A Short Catechism on the Synod of Surrender
Vennari: A Short Catechism on the Synod of Surrender
02/10/15 12:32
A Short Catechism
on the Synod of Surrender

By John Vennari

Q: Why do you call the upcoming October event the “Synod of Surrender”?
A: The thrust of the 2014 Synod, as well as the 2015 Synod Working Document, appears to re-orient Catholics towards some sort of change in moral teaching. We see an effective surrender, by highly placed Churchmen, to various aspects of contemporary moral permissiveness.

Q: How can you say that change is in the works?
A: Because of the principles on which the Synods are based. The Final Document from the 2014 Synod (the Relatio synodi) opens with what has been called the “interpretive key”[1] that gives the guiding principles for the entire Synod. This principle is also reiterated in the 2015 Synod Working Document. These key principles point to a possible change in doctrine, or a proposed change in practice that will contradict Catholic Moral teaching.

Q: What is this “interpretive key”?
A: We read in Paragraph 3 of the Relatio synodi that the principle “describing the synodal experience and indicating the task at hand” is “to read both the signs of God, and human history, in a twofold yet unique faithfulness which this reading involves.”[2]

Q: What is wrong with this?
A: There is an apparent contradiction from the start. The “signs of God” spoken of appear to mean immutable Divine Revelation (we will point out later that the authors do not mean it this way).[3] The “human history” spoken of is code for the contemporary Modernist error that various aspects of doctrine, morals and pastoral practice may be accommodated to fit the current “lived experience” of the people. We will understand this more clearly when we present the working principles of the late Modernist theologian, Jacques Dupuis.

Q: Do the “movement of history” and “lived experience” ideas surface in the 2015 Synod Working Document?
A: Yes. We see it in paragraph 68 where we read that the “Church’s point of departure is the concrete situation of today’s families.” The term “point of departure” is another way of saying “the starting point.”  But a Catholic must always start with unchangeable Divine revelation, and then apply these unchangeable truths to the concrete situation of today so that men will conform to God’s law. The Synod approach is the other way around, and it smacks of the erroneous approach of the modernist Jacque Dupuis.

Q: Who was Father Jacques Dupuis?
A: Jacques Dupuis (1923-2004) was an ecumenical Jesuit whose ideas were so radical that Cardinal Ratzinger formally censured some of them in 2001. Unfortunately, Cardinal Ratzinger only censured the poisonous effects of the bad principles, but failed to censure the foundational principles themselves. These bad principles are now being applied at the 2014 and 2015 synods.

Q: What was Dupuis’ principal error?
A: In short, he raised man’s needs-of-the-moment over the truths of Divine Revelation.

Q: Did he do this in a sneaky manner?
A: No, he spoke plainly and openly. He laid out these principles in his 1997 book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, and in his 2002 book Christianity and the Religions and from Confrontations to Dialogue.

Q: Were these false principles his own ideas?
A: No, he simply articulated a new approach to theological questions that has risen since the time of Vatican II. He did, however, endorse and employ this new approach, as do many contemporary modernist theologians.

Q: What is the essence of this new approach?
A: The new approach no longer starts with the truths of the Faith as the immutable foundation that will direct people’s behavior here and now, no matter what condition the people find themselves. Rather, it starts with the current lived experience of the people, with “where people’s lives are.” And if there is a general consensus or a cultural trend that causes Catholics to live in a manner defiant of Catholic morals, then this may call for a “reinterpretation of the revealed data.” Thus, points of Scripture and Church teaching may be ignored, twisted or misapplied to form-fit the people’s lived reality. The result will be new pastoral practices, and in effect, new doctrine and moral teaching. This new approach also necessarily demands that certain aspects of Catholic doctrine and morals will evolve from age to age.

Q: How did Dupuis explain this?
A: In Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, he claims there are two methods at arriving at a theological conclusion: the Deductive (the time-honored, traditional method) and the Inductive (the new approach).

