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Cardinal Ouellet at CCCB meeting in 2017.

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October 2, 2019 (L'Espresso) – A few days before the beginning of the synod on the Amazon, another cardinal of the highest rank has come out against the guidelines for the session, expressed in its base document, the “Instrumentum Laboris,” and forcefully propagandized by the progressive wing of the Church, especially German-speaking, guidelines that even hypothesize the extension of the priesthood to married men.

The cardinal is Marc Ouellet, 75, Canadian, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He has done so with a book on sale as of today, which right from the title makes it clear on what side he stands in the dispute over married priests: “Friends of the Bridegroom: For a Renewed Vision of Priestly Celibacy” (EWTN, Irondale, 2019).

Unlike the other cardinals before him who have publicly contested the aims of the synod – Brandmüller, Müller, Sarah, Burke, Urosa Savino – Ouellet has never been classified among the opponents of the current pontiff, on the contrary. And this makes his taking the field even more explosive.

During these same days, moreover, there have been other public position statements that have also been very critical of the aims of the synod.

The first is from the “Ratzinger Schülerkreise,” meaning the old and new circle of pupils of Pope Benedict XVI when he was a philosophy professor.

On Saturday, September 28 they held a symposium in Rome entitled: “Current challenges for holy orders,” entirely aimed at “resituating holy orders in a sacramental perspective,” and not instead in the purely functional one propounded by those who would like married priests where a need for them may be found, starting with the Amazon but then also in countries like Germany.

Among the presenters was Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who again denounced the serious danger that “the so-called ‘synodal path’ in Germany or the Amazonian synod could end up in the disaster of a further secularization of the Church” (Il cardinale Müller e gli allievi di Ratzinger criticano i due sinodi d’Amazzonia e di Germania).

And a talk was also given by Marianne Schlosser – professor of theology in Vienna, member of the international theological commission, and awarded in 2018 with the Ratzinger Prize – who dedicated much of her talk precisely to the defense of celibacy, explaining it above all as “sharing Jesus’ way of life,” all the more appropriate for those who with the sacrament of orders “participate in the priesthood of Christ.”

It must be noted that Marianne Schlosser resigned last September 21 from the synod scheduled for Germany, where she had been included as an expert in the forum on the role of women in the Church, clearly aimed at conferring holy orders on women as well.

The second position statement is from a bishop of Papua New Guinea, Cesare Bonivento, who for decades has been on mission precisely in one of those regions of the world, the islands of the Pacific, singled out even by Pope Francis as the most unequipped with celibate clergy and therefore most in need of married priests.

Bonivento has taken the field with a book in which he documents how the celibacy of the Catholic clergy was reaffirmed by Vatican II because of its theological foundation, and not because of the utilitarian reasons that instead today are brought forward to call for its retirement (“L’itinerario conciliare del celibato ecclesiastico,” Cantagalli, Siena, 2019).

The third position statement is from “quite a number of prelates, priests, and Catholic faithful all over the world,” who in a manifesto made public in multiple languages on October 1 accused four “theses” of the base document of the synod of being “in contradiction both with individual points of the Catholic doctrine always taught by the Church, and with faith in the Lord Jesus, the only savior of all men”: “To the Pope and the Synod Fathers.”

The first of the four “theses” judged as erroneous is also the most serious. It is where the “Instrumentum Laboris,” at no. 39, states that “a corporatist attitude, that reserves salvation exclusively for one’s own creed [editor’s note – meaning the creed of the Catholic Church] is destructive of that very creed.”

The authors of the manifesto contrast this thesis with the key statement of the 2000 declaration “Dominus Iesus,” which says that “those solutions that propose a salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ would be contrary to Christian and Catholic faith.”

But even before this there are the unequivocal words of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (4:12): “Neither is there salvation in any other [than Jesus]. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.”

So then, on this last point as well Cardinal Ouellet weighs in firmly, right from the first pages of his book.

To which it is helpful to return now.

In the introductory chapter of the book, in fact, Ouellet sets before the question of clerical celibacy another question that is even more paramount, which is precisely the same one on which John Paul II and then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger held it necessary to publish “Dominus Jesus,” not by coincidence the most contested and debated doctrinal declaration of the Church over the past half century.

The cardinal writes:

“The new paths of the future will bear evangelical fruit if they are consistent with a complete proclamation of the Gospel, ‘sine glossa,’ which sacrifices nothing of the permanent values of the Christian tradition. […] In this light, seeking new roads for the evangelization of the indigenous in the Amazon means going beyond an approach that would be reduced to proceeding on the basis of Amazonian world views,  in an effort of intercultural synthesis that runs the risk of being artificial and syncretistic. The  unicity of Jesus Christ and, to a certain extent, of biblical culture imposes a dialogue that is respectful of cultures but clearly oriented to conversion to the mystery of the incarnation of the Word. The transcendent unicity of this irruption of the Word into human history confers upon biblical culture a place apart in the concert of nations, and justifies its being taught to all cultures, for the sake of bringing to them that to which they aspire and toward which their values and limitations lead, for the purpose of being illuminated and healed by it, and taken up beyond themselves.”

Two pages further on, Ouellet also applies this warning to countries like Germany, where he sees underway “modernizations” that in reality endanger the reason for being of the whole Church.

“If this reflection on evangelization is valid for the Amazon, a similar reflection holds true for the ‘new evangelization’ of countries that have long been Christian. If this is confused with a modernization of habits and customs, for the sake of making Christianity more acceptable in spite of certain negativities in its history, it is doomed to fail, and the people will not be fooled by superficial recipes that are offered to them to keep up their interest in the ecclesial institution. The Church either proposes the authentic Jesus who is identical with the Christ of faith, or it loses the reason for being of its mission, and the new powers of the media wielded by hostile hands will very soon render it superannuated and superfluous.”

The question of the priesthood and of celibacy is addressed by Cardinal Ouellet precisely against the backdrop just described. Presenting reasons that show its “pertinence today, all the more so in difficult contexts.”

Ouellet is among the participants in the upcoming synod on the Amazon. It will be interesting to see how much agreement these criticisms of his will receive.

Reprinted with permission from L'Espresso.