“I can testify to the fact that [Cardinal Robert] McElroy’s language about inclusion, dialogue, welcoming, diversity, and radical openness are now, as they were then, a grand deception.” —American Catholic writer Larry Chapp in a January 30 article entitled “Cardinal McElroy’s Grand Deception” in Catholic World Report (link)

    The substance of the question and answer is precisely this, and they contain all the elements that made Larry Chapp comment that McElroy’s is a “grand deception.”We are democratic — to sum up Chapp’s argument — only until we reach our conclusions, and when we arrive at those, democracy ends, and our reasons are asserted by force. At that point, there is no more discussion, and there is no more synodality… It must be admitted that Pope Francis has, in some way, contributed to this ‘great deception.’” —Italian Catholic writer and Vaticanist Andrea Gagliarducci in his latest “Monday Vatican” column published today, February 6 (link)

    Perhaps the greatest sin that men of the Church can commit is to forget what the Church has always been.” —Ibid.


    Letter #40, 2023 Monday, February 6: Francis    

    Today’s letter is about the present “synodal process” underway in the Church.

    Two leading Catholic writers, one in America and one in Rome, are warning of the danger of a “grand deception” in the intention of a number of Church leaders during this present synodal process aimed at leading the Church to accept false teaching, against apostolic tradition.

    What is the nature of the danger they see?

    That the Church may forget what the Church has always been.


    “Grand deception”?

    Both writers are fairly “mainstream,” well-respected, not generally regarded as being “radical” or “fanatical.”

    Yet both are warning of this “grand deception.”    

    What would a “grand deception” be, literally?

    It would be to show a false face, a deceptive face, to another person while doing the opposite of what that face promises.

    For example, showing a kind face to someone while actually preparing to do something cruel to them.

    It is pretense, trickery.

    So “grand deception” would mean trickery on a grand scale.

    Let’s take a more in-depth look at this argument…

    (continued below)


    Special Note: Live video tomorrow

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    Fr. Murr, 72, a friend of the late Cardinal Edouard Gagnon (d. 2007) is the author of the new book Murder in the 33rd Degree: The Gagnon Investigation into Vatican Freemasonry (link), about the death of Pope John Paul I on September 28, 1978.

    Go to this link (link) to follow the conversation live on February 7. The conversation is open to all.

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    (continued from above)

    The two accusers

    A leading American Catholic writer on January 30 accused Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego, California, of using a “grand deception” in his presentation of the Catholic Church’s present world-wide “synodal process.” (link)

    His name is Dr. Larry Chapp.

    (Dr. Chapp is a retired professor of theology. He taught for 20 years at DeSales University near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He now owns and manages, with his wife, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. Dr. Chapp received his doctorate from Fordham University in 1994 with a specialization in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar. He can be visited online at “Gaudium et Spes 22”).

    In a piece entitled “Cardinal McElroy’s Grand Deception” in Catholic World Report, Chapp had this to say about McElroy:

    “Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, in his recent manifesto on synodality (“Cardinal McElroy on ‘radical inclusion’ for L.G.B.T. people, women and others in the Catholic Church”) in America magazine, has done us a tremendous service.

    “Why? Because he has given us the clearest articulation to date, from a high ranking prelate who enjoys the favor of Pope Francis, of what this whole synodal thing really is all about. He finally puts the guessing game to an end and tells us that the processes of synodality are leading the Church into a realm of deep ‘conversion’ — to a radically ‘inclusive’ Church that ordains women, has no eucharistic barriers or discipline beyond valid baptism… eliminates for all intents and purposes all non-criminal sexual sins from the books, and which openly embraces and celebrates those who have previously run afoul of Church teaching on these matters.”

    Chapp continues:

    “Cardinal McElroy is also quite clear that what the synodal process seeks is a big tent Church committed to the systematic deconstruction of all of the ‘structures of exclusion’ in the Church. He does not explicitly define what he means by structures of exclusion, but it is clear (from what he goes on to describe) that he means all of the Church’s traditional teachings on the topics mentioned above. By direct implication, therefore, and in thinly veiled ways, what he means when he says that the synodal way is committing us to a path of deep conversion to the movement of the Holy Spirit is that we must overcome the current intolerable state of ‘polarization’ by overcoming those who stand on the wrong side of that binary – i.e. those who still accept the Church’s traditional teachings on these matters.

