Anxiety and Trust, Part I

Anxiety is in the air, and trust can be difficult, with fears about –  for many Catholics – the Synod on the Family. We have, in addition, Ebola, ISIS, the world economy, and the persecution of Christians abroad and –  increasingly – at home.

Regarding the Synod, I went through some real turmoil myself. Some of the lines of the relatio (the mid-term review of the discussions) simply made no sense. For example, in the notorious paragraph 50 mistranslation, which the media naturally ran with: how are we as Catholic Christians to “value” homosexual orientation? That would be equivalent to “valuing” depression, or PTSD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Obviously, we do value, love, and respect those with same-sex attraction, just as we value all human beings as made in God’s image; but that wasn’t what the relatio mistranslation said. And the section on “gradualism”: it gives the impression that cohabitation is kind-of-like-marriage-but-not-quite-as-good. Um…I thought that it was fornication?

I was therefore most relieved (see Jimmy Akin’s excellent article on this, in the National Catholic Register: “Good news from the synod of bishops: 12 things to know and share”) that the majority of the synod bishops were upset by the report, since it was heavily weighted toward the “liberal” elements of the synod, so that they asked that the full reports of each of the groups be published. It was also most encouraging and bracing that the African bishops pointed out that while some of the Western bishops seem to be bending over backwards to accommodate the world (any wonder their churches are empty?), the thriving Church in Africa is pouring out the blood of its martyrs to defend the truths of the Catholic faith. Likewise, a Polish bishop commented that the relentless emphasis on compassion, in the relatio, implied that up to this point the Church has been heartless and doctrinaire – meanies – rather than “speaking the truth in love”.

Most troubling, of course, has been the pope’s silence through all of this. Where’s the Chief Shepherd? Shouldn’t he be offering some guidance?  How much of the relatio reflects his thoughts? The next step, of course, is the worry: what do I do, as a faithful Catholic, if the pope teaches error?

So it’s back to trust: Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I TRUST in You. You guarantee that Peter is the Rock, and the jaws of death will not prevail against Your Church, built on Peter. And Pope Francis is a validly elected pope. So however close he may sail to the wind; however  (I’ll be blunt) loosely he may speak; however confusing or careless his off-the-cuff pronouncements are: he will not teach error. Neither will he, in union with the bishops, teach error. Our hope is not in a particular man, but in the words of Jesus Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit to safeguard the Church from error. That is a Rock that nothing will shake.

So let’s not be holding our breaths anxiously until this synod and the 2015 synod are over, hoping not too much damage will have been done. Let’s trust NOW. Let’s look at Abraham, our father in faith:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence he did receive him back, and this was a symbol.  (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Abraham trusted that God knew better than he what was best. This is faith; this is humility.

There are no accidents; “all things work to the good” (Rom 8:28); we have nothing to fear. As a side note, the relatio has no teaching authority whatsoever – but that’s not the point. The point is that God can be trusted; Christ’s promise can be trusted. Because of those facts – ONLY because of those facts, and this applies to every pope, because we’ve had no perfect popes, Peter included – the Pope, insofar as he teaches authoritatively, can be trusted to teach the truth.

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About admin

I am a Catholic clinical psychologist with a solo practice in Omaha, NE. In the Franciscan seminary, I completed about 2/3rd of an M.Div./MA in Scripture. In my 3rd year of temporary vows, I discerned a call to the married life. My lovely wife Mary and I have a son, Michael, as well as a number of children preceding us to Heaven through miscarriages. We are delighted to be in the Omaha archdiocese and love the Heartland.
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