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The Synod Of Bishops Concludes . . . Relief, Confusion, And Uncertainties Follow

November 7, 2015 Frontpage No Comments


The Synod of Bishops on the Family is formally over. And we are grateful. For, as much as many of us feared its arrival, we also came to dread its equivocal continuation. This synod was tinctured from its inception with reasonable suspicions and fears.
From its beginning, it seems, many things — not only the procedural rules — were stacked against those prelates who had intended to uphold Christ’s own teaching whole and entire: The papal appointees (45 of them) were mostly liberal-leaning; the commission members for writing the final report were mostly liberal-leaning; and many of the synod’s spokesmen — among them Fr. Thomas Rosica and Fr. Bernd Hagenkord — were liberal-leaning.
In addition to all of this, the real and specific discussions in the Synod Hall were to be mostly kept secret, or non-attributable.
During these weeks, faithful Catholics had to witness how from within the Vatican halls themselves came many progressive propositions — presented at the official press conferences — some of which were scandalous to the pious ear.
For example: to have women deacons; to admit “remarried” and effectively impenitent divorced persons — who live objectively in the state of adultery — to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist; to give a more accepting welcome and “accompaniment” to homosexual unions, to name only a few examples. And no one of authority definitively silenced these tendentious and unacceptable proposals, which the Magisterium has already firmly addressed.
However, since that which was presented at the official synod press conferences tended toward the cultivation of a more liberal attitude, the synod was all too easily perceived as being mostly liberal, if not unfaithful. This was not in fact the case.
The Kasper proposal itself, one of the most controversial themes at the synod — namely, to admit “remarried” divorced people to Holy Communion — was rejected by a large majority of the synod fathers.
There is an encouraging sign in the fact that many synod fathers upheld courageously the teaching of our Lord, in spite of the strong media pressure to do otherwise.
But, as Sandro Magister reported, even before the synod was over, the very fact that so many moral doctrines and Church laws were up for discussion — which was then intensified, if not inflamed, by the media — made it seem that “the synod of the media has already toppled the real one,” as the title of his own article said.
Magister, who is one of the best-informed Vatican experts in Italy, offered his explanation of how we got into this situation:
“It took just a few decisions and a few judiciously administered sound bites, starting with that memorable ‘Who am I to judge?’, which has become the emblem of this pontificate, to unleash an unprecedented conflict in the Church and ignite within public opinion the unheard-of expectation for an overturning of the Catholic paradigms on key questions like divorce and homosexuality.”
And, according to Magister, in spite of some strong defenders of the faith — among them Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia — the major message of the synod is that of a gradual and ongoing liberalization of the Church’s moral teaching. Even more so, and in spite of the Pope’s sometimes more traditional statements on the issues, Magister concluded that “the triumph goes, instead, to the Pope’s continual reproaches against the ‘border guards’ devoid of mercy and his incessant appeals to throw open the doors to the divorced and to homosexuals.”
Now the final report of the synod has been published — although, as of this writing, we still do not have an English translation. I asked four men of wisdom and experience to give me their assessment of the content of the final report and of the synod itself altogether. To help us I shall present them herewith:
Fr. Brian Harrison, OS, wrote:
“I have just been reading (in the original Italian) the three paragraphs of the final report of the synod (nn. 84, 85, and 86) that only barely scraped together the necessary two-thirds majority of votes. They all have to do with the situation of the divorced and civilly remarried. It looks very ominous to me. These paragraphs are vague, and full of true, but one-sidedly ‘positive’ (and therefore tendentious) comments about Catholics in that bigamous (adulterous) situation.
“Above all, the paragraphs manifest a deafening silence about whether these folks can be admitted to Holy Communion. By conspicuously failing to cite Pope St. John Paul II’s clear teaching in Familiaris Consortio n. 84 that they can’t receive Communion unless they live as ‘brother and sister,’ while citing the more ‘compassionate’ parts of that very same article of FC, the synod majority sends a clear message: The Church is moving towards opening a door that John Paul (and all his Predecessors) had firmly closed!
“When we look at the voting numbers of these three paragraphs, it is clear that they would not have received the required two-thirds majority if it were not for the dozens of ‘progressive’ cardinals and bishops with whom the Holy Father personally packed the synod by direct personal appointment — both as synod fathers and as members of the drafting committee for this report. Basically, it seems clear that the synod battle — a battle in which the soul of the Church is at stake! — has been won by Pope Francis and the party of so-called ‘mercy.’
“The Supreme Pontiff has successfully imposed his will on the synod and will probably now claim he has a green light, after having ‘consulted’ and ‘listened to’ the world’s bishops, to bring out a follow-up document that ‘decentralizes’ this issue, i.e., that allows ‘regional’ differences as to whether divorced-and-remarrieds can receive Communion. If so, we will be a facing a terribly grave situation; for that kind of ‘diversity’ on a matter which by its very nature demands uniformity throughout the Catholic world will be enough to start unraveling the whole fabric of Catholic doctrine: first in ‘morals,’ then in matters of ‘faith’ as well. (‘Faith and morals’ go together.)”
The well-informed Vatican expert from Italy, Marco Tosatti, wrote me the following:
“Dear Maike, it seems to me that, altogether, the synod has given a quite adequate and even overwhelming answer to the major problem facing the Church, and not only the Church, which is the attempt to impose the Gender Ideology everywhere. The paragraph n. 76 is very clear: ‘As to the projects to equalize traditional marriage with the unions between homosexual persons, there is no basis to equalize them or to establish any analogies, not even a little, between homosexual unions and God’s specific design for marriage and family.’ It seems to me very clear, since it has been approved with a very high majority (only 14 percent against it).
“Concerning the divorced-remarried: It seems to me that there has been a confirmation of the previous doctrine, especially with the several references to Familiaris Consortio. The ‘case for case’ judgment has always been done, as far as I know. These all seem to me to be the facts, freed from all the ‘political’ and ‘mass mediatic’ interpretations. Now let us see what the Pope will write in his own exhortation.”
Giuseppe Gracia, the spokesman for the courageous Swiss bishop, Vitus Huonder, sent me the following comment:
“The recent Synod of Bishops gathered in Rome concerning Marriage and the Family has received much attention. Moreover, the final report handed to Pope Francis has earnestly requested a new and non-judging language. The bishops and cardinals have furthermore stressed that the current life realities have to be taken into account seriously. And yet, this proposed approach — the approach of a therapist — which is now so palpable at times, constitutes, also, a new and condescending paternalism toward men.”

