PODCAST: Understanding the U.S. Bishops’ Recent Meeting (with Francis X. Maier)

The American bishops were in Baltimore last week for their annual Fall meeting amidst controversies over synodality, relations with Rome,…

PODCAST: Strickland Out, Trans Baptism In? (with Fr. Gerald Murray)

 Fr. Gerald Murray and Robert Royal discuss some of the latest developments in Rome on “trans” people and baptism,…

PODCAST: Are Big Changes Coming in Theology and How Popes are Elected? (with Fr. Gerald Murray)

Fr. Gerald Murray and Robert Royal discuss two issues that surfaced in Rome last week. First, Pope Francis published an…

PODCAST: A first look at the Synod’s final report (with Fr. Gerald Murray)

Fr. Gerald Murray and Robert Royal discuss the synodal document approved on Saturday in Rome, particularly the significance of the…

Symptoms of the Synod 2023 IV – 30 October 2023

Father Raymond J. de Souza: Theology may be a good place to start. After two years of relying on sociology and management theories, perhaps it is time to ask if the Theos might find some Logos in Synodality.

Symptoms of the Synod 2023 III – 25 October 2023

Symptoms of the Synod has been searching for the signification of synodality. What does it mean? It apparently means everything,…

PODCAST: Jimmy Lai: Catholic Hero and Confessor (with Fr. Robert Sirico)

Father Robert Sirico and Robert Royal discuss “The Hong Konger,” a documentary film about Jimmy Lai, an imprisoned Catholic business…

PODCAST: As the Synod Begins to Conclude (with Fr. Gerald Murray)

Fr. Gerald Murray joins Robert Royal in today’s podcast to discuss some of the radical claims synod participants have recently…

There’s Got to Be a Better Way

So. We’ve been told that the Synod on Synodality is not about theology. Or doctrine. Not about “the media’s” favorite issues: LGBT, women’s ordination, married priests. Nor is it intended to subvert or replace the hierarchical nature of the Church or to democratize the decision-making process. The Synod on Synodality is – at least this year – about discerning “what synodality is.” Meanwhile, in recent days, a theologian invited to speak to the whole Synod announced that, “When we reach the consensus that the Church is constitutively synodal, we will have to rethink the whole Church, all the institutions, the whole life of the Church in a synodal sense.” A participating bishop openly affirmed that it will be necessary to depart from Apostolic Tradition. And they’re far from being the only ones making such radical claims. Read more.

Ratzinger, Vatican II, and the Idea of Synodality

In a 1975 essay on the reception of Vatican II, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger commented on the meaning and limits of councils. His main point is that councils are sometimes a necessity. But he adds, “they always point to an extraordinary situation in the Church and are not to be regarded as a model for her life in general or even as the ideal content of her existence.” Read more.

PODCAST: The Synod Lumbers towards a Conclusion (with Fr. Raymond de Souza)

Fr. Raymond de Souza and Robert Royal discuss how the Synod on Synodality is going to operate during its upcoming,…

Symptoms of the Synod 2023 II – 19 October 2023

ecades ago,  in the pre-digital age, L’Osservatore Romano, was often called “Pravda” by wags in Rome. The Russian word for “truth” had a certain ecclesial resonance, but it was the Cold War context that gave the significance. Pravda was the official organ of the Kremlin, and so if you wanted to know the official line on Soviet news and propaganda, you had to know what was in Pravda. In the internet age, when all papal texts are available immediately, L’Osservatore Romano is now irrelevant and ignored. But a source of official views and propaganda is still useful, and so the Holy Father’s fellow Jesuits at America magazine have stepped up as the new Pravda. Their Vatican correspondent, the unfailingly pleasant and genial Gerard O’Connell, is the court stenographer for the pontificate. Read more.

