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A Late-September Synod Update… African Bishops Criticize Preparatory Documents

September 26, 2015 Featured Today No Comments


There is much to be reported on the Synod Front these days, since both sides — those who defend the traditional moral teaching of the Catholic Church and those who try to change or liberalize it — are intensely working to strengthen their own positions.
On a positive side, in addition to the earlier Eleven Cardinals Book (Eleven Cardinals Speak On Marriage and the Family), Ignatius Press published this month a book written by eleven African prelates — cardinals and bishops — dealing also with the topics of marriage and the family, in preparation for the upcoming October 4-25 Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome.
Christ’s New Homeland — Africa, is the title of the book and in it, two African prelates, Robert Cardinal Sarah and Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou, have analyzed and sharply criticized the essential preparatory Vatican documents for the upcoming synod — both the Lineamenta (questionnaire which contains the Final Report — Relatio Synodi — of last year’s synod) and the Instrumentum Laboris (working document).
These two African prelates have the courage to speak frankly about that which is obvious: that the tone of the preparatory synod documents breathes the air of liberalism and of adaptation to the “life realities” and “cultural situation” of today. Both prelates show in their careful and detailed analyses that the supernatural point of view has been omitted, if not lost, in these documents. Once one loses sight of the fact that the cause of the current crisis of the family is the loss of faith, one will not be able to solve the derivative problems.
Yet, instead of working to revive the faith among the Catholics, the tone of the preparatory documents is that the demands of the Gospels are, for the people of today, too hard to live up to. Thus, putatively, accommodations must be “mercifully” made.
For the sake of space, I shall end this portion of the commentary with a beautiful insight by Cardinal Sarah and thereby also recommend to others that they should read and savor the entire book:
“Either we choose the way that leads us to God — and it is the narrow way of which Christ speaks — or else we take the broad way of the world that leads us away from God,” says Sarah, reminding us that we should again and always place “God back at the center of our thoughts, at the center of our action, and at the center of our lives.”
Cardinal Sarah also sees that, along with the crisis of faith, there is also a pastoral crisis where pastors do not sufficiently teach the faith anymore. Therefore, he earnestly proposes to “revive the faith within families.”
Next to the preparatory synod documents which have caused faithful Catholics to worry about the upcoming Synod on the Family, there has also been an act by the Pope himself that is still being widely discussed and even criticized.
On September 8, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio with which he loosened and seemingly made more lax the Church’s procedures for determining and declaring a marital nullity. None other than the well-respected Vatican expert, Sandro Magister, published on September 15 an overview of the manifold problems in this newly promulgated papal legislation.
“Forbidden to Call It Divorce: But It Sure Looks Like It,” is the title of Magister’s article which sums up the main concerns with the new motu proprio: namely, that it will lead to an immense increase of declarations of nullity in the Catholic Church. And that is, according to Magister, the declared intention of those who have drafted the document.
He says: “The procedural reform backed by [Pope Francis] aims precisely at this: to allow these endless crowds easy, fast, and free access to the recognition of the nullity of their marriages. The synod of last October (see paragraph 48 of the final Relatio) expressed generic support for improvements in the procedures. But a good number of fathers said they were against one or another of the reforms proposed by various sides. Which however are precisely the ones now found in the motu proprio.”
Magister says that this sudden move by the Pope undercuts the synodal process that was meant to discuss further the matter of the annulments, and in just a few weeks. Magister points also out also that many of the criteria that are mentioned in the motu proprio are potentially confusing and misleading, introducing, for example, as one reason for a possible “fast annulment” the aspect of a “lack of faith.” In his own words, Magister comments: “And it [the list of criteria] includes yet another, the lack of faith, that although difficult to evaluate is ever more frequently evoked as the new universal master key for nullity.”
I shall therefore end this short introduction to Magister’s lucid article with another quote from him:
“Improvised in less than a year and intentionally published before the synod on the family meets in October, the revolution of marital procedures decided by Pope Francis therefore shows itself to be a colossus with feet of clay, the implementation of which promises to be long and difficult, but which has already produced immediate effects on public opinion inside and outside the Church.
“Of these effects, the main one is the widespread conviction that now even the Catholic Church has made room for divorce and the blessing of second marriages.”
Another very troubling fact is the list of papal appointees to the synod, announced just recently. Here, again, I quote Magister, from an article of September 17: “No longer among these [heads of dicasteries], having lost their positions, are Cardinals Zenon Grocholewski and Raymond Leo Burke. And the latter is an especially blatant absence. Burke was and is one of the most resolute defenders of the traditional doctrine and pastoral care of marriage. The Pope sent him into forced retirement after the synod of 2014, and has now made a point of not including him among the 45 synod fathers chosen at his discretion. Who are quite a few more than the 26 of last year.
“Francis has fished some of the new ones out from among the runners-up of the voting in the episcopal conferences. This is the case, for example, of the New Zealander John Atcherley Dew, whom he made a cardinal, and of Blase Cupich of the United States, whom he promoted as archbishop of Chicago, both active members of the progressive wing.”

