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Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich


Editor's note: See the invitation and program for the meeting here.

ROME, May 29, 2015 ( — A private meeting convened by the presidents of the German, Swiss, and French bishops’ conferences was held on Monday at the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Jesuit university under the Holy See, in anticipation of the Synod on the Family to be held in October. The objective was clearly to push for changes in “pastoral practice” as regards Communion for the divorced and “remarried,” as well as the welcoming of Catholics living in “stable” same-sex unions.

Clearly, traditional Church teachings condemning contraception are also under attack, and more particularly Humanae vitae which has long been seen by progressives as the major repellent that caused many Catholics to distance themselves from the Church over the last half century.

A group of representatives of the meeting are said to have been received by the Pope at the end of the day.

Amongst the 50 or so participants, Cardinal Reinhard Marx was the star of the event. Marx is a member of Pope Francis’ “G9,” and well known for his support for the “Kasper agenda” and as a prominent defender of the “value” of homosexual unions. All were not promoters of radical pastoral changes in the Church, but many are known for their liberal approach.

The meeting had the stamp of officialdom due to the presence and implication of Archbishop Georges Pontier, the progressive head of the French Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Markus Büchel, his Swiss counterpart, and Marx. Büchel, who favors the ordination of women priests, was quoted before the opening of the Extraordinary Synod as saying that Pope Francis would not change doctrine nor touch the indissolubility of marriage, but that he did think there could be a new approach to pastoral praxis in line with Cardinal Kasper’s suggestions: “I hope we can make a step forward,” he said.

But while the invitation to the event was made in the name of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences, only those bishops invited were informed of the event and most bishops were not aware it was to take place.

Four other bishops took part in the “Day of Reflection”, including Mgr Jean-Luc Brunin from France who will represent France in the upcoming October Synod together with Mgr Pontier of Marseille and Cardinal Vingt-Trois of Paris. Also present on Monday was Mgr Bruno Feillet of Reims, France, substitute for the Synod, who is known to express a traditional stance on marriage and moral theology.

There were also theologians, professors, priests and even members of the media who were invited on the provision that they would not publish detailed reports of the meeting, the objective being to give them “background” in view of the Synod. The full list of participants was published by Edward Pentin, the respected Vaticanist of the National Catholic Register.

The proceedings took place behind closed doors, and all participants were required not to speak publicly about the meeting, especially concerning who said what.

The meeting would probably have been kept secret if Jean-Marie Guénois, of the French daily Le Figaro, had not leaked the information on May 23. Sources in Rome say the leak was clearly not planned by the organizers. Cardinal Reinhard Marx was visibly irritated and uneasy when hailed in the street as he was leaving the meeting. Edward Pentin adds the cardinal argued that he had every right to be there in a “private” capacity.

The fact that the information was leaked probably explains why the German bishops’ conference published a communiqué about the meeting but it says little more than the invitation to the event. The wording of the communiqué – translated by the Rorate caeli traditionalist blog – contains no overtly revolutionary statements but stresses the participants desire to approach Church teachings from a new standpoint, including “new insights from anthropology, as well as from sociology,” as well as taking into account new ways of living that “do not follow traditional patterns any more” in a “highly complex and pluralistic society.” In many ways, the wording of the communiqué points to the rationale of Cardinal Kasper and his followers, who aim to justify profound change in pastoral attitudes under the appearance of gaining more “credibility” with modern man.

The answers of German, Swiss, and French lay people to questionnaires circulated in the wake of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family following the guidelines of the controversial Lineamenta were given due attention: most of them reveal a tragic ignorance of the Church’s teachings and their justification.

The only official account of the meeting was given in a communiqué of the German bishop’s conference (translated here by Rorate caeli), which says little about the actual discussions. Participants were requested not to quote the declarations of the participants by name in public.

Some information about the meeting itself did find its way into the press, which is in line with a desire to create “agitation” – Marxists would say “agit-prop” – in favor of the revolutionary proposals touted there.

Marco Ansaldo, of the liberal Italian daily La Repubblica, quoted several participants as having supported formal recognition of homosexual unions by the Church, stopping short of marriage. “An innovative viewpoint. No one objected. Confrontation recedes into the distance,” he writes. This is echoed by Figaro, which writes that no one present opposed the idea of homosexual unions being recognized by the Church.

Ansaldo continues: “It is clear that we are experiencing a new pastoral reality,” a French monsignor remarked, while a woman professor of theology stressed that longer lives are “moving the frontiers of fidelity”: “But the discipline of the Church today is far from immobile. After a failure, after having been abandoned, one can engage in a new life with someone else. These problems are coming to us through teachers as well as through lay believers.” Applause followed, says Ansaldo, and the discussion moved on.

A German bishop is quoted as saying: “The ‘dogmatists’ say the teaching of the Church is fixed. But development does exist. And we need developments on sexuality.”

A Swiss priest and teacher speaks of “pulsions and desire,” “caresses, kisses and coitus in the sense of ‘coming together,’” Ansaldo recalls. Freud is quoted. “A lack of sexuality can be compared to hunger, to thirst.” The speaker would prefer sexual demands to be made in terms of: “Do you desire me?” “That is how sexual desire for the other can be joined to love.”

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The meeting went on, Ansaldo says, to discuss communion for divorcees (“How can we refuse it, as if it were a punishment, to people who have failed and who have found a new partner with whom they have started a new life?”) As to the sufferings of children of divorcees, a priest comments: “In confession we often hear adolescents who ‘auto-accuse’ themselves of the divorce of their parents. But sometimes, separation is even a good thing.”

“All these words seem revolutionary, when spoken by men wearing clerical garb,” writes Ansaldo.

They also sound like deliberate provocation.

One of the main themes of the meeting was to ask for a new “theology of love” in which “sexuality” is seen as an “expression of love” and “developments” are necessary. “How can the diverse forms of love be assessed in a differentiated way by moral theology? What is the ‘added value’ of sacramental marriage in comparison with other forms of life?” the invitation to Monday’s meeting asked.

If the Church so badly needs a new “theology of love”, that demand amounts to reducing Saint John Paul II’s “theology of the body” to a negligible quantity. It also points to a clear desire to scrap the teaching of Humanae vitae, of which the theology of the body is a monumental and deeply insightful commentary and foundation.

This is corroborated by the presence of the French director of the National service for family and society of the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF), Monique Baujard. Baujard is nearing the end of her term at the CEF: she is well known in France as an opponent to Humanae vitae and she is also a supporter of “abortion rights.” Father Eberhard Schockenhoff, a German specialist and a prominent advocate for pastoral change, was also present: he not only supports homosexual clergy but is also known for criticizing Humanae vitae.

Clearly, the progressive party who had hoped to “manipulate” the Extraordinary Synod last October are far from giving up. On the contrary, Monday’s meeting is a sign that they are working from within the very heart of the Church in order to create more agitation and to obtain support.

And to that end, they need the press. Edward Pentin quotes one observer who predicted, speaking of the invitation extended to media representatives, that “they will be used to promote the agenda of the subject matter under discussion in the weeks leading up to the Synod.”

Faithful Catholics certainly have the obligation to resist.