to say they were “objectively disoriented” poor sods. Paragraph 53 and 54 are also potential dynamite; guarded openings to future dialogue on birth control and abortion, that is, the “evaluation of methods of regulating births”.

The counterattack

The Rock, poor fisherman Simon Peter

The Rock, poor fisherman Simon Peter

Christian evangelicals who refer to the Pope as the anti-Christ and deem the Catholic Church the agent of the devil have hit back fast and furious. For them “every word in the Bible is eternal literal truth, not one can be interpreted anew”; such fundamentalists are a mirror of ISIL. Disquiet was also expressed by conservative laity and some Bishops at the Synod. The subheading above the 50-th paragraph and the paragraph itself as quoted here are a revised English translation issued some days after a first version. The earlier English subheading said “To welcome homosexual persons” instead of the revised “Providing for homosexual persons”. Paragraph 50 first said “Are we capable of welcoming these persons, guaranteeing them a space of fraternity in our community?” The revised translation reads: “Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing […] them […] a place of fellowship in our communities?” (Ellipses […] not inserted by me).

The Italian official text is closer to the first English translation and its revision to less precise English was the first shot across the bows in the counterattack. The web is heavy with debate; the nays are as numerous as the yeas. Below are two, selected from thousands, to give readers a flavour.

Yea-sayer: Thank God for Pope Francis who was sent to us by the Holy Spirit. He has guided the Synod into a path of mercy and love for Catholics who have suffered. Pope Francis is another Pope John XXIII who opened the Church to a new Era of gentleness and kindness.

Nay-sayer: Regardless of what English verb was chosen to translate the Italian, the damage is already done. Speaking personally, I have come to believe that Francis intended this ”damage” all along. I waited a long time before reaching what I think is an inescapable conclusion: viz. the man is a liberal who embraces the worldview that plagues us since the time of the French revolution and the subsequent bloodletting. His appointments, his demotions (Cardinal Burke, for example), his many wandering and imprecise interviews with declared enemies of Catholicism, his choice of words, those prelates whom he has chosen NOT to reprimand for statements denigrating pro-life combatants, etc. It is deliberate and we must resign ourselves to having an authentic liberal in the See of St. Peter. For me, he is a bad pope finally, a catastrophe in the modern media-dominated society. There have been worse popes in the past and I suppose there will be more of them in the future.

Nay-sayer has had his way for now. On Saturday (16) an alliance of conservative Cardinals and reactionary Bishops rejected Paragraph 50 despite the toning down and another proposal to allow homosexuals and divorcees to receive Holy Communion was also rejected. They inflicted a setback on Pope Francis; nevertheless his closing address on 18 October was a masterpiece, read more here.

The voting, 118 in favour of the text, 62 against, fell just short the requisite two-thirds majority. It is not clear who spearheaded opposition but Latin Americans and Africans are likely to have backed the pontiff. There are, of course, many hardcore Episcopal reactionaries in the Church and not an unfamiliar breed in Lanka. It is now up to the Catholic laity to intervene in decisive numbers and steer their church out of primitive medievalism into Twenty-first Century sunlight. A good step will be if the turnout in January to greet Pope Francis in the Philippines is multi-millions strong, and if many lakhs wind their way to Papal masses in Madhu and Galle Face Green.

A crucial struggle in the long history of the Catholic Church has commenced; it is not easy to see how it will develop. I confess to being an admirer of Pope Francis, but how long he will survive the backlash is moot. His concern is the exploited, not theological banalities; some say he took a firm but quiet stand against the military dictatorship in Argentina, others dispute it. It is obvious that he chose the name Francis, the saint of the poor, with much deliberation; en passant I hope some day a Pope will opt for Augustine (no one has dared yet for obvious reasons) and give us all a chuckle. Francis moves in measured steps, first an aura of change (in statecraft we call it populism), then a quiet period when it seemed that that was all, but actually the Synod was in preparation; now this carefully crafted Synod in full awareness of its stirring consequences; then the setback. There will be a period of review and consolidation before the next initiative, but whether the Church will have much relevance in modern times depends on its eventual victory.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    Kumar David’s self-proclaimed Marxism is skin-deep and his Christianity the real ideological foundation. In short, he is a crypto-Christian pretending to be a Marxist.

