If you are a regular reader of this publication, you have probably learned of peculiar, indeed inexplicable, nay, rather, downright alarming goings-on in Rome in the penumbra of the Amazon synod now underway. It is likely that some of you are upset by them. That’s entirely understandable, but there’s an alternative.
In times of chaos, unprovoked or provoked, we must maintain cool heads, keeping all that we hear in historical perspective. There have been many crises in the history of the Church. When we hear something weird about what the synod is doing, or what’s going on in the Vatican gardens or in churches in Rome, look upon the provocations as opportunities. With each aggravation crack open your traditional devotional prayer books and trustworthy catechisms. Review. Ponder. Pray.
Vincent of Lérins (d 445) wrote in his Commonitorium (20.48) that:
Whatsoever new and unheard-of doctrine you shall find to have been furtively introduced by someone or another, besides that of all or contrary to that of all the saints, this, you will understand, does not pertain to religion, but is permitted as a trial, being instructed especially by the words of the blessed Apostle Paul, who writes thus in his first Epistle to the Corinthians: ‘‘There must needs be heresies, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you,’’ as though he should say, this is the reason why the authors of Heresies are not forthwith rooted up by God, namely, that they who are approved may be made manifest; that is, that it may be apparent of each individual, how tenacious and faithful and steadfast he is in his love of the Catholic faith.
Speaking of trials, we are going to hear from members of the synod that down is up, night is day, and out is in.
Newly canonised St John Henry Newman (d 1890) explained the conditions and the parameters of authentic development of doctrine. Does the main idea change or remain unchanged if the manner of expression changes? If the content remains, then the expression is a genuine development of doctrine rather than a corruption. For example, a bird doesn’t have much resemblance to an egg, but the bird is the proper development of the egg, not its corruption. An acorn rightly and naturally develops into an oak tree, not an Amazonian rubber tree.
Be steadfast when you hear unheard-of doctrine.