Top cardinal behind Amazon synod: Plan for married priests to be ‘developed and completed’
BRASILIA, February 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes stated that ordaining married men to the priesthood “must be developed and completed” following the release this week of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia [Beloved Amazon], which stalled the liberal push for married priests in the Catholic Church.
Known as an ally of Pope Francis, Cardinal Hummes (85) was prominent as the rapporteur at the Amazonia Synod in October, where evangelization, “ecological sin,” the struggles of isolated communities in the region, “new” ministries for women, and the possibility of ordaining mature men “viri probati” to the priesthood were discussed amidst much controversy. Hummes also presides over the Panamazonia Church Network (REPAM), a grouping of bishops and clergy influential in steering the Amazon Synod that has also advocated for married men.
REPAM helped organize the Amazonia Synod, bringing clergy and laity from the countries of the Amazon Basin to the Vatican. The synod featured the worship of the Pachamama earth goddess by clergy in the presence of the Pope in the Vatican Gardens, sparking accusations of idolatry.
The Instrumentum Laboris or working document that guided the Synod led to controversy even before the meeting, having been condemned by Cardinals Gerhard Muller and Walter Brandmuller. For his part, fellow German Bishop Erwin Krautler and Synod organizer said he hoped that at least female deaconesses would result from the Synod. He said that those who oppose the Synod, “which has been called by the Pope, are against Francis.”
Hummes has advocated for married priests for more than a decade. Just before becoming prefect of the Congregation for Clergy in 2006, for instance, he told an interviewer that priestly celibacy is not a dogma of the church and that it should be reviewed. His remarks earned him a rebuke from then-Pope Benedict XVI, who had him state that celibacy for the clergy is not debatable.
Section 111 of the final document of the Amazonia Synod suggested that some Church ministries be conferred to women, and that married men should be considered for the priesthood. That final document, Hummes said, should not be rejected or shelved. Moreover, Hummes said that “the Synod is not the end of the process.” While Hummes and others had hoped that the Amazon Synod might have kicked off a change in Church discipline regarding celibacy for priests, the Pope did not mention it in Querida Amazonia.
While speaking at the headquarters of the Brazilian Conference of Catholic Bishops about Querida Amazonia on Wednesday, Hummes said that he believes the Pope did not intend to “replace” the conclusions of the final document about priestly ordination. “This issue, like all the rest, should be worked on with the Pope by the agencies of the Holy See. It will be taken up again,” he said in a press conference in Brazil's capital. “This matter will have to be developed and completed,” he added.
In Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis says that he intends to “officially present the [synod’s] final document,” while encouraging “everyone to read it,” and “strive to apply it” according to their vocation in the Church. While some observers contend that the exhortation shut one door on married priests, others contend that its ambiguous wording may have opened a back door.
In his preamble to Querida Amazonia, the Pope wrote: “I will not go into all of the issues treated at length in the final document. Nor do I claim to replace that text or to duplicate it. I wish merely to propose a brief framework for reflection that can apply concretely to the life of the Amazon region a synthesis of some of the larger concerns that I have expressed in earlier documents, and that can help guide us to a harmonious, creative and fruitful reception of the entire synodal process.”
At the end of the preamble, the Pope writes: “I have preferred not to cite the Final Document in this Exhortation, because I encourage everyone to read it in full.”
Speaking in Brasilia, Cardinal Hummes reflected on the Pope’s words, saying that he “didn’t cite anything” so that no one point would be emphasized over others. Hummes added, “He doesn’t speak about any point, and this shows that he appreciates all of them because they are the products of the Synod, they are not the product of a small group of theologians but of a synod of the Church. Everything that the Synod decided and approved is important.”
In an interview with Vatican News, Hummes affirmed that the Pope said that the Church will accept the Amazonia Synod’s final document and put it into practice. “It is a continuation of the process, he said. “He clearly says that the whole Church will strive to put this final document into practice,” Hummes said, and added: “It is the whole text that the Church must seek to put into practice. This is very clear, but this is part of a process, which the Pope has also made very clear, which is a process.”
Hummes said that the Synod was the high point in a “process” that did not end there. “It is a path that we still have to travel, continue to travel, as the Church must always do in history,” he concluded.
Another one of the Pope’s allies, fellow Argentine Archbishop Fernández of La Plata, wrote in Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper that anyone disappointed that the Pope did not specifically mention a married clergy should take heart from what the Pope didn’t say. “It is clear that if the Pope did not mention some point, that is not because it is discarded, but because he did not wish to repeat what the Synod declared.”
“For the first time ever, an apostolic exhortation is not constituted as an interpretation of a synod’s final document nor in a restriction of its contents. It is merely a complementary framework of that document,” Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández wrote, adding, “That is a great novelty of the synod that has been unfortunately unnoticed.”
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters at a press conference earlier this week that the exhortation [Querida Amazonia] is “magisterium,” adding that the “final document is not magisterium.”