Pope Calls Out “Bad Shepherds” as Conservatives Prepare to Fight Change

synod

Just a day before gay marriage in the U.S. received a significant boost from the Supreme Court, the much-anticipated Extraordinary Synod on the Family opened in Rome yesterday with Pope Francis pointedly criticizing “bad shepherds” who seek money and power and “lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move.”

As some 190 bishops and a collection of lay advisors meet to discuss “pastoral challenges” facing Catholic families, divisions are being laid bare in the church that were largely suppressed in the Pope John Paul II/Benedict years, with a cabal of conservative bishops (presumably the “bad shepherds”) looking to beat back any liberalization of church doctrine promoted by more moderate cardinals.

Realistically any alteration of church doctrine that would come out of the synod would be modest and most likely would revolve around communion for divorced Catholics. On the more conservative end, there might be some minor tweaks to the annulment process that would broaden the grounds for annulment to include being too immature to have entered into a legitimate sacramental marriage.

On the most optimistically liberal end, Francis’ major ally Cardinal Walter Kasper has suggested some sort of “penance” work-around that wouldn’t alter the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage but would allow some divorced Catholics to receive Communion even if they’ve remarried without having their previous marriage annulled.

From both the preparatory synod document and the buzz going in, there appears to be zero change of any revision to doctrine involving contraception or gay marriage.

But this doesn’t mean that the stakes aren’t still high. What’s evolving isn’t so much a battle over doctrine but a fight for the soul of the church. Francis and his allies are promoting a vision of the church that’s much more live-and-let-live, repeatedly turning to the word “mercy” to describe how they view the application of doctrine to the actual lives of Catholics, guided by a sense of the larger mission of the church as spreading the Gospel, not enforcing laws.

Conservatives, led by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are insisting that there can be no change to church doctrine or its application, and they’ve launched a concerted campaign to forestall any changes regarding divorce and communion. In fact, Müller and four other cardinals, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, released a book just ahead of the synod entitled Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church which counters arguments made by Kasper to the bishops last February. Müller also released a book-length interview in which he argues that the “total indissolubility of a valid marriage is not a mere doctrine, it is a divine and definitive dogma of the Church.”

In yet another book arguing against change, Cardinal George Pell, a key Vatican official, said the “sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, and the outsiders realize that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible,” the better for the church.

Burke also conducted a teleconference with reporters last week to further argue that any change in doctrine is impossible and to cast doubt on assertions by Kasper that he was speaking for the pope when he said the church should find a way to extend mercy to divorced and remarried Catholics.

Kasper fired back with an interview in America magazine in which he accused the conservatives of “theological fundamentalism,” and said they “fear a domino effect, [that] if you change one point all would collapse,” referring to the fear that any change to marriage policy would undercut other positions related to sex. Kasper also accused conservatives of having “an ideological understanding of the Gospel that the Gospel is like a penal code.”

The hardliners on divorce were backed by an open letter to the synod signed by 48 conservatives, including prominent Catholics like natural law scholar Robert George and former US ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon, but also conservative protestants like Rick Warren and signees from the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council, which suggests that the fight over the Catholic Church’s divorce policy is seeping into the larger political debate about same-sex marriage.

Decrying every conservative bogeyman from the increasing acceptance of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock birth to the “role of pornography and ‘no-fault’ divorce in the marriage crisis,” they call on the pope remain strong in support of “timeless truths about marriage” and suggest a series of steps the church can take to support more conservative notions of marriage, largely focused on pressuring couples to forswear divorce.

If this all sounds a lot like a political campaign on the part of conservatives, that’s because it is. And it’s emblematic of how they’ve largely run the church for the past 35 years, aligning themselves with political conservatives here in the U.S., taking a hardline stand against letting any daylight into church doctrine, and suggesting that anyone who would do so is literally going against the word of God.

