Synod Questions And A Clarification On The Virtue Of Mercy October 30, 2014
Rev. Marcel Guarnizo

QUESTION:  Prior to the Synod, you had some concerns over the direction of the debate. How did the relatio address those concerns, and/or confirm them?

FATHER GUARNIZO:   I think to understand the nature of these concerns (which are shared by many), a few things need to be established regarding the nature of the synod itself. A synod is a gathering of bishops from around the world who meet to

“… foster a closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops, to assist the roman Pontiff with their counsel in safeguarding and increasing faith and morals and in preserving and strengthening ecclesiastical discipline…” (Canon 342.)

The current synod on the family is not an ecumenical council. It is not a Church council–a Vatican III–or any such thing. A proper understanding of the synod’s authority should put what is taking place in its proper perspective. A synod cannot overturn ecumenical councils or remake the Church’s definition of dogma.

Second, as a Catholic I believe firmly that the office of Peter cannot teach error. When Peter, as universal shepherd of the Church, speaks regarding faith and morals, his pronouncements are unerring throughout the universal Church regarding matters of belief. Defined doctrine cannot be changed by any human power, so I have no concerns in this regard.

The charism of infallibility though, is only a negative protection of the office of Peter as universal shepherd of the Church. What I mean by this is that God has promised to prevent, or impede, Peter from teaching error or heresy as doctrine for belief of the Catholic Church. Infallibility does not, however, guarantee that the Pope will further the promotion of truth and faith. It also does not insure that he will not err or fail to communicate effectively and forcefully the truth of the Gospel in homilies, interviews, and the like.

I think the present concerns are due to weeks and weeks of Cardinal Kasper’s prominent role in the synod and his multiple reiterations of proposals which seem, upon review, not just theologically unsound but philosophically and logically contradictory.

The concern of which you speak, has been shared by many bishops and cardinals around the world. This has been openly stated by many in attendance at the synod and was evidenced by the book and articles authored by Cardinal Burke, Brandmuller, Carfarra, De Paolis, Pell and others as a response to the proposals of Cardinal Kasper and Kasper’s co-thinkers. Cardinal Gerhard Muller (Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith), had made his own negative views of Cardinal Kasper’s proposal known as well. I agree with their concerns and am grateful for their articulation and studious elucidation of the facts surrounding the question of marriage and other doctrinal issues.

I think there is legitimate concern that, regardless of the doctrinal facts, speculative theories on the doctrine of marriage, homosexual unions, cohabitation, and other fractious issues, cause tremendous confusion and even scandal among the faithful, Catholic and non-Catholic. In practice, ambiguous and imprecise statements send a signal that these doctrinal matters are perhaps no longer relevant in our day and age.

If discussions of these “hot button” issues are not treated with great care, the signal can be sent that fundamental doctrinal teaching of the Church may be irrelevant, or up to the subjective judgment of each priest or bishop in pastoral practice. Clearly, there is political and media pressure seeking impossible doctrinal change and we should be careful not to give the illusion that any change is possible or forthcoming.

The “relatio” must cause astonishment and concern. Even the main relator, Cardinal Peter Erdo, openly stated that some of the most controversial paragraphs had been inserted in the final draft and he was clearly not about to defend them or even explain them. Instead he called publicly on Archbishop Bruno Forte, the author of the controversial statements, to assume responsibility for his own words.

To see Cardinal Erdo’s concern and the objections voiced by bishops from Africa, Poland, and elsewhere on the synod floor must cause concern. If one of the goals of a synod as stated in the Code of Canon Law is the, “… preserving and strengthening of ecclesial discipline…” but openly there seems to be a faction proposing to change not preserve, and weaken not strengthen, the discipline of the Church, then I believe there is cause for concern. If this is so, some of the goals of the synod, seem to me are not being met. It also seems to me, that Cardinal Kasper’s proposals have not served as a vehicle to foster unity among the bishops and cardinals.

This I do not mind, as unity in the Church can only come as a communion (common union) vis à vis the true and correct doctrine of the Church. Unanimity in accepting to support the proposals of Cardinal Kasper and others would be very preoccupying, indeed.

The doctrinal issues at hand do not, in my view, require heroic powers of discernment. But the “relatio,” I think, lacked rigor, precision, and operational definition of terms. Given the circumstances of today and the need for clarity, it was not helpful in this regard. My impression is that, in many paragraphs, it was not grounded on a solid, philosophical, biblical, or theological ecclesial foundation. The international reaction to it, was telling of the final result. Given the partiality of the document, to release it to predictable public clamor was bound to increase pressure for doctrinal change, augment confusion, and frankly promote scandal among many. If the actual statements of all the bishops speaking about these matters are not accessible what is the point of releasing such draft documents?


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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  1. Eli Seton says:

    Our minds are like parachutes, they only function properly when they are open! We must rely on the Holy Spirit to restore unity among the Church! We cannot be stiff-necked as the Pharisees were in the time of Jesus’ ministry. God is love. We must now more than ever before understand how to give and receive true love for the sake of future generations! How we behave is teaching children of the next generation. Children learn what they live! Love is an action word!

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