Q: What is the difference?
A: In the Deductive method, he explains, we start with unchangeable dogma of the Catholic Church. We then look to a given situation, social phenomenon or historical development, and interpret the situation by means of the dogma. The dogma is fixed, it cannot change, and it is the permanent basis on which to derive any theological conclusion or pastoral solution.

Q: This sounds like the true Catholic approach?
A: It is, but Dupuis and his fellow Modernists do no like it.

Q: What does Dupuis say about the true Catholic approach?
A: Dupuis faults the “Deductive method” claiming it is “drawn from abstract principles”; it allegedly leaves one “cut off from reality”; and it is “prejudiced dogmatically” to outside reality.[4]

Q: Can you give an example of this Deductive method at work?
A: Yes, we see it in the pre-Vatican II approach to ecumenism.

Q: Please explain.
A: Starting around 1910, there was a new movement of unity among Protestants called the “Ecumenical Movement,” an enterprise that captured the imagination of many. How does a Catholic regard it? He starts with the doctrine “no salvation outside the Church,” and concludes that any rapprochement with Protestants must have one purpose alone, to bring the non-Catholic into the Church. As Pius XI taught, “There is but one way in which the unity of Christians may be fostered, and that is by fostering the return to the one true [Catholic Church] of Christ of those who are separated from it.”[5] Thus, you start with Catholic dogma, which cannot be altered in any way, and arrive at a sound conclusion based on dogma. This method would never allow a new ecumenism that seeks convergence with non-Catholics over the necessity of conversion of non-Catholics.

Q:  How, then, does Dupuis explain the so-called “Inductive” approach?
A: Dupuis says, “A methodological about-face took place with the progressive introduction of a reverse method which, in contradiction to the earlier ones, can be qualified as Inductive. It is no longer a question of going from the principles to concrete application, but in the opposite direction, or taking as a point of departure the reality as experienced today with the problems it raises, to search for – in light of the revealed message and through theological reflection – a Christian solution to these problems.”[6]

Q: In other words?
A: In other words, in the Inductive method, we do not start with unchanging dogma, we cannot have “rigorism.” Rather, we begin with the lived experience of those in the world around us. Then, starting with this lived experience, we scan various Church documents and passages from Scripture to build a theology (or new pastoral practices) that takes these real-life experiences into account. In effect, it seeks to accommodate practices contrary to the Faith – such as the new pan-Christian ecumenism, or divorced and remarried Catholics receiving the Eucharist – so that Catholic Churchmen will suddenly bless what was always condemned.

Q: Is this not crazy?
A: It is. In fact, the eminent Thomist Father Garrigou Lagrange said in 1946 that this rejection of objective truth is not so much a crisis of Faith, but rather a “profound malady of intellect.”[7]

Q: Is it not also an expression of the Modernist “evolution of doctrine”?
A: It is. The Inductive method accommodates the Modernist heresy that there can be “some transformation of the dogmatic message of the Church over the course of the centuries.”[8]

Q: Was Dupuis’ approach condemned?
A: Dupuis got in trouble over his Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism book with Cardinal Ratzinger, under John Paul II. In 2001 Ratzinger published a formal “Notification” warning of five problems with Dupuis’ book, mostly concerning ambiguities regarding the salvific mediation of Jesus Christ.[9] Yet John Paul II’s Vatican failed to condemn – or even mention – the Modernist Inductive method articulated by Dupuis himself.

Q: Was this a problem?
A: Yes. Any well-trained Catholic seminarian or priest will recognize that the principles are where the action is. If the principles are bad, the outcome is necessarily perverse. Thus the flawed principles must first be condemned.

