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Diary Of A Synod . . . Positions, Preparations, And Maneuvers

October 8, 2015 Frontpage No Comments

By MAIKE HICKSON

Even before the long-awaited (and sometimes feared) Synod of Bishops on the Family commenced in Rome on October 4, several prelates, priests, and lay groups published important statements with regard to the desired and desirable outcome of that synod. I shall name now only four examples, hoping thereby to shed some helpful light.
First, two major lay organizations in Germany — the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) and the Association of the German Catholic Youth (BDKJ) — have both made statements concerning their wishes for the outcome of that synod.
As the official website of the German Bishops Conference, katholisch.de, reports, the president of the German Catholic Youth Organization, Wolfgang Ehrenlechner, said that he will be disappointed if the synod, in the end, “will merely make a recommendation that one should treat the remarried divorcees in a more generous manner.”
According to katholisch.de, he requested that the Church accept the empirical factual disparities, that is, the worldwide cultural differences, so that the local churches themselves, “based on the Christian Faith, may lead their own discussions about how the faithful can lead their personal lives in their varied relationships, in light of a Christian responsibility.”
The speaker of the ZdK, Birgit Mock, spoke about the same topic in Bonn, Germany, and promoted the idea of a moral diversity within the Church. For her, it will be a “test for the ‘pastoral change’ as expressed by Pope Francis,” as to whether the individual bishops conferences “receive more freedom in order to develop standards that are fitting for their area of competence and in order to define how the pastoral care should deal — in accordance with the Gospels — with those people who have failed in their marriages.”
These lay groups, which are manifestly following a progressivist agenda, might have now realized, however, that their agenda is too radical for the whole universal Church; and that they, therefore, should rather demand — at least for their own country — the freedom to interpret Catholic doctrine according to their own avid wishes.
By way of contrast, and also revealing some of the defenders of the Catholic faith in its integrity, the esteemed German Catholic newspaper, Die Tagespost, reported on October 1 that a Polish Lay Initiative, formally called “Forum of the Catholic Milieus — Between Synods” has now requested from the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family that it not give up defending the traditional moral teaching of the Catholic Church.
According to this Polish laymen’s statement, “Letter to the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family,” in the face of some grave challenges in society, “The Church cannot abdicate its magisterial and educational function even when subjected to criticism for maintaining its position.” For, the faithful sometimes regard the “silence of the Church” as a “flight of the shepherds away from their own sheep.”
The lay authors of the Polish statement insist that it is important for the synod fathers to examine carefully “the ideology and the institutional mechanisms” which threaten families today. One should point out and specifically name those institutions and ideas which contribute to a deleterious “ideological colonization.” The statement continues:
“Educational programs depriving marriage of its spiritual and ethical dimension — as well as cultural and educational mechanisms which promote the sexualization and demoralization of children and adolescents — require a clear description and a careful appraisal. Particularly worrying is that political interference into the fields of anthropology and medicine which aims at the destabilization of gender itself and a redefinition of the family.”
Moreover, the Polish laymen speak about the especially important role of the family for the salvation of the children’s souls:
“The Church cannot cease to encourage family members to bear witness to each other and to the world, reminding us that the principal parental task is to help children on their road to salvation. Family is the way of salvation and should become a salvific community.”
From another source, on October 3, one day before the beginning of the synod, the president of the Polish Bishops Conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, made a strong statement in defense of the Church’s moral teaching in an interview with EWTN Germany. He rejected the idea that both the “remarried” divorcees and homosexual couples should be at all be discussed at the synod since both groups have “nothing to do with the Catholicity.”
Gadecki has also reminded us that the “words of Christ against divorce and new relationships” are the basis for the Catholic Church’s “path to holiness” and for the Sacrament of Matrimony itself.
As if responding to the recent statements of the two German lay organizations as quoted above, Gadecki also refuted the idea of local doctrinal diversity and a claimed independence from Rome. He insisted upon the importance of the “unity of Catholic doctrine”: “The Church cannot sing with 100 voices, the way post-modernity would wish it.”
Another important event, but from another direction, was the press conference in Rome of the Secretariat of the Synod, with Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri present as its head. In some ways, there is some good news, and in some ways, there is some news that should worry faithful Catholics.
In the following, I shall especially rely on two excellent analyses: one by the well-respected Vatican correspondent, Edward Pentin; and one by the courageous lay coalition of pro-life and pro-family organizations, Voice of the Family.
There will be 318 participants at the synod, with 279 voting members. The good developments — after many publicly expressed concerns by faithful Catholics — are the following:
The participants will spend most of their time, from the outset of the synod, in 13 small working groups which will have published after each week a written report about their own specific work; a commission of 10 synod fathers will supervise the overall work and write a final report; and, lastly, more synod fathers (about 50) will be involved in the daily press conferences and the synod fathers are also now free to give their own interviews to journalists.
On the more troublesome side — as Voice of the Family points out — among those ten members of the overall supervising commission are the two prelates who have been heavily criticized for their manipulative methods back at the 2014 synod: Cardinal Baldisseri and Archbishop Bruno Forte.
As Voice of the Family comments: “In other words, the committee which is supposed to give us confidence that no manipulation is taking place includes the very men most implicated in the manipulation.”
This international lay coalition further comments that “Pope Francis has entrusted leading dissenters with the responsibility of drafting the final report of the synod.” As Pentin puts it: “Members of the final report-oversight commission are largely made up of synod fathers known for their dissenting opinions. Around a half are known to support Cardinal Walter Kasper’s thesis for admitting some civilly remarried divorcees to Holy Communion, including Cardinal Baldisseri who continues to manage the synod.”
It was Pentin who in his recent book, The Rigging of a Vatican Synod?, described Baldisseri’s own indulgently liberal agenda and his clearly manipulative methods during the 2014 synod. Additionally, in spite of many strong voices criticizing the synod’s Instrumentum Laboris (working document) for its confusing and liberalizing language, it is still now to be the basis for the upcoming synod.
Important to note, finally, is that the synod’s final report will be handed to Pope Francis, who has not yet made it clear that he will publish it or even write an apostolic exhortation about the synod’s overall themes. Many observers worry that there might not be presented a clear message and teaching in the end.