PODCAST: Questions about Catholic Women (with Diane Montagna)

Diane Montagna discusses the public presentation of a woman religious in the Synod hall, which made a nonsensical claim about…

PODCAST: Vatican Info, Then and Now (with Joan Lewis)

Veteran Vaticanista Joan Lewis provides some historical context about how the Holy See has historically managed news and information at…

Homophobia & Homo Sapiens

The Catholic Church has the longest and richest cultural tradition in the world. Which must make the angels weep to see the threadbare, self-important, pseudo-sociological, pseudo-psychological, mind-numbing ecclesial language in which the current synod is being conducted.

Same-Sex Blessings as Superstitions

Scripture reminds us that marriage is not a mere blessing, but the entering of a new reality created by God, Himself.  In the sacrament of marriage, Christ communicates His grace so that we can flourish in a world of love, family, and community – the places and situations where we are our best human selves. Blessings, sometimes called “sacramentals,” prepare us to receive the grace of the sacraments and help us to grow to be more like Christ. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1670)  A blessing is not a warm fuzzy moment, but a call to action. To be like Christ who endured, suffered, and sacrificed His very life. Read more.

Untangling Some Crucial Questions

Fr. Gerald E. Murray: Pastoral charity which ignores or, worse, contradicts God’s revealed truth is not charity, but pseudo-charity. Kindness or tenderness have their place, but when they degenerate into confirming the faithful in the commission of mortally sinful acts become a cruel caricature of the love a pastor of the Church owes to sinners when they come to him. Read more.

PODCAST: Cardinal Pell—The Synodal Dream as Toxic Nightmare (with Fr. Robert Sirico)

Fr. Robert Sirico and Robert Royal discuss a new book of essays by and about the late great Australian Cardinal…

Symptoms of the Synod 2023: No. 1: What Is Synodality? Pay Attention to the Symptoms

The pace of news out of Rome is punishing – it is impossible to keep up with all the stories….

PODCAST: Past Failures and Future Tasks for the Church (with Larry Chapp)

Theologian and director of a Catholic Worker farm Larry Chapp speaks with Robert Royal in Rome about how philosophers and…

The Door Stop

What the Church needs is not more reckless experiment. What the Church needs instead, is a humble return to source. Has the pope opened the door for same-sex blessings? He can’t, for to do so wouldn’t be Catholic. The same comment could be made for any number of issues, that might or might not be discussed, at the “Synod on Synodality” that is now upon us. Read more.

A Synod of Shattered Expectations

Stephen White: Let’s hope the attendees of the Synod on Synodality, the Holy Father included, really are willing to let in the Holy Spirit. It remains to be seen whether the Vatican’s recent efforts to deflate expectations for the synod will work, now that the “narrative of radical change” surrounding the synod has been so deeply established. Many in the Church feel they’ve been promised a revolution; many feel they’ve been promised precisely the opposite. Read more.

Confusion Worse Confounded

Robert Royal: “Synodality” will by its nature not be anything that can be defined, not even in the sense of being ambiguous. It will turn the Church into an institution that does not defend and promote the teachings of its Founder, Jesus Christ. Read more.

Pope Francis and Schism Re-Visited

As the Synod begins, we can be confident that, in God’s good time, truth will win the day. I believe the Catholic faithful, especially in the United States, Poland, and the developing world, particularly in Africa, will remain loyal to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the ever-living magisterial tradition of the Catholic Church. Read more.

PODCAST: Preserving the future of the Church

The Catholic Church has always been evolving – through the Apostolic tradition – to bring the message of Jesus Christ to a changing world. The great question faced by attendees at the Synod on Synodality is this: Will Catholicism remain faithful to the deposit of the Faith – to the Catechism and the Magisterium? That’s the challenge we’ll chronicle here at ‘The Vatican Thing.’

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‘Outing’ the Liberal Catholic Project

Liberalism is gaining the upper hand in the Church because Pope Francis is ignoring the mortal threat that it is. The Synod on Synodality promises to be the long-awaited opportunity to attempt once and for all to bury Catholicism centered upon the eternal salvation of souls in Christ, and replace it with the new and improved Catholicism of judgment-free human coexistence in which the paramount goal is to make everyone feel included, appreciated and affirmed in whatever personal choices they make in life, unless one chooses to embrace Catholicism centered upon the eternal salvation of souls in Christ. Read more.

