Dec. 9, 2016
By Andrew Parrish
ROME (Jeanne Smits) – As the heart of Rome vibrated on Monday evening, prelates and scholars gathered in a room at the foot of the Basilica of Saint Balbine, a few steps from the Baths of Caracalla. Convened at the invitation of the Lepanto Institute, the private meeting centered around Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who has made headlines recently with his outspoken support of the “dubia” published in hopes of clarifying the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Two of the Cardinals who authored that statement were present: Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Brandmüller; and the theme of the meeting was precisely that question. It is a theme which has agitated the Church, in which the supreme authority on earth, the Vicar of Christ, has refused to make clear crucial points concerning the morality of marriage, access to the Eucharist, sin and intrinsically evil acts, and the existence of an immutable truth.
The meeting was by invitation only, given the crowd that was expected – and the crowd that was actually present – but it was not clandestine. In the Catholic Church, there is no place for conspiracies; everything is said openly, in “transparency” and loyalty, as Professor Roberto de Mattei, host of the gathering, rightly reminded us. Journalists were invited to attend and “cover” the event: in particular Sandro Magister, who brought the four cardinals’ letter to the pope to the world’s attention.
Monsignor Schneider’s keynote address, on fidelity to the tradition of the Church and its moral teaching, was important in many ways. We will return to it in due course, but what we must say at the outset is that the event on Monday was precisely that – an event. What is newsworthy is the existence of a meeting that attracted cardinals, bishops, priests, seminarians, religious in large numbers, and lay people alike, all anxious to defend the immutable truth of Christ, specifically His words on marriage.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, these prelates, these princes of the Church, who do not feel permitted to withdraw from the perils of exposing Amoris Laetitia’s ambiguities, held the places of honor. Let us clearly state: It is impossible to deny that these ambiguities are dangerous, as evidenced by several bishops’ and conferences’ interpretations openly considering access to Communion for the divorced and remarried, while their original matrimonial bond is valid, not declared null, and without requiring that they live in continence.
Many priests were present: priests in cassocks, the old and the young – especially the young! Sixty or eighty priests, coming as neighbors or from afar, anxious above all to find authorities expressing the Catholic truth, but also the assurance of not being alone. Times are “tumultuous”, as Cardinal Burke said in his remarks following Archbp. Schneider’s lecture; It is a time when it is good to find oneself in a community, fortified and encouraged by the perseverance and strength of one’s fellow men. This was the state of mind, for example, of Bishop Andreas Laun of Salzburg, whom the French know well from his participation in the Parisian Marches for Life.
I saw Dutch priests coming from far away in every sense of the word: from a country in religious agony, where fidelity to the Magisterium is rare and two churches close every week. “How many opened mosques?” I asked. “Two a week.” There was a deliberate displacement. Just like that priest from Ireland.
How do we leave such an event? Moved, grateful, fortified. In any case, this was how I lived it: with the certainty that our Lord, beyond the vicissitudes, supports and preserves His spouse, the Church, despite all her tribulations. The vibrant Credo, sung by the audience to close the meeting, summarized this in a more than symbolic way.
Translated from the original French with the aid of Google Translate.