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The First Week Of The Synod . . . Concerns About Instrumentum Laboris, Final Report Surface

October 9, 2015 Frontpage No Comments

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It wasn’t done on purpose, of this Archbishop Bruno Forte assures us, but there they were, the ringing words of Christ Himself read out in every Catholic church throughout the world on the first day of the Family Synod:
“It was because you were so unteachable that [Moses] wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.”
Pope Francis has repeatedly assured us that the task of the synod is to be all encompassing, to consider every aspect of family, without being tied down to knotty matters, including divorce, cohabitation, and homosexuality. These “tricky” questions were all designed to come up for discussion in Week 3, presumably so that they would not overshadow other discussion (some say also to facilitate adopting a liberal agenda for lack of time and energy) but they have been thrust upon the fathers from the beginning.
The proud emergence at the synod’s beginning of Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa, a member of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, as a homosexual with his lover has further directed attention.
The Holy Father did not dodge Mark’s Gospel, or the words of Genesis in the Epistle which preceded them. He spoke of the solitude experienced by Adam, and by countless men and women in our own day, which God solved by creating Eve. “[Jesus] brings everything back to the beginning, to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is He who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, He who joins them in unity and indissolubility.”
He went on to say that believers are to overcome the fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan.
But it is not only the fear of God’s plan that they are to overcome. They are also exhorted to overcome “every form of individualism and legalism,” and there follows the now familiar call for acceptance and mercy, with the Church a “field hospital” for all, remembering that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
He took up this theme again in his opening address on Monday, October 5, when he said that God created not only the Sabbath but the law for man, and spoke of the God who surprises, “the God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations.” After the happenings of the Extraordinary Synod last year, all ears are on the alert.
They have been throughout the last year. There have been murmurings about the Holy Father’s personal nominations to the synod, and that he has retained his organizing team from the Extraordinary Synod last year. Spare a thought for Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri who, as secretary general, faces those who will have read Edward Pentin’s book exposing last year’s machinations. May he and Archbishop Bruno Forte, as special secretary, be chastened.
The third prominent official, the Hungarian relator general, Peter Cardinal Erdo, set the scene for this synod with a ringing defense of Church teaching.
On membership, it is worth stating that the Holy Father’s personal nominees only number 45 out of a total of 270 synod fathers. There are in addition 42 ex officio members, representing the Oriental Catholic Churches and Curia, and 183 elected, representing the countries of the world. The fathers in total number 54 from Africa, 64 from America, 36 from Asia, 107 from Europe, and 9 from Oceania. In addition, there are 14 fraternal delegates, 51 auditors, and 24 experts, including 18 heads of families.
A new methodology has been introduced for synod proceedings following comments from last year. The three weeks have been arranged to fit around discussion of the three parts of the Instrumentum Laboris, the core document.
At the beginning of each week, the relator general presents the theme, after which three-minute interventions are invited in General Assembly. The fathers then break up into working groups, each in their own language, in which the auditors and fraternal delegates take part. At the end of the week, the working groups report back with their suggested amendments to the core text. Crucially, the working group reports will be made public.
The process then begins again for parts 2 and 3. It was mooted that there was to be no Final Report this year, but that is not the case. A commission of ten has been appointed to draw together the draft of a Final Report to be presented in plenary session on the morning of Saturday, October 24, and to be approved and submitted to the Holy Father that afternoon.
As with last year, official briefings are given to journalists at the end of each day, and the fathers have been given the freedom to communicate with the media at their own discretion. After last year’s furor when there were attempts to keep proceedings away from the public view, this year it will be more difficult to spring unwanted texts on the Church.
It will need to be. The Holy Father made much in his opening address of the careful process by which the Instrumentum Laboris was devised. Reading it, one’s first impression is shock that a document produced in the heart of the Church can be so shallow. Any social historian will name contraception as a major player in shaping the modern family, but nowhere is the subject mentioned, even in the one and only paragraph where Humanae Vitae is dealt with, erroneously.
Neither is it mentioned that whole Catholic populations have been left without adequate teaching on the truth of marriage in God’s sight. It is not too much teaching, but lack of it, which has allowed families to become caught up in secular values.
Criticisms have flowed, from the Voice of the Family, from a group of eminent theologians, most recently from Bishop Athanasius Schneider, all pointing out that its worrying lack of doctrinal truth points to opening the way for liberals to slip in their own agenda. Giving Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried would only be a beginning.
In his press briefing after the General Assembly on Tuesday, October 6, Fr. Thomas Rosica said that, while discussion had ranged widely, the subject of divorce was so divisive it might end up being resolved locally. Such a solution would of course be a direct attack on the catholicity of the Church.
Bishop Robert Barron commented last year that there is nothing new in synods producing dodgy ideas and being divisive. He quoted Cardinal Newman as saying that, if you love the Barque of Peter, you are best off not looking into the engine room. Now the engine room is exposed as never before, but it is also fueled by prayer from every corner of the world.

A Boost From Heaven

In Rome itself, the rosary will be recited in St. Mary Major each day followed by Mass, in the presence of the relics of Blessed Zélie and Louis Martin, who will be canonized on October 18. Close to the Synod Hall, there is a chapel for prayer for those participating, where the relics of St. Thérèse join those of her parents and those of Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi.
The synod is also getting a remarkable boost from Heaven. Look at the feast days we have been having. On September 29, battle was joined by Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. On October 1 came St. Thérèse herself, followed the next day by all our Guardian Angels. As I write on October 7, we have the great feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and on October 9 we have Blessed John Henry Newman, who himself tried but abandoned finding a middle way.
There is one feast day which has been missing, that of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4. It fell on the Sunday when we had instead the readings on marriage. One can only suppose that he is actively working on the side, too.

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