Q: Did Dupuis go on to repeat his false principles?
A: Yes. At the beginning of his 2002 book Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, Dupuis reiterates his Modernist principle. He writes, “With such an [Inductive] method, the problem is no longer coming down from principles to concrete applications, but rather – moving in the opposite direction – that of starting from reality as now experienced with the problem that it entails in order to seek a Christian solution to such problems in light of the revealed message and through theological reflection.” He goes on to speak of this new approach with regard to interreligious dialogue and concludes, “These are indeed questions – not abstract but quite concrete – that demand of the theology of religions a detailed response based on sincere reinterpretation of revealed data.”[10]

Q: How do we understand his term “reinterpretation of revealed data”?
A: He means that the data of Divine Revelation (revealed data) must now be reinterpreted to better fit the “lived reality” of the people. Once again, surrender.

Q: Can you give an example of how Dupuis employed the Inductive method?
A: Dupuis was primarily an ecumenical theologian, so he employed the Inductive method to promote pan-religious ecumenism. In a lecture he delivered at a Fatima interreligious Congress in 2003, Dupuis twisted the meaning of the opening of St. John’s Gospel when it speaks of Christ: “It was the true light that enlightens every man who comes in the world.” Dupuis claimed we can therefore conclude that men of all religion have this true light of Christ inside them (whether they know it or not), they are already incorporated into God through this light (no need to convert to Catholicism), and therefore Sacred Scripture can be employed to support interreligious dialogue. Dupuis started with the “lived reality” of the modern ecumenical movement, and then misused Scripture to allegedly support it. This Inductive method also caused him to publicly scorn infallible doctrine. Speaking of the defined doctrine “Outside the Church there is no salvation,” Dupuis said, “There is no need to invoke here that horrible text from the Council of Florence in 1442.”[11]

A: Thus, the Inductive method leads to betrayal of Catholic doctrine?
A: Yes. If current ecclesiastical trends or the “‘lived experience” of the people are the primary focus – the “point of departure” – then key elements of Scripture and Catholic doctrine will be scorned, rejected or denounced as “rigorous.”

Q: How does this apply to the 2014-2015 Synods.
A: The 2014-2015 Synods follow the modernist “Inductive” method of emphasizing people’s wayward lives over sound Catholic morals, and then attempting to accommodate morality to various errant lifestyles.

Q: How do you know this?
A: Jesuit Father Thomas Reese rejoiced that the 2014 Extraordinary Synod operated on this Inductive method. His October 17 National Catholic Reporter write-up, “How the Synod Process is Different under Pope Francis,” contained a section: “Inductive rather than Deductive”. Here he writes, “Past synods tended to start with Church teaching and talk about how it could be applied to the world. This follows the classical philosophical and theological method that the bishops learned in their seminaries” – in other words, the “Deductive” method.

Q. The 2014-2015 Synods do not follow the “classical philosophical and theological method”?
A: Correct.  Reese quotes Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops who says approvingly, “What’s happening within the synod is we’re seeing a more inductive way of reflecting, starting from the true situation of people and trying to figure out what’s going on here.” The Archbishop goes on to say,  “The synod participants, finding that the lived experience of people is also a theological source – what we call a theological source, a place of theological reflection.” This approach, explains Reese, “beginning with the data of experience, is familiar to many in the Church,” such as those involved in “social justice” work.[12]

Q: And this Modernist Inductive approach is found in the final draft of the 2014 Synod?
A: Yes, as quoted earlier: The “interpretive key” of the Synod speaks of the task at hand “to read both the signs of God, and human history, in a twofold yet unique faithfulness which this reading involves.” Here, “human history” refers to the “the lived experience of people” as a key “theological source.” The “signs of God,” is code for consulting Scripture and Tradition to contrive a “reinterpretation of revealed data” to accommodate the lived experience.

Q: And this new approach is also present in the 2015 Synod?
A: Yes. As we quoted earlier, paragraph 68 of the 2015 Synod Working Document states that the “Church’s point of departure is the concrete situation of today’s families.” Thus the starting point is not immutable doctrine that cannot change, but again, today’s “lived experience” of Christians.

