Featured Image
Cdl. Hollerich presenting the Instrumentum Laboris, June 20, 2023.YouTube screenshot

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) – The key document which will guide the October meeting of bishops in the Synod on Synodality highlights topics such as women’s diaconal “ordination,” married priests, and a need to “welcome” the “remarried divorcees, people in polygamous marriages, LGBTQ+ people.”

Issued at a press conference June 20, the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) or working document, is particularly lengthy: with a 10,000 word foreward and a further 17,000 words in the worksheets, which contain the themes for discussion at the upcoming synodal meeting.

As noted today by Cardinal Mario Grech – Secretary General of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops – the document is born out of the various local and continental stages of the Synod which have taken place since October 2021. The text is the “fruit of this listening process,” Grech said.

He downplayed suggestions that the results of the Synod have already been written, stating that the synodal process is about “respecting the Holy Spirit” who is the “protagonist” of the process. The text presents the “fruit of a Church experience of a journey in which we have all learnt more by the mere fact of journeying together,” argued Grech.

Drawing from Lumen Gentium, the document states how it specifically “strives to avoid divisive language in the hope of furthering better understanding among members of the Synodal Assembly who come from different regions or traditions,” and that “the vision of Vatican II is the shared point of reference.”

READ: Pope claims Vatican II was ‘renewal’ of the Church ‘in tune with the signs of the times’

The theme of Synodality as the only future for the Church is heavily presented in the IL, and Grech noted the wide-reaching aspect of Synodality, stating that the IL is “not a document of the Holy See but of the whole Church. It’s not a document written at a desk, but one in which we are all co-authors.”

The text, as confirmed by Cdl. Hollerich, has been seen and assented to by Pope Francis.

What does it say?

The document, argued relator general of the Synod, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, is not a “tentative answer to all questions about synodality” but “a result of the synodal process on all level, which leads to many questions, which could receive answers by the participants of the synods of bishops.”

Indeed, the IL is a tale of two parts: firstly, it is prefaced by a lengthy foreward and secondly it contains the “worksheets” which are divided into three chief sections and questions – questions which are based on the three themes of “communion, mission, participation.”

These worksheets form the key action points from the document, and “can be used for in-depth thematic meetings in a synodal style at all levels of Church life.” They have been specifically designed “to facilitate discernment on the three ‘priorities that most strongly emerge from the work of all the continents’ (no. 14), with a view to identifying the concrete steps to which we feel called by the Holy Spirit in order to grow as a synodal Church.

READ: Vatican’s Synod on Synodality will consult non-Catholics, lapsed Catholics

Furthering the aspect of being in two parts, the document is a peculiar mix of actual content, along with copious amounts of classic bureaucratic phraseology, presenting an even further confused message as to the purpose and meaning of the document and upcoming meetings.

What is notable, however, is the promotion of elements appearing in firm opposition to Catholic doctrine, with a number of commentators noting that the document reads as if composed in order to appease the “liberal” elements of the Church.

Catholic or not?

“How can we grow in communion, welcoming everybody, while remaining faithful to the Gospel?” Such was the question raised by Hollerich in presenting the new text. However, the IL contains several passages which throw into considerable doubt the ability of the text, and the Synod, to remain faithful to the Gospel.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: Bp. Schneider says Synod on Synodality serves up ‘spiritual poisons’ to the faithful

Notably, the IL appears to present the widely accepted, and Papally approved, interpretation of Amoris Laetitiae allowing the divorced and “re-married” to Holy Communion as an already finalized issue. The document states:

Some of the questions that emerged from the consultation of the People of God concern issues on which there is already magisterial and theological teaching to be considered. To give just two examples, we can note the acceptance of remarried divorcees, dealt with in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, or the inculturation of the liturgy, the subject of the Instruction Varietates legitimae (1994) of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The fact that questions continue to emerge on issues like these should not be hastily dismissed, rather, it calls for discernment, and the Synodal Assembly is a privileged forum for so doing.

The IL makes mention of “obstacles, real or perceived, that have prevented the steps indicated by previous documents from being realised” which “should be considered and reflections offered on how they can be removed.”

READ: Vatican preparing document for couples living in ‘new unions’ after ‘marriage failure’

Such methodology was displayed for use in occasions in which “reality” has changed. Given the proximity of this passage to the promotion of Amoris laetitia’s heterodoxy, the IL appears to be advocating for a change in teaching – which is reflected in subsequent lines:

Another instance could be the reappearance of a question which emerges as a sign of a changed reality or situations where there is a need for an “overflow” of Grace. This requires further reflection on the Deposit of Faith and the living Tradition of the Church.

Screnshot of the IL

‘LGBT+’ and role of women

Receiving particular attention in the document was the topic of women, and their role in the Church. Sister Nadia Coppa, president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), praised how “the hierarchical style has been overcome” in the Church.