    He continues:

    “Thus, the good Cardinal’s lament over the sad polarization in the Church today is a faux concern. It is a mere rhetorical device designed to mask over the latently non-dialogical, non-inclusive nature of his message, which is a not-so-veiled attack on those Catholics of a more traditional bent who are the sources of the very exclusionary practices McElroy loathes. He directly links the polarization in the Church with the marginalization of his favored groups within the Leftist acronym sandbox, clearly saying that the ‘conversion’ he thinks we are being called to is the path of a radical ‘re-education camp’ mentality wherein such retrograde folks are themselves drop-kicked to the margins.”

    And then Chapp makes the accusation:

    “This is not hyperbole or some kind of conservative fever-swamp, overreactive tantrum. I am quite sober in my analysis since there is precedent in the Church’s recent history amply illustrating what I am saying. I was born in 1958 and grew up therefore in the lunacy of the immediate post-conciliar era. I was in the seminary from 1978-1986, both minor and major. And so I can testify to the fact that McElroy’s language about inclusion, dialogue, welcoming, diversity, and radical openness are now, as they were then, a grand deception.

    “What liberals want is dialogue and inclusion until their views prevail — whereupon all dialogue and inclusion end…”


    And a leading Italian Catholic writer just today repeated the accusation.

    His name is Andrea Gagliarducci, and he writes a weekly column on Vatican and Church affairs called Monday Vatican (link, full text below).


    The role of Pope Francis

    Chapp has this to say about the role of Pope Francis in all this:

    “This raises the thorny question of where Pope Francis stands in all of this. He has said in the past that he opposes any approach to synodality that will treat it as a super parliament for debating opinions on various doctrines. He has said that he will uphold the orthodox teachings of the Church on all of the issues that Cardinal McElroy says must be changed. And just this past week, in an interview with AP news, he was very critical of the German synodal way, which he said is a process being carried forward improperly and in not helpful or serious ways because it is being orchestrated by elitist ideologues. In those comments, he is most certainly correct and they therefore should also stand as a rebuke to the elitist ideologues in the American Church as well, who are advocating that the upcoming Synod on synodality take on the tonality and content of the German synodal path.

    “But it is Pope Francis who has elevated McElroy to the rank of Cardinal. In so doing, he deliberately eschewed giving a red hat to more conservative prelates from large Sees normally associated with its bishop being a Cardinal. And it is Pope Francis who has made Cardinal (Jean-Claude) Hollerich, (64 link), the relator general of the Synod, even though he too, based on his public comments, seems cut out of the same cloth as the Germans and Americans like McElroy.

    “Perhaps, as the synodal process moves forward, Pope Francis can clarify this apparent incongruity, using his papal authority, for the sake of ecclesial unity and peace, to rein in the kinds of excesses championed by Hollerich, McElroy, and Co. (…)”


    For Chapp’s complete article, go here.

    And for Gagliarducci’s complete piece from today, see below…

    And let us pray for the courage and wisdom to preserve the deposit of the faith once handed down by the Apostles, that our generation, like the generations before us, may hand it on to those who come after us. —RM

    Pope Francis and the challenge of the Synod (link)

    by Andrea Gagliarducci

    6 February 2023

    An article in the magazine America by Cardinal Robert McElroy — and the following McElroy’s remarks in a podcast — opened a debate destined to last throughout the synodal process, which will end in 2024. McElroy spoke of the need for a “radical inclusion” of LGBT people, women, and others in the Catholic Church.

    The argument was this: the synodal path passes through the continental assemblies, whose theme is “Enlarge the space of your tent.” And widening the tent also means deconstructing what the cardinal calls the Church’s “structures of exclusion.” We need a Church that is in step with the times, allows everyone to be part of the decision-making processes, and puts aside doctrine to be, instead, synodal, according to the real spirit of the term.

    It is an argument that arises on the eve of the continental stages of the Synod, and obviously, Cardinal McElroy launched his provocation in view of the North American stage. In short, the Cardinal was addressing a precise public, a certain democratic intelligentsia which, at least in the Church in the US, seems to be a minority compared, instead, to a proper orientation of the bishops, which goes in an opposite direction—think of the path of “Eucharistic Renewal” launched by the US Conference of Bishops.

    The theme launched by the Cardinal is, however, more universal. In Europe, for example, its effects can be seen in the synodal journey of the Church in Germany. This path, among other things, has provoked several warnings from Pope Francis. It is no coincidence that the reports from the interdicasterial meeting with the German bishops in June were made public, which never happens. Not surprisingly, Cardinals Parolin, Ladaria and Ouellet wrote to the German Conference of Bishops emphasizing how the latest decision of a synodal council would clash with some prerogatives of the relationship between Rome and the episcopal conference.