Q: Who else admitted the Synods run along these Modernist lines?
A: On August 23, Chicago’s Archbishop Cupich stated approvingly that this appears to be the approach of Pope Francis himself. Cupich says, “But what’s interesting or new about what the Pope is doing through the synod is that he is saying ‘let’s not start with the rules but let’s start with where people’s lives are,’ what they are going through, what their pastoral needs are at this point that cannot be ignored if the Church is really going to extend the mercy of Christ. That’s where we start. What he has shifted is the starting point. It’s not the laws and the rules, it’s the situation in which people are living and how do we extend to them the mercy of Christ.”[13]

Q: What is the significance of Cupich’s statement?
A: He says Francis has “shifted the starting point.” Again, we see the “lived reality” of the people as primary, and the grumpy old Catholic “rules” as secondary.

Q: What is the effect of this?
A: In a courageous open letter earlier this year, Bishop Jan Lenga, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Karaganda, lamented it is now the case where “The sinners give the Church the instructions for how she has to serve them.”[14] The Synod’s use of the Modernist Inductive method, which starts with “where people’s lives are” instead of the objective reality of the Catholic truth, guarantees this disorder will only worsen.

Q: Are there other prelates who favor this new method?
A: Unfortunately there are many, including Cardinal Walter Kasper[15] and Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Germany.[16] Likewise Cardinal Lorenzo Baldiserri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, and confident of Pope Francis, spoke in favor of some sort of change in doctrine. He said toCorriere della Sera, “There is also a theological development, all theologians say so. Everything is not static; we march in history, and the Christian religion is history, not ideology. The current context of the family is different from that of thirty years ago, at the time of [John Paul II’s] Familiaris Consortio. Without history, I do not know where we are going; if we deny this, we remain two thousand years behind.”[17]

Q: Are there any bishops standing up to this proposed evolution of religion?
A: Yes. Among others, Bishops Aldo di Cillo Pagotto, Robert Vasa, and Athanasius Schneider answer Baldiserri directly in their booklet relating to the Synod, Preferential Option for the Family.

Q: How do these good bishops respond?
A: They write, “The Christian Religion is not historical evolution, changeable and contradictory, but revealed Truth, Source of Life and Way of salvation, which identifies with Jesus Christ: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ (John 14:6). The Savior commanded His Church to evangelize humanity, not be evangelized by it; to guide men, not be guided by them; to sanctify history, not be sanctified by it. The Catholic Church has the mission to proclaim the Good news, sanctity humanity, and lead souls to eternal life. Therefore, the Mater, Magistra et Domina gentium[18] is the Church, not human history or the world. The fact remains that new problems require satisfactory answers, which, however, must still be faithful to the intangible deposit of faith.”[19]

Q: Are any other prelates speaking out?
A: Five Cardinals recently produced the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ that seeks to answer dangerous errors emanating from the Synod.[20] Responding to the “people over doctrine” sophism that tries to separate pastoral practice from genuine teaching, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis writes, “There can be no pastoral care that is not in harmony with the truths of the Church and her morality. A pastoral care in contrast to the truth believed and lived by the Church easily becomes a harmful arbitrariness.”[21] Elsewhere, De Paolis effectively calls the Kasper proposal regarding Communion for divorced and civilly remarried “a violation of Divine Law.”[22]

Q: Why is it crucial that the Synod documents operate on correct principles?
A: St. Thomas Aquinas warns that a small error in the beginning can lead to enormous error at the end. The “Inductive” method we find as the foundational principle in 2015 Working Document is a colossal error in the beginning that will lead to catastrophic destruction at the end. The entire moral edifice of the Church is at stake.

