Synod. First Shot on Target Comes From the Conservatives
[ Emphasis in red type by Abyssum ]
Thanks above all to the introductory talk of Cardinal Erdõ, adamant in excluding the ambiguous “openness” of the base document. But the innovators are already on the counterattack. And they’re counting on the support of the pope
by Sandro Magister
ROME, October 8, 2015 – In the first days of the synod on the family, Pope Francis has already spoken twice.
The first time as scheduled, in his capacity as president, with the talk for the opening of the work on Monday, October 5:
> Introduzione del Santo Padre Francesco
The second time on the morning of October 6, driven to do so by the tempestuous opening, on the previous day, of the discussion among the synod fathers.
The text of this second talk has not been made public, but according to the account of it in “L’Osservatore Romano,” Francis took care to reiterate three things:
– the validity as the basis of discussion of the “Instrumentum laboris,” which he personally approved, he said, and made up of the final “Relatio” of the previous synod “combined with the contributions that came afterward”;
– the status of the final “Relatio” of 2014 and of the two papal discourses for the beginning and end of that session as the only “official documents of last year’s synod”;
– the certainty that in the unfolding of the synod so far “Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched.”
With this, Francis wanted above all to dismiss the most radical contestations that in the run-up to the synod had been focused on the “Instrumentum laboris.”
As for example in the text signed by three theologians with the support of several European bishops and cardinals published on http://www.chiesa on September 29:
> “Unacceptable.” The Base Document of the Synod “Compromises the Truth”
Or as in the book “Christ’s New Homeland – Africa,” written by Cardinal Robert Sarah together with six other cardinals and four African bishops, in which some of the points of the final “Relatio” of the 2014 synod, afterward incorporated into the “Lineamenta” and the “Instrumentum laboris,” were rejected as “sowers of doubt” – on such a cornerstone as the indissolubility of marriage – or even as “unacceptable” and “scandalous”:
> First Five, Now Seventeen Anti-Kasper Cardinals (31.8.2015)
In reality, the “Instrumentum laboris” already marked steps backward, more in line with the traditional teaching of the Church, with respect to the “openness” of the final “Relatio” of 2014, which in turn had scaled down the even more reckless forays of the “Relatio post disceptationem” halfway through the synod, on burning questions like divorce and homosexuality:
> Synod. Cold Shower for the Innovators (30.6.2015)
But what has been most striking, at the start of the synod, has been the resoluteness with which cardinal relator Péter Erdõ of Hungary, in his talk at the opening of the work, has swept away even the residual ambiguities present in the “Instrumentum”:
> Relazione introduttiva del relatore generale
In English, translated by Catholic News Agency:
> Full text of Cardinal Erdõ’s introductory report
In 2014 as well, Cardinal Erdõ was relator general. According to form, his “signature” was also on the notorious “Relatio post disceptationem,” from which he nonetheless distanced himself afterward, publicly pointing to the special secretary of the synod, Bruno Forte, as the true author of the most controversial passages:
> The True Story of This Synod. Director, Performers, Assistants (17.10.2014)
But having learned his lesson, this time Erdõ has produced – by his own pen – an introductory talk of crystalline clarity and of impeccable adherence to the perennial doctrine of the Church, which has brought not a little surprise and irritation to the innovators.
Just one example.
For the civilly divorced and remarried faithful who find themselves in a situation of irreversible cohabitation, the “Instrumentum labors” says:
“Concerning the aforementioned subject, a great number agree that a journey of reconciliation or penance, under the auspices of the local bishop. […] Some refer to a way of penance, meaning a process of clarifying matters after experiencing a failure and a reorientation which is to be accompanied by a priest who is appointed for this purpose. This process ought to lead the party concerned to an honest judgment of his/her situation. At the same time, the priest himself might come to a sufficient evaluation as to be able to suitably apply the power of binding and loosing to the situation.”
In the wake of this ambiguous statement, in an interview with “La Civiltà Cattolica” of last September 26, cardinal of Vienna Christoph Schönborn – but he was not alone in this – envisioned a pathway to Eucharistic communion for these persons:
“There are situations in which the priest, the guide, who knows the persons, can come to the point of saying: ‘Your situation is such that, in conscience, in your and in my conscience as a pastor, I see your place in the sacramental life of the Church.”
But Cardinal Erdõ, in his opening talk at the synod, ruled out such a solution, first with thorough argumentation and at last by invoking the support both of John Paul II’s “Familiaris Consortio” (FC) and of a manual by an eighteenth-century Jesuit canonist:
“The integration of the divorced and remarried into the life of the ecclesial community can be realized in various forms, other than admission to the Eucharist, as FC 84 already suggests. In the traditional practice of the Latin Church, the penitential way could signify, for those who were not yet ready to change their condition of life but nevertheless felt the desire of conversion, that confessors could hear their confession, giving them good advice and proposing exercises of penance in order to direct them toward conversion, but without giving them the absolution that was possible only for those who in fact proposed to change their lives (cf. F. A. Febeus, S.I., De regulis iuris canonici Liber unicus, Venetiis 1735, pp. 91-92)”.
