Movie Westerns illustrate the heart of the matter when gunmen meet in a somewhat respectable saloon to have a chat before they square off and begin shooting. This is my image of what’s taking place with the Church’s dispute over the Synod and synodality. Bishop against bishop, Churchmen belly up to the bar, gunmen all, before drawing their pistols in a deadly duel.
As it was when the Hatfields and McCoys squared off, this feud is more than territorial; it’s really a matter of identity. The issues revealed are intimately personal: which family do you side with? “As for me and my family, we will choose the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Do you identify with the Sensus Fidelii “traditional” crowd, or do you hang with the up-and-coming bunch promoting Modernist formulas that dialogs with diversity, equality, and inclusion? Jimmy Akin recently noted [1} that even bad Catholics are still Catholic. Of course, he is right: baptized souls carry that indelible mark of the sacrament on their souls to eternity. And much as I enjoy splitting philosophical hairs with him, it comes down to what Christ said: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Mt. 12:30).
Hollow believers don’t do well in foxholes or wartime trenches. Eventually, one either stands as pro or anti-abortion, defends the “right” for homosexuality or the virtues of purity and holiness, exchanges the Holy Spirit for the spirit of the times or supports Catholic tradition with a capital “T.” Maybe not in these exact terms, but particularly Catholics will be tested for their fidelity. Sadly, debates at these “listening session” saloons often turn into insult and assault: a drink is thrown in the face of another, one is punched by an aggressor. Female priesthood, transsexualism, and the Eucharist for non-believers are currently causes for militant advocay, among others. The quirky ragtime piano player grows quiet, crowds disperse, shots are fired, the tavern is filled with the residual smoke of Satan.
And yet, God has allowed this squaring off to go on from the earliest time that man and woman first stood against the Snake. As believers, ours is and always will be one of fighting for our identity, be it with God or the evil one. No one stands alone. The world we find ourselves in reveals itself as that saloon where we must inevitably choose a side, even if one’s choice is not to choose. Whether your pistol is loaded or not, time will come when you and I are forced to draw. For all us Church militants…I sincerely wish you well, pardner.