Tag Archives: Youth Synod


Man saying "I have a Catholic website." Second man at table replying "You'll need a badge."

Vatican observers did a double-take when they read Paragraph 146 of the final approved Youth Synod document.  While there’s plenty to be found in the document which will curl the hair of most traditional/orthodox Catholics, Paragraph 146 is a whopper in its own right.  It speaks to the need for creating “certification systems for Catholic websites, to counter the spread of fake news regarding the Church.”

Say what, now?

You mean something like the electro-magnetic web-based Internetty version of a Imprimatur or Nihil Obstat kind of thing for web content?

Sounds like a swell idea…what could possibly go wrong?

It’s one thing for the Church to put her seal of approval on Catholic publications advising readers that they’ll find nothing doctrinally offensive or heretical in a book or some such.  The Church should have been doing more of that…assuming, of course, that it would be the heretical or quasi-heretical stuff that would get the flashing red warning light associated with it.  These days, you’re probably more likely to get clotheslined by a Vatican theologian for actually supporting the Magisterium as it existed prior to this pontificate.

I think most of us can imagine what’s really behind the Synod’s report calling for ‘badges of approval’ for Catholic websites:  they want to suppress dissent.

Well, I don’t know many of my fellow Catholic internet dudes/dudettes who are thrilled with that idea.  It’s not hard to imagine that outfits like Church Militant, LifeSite News, the Lepanto Institute and The Remnant would be early targets of such a “certification process.”

Dear Youth Synod Document writers/ghost-writers/stooges, we have a message for you:

Read more about it here–>  https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/vatican-looks-to-censor-lay-catholics

What’s That Stang Thang?

Cartoon depiction of Vatican

Yeah, today’s Halloween.  It’s a special time of the year (except for the raccoons who come to visit me throughout the year; they show up each night expecting treats, and they’re always wearing masks, so every night of the year is Halloween for them, I guess…)

And apparently, even the folks in the Vatican are into dress-up this October.  During the Youth Synod, Pope Francis was seen walking around looking like he was preparing to play Quidditch.  His staff (called a Papal ferula) looked nothing like a traditional bishop’s crozier, and certainly nothing like the trademark Crucifix which adorned the top of St. John Paul II’s ferula.

Observers can be forgiven if they sensed some sort of Wiccan flavor to the staff he was carrying.  It looked far more like a stang of the type favored by those practiced in the dark arts than it resembled anything Christian.  “Not so!” we were assured by Vatican staff (the administrative sort of staff as opposed to the ceremonial walking stick sort of staff).  The new, avantgarde and oh-so-fashionable staff was a gift from “the youth.”  If you look closely (really, really closely) you can almost–if you squint just right–see what might look like a Y-shaped Crucifix.

Taking a shot or two of the local chianti might aid the identification process.

Not only are we laity having trouble with the funny-looking staff, the Papal staff is having trouble with the staff as well…


Why the Pope Weaponizes Ambiguity

Yellow diamond shaped highway road sign with confusing arrows pointing in every direction with a 45 MPH speed limit sign. The words "Good Luck" are attached between the two signs.

Image:  weknowmemes.com

Ok…so what’s the deal here?  The Vatican issues a document titled Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”).  As written, the document seems to indicate that, in an undetermined number of cases, it may be permissible for Catholics who are divorced and living together in subsequent non-sacramental marriages to receive Holy Communion.

Or maybe not.

That’s the problem.  The document, as written, is ambiguous, vague, and open to interpretation (and, of course, misinterpretation).

As a former military guy, we used to get orders which were vague, unclear, or confusing all the time.  If we didn’t fully understand the orders, we were supposed to ask questions.  We were expected to ask questions.  If we just shrugged, gave it our best guess and went off half-cocked, things usually went poorly.  Then, when standing tall in front of that long green table, we’d inevitably be asked “If the orders weren’t clear to you, why didn’t you ask?”

Well, the publication of Amoris Laetitia generated plenty of confusion among Catholics, both the rank & file laypeople, priests, bishops and even cardinals.  What the heck were we supposed to make of this papal exhortation?  How was it supposed to be implemented?

Several leaders within the Church did what any good soldier should do:  they requested clarification.  As written, the orders (Amoris Laetitia) were confusing and ambiguous in parts.  Four cardinals, including Cardinal Burke, requested clarification in a formal procedure which involved submitting a “Dubia” in which they raised doubts about what exactly it was they were supposed to be doing.