It comes as no surprise that Cardinal Erdõ was asked on that same day – both in the synod hall and at the press conference – to justify this peremptory reaffirmation of the discipline in effect, concerning the divorced and remarried and other controversial points.
And he told the journalists that he had simply wanted to “assemble the voice of the Church,” or rather, “the objective result, almost mathematical, of what came to the secretariat of the synod in the interval between the two sessions and after the publication of the ‘Instrumentum laboris,’” in which “from the majority of the responses it emerged that there is the intention to take into account” the documents of the magisterium applicable to these issues.
A revealing response that throws light on the real result of the consultation conducted all over the world in view of the synod, quantified by the secretary general, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, in 102 responses from episcopal conferences and in 400 other observations sent from dioceses, parishes, associations, families, and ordinary faithful.
At the same press conference, however, special secretary of the synod Bruno Forte did not fail to provide the countermelody to Erdõ, reopening the breach for those innovations which the Hungarian cardinal had excluded:
“Although it holds true that this synod must not be expected to change doctrine, it must be said very clearly that this synod is not meeting to say nothing. It is not a doctrinal synod, but it is pastoral. Addressing pastoral questions and seeking new ways of approach brings the Church closer to the women and men of our time.”
And in the assembly there has been no lack of those who have urged not “universal” answers to the problems under discussion, but the freedom of “regional, national, or continental solutions for challenges that are so different,” as is already taking place in some areas of the Church, especially the German-speaking.
It must not be overlooked, moreover, that Cardinal Erdõ’s talk, read in the assembly in Italian, has not been translated into any other language by the secretariat of the synod. With the effect of making it hardly comprehensible to a good number of synod fathers and of shelving it as quickly as possible.
Not only the merit, however, but also the working method of this synod has immediately been made an object of discussion.
Many fathers, for example, have not appreciated the reduction of time for the general discussion in the assembly and the limit of just 3 minutes set for the individual presentations.
But the target of criticism has been above all the composition of the commission charged with writing, through various successive drafts, the “Relatio” to be put to the vote point by point on the concluding day of the synod, and finally delivered to the pope.
The ten members of the commission, all appointed by Francis, are the following:
– Péter Erdõ, relator general of the synod;
– Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general;
– Bruno Forte, special secretary;
– Oswald Gracias, for Asia;
– Donald William Wuerl, for North America;
– Víctor Manuel Fernández, for Latin America;
– Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan, for Africa;
– John Atcherley Dew, for Oceania;
. Marcello Semeraro, for Europe;
– Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, for the religious orders.
Four of these (Wuerl, Fernández, Dew, Semeraro) have come to the synod not because they were elected by their respective episcopates or by reason of the positions they occupy, but only because they were called personally by Francis. And if to these are added Baldisseri, Forte, and Nicolás Pachón, it is easy to remark the clear prevalence on the commission of persons oriented more or less markedly toward change.
In particular, everyone remembers Forte’s maneuvers at the synod of 2014, while Fernández is known for his indiscretion:
> E questo sarebbe il teologo di fiducia del papa?
As for Fr. Nicolás Pachón, secretary general of the Jesuits, he stated his perspective to “Corriere della Sera” of October 7: “Of course, on his own Francis could go faster. But the Church needs time to change.”
But it must be said that Erdõ has also been called to the synod personally by the pope, and has been reconfirmed by him as relator general, proof of just how much the decisions of Jorge Mario Bergoglio escape easy classification.
In any case, Pope Francis also wanted to clarify the synodal procedures, in his unscheduled talk on the morning of October 6.
According to Fr. Federico Lombardi, the pope remarked that “the decisions of method were also shared and approved by him, and therefore cannot be brought back into discussion.”
Even less can they be interpreted – he added polemically – with a “conspiracy hermeneutic.”
Returning to the pope’s statement that in the unfolding of the synod so far, “Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched,” it must be noted that this sort of affirmation is also repeated ceaselessly by all the supporters of change.
Their mantra, in fact, is that the doctrine remains intact, because the only updating wanted is “pastoral.”
And therefore, since all the proposals for change presented at the synod so far are impeccable on the level of doctrine, all that remains is to select from among these the most “merciful.”
It will be seen in the future how much progress this reasoning will make, when it intends to hold together, for example, the dogma of indissolubility with the blessing of second marriages.
All the names of those present at the synod:
The daily agenda:
The base text of the discussion:
The moderators and relators elected in the thirteen linguistic circles into which the discussion is divided:
> Elenco dei moderatori e relatori dei “Circuli minores”
Some of these elected are already known from coverage of the synod, like for example cardinals Sarah, Pell, Bagnasco, Rodríguez Maradiaga, Schönborn, Piacenza, and archbishop Kurtz.
Others are less well-known but no less significant. For example, the “Circulus anglicus D,” one of the four English-language groups, has elected as relator Philadelphia archbishop Charles Chaput, who organized the world meeting of families and hosted Pope Francis during his journey in the United States, and as president the Canadian cardinal Thomas C. Collins, archbishop of Toronto and author in 2014 of an extensive interview with the American Catholic blog “The Word on Fire,” very clear and well-reasoned in defending the doctrine and practice of the Church concerning marriage:
> Marriage, Divorce, and Communion
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.