    But from Germany, they replied that the Pope didn’t understand. Otherwise, he wouldn’t react that way. And even when it was pointed out to them in Rome that it was Pope Francis himself who did not want such a synodal path, the German bishops maintained that they had explained in Rome how a synodal path proceeds.

    I’m paraphrasing, of course, and maybe exaggerating for emphasis. But the substance of the question and answer is precisely this, and they contain all the elements that made Larry Chapp comment that McElroy’s is a “grand deception.”

    Chapp argues there is a strong sense of authoritarianism in those words. We are democratic — to sum up Chapp’s argument — only until we reach our conclusions, and when we arrive at those, democracy ends, and our reasons are asserted by force. At that point, there is no more discussion, and there is no more synodality.

    This is true for McElroy, but it is also true for those pursuing the same debate and the same arguments in different situations and geographical areas.

    It must be admitted that Pope Francis has, in some way, contributed to this “great deception.” First, on the Synod of the German Church, he expressed concern on several occasions, but then some of the themes of the Synod were re-proposed by him in different, even contradictory, forms and ways.

    The question of homosexuality is an example: the Pope shows that he is welcoming of homosexual couples but then approves a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has a solid pastoral emphasis but rejects blessings to homosexual couples.

    Then, in indirect words, he distances himself from the document, whose authors are then marginalized. Still, in an interview with the Associated Press, he goes so far as to say that homosexuality is a sin. Realizing that his words have created a “hole” in public opinion, he writes to Father James Martin, the guru of LGBT pastoral care, that it must be understood that the Pope cannot be precise when he speaks in an interview with cameras on.

    In this continual ambiguity, in this continual distinction between situations and actions, the Pope’s thought seems unclear or, in any case, not settled. And that’s probably where the possibility of implementing the “great deception” creeps in. We don’t know if the Pope is aware of it or if he is just acting in good faith. We just note the situation.

    The problem is that this type of debate also carries over into synodal assemblies, and from there, it will end up at the Synod. Pope Francis has repeatedly reiterated that the Synod is not a Parliament. Yet, more and more often, the instinct to understand the evolution of the doctrine, thus trying to apply it, is attributed to a generic sensus fidelium. But it is the same sensus fidelium to which Pope Francis appeals, who claims that the center is better known from the periphery. As you can see, it’s a dog chasing its tail.

    But is the Synod a process that must lead to substantial changes in the doctrine of the Church? And above all, why should it bring any? The same question was asked during the Second Vatican Council, after which it was said that it was necessarily disruptive. Nevertheless, given that the rupture did not occur with the Council because there are documents, deeds, and narratives to certify the will of the conciliar fathers, a lighter process is attempted, such as a synodal path. At the very least, this is the suspicion.

    But there is one fact that should not be underestimated. The Second Vatican Council was born to take stock of the work that the Church had done on the field. So it wasn’t just an updating but the need to auto comprehend something already being done that hadn’t been assessed.

    To be clear, when Paul VI thought of the Synod as “walking together,” he also thought of the many examples of the Church walking together. I’m not just talking about the many meetings at the episcopal level that took place – a relatively complete list of the European ones can be found in the “simple note” that the then Monsignor Roger Etchegaray wrote during the Council, giving life to what was to become the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences.

    Instead, laypeople led initiatives that were then incorporated into the Church. Just think of the Missionary Works, which later became Pontifical, born from the genius and commitment of lay people to the cause of the Gospel. Think of Catholic Action in Italy, founded by a layperson. Even the Sunday Angelus prayer was born from an intuition of a layman, Luigi Gedda, who passed it on to Pius XII.

    There are many more examples. After all, it was a Church that was already synodal in practice. And perhaps the greatest sin that men of the Church can commit is to forget what the Church has always been. In a world where the waves of secularization had attacked the very meaning of the Christian faith, it was the laity who supported the bishops and, together with the bishops, built a new Church.

    Of course, perceptions can be different. There have been threatening gestures and dire situations. But there hasn’t been anything in the history of humanity that hasn’t been achieved through a hierarchy and an elite. And when these were replaced in the name of democracy, they gave way to new elites.

    But perhaps it should be recognized that the elites of the Church have always been committed to the common good, with all their defects and human errors. In Latin America, there is an extraordinary example in the reducciones, the Jesuit missions.

    In this synodal debate, the “grand deception” is to describe the Church for what it is in theory and not instead look at what it actually is and was. The “Grand deception” is to bring the issues to a level too down to earth for them to be truly understood. The “Grand deception” is to talk about doctrine and doctrinal changes when that is not the point. The point is, instead, whether the Church can authentically speak about Christ. That’s where the future lies.

    [End, article by Andrea Gagliarducci]

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