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Maike Hickson

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Rigging a Synod? Author discusses how the Synod on the Family seemed ‘stacked’ against orthodoxy

Maike Hickson

ROME, September 15, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – This month, respected Vatican journalist Edward Pentin published a thorough examination of the machinations surrounding the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family. The book, The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation of Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, has provoked a great deal of discussion.

Here Pentin discusses the book with LifeSiteNews in an exclusive interview.

LifeSiteNews: Was there a single incident that prompted you to write the book?

Pentin: The catalyst for writing it wasn’t just one incident but more the cumulative effect of hearing about a number of cases of alleged manipulation. This gave the impression that a general injustice had been committed within an important debate on some of the most crucial issues facing the Church and society as a whole. As a journalist, I felt somewhat obliged to look into this in more detail to get to the truth about these allegations.

What are the main manipulative steps that you were able to detect during your research?

I really try to leave it for the reader to decide based on the evidence that I present in the book. But I think it’s clear that those placed in authoritative positions in the Synod of Bishops had an agenda which they were intent on pushing through. For many, this didn’t add up: the Pope had called for a free and open discussion in which he had encouraged all to speak with parrhesia — that is, candidly and boldly — and frequently underlined the importance of synodality and collegiality. And yet from the beginning of the process, the debate appeared to be stacked against a particular group so as to push through this agenda. What was particularly bizarre to many people was that those being sidelined and marginalized to make way for this agenda were those simply defending the Church’s tradition and doctrine. Whatever the merits the synod managers had for forcing through their ideas, the repression of such an important voice was viewed as unjust and contrary to what many believed was the Pope’s overall vision.  

Which of the alleged incidents of manipulation at the 2014 Synod is perhaps the worst and most destructive?

It’s difficult to say and I think it’s also best to leave this for the reader to judge that for themselves, but at the end of the book I catalogue all the evidence pertaining to manipulation amounting to about 30 examples in total. Some had already been well documented earlier this year by the pro-life group Voice of the Family, but I also add other incidents such as how the election of Archbishop Bruno Forte as special secretary to the Synod of Bishops appeared to be rigged.

How could the broken trust be restored after last year's manipulations?

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect those unhappy with the last synod would say this could be done simply by ensuring that those in charge of the synod allow those upholding the Church’s doctrine and tradition to be given fair representation and equal authority. How that might work out in practice is another question, but at least changes could be made to allow all sides to be heard. It seems somehow ludicrous for one side to have to propose that those upholding orthodoxy be given fair representation at a Vatican synod, but that’s where we are.

What was the attitude of those you spoke with during your research to these accusations of manipulation?

It depended on how sympathetic they were to the agenda that was being pushed. If they favored the line being taken, naturally they preferred to say there was no manipulation of the synod, even if they conceded there was some heavy handedness to introduce reform in the face of stiff resistance. If synod fathers felt steamrollered, they argued, it was because they were (wrongly) opposed to the synod process and the “progressive” agenda being presented to them. They were obstructing the debate over contentious issues and current problems and challenges facing the family.

It seems somehow ludicrous for one side to have to propose that those upholding orthodoxy be given fair representation at a Vatican synod, but that’s where we are.

Those wishing to hold fast to the Church’s teaching and practice would stress that the manipulation was aggressively imposed in the face of legitimate and stiff resistance based on the Church’s tradition. For them, the synod managers had no sense of fair play but were also inept. In fact, one senior official thanked the Lord for their incompetence as he feared what might have happened had they been more capable.

What has been the response to your book so far?

It’s been very positive, but I’ve been surprised that the secular media have yet to report on it given the extent of allegations and the evidence presented. That maybe because it’s not in line with their narrative of this pontificate, or perhaps they simply have too many other things to cover. I do wonder, though, if it would have been met with the same response had these allegations occurred during Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

What are we to expect from the October 2015 Synod with regard to the attempt to steer the discussion into a certain direction? How might the Pope’s recent annulment reform affect it?

I believe the will to push through this agenda will continue, and possibly in more subtle ways, which is why I think it’s important to be alert to such attempts. In the book I quote a synod official saying he’s sure the synod won’t change anything. I’m not certain that’s the Holy Father’s view. Rather, his annulment reform shows his determination to force through certain changes he would like to see, with or without the synod process he introduced.



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