There has been a lot of speculation about the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled for October 5-19, 2014. The theme of the gathering will be Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.
Sadly, the various articles I have seen regarding this gathering seem to indicate that the agenda will get bogged down in quagmire of defective premises that have plagued the modern world. Many of these premises were condemned over two decades ago by St. John Pau II in Veritatis Splendor. But the nature of such defects is such that, like a malignant cancer, if any of them is allowed to go unchallenged, it will start to metastasize into new and more virulent forms.
The first of these defective premises is that the purpose of marriage to promote the fulfillment of both spouses. This idea quickly spread soon after Church leaders, in their effort to be more relevant and pastoral, downplayed the traditional Church's teaching that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation and raising of children. Holy Mother Church, in order to accentuate the sacrifices required for a healthy and life-giving marriage, carefully sought to inform a couple that their marriage would involve numerous awkward but beautifully sanctifying sacrifices. It would not be a perpetual excursion of erotic bliss at a Sandals resort. The spouses' relationship would be more like what one priest called "a holy hot potato".
The husband would say continuously to his wife, "I give myself totally to you." And the wife would continually say to her husband, "I give myself totally to you." In the context of this mutual commitment to be totally gift, which is the true nature of human fulfillment, God enables them to join with Him in creating, nurturing and forming a new life, sacred to Him beyond comprehension, whom they could love together. Sadly, as the pastoral practice of the Church lost its focus on this self-emptying nature of conjugal love, it also allowed the focus of a couple to be distracted from embracing into their marriage the attitudes manifested in Christ's Self-emptying love for His Bride, the Church. As a result, the practical and functional were allowed to take precedence over the covenantal and sacramental nature of marriage in the eyes of many Catholics.
The perversion of perspective and practice which this generated was more profound than most Church leaders could have ever have imagined. It moved the basic matrix of matrimony from a being one of a self-emptying life-long covenantal commitment, to an arrangement or relationship that was more akin to being just symbiotic. Each of the spouses was to be valued by the other not as sacred, but only as useful to the other's self-actualization. Sadly, in a society which has largely abandoned the traditional standards of virtue in favor of a more "enlightened" standard of ever-evolving politically correct values, this quest for self-actualization or self-fulfillment has quickly led to the degeneration of even such symbiotic relationships into ones that may more accurately called narcissistic or even parasitic.
These problems have been further exasperated by the widespread acceptance among Catholics of Darwinian evolution as the basis for natural law. An observation from the Vatican that evolution is more than a theory have not helped to correct this serious error. Let's briefly review some of the dogmas of Darwinian evolution. First of all, the dogma of the survival of the fittest asserts that survival is more important than integrity of character. Moral capitulation to, or even collaboration with evil is thus justified by the new norms of Darwinian "natural law". It also supports the premise that might makes right. As one aide to President Barack Obama so succinctly put it, "If we cannot use the power of persuasion, we will use the persuasion of power."
The dogmas of Darwinian evolution also proclaim the importance of natural selection. It is worth noting how Hitler used these dogmas to promote his Third Reich. Convinced that the Germans were the Master Race, he sought to accelerate the evolutionary progress of humanity by terminating both those who were determined to be physically or psychologically defective and those of inferior races who could decelerate the further breeding and spread of the Master Race. He was convinced, as the Vatican statement so tragically put it half a century later, that evolution was more than a theory, it was the blueprint for all human development.
But the greatest danger of Darwinian evolutionary theory is that, as indicated above, it divinizes the moral autonomy of the individual. The precepts of the moral law are thus relegated to guidelines, with expediency and survival as the primary norms of behavior. By doing this, it denies the reality and dynamic of authentic love. This dynamic is not one of evolution, but of evocation. Babies are not thrown on the ground and told, "Evolve!". According to God's will, they are to be conceived in the sacred context of holy marriage, to be welcomed and nurtured in a loving family, and called forth into a higher state of maturity, integrity and competence by a loving community.
Thus the evocative graciousness of love can be the foundation of an authentically human civilization. As the Church Fathers put it so succinctly, "Love is our origin, love is our life and love is our destiny."
The dogmas of Darwinian evolution, on the other hand, deny the importance of love, condemning human development to be to guided by people's slavery to their desires, urges and instincts. And I cannot help but to note how even our legal system has gradually capitulated to the premise that the fulfillment of such desires, urges and instincts must be given more legal protection than the promotion of those virtues, which enable people to live as God's children rather than as Pavlov's dogs. Thus it is that we have come to the point where freedom has been redefined as the right to be fickle and feckless (e.g., "no fault" divorce, murder by "choice", exercising the power to impose debt slavery on our posterity by deficit spending and unfunded mandates).
As an aside, I should note here that a more positive view on how the Synod can provide a decisive alternative to the radical individualism and autonomy mandated by the dogmas of Darwinian evolution can be found in my earlier article, The Covenantal Nature of Man - A Reflection on the Ministry of Mary as Co-Redemptrix.
As long as Church leaders do nor clearly, decisively and consistently reject these evil evolutionary premises, any statements from the Synod will only receive as much attention and allegiance as a reed swaying in the wind. But, by carefully and exclusively embracing the authentic premises of objective truth proclaimed by the Church,
we can again gain access to the fulfillment of the graciously transformative promises of God given to us in Christ.
Rev. Fr. Thomas Collins is a Catholic priest in the service of the people of Virginia.