Points Of Concern

Last, but not least, I would like to quote the well-respected Vatican expert Edward Pentin, who wrote as follows:
“The synod was overall considered satisfactory by most of the synod fathers. They certainly didn’t like that last year’s meeting, which was marred by manipulation, dirty tricks, and the pushing of an agenda. That agenda hadn’t disappeared, but some participants nevertheless thought it a great success. There was relief that consensus appeared to win the day, with all 94 paragraphs gaining two-thirds majority, but it also threw up serious points of concern.
“The first regards divorce and remarriage: already headlines are suggesting the Church is allowing Holy Communion to remarried divorcees on a ‘case-by-case basis,’ so even though the text doesn’t say that, that is what many will take from it. This is being blamed on ambiguous or deficient language in the text which could have been clearer, especially given that none of the language groups explicitly favored the ‘Kasper Proposal.’ The fear is that it has left an opening for the proposal to enter, as Cardinal Kasper himself said on the day the synod ended.
“The document had other deficiencies, too, such as the lack of mention of sin and salvation, as well as the passing over a vast array of family-associated problems, such as marital unfaithfulness and pornography.
“But now the decision all rests with the Pope. Many still want more clarity, and so far there are no signs that he will offer it, although according to the superior general of the Jesuits, the Pope is to issue a post-synodal exhortation, and probably in a few months.”

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