But now Francis’ popularity, as well as the expectations of change that have been set by the synod, suggest a new calculus that shines a harsh light on this overt political maneuvering. This may give moderates the opening to make some modest changes that, while perhaps small in the lives of ordinary Catholics, will set the dangerous precedent that the church can change. Maybe conservatives are right to be afraid after all.

  • DKeane123

    I wonder where in the bible Jesus talks about the minutia of annulment?

  • joeyj1220

    I guess at this point I should never be shocked at anything the conservative clergy say, but this line , “Cardinal George Pell, a key Vatican official, said the “sooner the wounded, the lukewarm, and the outsiders realize that substantial doctrinal and pastoral changes are impossible,” the better for the church” actually took my breath away. The stunningly anti-Gospel spirit of such a statement coming from a so-called pastor of the Church is beyond belief. These powerful clerics with attitudes like that of Pell are what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of the corrupted Pharisees.

  • FrJesusGaylord

    It’s in that secret part only priests have access to.

  • Wendy

    I’m so happy that Pope Francis is challenging conservative thought and teaching in his own church. Conservatives have removed Jesus Christ for the all mighty dollar and power. Worse of all, conservatives love to stand in judgment of others. Misery is inflicted most securely in the power to judge others. That power is concentrated in the notions of the church.
    The following is the message conservatives use to inflict judgment. Americans are lazy, no good for nothing, Godless baby killers who deserve to work their fingers to the bone so that the rich (job creators), who are truly of God, can prosper. This message is constantly used to promote their war on women, children, and the hard working people. “Thou shall not take the side of the rich and powerful over the powerless.” I don’t remember who said that but I’ve lived by that and will always support and promote lawmakers who actively write legislation for equality and access. LGBT community and equal access to reproductive health and education are such causes that break conservative judgments against us all.

  • CaSaundra S. Gilliam

    Yes, they are brazenly bold

  • Albert Nygren

    No, your thinking is counter to what Jesus taught and is recorded in the Holy Bible. We must pay attention to what all of the things Jesus taught are, not just the ones that suit our fancy. Jesus also taught” “God cannot be mocked. What you sow, so also shall you reap.”. Jesus also taught that “Who ever put a stumbling block in front of “one of these little ones”, “That it would be better for that man if a millstone was tied around his neck and he be cast into the middle of the ocean.” And Jesus also said of those men who put a stumbling block in front of these little ones, it would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Yes we must be merciful but not to the extent of teaching the flock that it is OK to sin and that there is no consequence for sin. What is a greater stumbling block for children than to teach children that it is OK to sin that might cause them to go to Hell? Or don’t you believe in Hell or the possibility of someone to go there? That is a popular Liberal belief but it was Jesus Himself who said that a person who did not individually help those in need who were in their life, that those people at the Judgment will be cast into the “lake of fire that” God created for Satan and Satan’s helpers, the fallen angels who became demons.

  • Franseenit

    The patriarchal clergy made up all the rules then searched the Bible to justify their control of their members – sound familiar? I have left the church years ago because of their browbeating dogma (?). To now have a Pope that actually has a HEART and UNDERSTANDING of the HUMAN CONDITION is stunningly uplifting. Pope Francis will most likely be ousted if he persists in considering the actual ‘lambs of God’ who do all the suffering and need emotional support in their lives. Pope Francis is really a breath of fresh air but when I see who is at this synod – their hard line attitudes, their political support of the right – Bishop Burke – Dear Pope Francis has a very uphill battle on his hand.

  • Franseenit

    And I suppose you are without sin…. Who really wrote ‘the’ bible – there are so many versions and perhaps Rick Perry and his ilk will be publishing the Texas version so they can oppress their citizens a bit more. Politicians and hardline religious are so often hypocrites when you look into their closets. It is time everyone look inward instead of justifying their hatefulness of those who may have had tough times in their lives. Look in the mirror – SOUL. PRAISE BE TO POPE FRANCIS!!!

  • cranefly

    “Lukewarm” is bad enough. Keeping hope in a Church that treats you like a disease is anything but “lukewarm.”