    The Roman Catholic church was linked to the extermination of native Americans in Latin America, the African slave trade, the subjugation and decimation of entire cultures and peoples in the Global South, not to mention the 2,000 year history of persecution of Jews. It sponsored the Crusades that led to the murder of tens of thousands of Arab Muslims and Jews. Then there was the Inquisition in Spain.

    A lesser known genocide was the murder of millions of Congolese with the Belgian church predictably mute. The unprecedented evangelization of Africa in the 1980s coincided with the unraveling of that continent with HIV/AIDs, civil strife, breakdown of governance as tribal norms fell apart and social cohesion receded. South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo illustrate a church-sponsored breakdown.

    The Nazi holocaust could not have happened outside of Christendom. The Pope refused to condemn Hitler while the latter was alive. The role of the church in Europe in helping Nazi criminals to flee to Latin America and the role of the church establishment in the ‘dirty wars’ against labor, the landless peasantry, the indigenous peoples and left in South America has been carefully hidden, much like what it did in its sponsorship of the Tamil Tigers, the eviction of Muslims from Mannar and the flight of LTTE cadre to Europe in 2009.

    Kumar David’s senile Marxism is a pretense. He is a Roman Catholic pretending to be a liberal and a progressive. Kumar David’s attacks on political Buddhism and Hinduism while being conveniently silent on the Catholic church’s role in Tamil extremism not to mention “cleansing” of Muslims illustrates his cynical double standards!

    • 1
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      Hussein,

      You are totally off. If a man says he left Christianity for Marxism, we must take his word for it. David lives outside the Church’s laws on marriage and is not entitled to her sacraments anyway. That may be why he is rooting for the changes.

      The Church according to her own theology makes mistakes and tries to rise above them. Past mistakes do not detract from her everyday message so long as she admits to her mistakes and tries to rise above them. We believe that the Founder of the Church will always guide her back when she strays.

      • 1
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        The Church according to her own theology makes mistakes and tries to rise above them. Past mistakes do not detract from her everyday message so long as she admits to her mistakes and tries to rise above them.

        So, this way, for the 2014 years church had mistakes and still there is no end to it.

        RISE is not the correct word. EXIST is the correct word.

        Church over it’s life had evil mind every where. Those are not mistakes. As long as they correct their evil mind church won’t grow up.

        Calling those as mistakes is fraud.

    • 1
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      Prof. Kumar David

      RE: Vatican Synod: Struggle For A New Church

      “Kumar David’s self-proclaimed Marxism is skin-deep and his Christianity the real ideological foundation. In short, he is a crypto-Christian pretending to be a Marxist. “

      Yes, you can be a Crypto-Christian and a Marxist, even though they are incompatible.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crypto-Christianity

      It is like you can believe is a religion, and still be a scientist, even though thee are many incompatibilities.

      However, what I want to point out are the many excesses pod Religion, especially Catholicism. Here are some references.

      Martin Luther reformer’s famous statement!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOWfTjkJc48

      Published on Nov 22, 2013
      Luther combating great odds through the power of Holy Spirit and the Word. However he didn’t bring it totally back to the book of Acts but he did make significant changes. Luther’s famous dialogue captured the hearts of many, clip from a film “Luther”, based on the life of Martin Luther by Joseph Fiennes. It is an inspirational, engrossing, compelling and powerful film. Great quotes to setup or reframe Bible studies

      The Ninety-Five Theses. (498th Anniversary on October 321, 2014)

      The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences (original Latin: Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum) were written by Martin Luther in 1517 and are widely regarded as the initial catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. The disputation protests against clerical abuses, especially nepotism, simony, usury, pluralism, and the sale of indulgences.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ninety-Five_Theses

      Christopher Hitchens on the Catholic Church

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU2SJn70FAc

      Published on Dec 2, 2013
      Christopher Hitchens on the Catholic Church

      Christopher Eric Hitchens (13 April 1949 — 15 December 2011) was a British-Americanauthor and journalist. Hitchens contributed to New Statesman, The Nation, The Atlantic, The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement and Vanity Fair. He was the author of twelve books and five collections of essays, and concentrated on a range of subjects, including politics, literature and religion. A staple of talk shows and lecture circuits, his confrontational style of debate made him both a lauded and controversial figure. Known for his contrarian stance on a number of issues, he excoriated such public figures as Mother Teresa, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Lady Diana, and Pope Benedict XVI. He was the older brother of author Peter Hitchens.

