The fallout from the Catholic Church’s recent Synod on the Family intensified this week. At the NYT, Ross Douthat argued that the synod exposed Pope Francis as someone bent on hollowing out crucial Church teachings. If successful, he argued, the Pope could bring the Church closer to a “crisis of faith,” forcing Catholics to vocally and forcefully oppose his efforts in order to save their faith. Andrew Sullivan fired back, writing that Douthat’s column displayed “rage” and was a “declaration of war” on the Pope. At the Boston Globe’s Crux project, John Allen suggests what the clash might mean:
We have entered the next phase of Francis’ papacy.
We’ve passed from a honeymoon period in which most Catholics were content to bask in the fact that the pope was the most popular figure on the planet, to an era in which a growing number of people seem to have a hair-trigger.
For that, we probably have the Synod of Bishops to thank. It brought into sharp focus the battle lines in the Francis era, at least as regards the family and sexual morality.
Since he was elected, we have predicted that the Pope would have a “Good Friday moment” in which the media turned on him when they realized he wouldn’t be making the doctrinal changes they wanted. The synod was likely an inflection point. No doctrine was changed, but the “Good Friday” moment happened in a different way than expected: It is conservative Catholics, who were initially at least a little hopeful about the Francis project, who have now turned against him. Liberal Catholics have not gotten anything they want in any official way, and yet are sticking with Francis anyway.The Catholic Church is entering an interesting period in its history—and things promise to get only more dramatic in the run-up to next year’s larger synod. Allen is one of our best guide to these developments; read the whole thing to get a clearer sense of the lines along which the drama may unfold.