    But what could he possibly have meant by “wounded”? He really said, “the wounded” need to give up hope.

  • cranefly

    “Müller also released a book-length interview in which he argues that the ‘total indissolubility of a valid marriage is not a mere doctrine, it
    is a divine and definitive dogma of the Church.'”

    That’s a bad strategy and a betrayal of weakness. We wouldn’t need a book arguing that the teaching was infallible if the Church actually knew and agreed on what was infallible and what wasn’t. But it doesn’t. Astonishing to realize that the Catholic Church, with its millennia of philosophers and legalism and its libraries of encyclicals and laws, can’t remember what’s infallible and what isn’t, and the tight corner it’s backed itself into is made of imaginary walls.

  • Death Spiral

    As soon as the flock can put theory into practice and apply the basic tenants of Christianity the other 6 days of the week, I’ll listen. Right now all you’re preaching is a narrow and intolerant version of what you believe is a tolerant and loving religion, or don’t you? Now that there’s a Pope calling the churches followers on their self-centered hypocrisies many cast blame on others by diverting blame through rationalization or justification by practicing self absolution.

  • Albert Nygren

    Jesus said that no one should get divorced.

  • Albert Nygren

    No, of course I am not with out sin. The Bible states that we are all sinners, “But if we confess our sin, God is righteous and just to forgive our sin and lead us into all righteousness.. Who wrote the Bible? You have been listening to too many Atheists and Liberals. There are many translations from the Hebrew or Greek of the original texts but even though people translate the original scriptures with many mistakes, there are not many people who doubt that the texts in the Original languages, unless you doubt anything and everything about God and the scriptures. You can find out what the original words of the Bible were and what they meant by checking with A, “Strong’s Concordance or a website such as .

  • Albert Nygren

    That’s not true dear Death Spiral. Liberals have watered down what Jesus and St. Paul taught so that Jesus is portrayed by them as an ineffective wimp who taught that “anything goes” and do whatever you like because God doesn’t care. If you don’t believe that God could keep His Bible truthful, where do you get your knowledge of what Jesus taught and did? All of the people who wrote the New Testament actually saw and knew Jesus as they were there at the time. I don’t think that you were there nor do you know anyone who was there at the time; so just where in the world do you get your knowledge of God and Jesus from? Do you just think that you can imagine what you would have liked Jesus to say and then that is what Jesus would have said? That’s very convenient for you isn’t it.? You say I am bigoted because I quote the People who wrote the Bible. That would mean you think that God is a Bigot because He always says that He is the only God and that all other religions worship false God’s who aren’t real. God says we should always tell the truth to people who worship False Gods and that we should tell them the truth.

  • DKeane123

    So annulment = divorce? I’m not sur Catholics would agree with that equation.

    And how do you know he said this? If I remember correctly, none of the writing in the NT is a first hand account of Jesus.

  • Death Spiral

    I’m not talking about religion, spirituality, or God. The fact you don’t seem to get that is telling.

  • joeyj1220

    I guarantee you… when he said the word wounded, he probably put it in his mind with little quotation marks around it as if to say “Those whiny people”

  • joeyj1220

    You’re on of those men who put stumbling blocks… that’s the irony of the whole situation; that you cannot (or even worse choose not) to see it.

  • joeyj1220

    Jesus also said “judge not” and yet here you are….

  • Albert Nygren

    Please see my reply to Gaylord Immediately beneath this.

  • Guest

    “All of the people who wrote the New Testament actually saw and knew Jesus as they were there at the time.” Falsehood.