“A Myth”

Unfortunately, some bishops conferences now seem to feel encouraged to air their own dissident views on moral matters. Here the German and the Swiss Bishops Conferences especially stand out.
One German commentator, Mathias von Gersdorff, has just published an article, entitled: “Does [the website of the German bishops] Promote the Deconstruction of the Catholic Magisterium?” In it, he points out how, nearly daily now, this official website floats a medley of mostly heterodox views. In the following, I shall present only a few of those scandalous publications, both from the Swiss and from the German bishops.
On September 16, the website of the German Bishops Conference,, published an interview with the German Church historian, Arnold Angenendt, in which he discusses the question of the Church’s teaching on sexuality.
In this interview, the historian praises the invention of contraceptives: “The invention of the pill then was the decisive revolution. Since then, the women do not have to fear becoming pregnant at each sexual intercourse. That gives them a completely new freedom.” He also claims that modern science has proven that the homosexual orientation has to be regarded as “its own anthropologically given and fundamental form of human sexuality, just as it is in the case of heterosexuality. Thus, one cannot describe homosexuality as unnatural.”
With reference to the Book of Genesis, Angenendt claims that it is not based on any scientific reality, but, rather, should be called “a myth which describes a statement of faith.” And, he concludes: “Therefore, nothing speaks against our reassessment of homosexuality, as well.”
On September 17, published another heterodox article by a student of theology, Simon Linder, promoting the homosexual agenda. Since the “societal climate” in Germany has changed, he argues in his essay entitled “Love Counts,” one does not have to justify oneself anymore when defending the idea of “marriage for all.” Rather, says Linder, those opposed to same-sex “marriages” have to defend themselves.
And he asks: “Where does the Church have the idea from, namely that homosexuality is a burden for male and female homosexuals? And more fundamentally: Who gives the Church the right to declare homosexuals as people who are to be pitied?”
The Swiss Bishops Conference is publishing similarly troubling messages. On August 31, it organized a Day of Study that officially followed up on the controversial “Shadow Council” of May 25 at the Gregorian University in Rome which had been organized by the German, French, and Swiss Bishops collectively.
Dr. Arndt Bünker, who was asked to organize the specifically Swiss event, has caused controversy by the fact that he is a known pro-homosexual advocate in Switzerland.
In the following, I present only three aspects that were published in an official report about the Day of Study on the formal website of the Swiss Bishops,
1) The principle of graduality in the pastoral care is important, but deficient, since it still upholds an ideal which people should strive to live up to. “It is necessary to question the validity of the ideals themselves. These have to be checked again and again in the light of a changed cultural situation and of a growing scientific understanding.”
2) The Church should come to a “recognition and appreciation of relationships which do not any more correspond to the old-fashioned ideal which comes from another period of time: for example, remarried divorcees or same-sex partnerships.”
3) The Church should come to “officially recognize a second marriage after a failure,” similar to the Orthodox Church, whose practice the Catholic Church, allegedly, has “never condemned.” Moreover, this should be done “because the salvation of the people is the highest criterion of the Church’s legal practice.”
Anyone whose heart is with Jesus Christ and strives to abide by His teaching and laws will — in the face of so much infidelity and so many innovations — feel a deep pain. May this suffering lead us to bravely bear witness when we are asked to obey man rather than God.

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