Something’s Wrong in Rome

Better than parsing papal comments, seeking meaning is to say: Holy Father, please, don’t do this sort of thing. Pre-emptive discrediting of certain voices, which may also be of the Holy Spirit, is not openness or welcome. It looks a lot like ecclesiastical ideology – perhaps even neo-clericalism. Read more.

On the Matter of Synods

A synodal Church must proclaim with love that answers to life’s hard questions have a human name and face: Jesus Christ. We have heard repeatedly that the desired result of the whole process is a synodal Church equipped for evangelizing outreach to the peripheries. Very good. But what is to be the message to the peripheries: “Come join us in a giant consultation process that we call ‘Church’”? Frankly, I hope not. Read more.

Is Catholicism ‘Inadequate’?

Does Pope Francis believe the Faith of the Ages is not, today, sufficient for us? Recent comments seem to suggest it. But the Faith of the Ages is, today, entirely sufficient for us and always will be. Read more.

The Synod, Just Once More, for Now

Rome is conforming to “woke” outlets like the New York Times. But with God, there’s always hope, and TCT will stay on the beat. The Jesuit magazine America – probably thanks to Fr. James Martin, S.J. – took out large, expensive ads in The New York Times recently claiming “The Catholic Church is Changing. You’re going to want to follow along.” Times readers should, of course, because “Synodality” has given them the impression that the things they most care about are about to be delivered. Read more.

Whose Synod, Which Synodality?

The Synod is risky, but it may present a moment of grace for the Church to become more perfectly what she already is.

A New “Synodal Church” Undermines the Catholic Church

The ‘Instrumentum Laboris’ for the Synod on Synodality essentially promotes the same heterodoxy of the German Synodal Path. We believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we hold fast to His unchanging divine truth, for which countless Catholic martyrs have shed their blood. Read more.

A Synod of No Surprises

Why, after “the widest consultation in human history,” is there not one surprising word in the Synod document’s 27,000+ words? The synodalists have assured us that the great truths of the Faith are settled and that the main problem we now face is only to discover a new way of “being Church” via dialogue and listening. Does this really reflect the Catholic understanding of fallen human nature, let alone the history of the Church or the secular world? Read more.

The Synodal Church of “Me, Myself, and I”

A Church in which each person curates his own beliefs, may promise satisfaction. But it’s a religion of self-worship. The Church of “Me, Myself and I,” where each person recognizes himself in his personally curated set of beliefs, may promise satisfaction. In fact, it’s a make-believe, delusional religion of self-worship in which God is relegated to the role of the Divine Affirmer of whatever each one decides to believe. God spare us from such an outcome. Read more.

Synodality without Spirit

The final synodality document is like a university mission statement lacking substance, without which it provides no guidance. If what the Church needs now is a document to evangelize and inspire the hearts and minds of the next generation, this is not it. The document talks about “outreach to the young,” but I can’t imagine the amazing young people I teach tolerating more than a page. Read more.

Synodality: A Social Contract for the Church?

Listening to crowds, one hears “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday but “Crucify Him!” on Good Friday. Remember that synod fathers! Christ himself prays for Peter to have the strength to fulfill this office. Our Lord does not make the same intercession for the crowds that follow him. Listening to this crowd, one hears them say “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday but “Crucify Him!” on Good Friday. It’s worth remembering that an incautious “walking together” led to God’s People placing Him on a cross after a public consultation. Read more.

The Synod of Bishops: RIP

Appointing non-bishop members to a synod of bishops is like having non-cardinal members in the College of Cardinals. The October Synod will be a meeting of bishops and non-bishops as equals. It is no longer an expression of the “union of the Bishop of Rome with the Bishops whom the Holy Spirit had constituted to govern the Church of God.” As such it poses a grave threat to the proper understanding of the nature of the Church as a hierarchical society composed of the ordained shepherds and the lay faithful they are called to lead. Read more.

