The Bristol Comic Expo in 2005 brought with it the publication by Michael Molcher of the semi-annual fanzine titled The End Is Nigh. Each issue deals with themed Apocalypses foretelling the end of the world.
Judging from a number of media coverages throughout the Synod of bishops on the family currently in its final phase at the Vatican one might be led to think that a similar magazine proclaiming the end of Church would be so popular that it would fill the coffers of its publishers with easy money.
Damian Thompson’s blog in The Spectator (13 October) was titled: “This week the Catholic Church is in chaos.” And true to his ultra-conservative colours, Thompson told us that the “Pope Francis is to blame.” The article is followed by the anti-Francis vitriolic comments of those brave Catholics who hide behind a pseudonym.
Similar comments are common posts in Crux, a website purporting to cover all things Catholics. A certain Tanyi Tanyi wrote that “Francis thanks he can manipulate the whole Church and govern in an authoritarian fashion” while proposing a cherry on the cake with the statement “May God protect this Church from Francis.”
Another conservative blog said that the Synod was about “blasphemy, Heresy, Schism and the “Collapse” of the Church (but, hey, at least the bishops will get to vote).” Others predicted that Pope Francis would become an Anglican.
The hate and bile that these bloggers spew against Pope Francis is unbelievable.
The Synod faced tricky and difficult issues. Whether Catholics in a second marriage without annulling the first could receive communion in some limited situations was one of the issues. The use of language when referring to Catholics in such situations and to Catholics in a homosexual relationship was another issue. Trying to plot out a pastoral strategy in the face of the situation faced by so many families today was never billed as an easy task.
One should have expected that discussions and debates would be intense. Pope Francis repeatedly insisted with all the members of the Synod that they should express their opinion honesty, candidly and courageously.
But the Church is no stranger to intense debates and much more. A friend of mine knowledgeable in matters of history told me that during the Council of Trent discussions sometimes became so intense that they developed into a scuffle or two. Similar and worse stories abound about the Christological controversies of the first century when it was not always clear whether theological controversy ended and political convenience began.
This time we have not heard of any physical encounters of that type though verbal encounters were strong enough and back room machinations were quite common.
We will know about the final outcome of the Synod by the end of the week as voting on the final document, paragraph by paragraph, will take place on Saturday afternoon. This will be a very important moment.
But more important than what happens at the end of the Synod will be what happens after the Synod. That will be a critical period but critical does not mean chaotic as Thompson predicted.
I don’t believe that the end of the Church is nigh.
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