Q: Can you give particulars?
A: Voice of the Family recently published a superb analysis of the 2015 Synod Working Document. The Executive Summary of their analysis notes that the Synod Instrumentum Laboris “threatens the entire structure of Catholic teaching on marriage family and human sexuality.” It does this by:     
            • undermining the doctrine of Humanae Vitae by proposing a false understanding of the relationship between conscience and the moral law (paragraph 137)
            • discussing artificial methods of reproduction without giving any judgment on the morality of such methods or making any reference to previous Catholic teaching, or to the enormous loss of human life that results from their use (paragraph 34)
            • proposing the admission of the “divorced and remarried” to Holy Communion without amendment of life (paragraphs 120-125)
            • reducing the indissolubility of marriage to the level of an “ideal” (paragraph 42)
            • suggesting that cohabitation and “living together” have “positive aspects” and can, to some extent, be considered legitimate forms of union (paragraphs 57, 61, 63, 99, 102)
            • preparing the ground for the acceptance of same-sex unions by acknowledging the need to define “the specific character of such unions in society” (paragraph 8)
            • denying the full rights of parents regarding the provision of sex education to their children (paragraph 86); 
        In these and other ways, the document poses a very real danger to the family, especially its most vulnerable members, and to the integrity of Catholic doctrine.[23]

Q: Why are progressivist bishops and theologians attached to the Synod intent on destroying Catholic doctrine and moral?
A: This desire to destroy is contrary to the spirit of Christ and is a manifestation of Modernism. Up until now, the primary destruction from the Vatican II revolution occurred in doctrine and liturgy. Now Catholic morality is under attack. It appears these men will not rest until they have undermined all things Catholic. Pope St. Pius X warned of the Modernists, “There is no part of Catholic truth which they leave untouched, none they do not strive to corrupt.”

Q: And so we may end up with a “Synod of Surrender”?
A: As we quoted earlier, “The Savior commanded His Church to evangelize humanity, not be evangelized by it.” If the present trajectory continues, the upcoming Synod will not be a Synod of Evangelization, but a Synod of Surrender. We’ll see our highest Church leaders raise the white flag of defeat in the face of widespread moral decadence, and celebrate this capitulation as a “new pastoral approach.”

Q: What do we do?
A: We are bound hold to the Catholic Faith “integral and inviolate” as mandated by the Athanasian Creed. We also keep the Faith “in the same meaning and in the same explanation” as we are commanded by Vatican I and stated in the Oath Against Modernism. Our Baptismal and Confirmation duty compels us to oppose the destructive Synod of Surrender, no matter who promotes it.[24] We explain true Catholic doctrine to those within our sphere of influence; and of course, we pray!

Q: Can we say the turmoil caused by the 2014-2015 Synods is an expression of the diabolic disorientation warned of by Sister Lucia of Fatima?
A: Yes, it is safe to say this. In 1970, Sister Lucia wrote to Mother Martins, a former companion in the Dorothean Sisters. Lucia saying, “It is painful to see such a great disorientation in so many who occupy places of responsibility ... the devil has succeeded in infiltrating evil under cover of good and the blind are beginning to guide others, as the Lord tells us in His Gospel, and souls are letting themselves be deceived.”

Q: Yet she tells us to resist? A: Sister Lucia in 1972 exhorts, “This is a diabolic disorientation invading the world and misleading souls! It is necessary to stand up to it..." [25]  These words of Sister Lucia can be the battle cry of concerned Catholics who publicly oppose the upcoming Synod of Surrender.