Such a situation appears set to continue should the IL’s discussion points be effected. Mention was made of “structural failures affecting the lives of women in the Church,” along with how “the desire for a greater presence of women in positions of responsibility and governance emerged as crucial elements in the search for more synodal ways to live the Church’s mission.”

READ: Synod aims to turn Church upside down so that ‘sheep become the shepherds’: SSPX Superior General

In light of this, the IL presented questions for the participants of the October Synod, which included:

  • How can women be included in these areas [governance, decision-making, mission and ministries at all levels of the Church] in greater numbers and new ways?
  • Most of the Continental Assemblies and the syntheses of several Episcopal Conferences call for the question of women’s inclusion in the diaconate to be considered. Is it possible to envisage this, and in what way?

Additionally identified as in need of receiving a “genuine welcome,” are a number of groups already identified by the Synod process so far, including “the divorced and remarried, people in polygamous marriages, or LGBTQ+ Catholics.”

Screenshot of the Instrumentum Laboris

As a result, the IL presented the question about how further welcome could be offered to those who “feel hurt by the Church and unwelcomed by the community” in order that they might “feel recognized, received, free to ask questions and not judged.”

In the light of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, what concrete steps are needed to welcome those who feel excluded from the Church because of their status or sexuality (for example, remarried divorcees, people in polygamous marriages, LGBTQ+ people, etc.)?

Screenshot of the Instrumentum Laboris

Cardinals Hollerich and Grech were asked about this, and whether Church teaching on sexuality would be changed in order to effect this “welcome.” In response, Hollerich stated that the document and the Synod was about “walking together,” and that Catholics must be “ready to welcome people.”

For his part, Cardinal Grech stated that “at times we are really judgmental. Let us leave the judgement to the Lord.”

LifeSite also submitted a question to the panel what such welcoming of LGBT people would practically, given that an active LGBT lifestyle runs contrary to the Gospel. No response to the question was given.

Cdl. Grech presenting the new Synodal document

Clerical reordering and married priests

Not ignored by the document is the topic of bishops, priests, and seminarians – with all levels of the Church’s hierarchy to be touched by the Synodal process.

As has become commonplace in such documents, the IL repeatedly highlighted the ministry of the faithful, noting that “the most fruitful place to realize the participation of all in the Christ’s Priesthood, simultaneously valuing baptismal Ministries and the particularity of ordained Ministry, is the local church.”

READ: Bp. Athanasius Schneider appeals to Pope to revoke lay voting rights before Synod on Synodality

Increased “synodal work” could lead to clarifying the “complementarity between common Priesthood and the ministerial Priesthood,” noted the document, which continued:

an all-ministerial Church is not necessarily wholly a Church of instituted Ministries…Growing as a synodal Church involves the commitment to discern together which ministries should be created or promoted in the light of the signs of the times in service to the world.

While noting its “clear appreciation for the gift of the ministerial Priesthood,” the document stated how the Synod process also had a “deep desire for its renewal in a synodal perspective.” In order to effect such a synodal “renewal,” it appears as though the entire clerical structure would be re-organized in light of such a goal.

READ: Cdl. Burke questions validity of upcoming Synod: ‘There is no clear idea of what synodality is’

Seminary formation and theological training in schools was to be reformed, while the role of lay ministries raised to be complementary and equal to the ordained ministry.

Additionally, the question was raised about the possibility of married priests: “As some continents propose, could a reflection be opened concerning the discipline on access to the Priesthood for married men, at least in some areas?”

Indeed, while expanding on how bishops should act and be evaluated on how his actions are performed in a “synodal style,” the document hinted at changes to the manner of papal authority. One discussion question raised read: “How should the role of the Bishop of Rome and the exercise of his primacy evolve in a synodal Church?”

Where to now with the document?

The length of the document may be as much its undoing as its secret weapon. Its length will no doubt put off many from paying close attention to it or lending it much credence or importance. However, it is that same length which allows the document to promote renewed calls for anti-Catholic elements which have become a signal mark of the Synodal process.

While previously, leading Synodal authorities have excused themselves from the charge of promoting such anti-Catholic topics – arguing that such issues were merely the results of the “listening” continental stages – those same figures are now presenting these questions to the world’s bishops for discussion in October.

Earlier this year, the Synod’s “listening” stage was declared to be over. Given this, it seems reasonable to conclude that the Synod leadership is now actively promoting the plethora of non-Catholic action points of its own volition.

READ: Pope Francis to personally select lay men, women to form up to 25% of Synodal vote 

As it stands, the IL released today will form the guide for the discussions held in Rome during the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, held October 4 to 29. Participants for this meeting have not yet been announced, although more details are expected by late June or early July.

What is already known is that in a break with tradition, Pope Francis is to select lay men and lay women to participate in the Synod of Bishops, who will be given up to 25 percent of the assembly’s voting rights. The Secretariat for the Synod argued that the “episcopal specificity of the Synodal Assembly is not affected, but even confirmed,” although Francis had to revise his own constitution governing the Synod of Bishops in order to do so.