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Smoke and Mirrors?

Whilst the secular domestic media is dominated by the "Brexit" saga, the "Catholic" press is awash with theories concerning the funding and motivation of the Amazon Synod.

As the saying goes: "every picture tells a story". One image which acquired prominence was that of a sculpture of a heavily pregnant woman. Observers had mistakenly presumed that this figure - given a great deal of coverage in the media- was an indigenous representation of the our Blessed Mother. They were clearly wrong. Any doubt in this respect was removed by the announcement from a Vatican official concerning this to be the case. Instead, it was said, the figure conveyed the figure of fertility.

Even for the most seasoned Vatican observer, this communique is likely to have come as a surprise. The surprise is not the accommodation of ethnic diversity and tradition. The universality of the Church has long recognised - and acknowledged - the measures which Our Blessed Mother has adopted to reach the children entrusted to her at the foot of the cross. Witness the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Rich in a symbolism which communicated across cultures. No, the surprise arises from the selectivity of certain Church leaders to accommodate traditions on the grounds of ethnicity whilst at the same declaring that the traditions of the Church are as dispensable as the ubiquitous paper cup; readily discarded to be recycled and reshaped beyond recognition.

Amidst the coverage of the Amazon Synod there has been a good deal of speculation concerning its protagonists; those providing its funding and shaping the agenda. One catholic media source has suggested that the majority of the funding cost has been met by a pro-abortion lobby group. Others have implicated the members of the German episcopate in the choreographing of the Synod and the determination of its agenda. If reports are correct, choreographing is a more than apt term; with the Synod itself serving as a dress rehearsal for the tragedy to be played out in Germany, if all goes according to plan.

Central to this agenda is - it would appear - the undermining of the priesthood in general and the removal of celibacy in particular. These moves are being presented as necessary for the Church to reach out to those in need of her sacraments. For many, the removal of mandatory celibacy is to liberate the Church from the impediment to vocations to the priesthood. For others, the idea of women priests will not only repair the vocations crisis but also bring the Church in line with our present times. Equality, inclusivity and relevance. Each is offered as the justification for these measures. However, the list would be incomplete without mention of the seemingly miraculous dimension of the introduction of married clergy. A married clergy - so the argument runs- would rid the Church of the scourge of abuse. In this latter respect, it is apparent that those advocating such changes do so in ignorance of the fact that the denominations with married ministers (of both genders) have themselves been more than a little troubled by allegations of abuse of various kinds. After all, the issue of sexual abuse is not gender specific. Nor can it be said that the married state prevents those inclined to criminality from committing offences of a sexual kind. Throughout the world, there are prison cells occupied by sexual offenders who were - at the time of their offences- married.

Observations such as these are not the fruit of lengthy study of jurisprudence, psychology, social sciences or any other 'discipline' likely to bedazzle those who press for the abandonment of the Church's tradition. These are observations borne of realities which, for want of a better term, are hidden in plain sight. Nonetheless, responses such as these are as white-noise to those who are 'hell-bent' on constructing a Church of their own making. Within the secular world, those working for an undertaking or business who are seemingly determined to undermine its purpose, would be regarded as working for the 'opposition'. Some might consider this epithet fitting for those who seek to dismantle the Church from within. After all, what is in issue here, is not some nuanced principle of ambiguous provenance.

By way of illustration, there are two sacraments conferred by the Church which are directed not to the benefit of the recipient, but rather the service of others: holy orders and matrimony. The Church's understanding of both reflects the fact that the former was instituted by Christ; the latter was consecrated by him. Celibacy is to priesthood what exclusivity is to marriage. Remove either and the underlying sacrament is in real terms undermined and defeated.

It is a question of when, not if, the boundaries of priestly celibacy will succumb to the manipulations of those who wish to remove it altogether. Whether this ambition is borne of a desire to appease the world, or, ensure that the Church aligns itself to secular values matters not. Those who press so fervently for these innovations are not, contrary to popular myth, correcting historical error. They are in fact undermining the character of priesthood for all time. It is a matter of speculation as to when and how these same individuals will seek to manipulate the same fundamental properties of marriage.

Informed observers will recognise that these measures are but components of a wider strategy. It is a strategy which has replaced the priestly identity conferred by Christ with the fulfilment of self. The identity of self has been afforded presence. This involves the replacement of Christ and the elevation of self; detached from the Christ given identity and purpose of the priest. It is no more directed to issues of relevance than it is fee from the desire for popularity. In modern usage, these individuals have determined the fate of the priesthood not by reference to its Tradition, its authenticity or its character. No. They have adopted a trip-advisor mentality and determined that the rating is found wanting. What they have seemingly overlooked is one simple reality: Truth is Truth. It remains truth whether welcome or not. It communicates a challenge to those who do not wish to hear the Truth. It does so, not because it is provocative, but because it reveals the falsity of those who protest against the Truth.

As any judge will attest, the quality of an argument is not enhanced by repetition. All the more so where the argument in question is nothing more than device; a display of smoke and mirrors. As with all such displays, it is intended to fool the human eye; defy perception. Whilst initially enthralling, the smoke soon subsides and the informed spectator realises that he has been duped. There will be many who will be praying for a similar discernment in the times in which we live.

Our Lady, comforter of the afflicted - pray for us.

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