The pro-life issue is the most decisive as well as the most divisive issue of our times. That’s why it pops up almost everywhere even in unexpected places. Take, for example, the Catholic synod being held on Vancouver Island.
Synod in Victoria
The R.C. diocese of Victoria, B.C., under the Most Rev. Remi De Roo, is holding a diocesan Synod. A synod of this kind is a more or less representative assembly which meets to discuss the welfare of the local Church.
The number of meetings may be few or many. Their purpose is to help the bishop to fulfill the task of making “the mission spirit and zeal of the People of God present and, as it were, visible, so that the whole diocese becomes missionary” (Vatican II, Missionary Decree).
The Synod’s task then is to build up the local Church, which is the theological term for diocese. It does this by encouraging as many faithful of the diocesan community to participate in the life of the Church, to recognize individual charisms, sponsor innovative ideas and work out a plan of evangelization. A synod confirms what flourishes already and supports what has been started, all in order to stimulate a deeper spirituality and greater holiness.
If successful, Bishop, clergy and laity will all be happier. Everyone will be more closely bound to one another through a deeper living of the life of Christ whose atoning sacrifice is made effective above all in the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Church’s sacramental life. Needless to say, the process must also lead to more intimate unity with the universal church and the teaching of the Magisterium.
It is precisely these last two points, the union of heart and mind of all the faithful with one another and of all the faithful with the universal church, which appear a questionable outcome in this Synod.
The Victoria Synod has been holding monthly meetings for a period of two years, the last one in May of this year. In September there will be a plenary meeting to discuss the astonishing number of 400 resolutions passed at these assemblies.
The resolutions were published month by month by the Island Catholic News (ICN) under the title “decisions.” The ICN bills itself as “independent” though it has on staff a liaison person with the diocese, while the Bishop himself advertises in the paper. It may very well be therefore, that the ‘resolutions’ are in fact already ‘decisions’.”
I have in my possession only the last 200 decisions published in four tabloid sized pages of some 50 resolutions each over the period January – May, 1991.
The general thrust of these 200 decisions reveal a one-sided ideology summed up by three concepts: social justice, feminism and anti-Romanism.
Social justice is a very important dimension of the Christian life. But the social justice one finds in these resolutions is that exclusive and narrow interpretation which restricts justice to economic-political and economic-social issues only.
Hence the resolutions on this subject revolve around native people, refugees, housing, poverty, prisons, peace, militarism, environment and unions. But not a word is said here about abortion, the annual killing of some 100,000 unborn babies, nor about the range of marital-sexual-moral problems which assault the Canadian and Catholic family of today.
This social justice ‘ideology’ ties in with a strong note of feminism which runs through the Synod’s ‘decisions’ of the last four months. This finds expression in resolutions about sexism, sexuality, inclusive language (six resolutions), homosexuals, the divorced and remarried, seminary education and the ordination of women (affirmed by their communities) as well as the ordination of those not presently welcomed (presumably homosexuals).
A few resolutions mention child abuse and violence against women, but nothing is said about their natural causes: the anti-life sentiments found in contraception, abortion, divorce, homosexuality, infanticide, euthanasia, common law marriages, sterilization, pornography, and the whole accommodation to the sexual immorality of a permissive society. Natural Family Planning is mentioned, but only as an ‘option’ in birth control.
The resolutions leave one with the impression that if the ‘universal church doesn’t like it, well too bad because we will go ahead anyway.’ The term ‘universal church’ needless to say, applies to Rome.
Feminism, then, joins the above mentioned social justice ideology in ignoring all the pro-life issues while adding a note of hostility to boot. This hostility is directed against the teaching which provides the foundation for the pro-life cause, that of the Universal church which, in this instance, directly refers to Rome.
Indeed, Rome is practically put on notice, as for example, in the section of the May 1991 Session headed, “We seek further partnership with the Universal Church.”
The text runs as follows:
“(The delegates affirm that these decisions are in line with the vision of the gospel and of the synod. Synod implementation welcomes partnership with t he wider church in exploring new ways to live this vision):
“D.1 Submit to Rome a request that consideration be given to make the requirement of celibacy for the diocesan priesthood optional.
“D.2 Seek ordination of women to the priesthood.
“D.3 Request from the Bishop of Rome that the sanctions against married priests exercising leadership in the faith community be lifted.
“D.4 Educate regarding canonical legislation dealing with the reality of divorce and remarriage among the Catholic population. If necessary, make changes to meet pastoral needs and the vision of the synod.”
Now such language leaves little to the imagination. After all, every one on Vancouver Island is fully aware:
1) that the 1990 Synod on the priesthood has recently again solemnly reiterated the frequently expounded affirmation of celibacy;
2) that the declarations of the Holy Father, Vatican Congregations and others over the last 16 years have emphasized that the ordination of women is contrary to the will of Christ (expresses also by a prohibition in Scripture, as well as the 2000 year old Tradition of the Church);
3) that laicized priests must not take leadership in pastoral roles, as pointed out, among others, in the 1967 Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on celibacy and the “theological note” of the Bishops of France issued in 1977.
4) that a local church has no authority to change universal teaching on divorce and remarriage, or on any other point.
The resolutions are accompanied by frequent assertions that from now on the diocese must live “by the vision and spirit” of the synod; that the (consultative) parish councils are to be replaced by Pastoral Councils which will determine what will happen; that new priests must undergo an orientation process; that criteria for the priesthood are to be set by the diocese; that parishes and schools are to be used to inculcate the new vision, and that nothing must happen from now on without “discernment,” “dialogue” and full “collaboration.”
Poor parish priest. Meanwhile there is nary a word about Jesus, prayer, the sacramental life, spirituality, encouraging the devotional life and piety, or about ways of seeking intimacy with the Lord.
As far as I can see this synod is not a prescription for unity though it may well bring enforced conformity. And once again we see how a narrow social justice ideology combined with feminism proves to be anti-life.