Getting Serious about the Synod

Will the Working Plan for the Synod on Synodality reflect calm, North American voices? Or arise from stormier German forces? The bishops themselves actually make some sharp observations, beginning with, “People don’t know what the Synod on Synodality is for. They don’t understand the purpose, couldn’t grasp what was trying to be achieved.” And: “Some polarizations arise within the Church, whereas others originate in the wider society and are transposed into the Church.” Read more.

Another ‘Revolution’ in the Church

Pope Francis’ says allows lay participants in the Synod on Synodality; thus he alters the nature of the Synod of Bishops. This innovation must be resisted by the Church’s bishops. It conflicts with the dogmatic teaching of the Church on the nature of the sacrament of Holy Orders, in particular the nature of the episcopate. Read more.

The Ruinous Rhetoric of ‘Synodal Interpretation’

As the Synodal Process develops, we’re going to see a virtual fight to the death between synodal rhetoric and Christian reality. An “overpowering dedication to listen attentively to the Holy Spirit” should at least notice that the Third Person of the Trinity has been remarkably silent during the rise and fall of entire civilizations about “radical inclusion” of the sort some regard as the beating heart of “Synodality.” Read more.

Dead Men Do Tell Tales

We should consider the questions and criticisms of certain pronouncements of Pope Francis raised by Benedict XVI and Cardinal George Pell, who said of a synodal interim report that “its account of the discussions of the first stage of ‘listening and discernment’, held in many parts of the world. . .is one of the most incoherent documents ever sent out from Rome.” Read more.

Synodality? How about Better Preaching

Train priests to preach the word fully and faithfully or all efforts at “reform” will be futile and fruitless. Parishes with good preaching and devout liturgies thrive.  Parishes without them empty out.  An old saying defines insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.  If you want to fill the churches, you can’t keep doing the same things and simply add more committee meetings. Read more.

A Self-Destructive Synod

Pray that Synod Fathers and bishops defend Catholic teaching against the Synod on Synodality’s self-destructiveness. There is plainly an open revolution going on in the Church today, an attempt to convince us that an embrace of heresy and immorality is not sinful, but rather a response to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through people who feel marginalized by a Church that has, up to now, been unfaithful to its mission. Read more.

A Piecemeal Vatican III?

The additional year Pope Francis has added to the Synodal process, could be a chance for greater maturity. God willing. To judge by the results so far, however, the odds look very much against it. But we also have it on good authority that with God, nothing is impossible. Read more.

The “National Synthesis” on the Synod

Chronically alienated Catholics shouldn’t have the same weight in shaping the Church’s future as the faithful and devout. The impulse behind the synodal process is essentially sociological.  It presumes a horizontal model of the Church.  It can easily become just another form of inwardly-focused sclerosis, a creature of the bureaucratic arts.  How – if at all – does it serve the confident evangelical witness of a Church mandated to “make disciples of all nations”?   What prevents synodality from becoming a kind of rolling Vatican III, without the burden of getting all the world’s bishops together so they can actually talk, face-to-face? Read more.

No Bark, No Bite

Sherlock Holmes’ “dog that did not bark” is something of overused cliché in public matters. But there are times when the absence of something that ought to be there – and loud – is the strongest evidence of what has really been going on. Witness the extraordinary consistory, which ended yesterday evening with a Mass celebrated by the pope in St. Peter’s for the Cardinals, who spent the past two days in private discussing the present and future of the Church.

It usually takes some indirect sources to sort out Vatican events like this, and people who follow them know how to put together the basic picture from various bits and pieces. This time, however, the fragments are few and add up to very little. It would be distressing to think that is the only result of what the Cardinals and the Holy Father just spent their time doing.

Still, that may very well be the case.

The official spokesmen haven’t spoken much. What we’ve mostly been told are the usual PR cliches: that the pope invited the participants to speak out frankly. But when you even have to say that, who ever really does it? Read more.