Conservative critics of the synod and Francis are embarrassing themselves

By Michael Sean Winters, 16 September 2023
A view of the moment of reflection in the Vatican’s Synod Hall ahead of the formal opening of the upcoming 16th Synod of Bishops on Synodality, 9 October 2021. Image: Vatican Media


Could the synod miscarry? I hope not. And I do not think it will. Francis was not afraid to refuse the recommendation from the Amazon synod to ordain older men of proven virtue, the viri probati, because the proposal garnered a majority but did not reflect a synodal consensus. I do not see anything in any one of his writings to suggest Francis is planning on overturning our foundational doctrines.

If the church becomes more evangelical and less rigid, more engaged and less detached, isn’t that a good thing, no matter what the synodal process determines about any particular issue?

These prebuttals, however, are coming out not because the authors think synodality will fail. They are terrified it will succeed. These right-wing extremists are recognizing that most Catholics love Francis, even in the Anglosphere. They know, deep down, that people are not confused by his fixation on God’s tender mercy. They know, deep down, that none of us should judge our brothers and sisters who struggle. They know that when leadership is less remote, horrible crimes like the cover-up of clergy sex abuse are less likely to occur.

They are upset because they are the kind of people who are only happy when they are upset, only content when they are looking down on others, heresy hunters who have peered through the world so long with only one kind of lens, they can no longer distinguish reality from their glasses. They are Javert and they resent anyone getting in the way of their pursuit of a twisted sense of divine retribution. They are not to be listened to, but to be pitied.

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With thanks to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.


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