Well, it's May 1st, technically. But after the Winter we've had, I am declaring May 1st the beginning of Summer.
And this year, it looks to be the Summer of Catholic discontent.
You probably don't need a recap of recent Church history, but I think the impetus behind the discontent comes from the splintering of the bulk of Catholics who still believe in the Church as the true Body of Christ. These Catholics saw the pontificate of Benedict XVI (and some also the pontificate of JPII, in a much more mild sense) as a welcome stabilization and corrective to the instability, craziness, and destruction of the immediate post-conciliar period.
Catholics in this group contained persons of good will across the liturgical divide, and self identified as conservative, traditional, or reform of the reform (ROTR), or what have you. The prevailing (but not uniform) opinion was that there was at last progress in doctrinal and liturgical restoration and renewal.
And though there were signs of progress in this-- what Hilary White, to give credit, called "The Great Effort to Fix Things"-- we, alas, were much too optimistic. Our belief in the "Great Effort" was mistaken, as Miss White also correctly observed.
It took one year-- actually, much less than a year-- to all come crashing down.
It is easier to destroy than to build. The coalition among conservatives, ROTR-ers, and traditionals? Gone. The line on doctrinal matters, which before appeared as a slooooow push in the right direction, is now full-scale retreat. The effort to take back the moral high ground of the Church is now a frantic effort to put up a barricade in front of the smashed doors of the Keep while someone else opens a side door to let the Saracens in.
The great media proclamation of the pontificate of the big tent is a joke. The public at large is temporarily placated by its perception that the Church will abandon her mission to defend Faith and morals. That's it. Inside the Church, we are breaking apart. This pontificate is causing division, confusion and discouragement among Catholics.
It is as though Pope Francis truly is the personification of Vatican II. He is the traumatic event, personified.
What does this mean? Well, try nailing down a Catholic from different "wings" of the Church to define the Council and its effects, and you'll have the answer. Different theories, more or less justifiable.
Back to the Summer of Catholic Discontent.
This Fall, the Synod on the Family will reportedly take on issues that touch on revealed truths the Church cannot change, if she is the Church at all. You know what is happening. Trial balloons floated, modernists excited, Catholics worried. And this is either coming from the top, or else the top is not effectively calming expectations.
So, this Fall, we will get to see the conclusion: Will the Church retreat from the truth proclaimed by Christ? (Impossible.) What is the Pope really doing? Can the Church be wrong about faith and morals?
Is it the perception, or is it the substance? What is Vatican II?
These questions are posed somewhat dramatically, because the outcome of this synod has dramatic repercussions.
If the teachings on marriage and Holy Communion are upheld with all the glory of the Church's traditional manner of defending these truths, then the Pope's friends in the media, in politics, and sadly within a large portion of the episcopate, will turn on him with viciousness. We Catholics who will defend him will be persecuted.
If the Church adopts Cardinal Kasper's serene theology (as our Holy Father has called it), i.e., abandons her duty to protect divinely revealed truth, then either the Church isn't the Church (impossible) or the Pope isn't the Pope, or some horrible flaw or mistake that makes the apparent impossibility not actually reality will also make it impossible for the faithful to defend what happened. This will lead to schism, maybe large, maybe small. Catholics who will defend the truth will be persecuted.
If the Church adopts a "middle way", where the teaching is restated but a practice is instituted to systematically ignore the teaching, then it is the same as possibility two, above, but with far greater confusion. As with Vatican II, there will be the fig leaf approach, where professional neo-Catholics can Pollyanna it up 'til the cows come home, keep selling books and making speeches, all the while deploring the 'abuses' of the Synod's wonderful, though vexingly ignored, 'restatement' of the Church's timeless teaching. Faithful Catholics will be demoralized and left uncertain just how to defend the faith where the entire hierarchy (almost-- there are a few great souls) will cede the field. We can go back to being insulted in homilies from Santa Marta until we face persecution for maintaining our belief in reality. And the defense of the faith will come from fewer Catholics than it ought to, in a deeply splintered flock.
So, that is how I feel today. I pray it doesn't happen this way. I have no confidence in my own ability to choose well or wisely. If God and His Holy Mother do not support me, I don't know what I will do.
This Fall will show us. We should spend this Summer of Catholic Discontent in prayer.