      Long describing himself as a socialist, Hitchens began his break from the established political left after what he called the “tepid reaction” of the Western left to the Rushdie Affair, followed by the left’s embrace of Bill Clinton, and the “anti-war” movement’s opposition to intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina—though Christopher did not leave his position writing for The Nation until, post-9/11, he felt the magazine had arrived at a position “that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden.” The September 11 attacks “exhilarated” him, bringing into focus “a battle between everything I love and everything I hate,” and strengthening his embrace of an interventionist foreign policy which challenged “fascism with an Islamic face”. His numerous editorials in support of the Iraq War caused some to label him a neoconservative, although Hitchens insisted he was not “a conservative of any kind”, and his friend Ian McEwan described him as representing the anti-totalitarian left. Indeed, in a 2010 BBC interview, he maintained that he was a leftist.[9]

      A noted critic of religion and an antitheist, he said that a person “could be an atheist and wish that belief in God were correct”, but that “an antitheist, a term I’m trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there’s no evidence for such an assertion.” According to Hitchens, the concept of a God or a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom, and that free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and defining human civilization. His anti-religion polemic, God Is Not Great, sold over 500,000 copies.

      Hitchens died on 15 December 2011, from complications arising from oesophageal cancer, a disease that he acknowledged was more than likely due to his lifelong predilection for heavy smoking and drinking. His death prompted tributes and eulogies from a range of public figures, including Tony Blair, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Salman Rushdie, Lawrence Krauss, Martin Amis, James Fenton, Stephen Fry, Francis Collins and others.

    • 4
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      Hussain A

      “much like what it did in its sponsorship of the Tamil Tigers, the eviction of Muslims from Mannar and the flight of LTTE cadre to Europe in 2009. “

      So, it was the Catholic Church behind the racism against the Muslims in the North.under the guidance of the Tamil Catholics.

      This pint escaped my analysis. I was always confused as to why Velupillai Prabakaran, who wanted freedom from Sinhala “Buddhist” Racism and Chauvinism, would , in turn do such a Racist and Chauvinist Action.

      I was under the impression Velupillai POrpbakan was isolated, non-strategic, and becoming a mad only..

      Hussain A, thanks four the new insight…”much like what it did in its sponsorship of the Tamil Tigers, the eviction of Muslims from Mannar and the flight of LTTE cadre to Europe in 2009. “

    • 1
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      Here we go again!

      This filthy piece of s*** always turns everything to a Holocaust issue and blames everyone other than the Jewish murderers.

      He blames the Catholic Church for colonialism whereas Henri,Columbus, Torres, Vasco de Gama and all other “explorers” were Jews who were looking for the promised land, annihilating whoever they found to inhabit those lands.

      These mass murderers were given “authority” by the so-called Pope Alexander VI, (a Jew named Rodrigo Borgia who had infiltrated the Catholic Church!).

      Try to revise history through the web platforms, filthy scum.

    • 1
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      Kumar DAVID [Edited out] and talks about socialism.

    • 1
      1

      Kumar DAVID is a TAMIL – TRIBALIST and talks about socialism.

  • 2
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    You do make valid points and expose unpalatable truths, but diminish it all by claiming that Kumar D. is senile. The influence of the Catholic Church on his upbringing is undeniable, though he makes the mistake of believing that that Church is a democracy.

    • 0
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      This was in reply to Hussain A.

  • 2
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    Dear Hussain,

    I agree with you that christian missionaries and laity, who took up arms in the name of Christianity, have perpetrated some of the worst genocides in human history. By now both the catholics and the protestants (especially the evangelists/Episcopalians) are complicit in these historical tragedies.

    However, I don’t think Kumar is defending those genocides in this article. He, in fact, has a choice few words for fundamentalist Christians, calling them “avatars of ISIL”. The way I read this article, he is trying to express his frustration by the recent vote in the Vatican that defeated a motion to liberalize its theology (and practice, I assume) to be more inclusive of the divorced, unmarried couples, and homosexuals.

    • 1
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      I think you are misunderstanding words like evangelist and Episcopalians and therefore misusing them.

      There are Roman Catholic evangelists. Episcopalians are the Anglicans in America and can be very Catholic in outlook.

  • 0
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    Abe

    Thanks; you are right. In Sri Lanka we call anglicans those who are called episcopalian in the US. Both are Protestant. However, as with any religions these labels do not describe the same thing when comparing across cultures, very similar to how a Sri Lankan theravadin is different from a Camobian or Thai theravadin.

    All religions mutate with time and space.

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