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Pope Francis approved family synod’s controversial mid-term report before publication: synod chief

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Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops John-Henry Westen / LifeSiteNews

ROME, January 29, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The lead organizer of the Vatican’s Synod on the Family has revealed that Pope Francis approved the controversial mid-term report from the meeting before it was published. Until now, Pope Francis’ role in the document’s publication has been left to conjecture.

The Relatio post disceptationem, as it is called, was intended as a provisional summary of the debate from the Synod’s first week. But after it was released it was strongly criticized by numerous Synod fathers, including Cardinals Raymond Burke, Gerhard Muller, George Pell, and Wilfrid Napier, some publicly and some behind meeting doors. Some critics have even described it as the worst official document in the history of the Church.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, spoke about the pope’s role regarding the Synod documents in an interview with Aleteia at a Pontifical Council for the Family conference last week.

“The documents were all seen and approved by the Pope, with the approval of his presence,” Baldisseri said. “Even the documents during the [Extraordinary] Synod, such as the Relatio ante disceptatationem [the preliminary report], the Relatio post disceptationem [interim report], and the Relatio synodi [final report] were seen by him before they were published.” 

“This point is important not only because of his authority, but also it puts the Secretary General at ease,” the cardinal added - "wryly," according to Aleteia.

In its most controversial sections, the Relatio post disceptationem, or “report after the debate,” asked whether “accepting and valuing [homosexuals’] sexual orientation” could align with Catholic doctrine; proposed allowing Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics on a “case-by-case basis”; and said pastors should emphasize the “positive aspects” of lifestyles the Church considers gravely sinful, including civil remarriage after divorce and premarital cohabitation.

Its most controversial provisions were left out of the Synod’s final report, the Relatio synodi, but many critics have called on the Vatican nevertheless to rescind the interim document.

Cardinal Baldisseri confirmed in his interview with Aleteia that the pope ordered that several controversial sections in the proposed Relatio synodi, or final report, be included in the published version even though they failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote from the Synod fathers.

“It was the Pope’s decision to include the points that did not receive the two-thirds majority,” he told Aleteia's Diane Montagna.

“The Pope said: ‘These three points received an absolute majority. They were therefore not rejected with a ‘no,’ as they received more than 50 percent approval. They are therefore issues that still need to be developed. We as a Church want a consensus. These texts can be modified, that’s clear. Once there has been further reflection, they can be modified.”

These sections were re-published as part of the Lineamenta, without a note that they were rejected, that was sent out to the world’s bishops for discussion in preparation for the next Synod in October 2015.

Montagna reports that during Baldisseri's question and answer session with the audience after his presentation, one audience member expressed the “shock” and “concern” over Cardinal Kasper's proposal that has been the response of many Catholics around the world, particularly those involved in the struggle to defend life and family.

Baldisseri said, however, that the “shock” was misplaced. “We shouldn’t be shocked that there is a different position from the ‘common doctrine,’” he said.

He assured the 300 conference attendees that “there’s no reason to be scandalized that there is a cardinal or a theologian saying something that’s different than the so-called ‘common doctrine.’ This doesn’t imply a going against. It means reflecting. Because dogma has its own evolution; that is a development, not a change.” 

Montagna told LifeSiteNews that she had wanted to “be fair” to the cardinal, so she made a recording of all his comments to ensure that she could reproduce the quotes correctly. 

She writes, “The Cardinal also informed us that the 46 questions published in the Lineamenta were the work of both the General Secretariat and the 15 members of the Council of the Secretariat. Responses are due April 15th.”

Baldisseri’s comments confirm the claim by another of the Church’s highest ranking prelates, Cardinal Reinhardt Marx, a member of the pope’s private council of nine cardinals, and the head of the German bishops’ conference. Marx said that it was Pope Francis who had “pushed the door open” on these topics.

“Up to now, these two issues have been absolutely non-negotiable. Although they had failed to get the two-thirds majority, the majority of the synod fathers had nevertheless voted in their favor,” he told Die Ziet.

“They are still part of the text,” Marx said. “I especially asked the pope about that, and the pope said he wanted all the points published together with all the voting results. He wanted everyone in the church to see where we stood.”

What some have argued is the Synod’s apparent program of easing the Church’s opposition to adultery, homosexuality, and other sexual sins has prompted some prelates to identify it as one of the great crisis points of Church history. Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who did not attend the Synod but said he had reflected deeply on the proceedings, said that it is a sign that the Church is entering a period comparable to that of its tumultuous early centuries.

“We are living in an un-Christian society, in a new paganism,” Schneider told an interviewer after the Synod closed.

“The temptation today for the clergy is to adapt to the new world to the new paganism, to be collaborationists. We are in a similar situation to the first centuries, when the majority of the society was pagan, and Christianity was discriminated against.”

He continued, “Unfortunately there were in the first century members of the clergy and even bishops who put grains of incense in front of the statue of the Emperor or of a pagan idol or who delivered the books of the Holy Scripture to be burned.”

In our times, he said, clergy and bishops are not being asked to pinch incense to the emperor, but “to collaborate with the pagan world today in this dissolution of the Sixth Commandment and in the revision of the way God created man and woman.” These clergy, he said, would be “traitors of the Faith; they are participating ultimately in pagan sacrifice.”

Correction: Baldisseri explained the pope's decision to include the rejected paragraphs in the Synod's final report during his interview with Aleteia rather than in the question and answer session.

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