Dead Men Do Tell Tales – The Catholic Thing

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Midway through the first volume (2019) of his Prison Journal, Australian Cardinal George Pell records that: “Every type of Catholic should realise that there is an exclusion zone around the Eucharist, where adults without faith and without basic good practice should not enter. Years ago, a prominent criminal who was in jail was known to be Catholic. ‘Does he come to the jail Masses?’ the chaplain was asked. ‘Yes’ was the reply. ‘Does he receive Communion?’ The chaplain explained, ‘No, he doesn’t because he has faith.’”

Pell had much more to say about the Mass and Holy Eucharist in other contexts, as did Pope Benedict (see especially his masterpiece The Spirit of the Liturgy). Indeed, they both sensed that recovering a deep reverence for the Sacrament, “the source and summit” of the Christian life (Vatican II), would also resolve many vexed questions in the Church. And no small number in the contemporary world.

It’s in that deeper context that we need to appreciate texts that recently surfaced by or about these two great churchmen, who just died ten days apart, rather than in the adolescent media frenzy over what are always rather sordid – and now rather tiresome – Vatican politics.

There’s much heat, to be sure, in two brief essays by Pell: one that appeared in the London Spectator the day after he died (he expected to be alive at its publication) calling the tangled mess of the Synod on Synodality “a toxic nightmare” (here); and the other a tart memo that had been circulating among the Cardinals since March under the pseudonym “Demos” (here), now believed to be his. What matters most, however, is not the soap opera clash with figures in the Vatican – including the pope – but the clarity and force Pell brings to the nature of what Christ bequeathed to us in the sacraments and sacred doctrine.

Especially compared with the confusion and sloppiness that mark the current “synodal process.” In Pell’s reading of a synodal interim report: “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.”

The Synod proposes a different mission than Jesus’ Great Commission to “preach the Gospel to all nations”:

According to this recent update of the good news, “synodality” as a way of being for the Church is not to be defined, but just to be lived. It revolves around five creative tensions, starting from radical inclusion and moving towards mission in a participatory style, practicing “co-responsibility with other believers and people of good will.” Difficulties are acknowledged, such as war, genocide and the gap between clergy and laity, but all can be sustained, say the Bishops, by a lively spirituality.

Besides the usual paralysis over longstanding teachings on abortion, contraception, homosexuality, divorce, remarriage, even polygamy – and the usual pieties about women, the marginalized, and the environment: “What is one to make of this potpourri, this outpouring of New Age good will?”


Dead Men Do Tell Tales – The Catholic Thing

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