[1] Term taken from Voice of the Family’s superb “Analysis of the Instrumentum Laboris of the Ordinary Synod on the Family,” (Matthew McCusker, July 28, 2015), can be accessed on line at http://voiceofthefamily.com/
[2] On all Synod document quotations, emphasis added.
[3] See Jacques Dupuis principles that the here-and-now situation can call for a ‘reinterpretation of the revealed data.” Such an approach does not respect the truths of Revelation as immutable.
[4] Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, Jacques Dupuis, [Maryknoll: Orbis, 1997 & 2001], p. 14.
[5] Mortalium Animos, Encyclical on Fostering True Christian Unity, Pope Pius XI. [Rockford: Tan, 1999] pp. 299-301. Emphasis added
[6] Towards a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism, p. 14.
[7] Taken from quote on cover of The Essence and Topicality of Thomism, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, a 1945 essay published in book form in 2013 (private publisher, translation by Alan Aversa).
[8] See “The Components of Liberal Catholicism,” Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, American Ecclesiastical Review, July 1958.
[9] “Notification: On the Book ‘Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism’ by Father Jacques Dupuis, S.J.,” Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, January 24, 2001, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect, and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary.
[10] Christianity and the Religions: From Confrontation to Dialogue, Jacques Dupuis [Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2003], p. 8.
[11] I was present at Dupuis’ lecture in Fatima, a heretical presentation that received grand applause from top members of the Portuguese hierarchy who were there for the Interfaith Congress. See “Fatima to Become and Interfaith Shrine: A Report from One Who Was There,” J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, December 2003.
[12] “How the Synod Process is Different under Pope Francis,” Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter, October 17, 2014.
[13] “Archbishop Cupich Reflects on Pope, Pallium, Synod,” Catholic New World, August 23, 2015. Emphasis added.
[14] “Open Letter by Archbishop Lenga on the Crisis in the Church,” Originally posted by Rorate Caeli, published in Catholic Family News, March 2015.
[15] See “Cardinal Kasper’s False God,” which spotlights Kasper’s claim of the centrality of history over immutable Catholic Truth (J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, Aug., 2015). Also on line at www.cfnews.org/kasper-jv.htm
[16] “Cardinal Marx: Exclusion is not the language of the Church, the Debate Remains Open,” Vatican Insider, Oct. 17, 2014.
[17] Preferential Option for the Family: 100 Questions and Answers Related to the Synod, Most Reverent Aldo di Cillo Pagotto, SSS, Most Reverence Robert F. Vasa, Most Reverent Athanasius Schneider [Rome: Edizioni Supplica Filiale, 2015], p. 24.
[18] Mother and Teacher of nations.
[19] Preferential Option, p. 25.
[20] In September, another book will be released by 11 Cardinals opposing the dangers from Kasper and like-minded prelates. Also, the bishops of Africa appear to be opposed to the Kasper proposal and other un-Catholic aspects of the Synod. See “Eleven Cardinals Climb into the Ring Against the Kasperians – The Voice of Africa Will Also be Heard,” Eponymous Flower Blogspot, August 18, 2015.
[21] Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, Edited by Robert Dodaro, OSA [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015], p. 202.
[22] Ibid., p. 197.
[23] Points taken verbatim from Voice of the Family’s Executive Summary. See www.cfnews.org/votf.htm
[24] In light of the confusion coming from today’s Vatican, we recall the words of Juan Cardinal de Torquemada (1388-1468) the revered medieval theologian responsible for the formulation of the doctrines that were formulated at the Council of Florence. Cardinal Torquemada, explaining that it is possible for even a Pope to err, teaches: “Were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scriptures, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands he is to be disregarded. Citing the doctrine of Pope Innocent III, Cardinal Torquemada further teaches: “Thus it is that Pope Innocent III states (De Consuetudine) that it is necessary to obey the Pope in all things as long as he, himself, does not go against the universal customs of the Church, but should he go against the universal customs of the Church, “he need not be followed” on these points. Summa de ecclesia (Venice: M. Tranmezium, 1561). Lib. II, c. 49, p. 163B. The English translation of this statement of Juan de Torquemada is found in Patrick Granfield, ThePapacy in Transition (New York: Doubleday, 1980), p. 171. And in Father Paul Kramer, A Theological Vindication of Roman Catholic Traditionalism, 2nd ed. (Kerala, India), p. 29. Emphasis added.
[25]. A Little Treatise on the Nature and Recitation of the Rosary, published by the Fatima Center.

From September 2015 issue of Catholic Family News

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