Pope Francis’s Synodal Path Mimics the Anglicans’ Route to Self-Destruction.

Pope Francis’s Synodal Path Mimics the Anglicans’ Route to Self-Destruction.

by Edwin Benson franciss-synodal-path-mimics-the-anglicans-route-to-self-destruction

One of the most effective idioms in the English language is the simple phrase “the blind leading the blind.” Surely, no act could be more foolish.

The phrase has its basis in scripture. In Matthew 15:14, Our Lord tells us, “Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.”

No idiom could better describe the danger along the way of the coming Synod of Synodality.

Synodality is not new. Others have tried it before and suffered from its “blind leading the blind” outcome. This scenario was especially played out before in the Anglican communion.

In the book The Synodal Process Is a Pandora’s Box, authors Jose Antonio Ureta and Julio Loredo de Izcue quote former Anglican bishop Gavin Ashenden, ex-chaplain to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II.

Now a Catholic convert, he points out that the Church of England embarked on its particular “Synodical Way” in the fifties. His testimony is noteworthy:

“Ex-Anglicans believe they can offer some help” because they have witnessed the “ploy” of synodality used in the Church of England “to such divisive and destructive effect.”

“The fact is that the ex-Anglicans have seen this trick played on the Church before. It is part of the spirituality of the progressives. Very simply put, they wrap up quasi-Marxist content in a spiritual comfort blanket and then talk a lot about the Holy Spirit.”

A Road Already Taken

Anglicanism is difficult to explain. In Great Britain, it is called the Church of England—the fruit of King Henry VIII’s apostasy. In the United States, it is known as the Episcopal Church. In the rest of the world, especially those places once part of the British Empire, the adjective more inclusive term Anglican is common.

In my youth, I was an Episcopalian. The parish to which I belonged was full of old wood, old stained glass, old words and old music. The liturgy and vestments appeared magnificent.

However, the antique surroundings concealed a radical spirit. The clergymen—and later clergywomen – who wore those vestments were often admitted socialists. They proclaimed the eternal verities through the liturgy but were quite willing to campaign in favor of abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment. Indeed, they thought these activities were quite virtuous.

In 1986, I could no longer stomach the Episcopalians’ failure to take a stand against abortion. (Later, they did—of course, on the other side.) I leaped over the Tiber and became a Catholic. I thank God for the Grace He gave me to make that decision. Many other Episcopalians did the same thing over other issues. There were plenty to choose from.

A Rapidly Dying Organization

Beliefnet crunched the numbers. From 1992 to 2002, the number of Episcopalians plunged 32%, from 3.4 to 2.3 million. That was not a fluke. As of 2021, the Episcopal Church claims 1.62 million members in the United States. What could account for the loss of over half of its membership in three decades?

To answer that question, Beliefnet turned to Charlotte Allen, a frequent contributor to many publications, including First Things, the Weekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal.

“The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which large parishes and entire dioceses are opting out of the church, isn’t simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity…. [A]s all but a few die-hards now admit, the mainline churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.”

When People and Ideology Clashed, the People Lost… and Then Left

The article pointed to New Hampshire’s retired Anglican Bishop V. Gene Robinson. Before he took that office, Mr. Robinson had deserted his wife and children in favor of living openly in a homosexual relationship. Even the New York Times spoke of the resulting rift in 2006.

“Bishop Robinson’s consecration drew a virulent response from primates of fast-growing Anglican provinces in the developing world, where homosexuality is taboo. Many in Africa, Asia and Latin America have curtailed their interaction with the American church. A few traditionalist congregations in this country have placed themselves under the oversight of foreign bishops.”

The following year, the Times revisited the issue.

“Traditionalists at home and abroad assert that the Bible describes homosexuality as an abomination, and they consider the Episcopal Church’s ordination of Bishop Robinson as the latest and most galling proof of its rejection of biblical authority.”

Despite the controversy, Mr. Robinson continued in his office until retiring in 2013.

A Museum With Few Visitors

In many places, the beautiful outward shell remains, a relic in a liturgical museum. However, disconnected from the breath of life, it slowly disintegrates.

British conservative Melanie Phillips quotes a study of 1,200 Church of England Clergy. Fully three-quarters of them believe that Britain is no longer a Christian country. Celia Walden of The Telegraph quotes the same survey, saying that most clergy are quite willing to use their empty church buildings for yoga classes, exhibitions, concerts, cafés and post offices.

She continues, “It’s ironic that, as a secular society, we’ve thrown ourselves into the cult of self, precisely because we’re flailing, with no basic spiritual scaffold to keep us steady. The idea of being handed out nourishment in the form of the “blood and body of Christ” is ridiculed, but we’ll guzzle down our green juices and “superfoods” in the hope they’ll give us what our empty souls are lacking—and ensure an eternal, if spiritually devoid, life…. It’s all about wellness in the church of ‘me.’”

Vanishing by 2040

The Canadian situation is even worse. In 2020, the Anglican Journal carried an article that should have spread panic throughout the communion. In a report to the “House of Bishops,” Anglican clergyman Neil Eliot made a startling prediction based on statistical analysis. “We’ve got simple projections from our data that suggest that there will be no members, attenders or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040.”

Canadian Anglican primate Linda Nicholls was nonplussed. “Anybody who’s been in the church in the pews, or as a priest, or as a deacon or a bishop has known that this decline has been happening. We see it every Sunday, we see it in lots of ways.”

Primate Nicholls is sanguine in the presence of a condition that should shake her to her bones. “At the end of the day, when we stand before the great judgment seat and have to answer for how we lived our lives as Christians, I think the question that will be asked is, ‘Were you faithful with what you were given?’”

Correcting Liberalism’s Errors with More Liberalism?

So, what is the liberal solution? Like the Marxist who refuses to acknowledge the failure of Communism, the answer never changes. Do more of the same; just do it better. They want more food banks, more social action, more criticism of the wealthy, more liberal activism, more, more, more.

That is the same direction that appears along the Synodol path. Progressives seem to see the Modern Church’s depopulation as a “growing pain” that more liberalism, more accompaniment and more acceptance will correct in good time. They think that they can convince the Catholic laity with their sweet words.

Indeed, the warning of Gavin Ashenden is prophetic. The Anglican “synodal way” led to self-destruction. Catholics should pay attention.

Blinded by their ideology, progressives claim that those who stand for eternal truths are the ideologues. They seem willing to sacrifice eternal truths for the evolving norms of modernist social justice.

This “path” must be rejected.