Everybody Knows the Church Will Change. (Everybody Is Wrong.)

Since I wrote about the Michael Hichborn's effort to gin up panic over gay infiltration of the World Meeting of Families, several readers now assume that I think everything is fine -- that I think there's no threat to the institution of heterosexual, monogamous marriage in the United States.

Hey, folks, I'm not an idiot. Clearly, there is a huge, concerted, organized, heavily moneyed push to normalize gay relationships globally, and the Church is not sheltered from that push. Some bishops are even apparently part of that effort. The Register's Edward Pentin reported on a secret (or at least private) meeting apparently attended by  

 "50 participants, including bishops, theologians and media representatives, [who] took part in the gathering, at the invitation of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of Germany, Switzerland and France — Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Bishop Markus Büchel and Archbishop Georges Pontier.

Many of the participants, including those clerics, are in partial or open dissent from the Faith; and many Catholics believe that this meeting was the final nail in the coffin of orthodoxy in our time. Liberal, progressive Pope Francis, they believe, will inevitably buckle under the pressure coming from all sides, and when the synod convenes in October, there will emerge a Brave New Church, one that winks at divorce and civil remarriage, and one that cannot wait to welcome same sex couples to be married.

Let's step back in time for a moment.

In 1963, Pope John XXIII called a Pontifical Commission to examine the Church's ban on artificial birth control. After he died, Pope Paul VI expanded the commission to include doctors, theologians, lay women, bishops and cardinals.  

Did you get that? This was a Pontifical Commission -- not a weekend meeting, not a get-together for like-minded folks with an agenda to push. The members of this committee were chosen by the Pope, and everybody knew what that meant: the Church was obviously revving up for something big, something new. The commission members debated, studied, and solicited testimony for several years; and then in 1966, they came out with a report that concluded exactly what everyone was expecting: It said that the Church should do a 180 and allow artificial birth control. The official report said that birth control was not intrinsically evil, and that the Church's ban on it should be lifted.

There was rejoicing in some quarters, wringing of hands in others, as everyone assumed that the Pope would agree. Everyone assumed that life as a married Catholic would be dramatically different from then on, in keeping with the times. Laymen thought so. Priests thought so. Everyone thought, "This is it. This is the big change we've all been [hoping for/dreading]."

And what happened? 

Humanae Vitae happened. BOOM. Rather than assenting to the Commission's recommendation, Paul VI issued the glorious encyclical which firmly and passionately reasserts the Church's constant teaching on human sexuality, almost miraculously predicting the societal ills that would follow if the world embraced artificial contraception. The encyclical thrilled some, enraged others, and immediately began sowing the seeds for John Paul II's flourishing Theology of the Body, which is only now beginning to take root in the hearts of many Catholics.

In 1968, everyone thought change was inevitable. Everyone was wrong.

I expect -- no, I believe with all my heart -- that the same will happen in the next few years regarding the issues of divorce and civil remarriage, and same sex marriage. The Pope has reaffirmed countless times that he is a "son of the Church" and will uphold and defend her doctrine, no matter what the rumors imply (and Cardinal Kasper -- CARDINAL KASPER -- says so, too).

Now, this is not to say that everything will be fine. Most Catholics, including those present when Humanae Vitae first came out, ignored and continue to blithely ignore the Church's teaching on contraception. It's likely that Catholics who are in favor of same sex marriage will continue to be in favor of same sex marriage, no matter what happens at the synod, and no matter what the Pope says, infallibly or otherwise.

But will the Church change her teachings on marriage? No, she will not. I would bet my life on it.

So, listen to rumors if you like. Debate about the ins and outs of various meetings and interviews, and feel free to wince, as any normal human being would do, as we witness sausage being made. Above all, pray -- pray for the pope, pray for the bishops, pray for a change of heart for those in dissent, and pray for courage for those who are faithful. Pray for the Church. Pray for all of us. Prayer is always the appropriate response. But as you pray, don't panic. 

Remember, everybody knew what was definitely going to happen in 1968.  Everybody was wrong.