    “None of the Gospel authors is thought to be an eyewitness, and none claims to be. There is a broad consensus that many of the books of the New Testament were not written by the people whose names are attached to them.[31]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament#Authorship

  • Albert Nygren

    I agree with you about the fact that the “flock” does not put theory into practice and I am terribly ashamed of this. How can anyone believe the testimony of someone who does not practice what they preach? I don’t believe that Christ taught a “tolerant” Religion. His actual words in the Gospels do not say that. In the Greek of the original texts of the New Testament the word translated into English as “love” is “agape”. Agape is the irrevocable decision to treat another person in their best interests even if it causes some suffering on the part of the person who practices “agape”. For a parent to treat their child with agape may be in certain occasions to hug them or give them a cookie. At other times for a parent to treat their child with “agape” may be to spank them if they continue to seriously misbehave. To tell a person that they will go to Heaven no matter what they do is to possibly cause that person to go to Hell. It is certainly not love in any language or by any definition to cause a person to go to Hell!

  • Albert Nygren

    How can you say that you are not talking about God when you said, “As soon as the flock can put theory into practice and apply the basic tenants of Christianity the other 6 days of the week, I’ll listen.”?

  • Jim Reed

    It has been divine and definitive dogma for about a thousand years.

  • http://www.devonnollforpresident2012.org Devon J. Noll

    You are right, Albert, there are many versions of the Bible, and as to who wrote the Bible, the historical record is quite clear on that – the original Bible was a compilation of works put together by a group of bishops from across the Roman Empire for the purpose of creating a state religion for Constantine. They chose those books that fit their own personal beliefs, did not have any actual books written by Jesus to go by, so made up four compilations of works by a variety of authors under the names of those who did the transcription, and chose the letters, Acts, and Revelations as a way to insure both compliance to their personal interpretations and to appease the Emperor’s needs. The books of the Old Testament were picked and chosen from the Torah by these bishops to support the New Testament and are incomplete. This book may be one of the greatest religious texts of the world, but it was not written by Jesus, but by men, and if you read the lessons of the Gospels and what Jesus supposedly said, you find not a vengeful God, but one who is loving and forgiving. He did not write Mosaic Law which people who are fundamentalist feel should be applied, and even Jesus said only that he was here to fulfill a prophecy, and he did so by standing up to those who would misuse the law to further political and monetary gain, just as the early Christian Bishops have done through the centuries to today.

    If you are going to believe in the Bible then at least, please understand it in context and realize that it was not meant to be a purely religious book, but one meant to insure favor (and probably their lives) for a politician. Today politicians use the Bible to justify every anti-Christian action that they take. They are not shepherds who care for people, they are people who use their congregations to further their own personal and political agendas – whether Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, or whatever. There are many good people who follow their faith and try to be good people, but as long as the media insists on giving the “bad shepherds” all the spotlight, God’s true work cannot be done on the Earth.

    Rev. Devon J. Noll
    New Word Universal Fellowship Church
    Christmas Valley, OR
    http://www.newworduniversalfellowship.org

  • Death Spiral

    So the alternative for you not understanding me is for you to tell me what I think or mean?

  • http://www.devonnollforpresident2012.org Devon J. Noll

    Albert – IN Jesus’ time, and before when Mosaic Law was written, men could merely sign a paper, give it to the woman, and she was divorced without recourse. Jesus said that any man who did so would make a woman an adulteress and if he remarried, he would be an adulterer. You are right, he spoke out against divorce. But that was over 2000 years ago in a time when divorces were done to insure political power, because a woman could not conceive, when women were kept as concubines for pleasure and breeding (actually slavery in fact), when wives were not considered equals but rather chattel like livestock, and to obtain land and wealth by taking another wife.

    Reasons for divorce have not changed much, but with 75% of men committing adultery and 65% of women while still married; with one in two marriages ending in divorce; and with more people forgoing marriage altogether because of the legal hassles if the relationship does not work out, it seems to me that unless you marry within the Catholic Church or go into a marriage agreement to never divorce, you are fighting human nature. Wouldn’t God rather that people were truly united into one through a loving marriage, instead of staying in one that destroys their lives and their souls, as well as children? God loves us and I am fairly certain that staying in a marriage where a person is being abused until they are filled with hate for their partners is not what God wants for us. When parents tear apart their children demanding they take sides in a failing marriage, God weeps for all concerned, and would approve of a divorce to save all the souls involved. God understands us better than any human ever could, and to use the Bible to beat up on those who seek divorce is unworthy of anyone who claims to love God.