Were clarifications from “headquarters” forthcoming?  Nope.  Not yet, anyway.

And with that ambiguity came the inevitable misinterpretations.  Some dioceses continued with the current policies regarding divorced and remarried Catholics, while others implemented very new, very liberal, and (one might say) very radical interpretations of Amoris Laetitia.   Even though it was clear that different “subordinate commands” within the Church were interpreting/implementing the document in completely opposite ways, still there was no clarification forthcoming from the Vatican.

Why in the heck not?

I haven’t been privy to any of the Pope’s daily briefings (if he conducts such things), so I have no way of knowing what his intentions and motives are.  Not a clue.

What I do understand, however, is that if orders are written which are intentionally vague, there might be a very distinct reason for that.

In an article written for The California Law Review titled “Obeying Orders: Atrocity, Military Discipline, and the Law of War,” University of Iowa law professor Mark Osiel examines the issue of culpability when it comes to issuing and obeying illegal orders, and the part such orders play in the chain of events leading to military atrocities.  Here are some of the things he says:

Deliberate ambiguity in the wording of orders often leads atrocity by bureaucracy to blur into atrocity by connivance… For a common soldier to be liable for disobeying a superior’s order, the order must attain a reasonable degree of specificity, according to the military law of most Western nations. Such an order, as one military lawyer writes, “is a specific mandate to do or refrain from doing a particular task…[I]t must particularize the conduct expected, or there cannot be any offense against it: an order to… perform one’s duties [for instance] does not meet this requirement. Legal ambiguity thus has very different effects on the potential liability of superiors and subordinates. For subordinates, it is exculpatory; for superiors with decision-making capacity, it is not. This is of considerable practical importance, because any order calling for atrocities is likely to be willfully opaque.

“Any order calling for atrocities is likely to be willfully opaque.”  What atrocities are contained in the papal exhortation?  Isn’t that going a bit overboard?  Hard for me to say.  I suppose it’s rather atrocious to take Christ’s words on the subject of divorce and upend them entirely, isn’t it?  Mr. Osiel continues:

Thus, a key problem with requiring that an order be manifestly criminal on its face, in order to hold subordinates liable for obeying it, is that this approach easily permits the superior officer who desires atrocity to formulate his orders in ways that ensure that soldiers obeying them are excused from criminal liability. It takes no great measure of verbal artistry to do this, for the slightest vagueness in his orders will generally introduce enough doubt about their unlawfulness in the mind of the average soldiers to excuse his obedience to them. This is because the manifest illegality rule authorizes soldiers to resolve all legitimate doubts about legality in favor of obedience.

Again, I’ll readily admit that comparing the whole issue of Communion for divorced & civilly remarried Catholics to wartime atrocities is really pushing the envelope, so let me step away just a bit to put it in less inflammatory terms.

  1. Orders issued by a superior should be clear, concise, and unambiguous.
  2. Subordinates who receive orders which are unclear, imprecise, vague or ambiguous should seek clarification from the superior issuing them.
  3. When a request for clarification is received, a superior should promptly address the questions asked, ensuring that no confusion remains as to the specifics of the order, or the intent behind it.
  4. If an order is written in a deliberately ambiguous or vague manner, it may well be that the superior issuing the orders intends to use the inevitable confusion which arises in a manner which will benefit himself or bring about an intended result which is either illegal or too controversial to be addressed in a direct and unambiguous manner.

If, when Amoris Laetitia was promulgated, the ambiguities were unintentional, the first three items described above would have taken care of things.  The papal exhortation has some confusing parts in it; some cardinals submit a Dubia, and the Pope addresses those confusing bits head-on, clearing up all the confusion.  Everybody proceeds on the same sheet of music, remaining fully in sync with the Magisterial teachings of the Church on the painful topic of divorce and remarriage.  No harm; no foul.

So far, that hasn’t happened yet.  As faithful Catholics, we should pray earnestly that it does.

I really, really, really don’t want number 4 above to be what’s going on here!



  1. Ostiel, “Obeying Orders: Atrocity, Military Discipline, and the Law of War” The California Law Review, Vol 6, Oct 1988