The Upcoming Synod on Synodality: A Bishop’s Thoughts – The American Spectator

An American bishop is reminding the faithful to hold true to the doctrines of the Catholic faith, as the universal Synod on Synodality is posed to introduce heterodox ideology as some form of pastoral truth. Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas penned a heartfelt letter last week to his diocese, urging devout Catholics to remember their allegiance to the Bride of Christ, the Catholic Church, in the midst of the turmoil wrought by poor catechesis and the onslaughts of a toxic secularism that has invaded even the ranks of the successors to the Apostles.

Strickland wrote, “I must speak to you from a father’s heart in order to warn you of the evils that threaten us, and to assure you of the joy and hope that we have always in our Lord Jesus Christ.” He explicated, “The evil and false message that has invaded the Church, Christ’s Bride, is that Jesus is only one among many, and that it is not necessary for His message to be shared with all humanity. This idea must be shunned and refuted at every turn.” (RELATED: Catholic Victory in Maryland Supreme Court)

Pope Francis has long endorsed and participated in ecumenical and interfaith dialogues, ceremonies, and treaties, and has been critical of “proselytization,” which is actively converting others to one’s own faith, distinguishing it from “evangelization,” which he defines as making the Catholic faith more “attractive” to others. Francis’s theory on evangelization seems to be in line with a quote attributed to his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” This approach is a good and a noble one, but even its end goal should be to make the Catholic faith so attractive, to bear witness to Truth by the very way one lives one’s life so completely, that others are then drawn to conversion.

“We must hold fast to these truths and be wary of any attempts to present an alternative to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Whether proselytizing or evangelizing, the Catholic faith one wishes to draw others into includes what may be crudely called “rules.” A more precise way of phrasing it would be to say that the Catholic faith holds a vast treasury of theological truths developed, clarified, and studied over the course of centuries by the greatest minds in Christendom, and adhered to by the Saints, martyrs, and great preachers of every age. In his letter, Strickland elucidates some of these truths, urging Catholics to remember them and hold fast to them:

  1. “Christ established One Church — the Catholic Church — and, therefore, only the Catholic Church provides the fullness of Christ’s truth and the authentic path to His salvation for all of us.” This is one of the most fundamental professions of the Catholic faith. No other Christian sect or denomination claims for itself the authority the Church does, and no other Christian sect or denomination has maintained its doctrine, immutably, for as long as the Catholic Church has. As well-intentioned and even as holy as many Evangelicals, Orthodox, and other Christians are, they still lack the fullness of the faith which the Catholic Church alone holds, professes, preaches, and preserves.
  2. “The Eucharist and all the sacraments are divinely instituted, not developed by man.” This is another of the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic faith, and one of the truths which separates Catholicism from much of Protestantism. The Catholic Church declares unequivocally that the host and the chalice the priest lifts high during the Mass are not “symbols” or “representations” of Jesus Christ, nor even just commemorations of His sacrifice on Calvary. The Church proclaims that the host and the wine in the chalice are the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the God-made-Man who gave His life on Calvary. In fact, the Church declares that the sacrifice of the Mass is the same sacrifice of Christ on the cross, that time itself is split asunder and that every Mass is a portal to the moment when Christ Himself hung upon the cross and cried, “It is accomplished.” (John 19:30) Strickland warns that this which Catholics have long called the Blessed Sacrament must not be abused: “[T]o receive Him in Communion unworthily (i.e. in a state of grave, unrepentant sin) is a devastating sacrilege for the individual and for the Church.”
  3. “The Sacrament of Matrimony is instituted by God.” This fundamental, even pre-Christian understanding of the sacrament of marriage has been under attack of late, even from within the ranks of the Church’s human hierarchy. Prelates such as Synodal Relator General Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich and Francis’s new pick to head the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, have tacitly endorsed homosexual “marriage” and the blessing of same-sex unions, and the German Synodal Way has outright mandated blessing same-sex unions. Strickland seeks to remind Catholics that this sacrament is subject neither to the pressures of ideological activists nor to the whims of any court, but only to God almighty, Who instituted marriage and alone holds supreme authority over it.
  4. “Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, male or female, and all people should be helped to discover their true identities as children of God, and not supported in a disordered attempt to reject their undeniable biological and God-given identity.” An obvious commentary on transgenderism, which Catholic bishops in the United States, at least, have vocally opposed.
  5. “Sexual activity outside marriage is always gravely sinful and cannot be condoned, blessed, or deemed permissible by any authority inside the Church.” Such has been the moral foundation upon which the Western world was largely founded, a foundation which has only begun to erode within the past hundred years, under sustained attacks from feminism, leftism, pornography, contraception, abortion, and all the diseased fruits of the sexual revolution. The family is the key, foundational building block of society, and the family cannot exist without either marriage or procreation.
  6. “The belief that all men and women will be saved regardless of how they live their lives (a concept commonly referred to as universalism) is false and dangerous, as it contradicts what Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospel.” Universalism has become an increasingly common proclamation, even amongst Catholics and especially amongst modernists. As cute as it sounds, the notion that no one really goes to Hell seemingly gives license to mankind to enact and engage in all manner of degeneracies and depravities, ensured that God’s mercy will send him to Hell once he dies. The key issue, though, is that God sends no one to Hell; we ourselves choose it. Though not a Catholic, the author C.S. Lewis perhaps put it best when he wrote in The Great Divorce, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
  7. “In order to follow Jesus Christ, we must willingly choose to take up our cross instead of attempting to avoid the cross and suffering that Our Lord offers to each of us individually in our daily lives.” Wisely, Strickland follows the previous point by explaining:

redemptive suffering … humbles us, purifies us, and draws us deeper into the joy of a life lived in Christ.  That is not to say that we must enjoy or seek out suffering, but if we are united to Christ, as we experience our daily sufferings we can find the hope and joy that exist amidst the suffering and persevere to the end in all our suffering.

The bold Texan bishop concludes his letter, “In the weeks and months ahead, many of these truths will be examined as part of the Synod on Synodality.  We must hold fast to these truths and be wary of any attempts to present an alternative to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Indeed, the Synod on Synodality has been lauded by its few proponents as a means of fellowship, inclusion, and pastoral love, while the far more numerous Catholics skeptical of its yet-to-be-fully-revealed fruits fear the Synod will dilute the Church’s perennial moral teachings, confuse the remaining faithful, and through ambiguity and a false sense of “welcoming” inadvertently lead souls into grave sin. (READ MORE: What Do Young Catholics Need?: Controversy at World Youth Day)

Strickland shrewdly notes that “some will label as schismatics those who disagree with the changes being proposed.  Be assured, however, that no one who remains firmly upon the plumb line of our Catholic faith is a schismatic.” Those who are wary or skeptical of the eventual results of the Synod are not de facto schismatics, despite the claims of ultramontanists or hyperpapalists. Those who allow…

Read More: The Upcoming Synod on Synodality: A Bishop’s Thoughts – The American Spectator

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