    Rev. Devon J. Noll
    New Word Universal Fellowship Church
    Christmas Valley, OR
    http://www.newworduniversalfellowship.org

  • Albert Nygren

    I didn’t say that annulment = divorce and I am Catholic, so I know the Church’s position on that and I’m not arguing against the Church’s position. Both Matthew and John are first hand accounts of what Jesus said and did. You have to remember that many Atheists and Ultra Liberals want to discredit what Jesus did and said and are willing to lie about many things to do that. For me one of the best checks on something’s authenticity is to try it and see if it works. In the 1960’s I lived with a group of people who were trying to live according to Jesus teachings and the results in my life were amazing!. Much later I worked for 20 years as a Registered Nurse on psychiatric units in hospital and took many college courses in psychology and counseling. I saw that most if not all of Jesus teachings were similar to what I learned in school or observed that worked in patients lives or my own life. Also, if you read each book in the New Testament many times in every year you will get to know some things about the writer as a person, especially if you try to do what they say. Some so called experts doubt that Paul wrote all of the letters attributed to him in the New Testament. I’m not sure about the Book of Hebrews being written by Paul. But it is obvious to ne that all of the other “Letters of Paul” were written by one man, that the letter was a first hand account of the person’s experiences that are recounted in those letters and that he was a very Spiritual person no matter who wrote them. Generally very Spiritual Persons try hard not to lie because it says in the Bible that God hates lies and I know from personal experience that those few times I was weak and lied about something I always got in trouble for it. I hope some of what I wrote has been helpful to you. I have tried very hard to be honest and accurate in what I wrote. I always try to do that but in what you wrote to me I can tell that there are many good things about you and I ask God to lead you into all knowledge and wisdom and perfect and complete knowledge of the immense Love that God has for you

  • Albert Nygren

    Reverend, In the accounts of the Apostle Matthew who, as you know was one of Jesus 12 Disciples and lived with Jesus for at least 3 years, Jesus gives the reasons for His teaching that Married people should not get a divorce were that when a man and woman get married that God actually joins the 2 people together so that they become One which explains Jesus teaching that “If God joins 2 together that man should not “tear them apart!” The reasons that Jesus gave had nothing to do with the sociological reasons you give.
    Of course I agree that people who are married to someone who is abusing them should not stay married. Any time a person is actually being abused by someone they need to leave the situation. But certainly you know that most of the time that is not the situation. I don’t know how old you are, I’m 71 but 71 years ago is not 2000 years ago and then even Protestant Churches taught that people should not get divorced except for very serious reasons.
    For you to say that people use the Bible to “beat up” on those who seek divorce is unworthy of anyone who claims to love God,” is to criticize Jesus who was the One who initially said that. Are you saying that Jesus did not know the Mind of God? I hope you don’t mean that but that is what you are saying. And your use of the phrase, “Beat up” on those who seek divorce. What an inaccurate and inflammatory phrase to me or anyone who is merely quoting the words of Jesus is completely out of character for a man who purports to be “a man of God” And do you think that all of the people who seek divorce are seeking it for serious and valid reasons and that if someone encouraged that couple to think about whether there isn’t some way to save the Marriage is, “Beating up on them?” I encourage you dear Pastor to search your heart to seek the real reason you are saying these things which are so far from what our dear Savior taught.

  • Albert Nygren

    To judge not, means to condemn not. It doesn’t mean that we should not, in love, try to discern what is the truth of a matter or the right and wrong of a matter. To speak “the truth” in love, is not judging the person.

  • Albert Nygren

    I have no idea what you think or mean. I only commented on whet the words you used mean. If you use words that don’t mean what you are thinking or what you intend to say; that is your problem and not mine.