“Serious And Irresponsible”

Moreover, at the very moment of this disclosed news about the press conference of the Synod Secretariat on October 2, there came two additionally troubling developments.
The first such development was the words and other actions of a homosexual priest who had worked since 2003 for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and who now suddenly even called for the full acceptance of homosexuality. The second one was a certain seminar just held in Rome under the leadership of a friend of the Pope, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ, the editor of the journal La Civilta Cattolica.
The first case is obviously scandalous. The Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, made the following statement about the homosexual priest who has come out boldly declaring that he has a boyfriend, Eduard:
“With regard to the declarations and interview given by Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa, it should be observed that, notwithstanding the respect due to the events and personal situations, and reflections on the issue, the decision to make such a pointed statement on the eve of the opening of the Synod appears very serious and irresponsible, since it aims to subject the Synod assembly to undue media pressure.
“Msgr. Charamsa will certainly be unable to continue to carry out his previous work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical universities, while the other aspects of his situation shall remain the competence of his diocesan Ordinary.”
Charamsa has now been dismissed from his work for the Vatican. This decision, I have been told by a source in Rome, stemmed from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith itself. It is noteworthy that, unfortunately, the public statement by Fr. Lombardi does not explicitly say that this priest was also dismissed for creating a public scandal because of his duplicitously disobeying the Church’s moral teaching. Instead, the press release dwells on Charamsa’s obvious attempt to influence the outcome of the synod.
As to the potentially problematic seminar held in Rome which I just mentioned, we should know that it was first reported on by the esteemed and well-informed Vaticanist, Marco Tosatti.
In an article on October 1, Tosatti had said that there existed a group of 30 people who are possibly now already working on the final report of the upcoming Synod on the Family, and were then doing so even for 12 days already.
He explicitly had said: “News has arrived to us that, now for about twelve days, around thirty people, almost all of them Jesuits, with the occasional Argentinean, are working on the themes of the synod, in a very reserved way, under the coordination of Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the director of La Civilta Cattolica [an unofficial journal of the Holy See], who spends a long time in Santa Marta, in consultation with the Pope….
“One possibility is that the ‘task force’ works to provide the Pope with the instruments for an eventual post-synodal document on the theme of the Eucharist for the remarried divorced, on cohabiting [couples], and on same-sex couples.”
The Jesuit Fr. Spadaro, in reaction to this revealed news, denied this speculation on Twitter, and he published, one day later, the concrete program of that seminar which officially took place only from September 28 to October 2 and which was dedicated to the theme “The Reform and the Reforms of the Church and in the Church.”
The participants reportedly came from 13 different countries; prominent among them were Italians as well as Argentinians, and among them also was the friend and collaborator of the Pope, Archbishop Victor Fernandez. From Germany also came a professor of fundamental theology, Fr. Hermann Pottmeyer, who has strongly argued against papal centralism and also against the “preconciliar ecclesiology.”
In an article in 2000, for example, he said with regard to the role of the Pope: “In other words, the bishop of Rome should normally make no decrees and no decisions affecting the universal church without formally [first] inviting the participation of the local churches and their bishops. Further, the local churches and their regional associations or bishops’ conferences should decide [sic] any regulations that do not threaten the unity of the whole church.”
This just quoted passage might show at least some of the “progressive” or heterodox leanings of one of the participants at the seminar.
Both Fr. Spadaro and Archbishop Fernandez are known proponents of a more liberalizing and indulgent moral teaching in the Church. Archbishop Fernandez is a papal appointee for the 2015 synod, and Fr. Spadaro will also attend.

A Need For Prayer

Moreover, as a well-informed source in Rome wrote to me about this same seminar:
“He [Spadaro] will say there was some kind of meeting about the future reform of the Church and the matter of Synodality. My personal opinion is that it is true, and, at the same time, there might be some work to help the Pope. But, as I told you, we cannot prove anything.
“It’s interesting anyway that just before the Synod they organized a meeting collecting a lot of ‘liberal’ theologians and people who will be at the Synod and who will be preparing the final relation [of the Synod on the Family], such as the Argentine Catholic University Chief [Archbishop Fernandez].”
Given all the above, faithful Catholics have a moral obligation to now do their utmost — by prayer, by fasting, and by prudent action — to defend Christ’s abiding truth and thereby present His truly merciful and purifying love.

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