Synod Leaders Are “Log Rolling”, Say Cardinals

The First General Congregation of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Vatican City with Pope Francis on October 5, 2015. © L'Osservatore Romano
The First General Congregation of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Vatican City with Pope Francis on October 5, 2015. © L'Osservatore Romano (photo: Register Files)

“You cannot serve God and Mammon.”
—Jesus Christ

The German Catholic Church has a long and ignoble history of playing fool for its government. During the murderous reign of the Third Reich, there were isolated bishops who stood against Hitler. But many of them joined their Lutheran brothers in allowing themselves to be coopted by the pagan cult we call the Nazis.

The Nazis created an economic system in which the government and the economic powers coalesce into one unit working for their mutual benefit. We call that fascism. They also created a mythology or a quasi-religion to go along with it. This quasi-religion was mostly a deliberate return to Germany’s pagan past with a mix of astrology and other whatnots. 

At the same time that they were privately voicing contempt for Christianity and implementing plans to destroy it, the Nazi leaders pandered to the churches in their public statements. They sought — and were able — to silence the prophetic and moral voice of the churches by means of coopting them.

Christian churches in much of the world, and certainly in Germany, were already following the false god of nationalism long before Hitler and the Nazis were born. They had given moral gravitas to the abuses of colonialism and the insanity of World War I.

This made them easy prey for the claims of extreme nationalism that came from the Nazis. However, I believe that the thing that pushed German churches down the rat hole to acquiescence with (and even support of) the Nazis was not primarily nationalism. I think they were following another master. It was the “master” that Jesus specifically singled out as one that Christians could not follow if they would follow Him. It was money.

Healthy secularism allows both church and state their freedom of action. It does this by keeping the state out of the church’s business. The government does not dictate to the church, and that allows the church to perform its natural function of bringing moral criticism to government actions. This has been a huge factor in the moral development of governance in the United States.

Both the abolitionist and Civil Rights movements were inspired and empowered by faith in Jesus Christ. To a lesser extent, so was the women’s suffrage movement. Each of these movements succeeded almost entirely on the weight of their moral arguments, which were rooted in the Gospels. It was church, criticizing the state, at its best.

That is why Christian-bashing and attacks on religious freedom have become so ferocious in the United States and elsewhere. The Church is the only voice left to criticize the absolute enforcement of social nihilism that has become the zeitgeist throughout the Western world.

The President of the United States has specifically attacked the Catholic Church, and various groups are waging war on the Church in the courts. They do this precisely because the healthy secularism of an independent Church threatens their hegemony of ideas and public loyalty.

This kind of moral action on the part of churches is stifled in Germany by the simple fact that the government pays the church. It collects a “church tax” from those who designate themselves church members and forwards this money to the church.

Thus we have the German bishops not only signing up for gay marriage and leading the charge to make a mockery of the sacrament of marriage in their own nation, but using their considerable wealth and influence to lead the entire Catholic Church off that same cliff by means of the Synod. The truth is that the German bishops are following the golden rule: He who has the gold rules. In their case, the one with the gold is the government that has made them rich, even while their parishes dwindle and die.

These same German bishops, who can find no fault with the destruction of marriage and the trashing of the very sacraments from which they derive their moral authority, have told their laity that if they don’t register as Catholic on the tax roles, it is a mortal sin. In other words, they are claiming it is a mortal sin not to enrich the bishops. 

It’s no big surprise that the same German churches who folded up for Hitler — I can show you photos of German churchmen standing and giving the Nazi salute, of churches where the Nazi flag was draped over the altar — are now folding up for this nihilist post-Christian world. It’s money. Lots and lots of money, and it all comes from the government, not the people in the pews.

I wrote a post a while back, expressing my fears about this Synod on the Family. My concerns about the Synod were based on the sorry showing from last year. I’ve refrained from writing about this Synod because I wanted to wait and see what they did first. But Ann Schneible of CNA wrote an article that I think bears discussing now.

Evidently, several Synod Fathers, including Cardinal Dolan, have written a letter to Pope Francis expressing reservations about the way that the Synod documents are being drafted. It sounds as if the documents are not being placed before the entire body to be voted on article by article as the draft is being developed. Rather, the document is being drafted by an appointed committee with the intent of placing it before the Synod Fathers as a take-it-or-leave-it package at the end.

I don’t know come here from sic-em about Synods. But I know politics. And this is Politics 101. When leadership rolls a lot of items into one vote, they do it to blackmail those who vote. They want to take away their choices. There’s even a name for it. It’s called log rolling.

When the leadership of a legislative body wants to coerce the members of the body, they log roll a lot of bills together and force a straight up or down vote on the whole thing. Shutting participants out of the drafting process is also a tried-and-true means of controlling the final product and putting people on the voting hot seat.

It sounds as if the final document for the Synod is being log rolled.

According to the letter that the bishops wrote Pope Francis, there are also concerns that the controversial sections of the document from last year’s Synod are being carried over to this Synod. Last year’s Synod appeared to be unduly influenced by the German bishops, who appear to be unduly influenced by the German government.

This led to a focus on supporting homosexual unions, allowing Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and cohabiting persons. This was excused with the verbal twist that the Church “wasn’t changing doctrine” but only “pastoral practice.” That’s sort of like a bank robber saying that he accepts that it’s wrong to steal, but in actual practice, he wanted the money, so it’s alright.

It was obvious to anyone who thought about it that this was a move to set aside the Church’s 2,000 year-old teachings on Holy Matrimony. It would put Church practice in direct opposition to Church teaching. This was excused with nebulous language about having “an eye on Christ” in the document. As in “with an eye on Christ” we will deliberately obviate Christ’s clear and direct teachings on marriage.

As I noted at the beginning of this post, the heavy influence that the German government has had on German churches is historic and has — at least in the past — resulted in disaster for the whole world.

I pray about this Synod. It simply is not acceptable for our pastors to create official Church practices that ignore and violate Church doctrine. That is, at best, hypocrisy.

It is the opposite of what Jesus told Peter to do when He said, “Feed my lambs.”