  • Albert Nygren

    This is not true what you say. You must be a Liberal who believes what other liberals say who either lie or do not know what they are talking about. The letters of Paul were written by Paul for the edification of the churches he started. If you read them and have any Spiritual experience at all, you can see the truth of them and if you put what Paul says we should do into practice you would see that what Paul teaches actually have the outcomes that he says you will have. Everything that is in the New Testament was written before the year 100. They were not canonized until the 300’s but if anyone thinks they were written at that time they are sadly ignorant. I will agree with you that most Protestant Churches have leaders who are either sadly ignorant of the truth of the Bible and often have a personal agenda of what they want the people to believe. This is also true with some Catholic Priests but much less so. I have met many God fearing people whose agenda is to help people go to Heaven when their body dies.

  • Death Spiral

    “I have no idea what you think or mean” obviously.

  • Jim Reed

    Patricia,
    Has anyone ever pointed out the symbolism of the “Good Catholics” book cover? It looks like a pregnant nun. Look at it, I am sure you will see.

  • nmgirl

    it’s no different than Mark Driscoll throwing bodies under the bus at Mars Hill.

  • nmgirl

    so do you worship Paul or Christ?

  • Albert Nygren

    No so Devon. You have incorrect information.

  • Albert Nygren

    I worship God our Father whose Name in the Hebrew is written Yod he Vav He.

  • Albert Nygren

    No, you are incorrect again! A person who puts a stumbling block in front of someone is someone who gives false information to people like you do, so that if they believe you and act on what you say, they could possibly go to Hell. No one who believes what Jesus says in the 4 Gospels in the original Greek language and act on it will go to Hell. That is all I have said. That is certainly not putting a stumbling block in front of someone.

  • Albert Nygren

    No, I’m sure you don’t. I use words that mean exactly what I intend to say. If you don’t know the meaning of words there is no way for you to understand what I’m saying. But again, that is your problem. You need to improve your vocabulary if you want people who know the meaning of words to understand you and for you to be able to understand them.

  • Albert Nygren

    When Jesus was asked, “What is the Most important Commandment, He replied, “That we should love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, and strength. If you look at the exact words Jesus used you will see that He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. The Jews were not allowed to Say God’s Name except by the High Priest on the Day Of Atonement in the Holy of Hollies in the Temple. The other priests tied a robe on his leg in case he died in that most Holy place so they could drag him out because they couldn’t enter. Anyway, the Old testament was originally written in Hebrew and it was written in the Hebrew scriptures. By quoting the Scripture word for word Jesus left no doubt that that it is His father and our Father, Yahweh that we are to love and worship. Of course we are to Love Jesus also but not above our Heavenly Father. I’ve said this before but in case someone reads this who doesn’t know, I am not a JW, only a Bible believing Christian.

  • Albert Nygren

    Also, if you look though the entire Bible one of the recurring themes is that is exactly what we are supposed to do is to resist and overcome “Human Nature”, which if you have a pet and see them do things that humans do it is easy to recognize that it is actually animal nature we are trying to resist. I will only quote 1 scripture. (Let everyone have a sigh of relief 🙂 ) and a brief one at that. Romans 12:1,2 says, ” I beseech you therefore brothers by the Mercy of Christ, to present your body a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your Spiritual act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you will be able to discern what God’s Will is; His good, pleasing, and perfect Will.

  • Guest

  • Death Spiral

    I never said I didn’t understand you, I understand you perfectly. You are the one deciding what my words mean, go back and study the thread, (although this is not an issue of semantics). BTW: Thanks for proving my point!

    PS: you wrote: “I have no idea what you think or mean.” not me.

  • stephen healy

    Cardinal Burke is the very example of Clericalism that Pope Francis is against. These conservative hardliners would have tried to prevent Jesus form ministering to the women at the Well as documented in the Gospel of Saint John. Keep up the good fight Pope Francis

  • Albert Nygren

    Joey, I am not the one putting stumbling blocks in front of Children, you are. You say that no one who believe the 4 Gospels and act on it will go to Hell. I have merely quoted what Jesus said in the 4 Gospels. Which quote do you disagree with?