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Voice of the Family

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Leading cardinals confront Pope Francis over manipulation of Synod

Voice of the Family

URGENT: Sign the pledge to pray for the Synod fathers and the outcome of the Synod on the Family here

UPDATE 10/12/15 at 10:02 EST: America Magazine reports that it has confirmed with reliable sources that 13 Cardinals did in fact sign the letter, although the list is somewhat different from the original list reported by Sandro Magister. The list is below. 

UPDATE 10/12/15 at 2:11 EST: A spokesperson for Cardinal Pell has issued a statement saying that "a private letter should remain private," and added that "there are errors in both the content and the list of signatories." However, he has confirmed that "concerns remain among many of the Synod Fathers about the composition of the drafting committee of the final relatio and about the process by which it will be presented to the Synod fathers and voted upon." He also said that "obviously there is some disagreement because minority elements want to change the Church's teachings on the proper dispositions necessary for the reception of Communion." He dismissed this proposed change, saying: "Obviously there is no possibility of change on this doctrine."

Meanwhile, Cardinal Napier has acknowledged in an interview with Crux to having signed a letter, but said the content of the letter was somewhat different than what was first reported by Sandro Magister, focusing specifically on concerns about the make-up of the comission drafting the final report. 

UPDATE 10/12/15: The original report by veteran Vatican reporter Sandro Magister named 13 cardinals as signatories on the letter, however at least four have now denied signing it. As the list of signatories is now unclear we have removed the names. 

ROME, October 12, 2015 (Voice of the Family) -- A group of cardinals, reportedly including Cardinals George Pell, Wilfred Napier, and others, has written to Pope Francis to protest about the direction being taken at the Ordinary Synod on the Family. The letter, which was reportedly handed to the Pope by Cardinal Pell on Monday 5th October, is a devastating critique of the conduct of the synod. The cardinals state that:

  • the Instrumentum Laboris cannot “adequately serve as a guiding text or the foundation of a final document” because of its “problematic elements”
  • the new synodal procedures are seen as “lacking openness and genuine collegiality” and “not true to the traditional spirit and purpose of a synod”
  • the “lack of input by the synod fathers in the composition of the drafting committee has created considerable unease”
  • and a “number of fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions”.

They conclude:

Finally and perhaps most urgently, various fathers have expressed concern that a synod designed to address a vital pastoral matter – reinforcing the dignity of marriage and family – may become dominated by the theological/doctrinal issue of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.  If so, this will inevitably raise even more fundamental issues about how the Church, going forward, should interpret and apply the Word of God, her doctrines and her disciplines to changes in culture.  The collapse of liberal Protestant churches in the modern era, accelerated by their abandonment of key elements of Christian belief and practice in the name of pastoral adaptation, warrants great caution in our own synodal discussions.

Reports indicate that Pope Francis addressed the synod the next day and told synod fathers “not to give in to the conspiracy hermeneutic, which is sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful.” The pope’s remarks, which are sure to be interpreted as a public dismissal of his cardinals’ concerns, will heighten disquiet about his own role in the synodal process. As President of the Synod of Bishops the pope is ultimately responsible for the way the synod is conducted and for the documents issued by the Synod Secretariat.

STORY: A secret plot to control the Synod? No; it’s not secret at all.

The centrality of Pope Francis to the conduct of the synod has been underlined by Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri. In an interview earlier this year he said:

The pope is the president of the synod of bishops. I am the secretary general, but I don’t have anyone else above me, such as a prefect of a congregation or a president of a council. I don’t have anyone else above me, only the pope. The pope presided over all the council meetings of the secretariat. He presides. I am the secretary. And so the documents were all seen and approved by the pope, with the approval of his presence.  Even the documents during the synod, such as the Relatio ante disceptationem, the Relatio post disceptationem and theRelatio synodi were seen by him before they were published.

The concerns raised in the cardinals’ letter have also been expressed by Voice of the Family. The approach adopted in the Instrumentum Laboris is wholly unacceptable and, as our analysis demonstrates, the document contains numerous passages that contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church. The synod fathers must refuse their assent to any final document that adopts the same approach as the Instrumentum Laboris.

The list of signatories, according to America Magazine: 

- Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, Italy, formerly the first president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family;

- Thomas C. Collins, archbishop of Toronto, Canada;

- Daniel N. Di Nardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, vice-president of the U.S. Bishops Conference;

- Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, United States;

- Willem J. Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, Holland;

- Gerhard L. Müller, former bishop of Regensburg, Germany, since 2012 prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith;

- Wilfrid Fox Napier, archbishop of Durban, South Africa, president delegate of the synod underway as also at the previous session of the synod of October 2014;

-  John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya.                       

- George Pell, archbishop emeritus of Sydney, Australia, since 2014 prefect in the Vatican of the secretariat for the economy;

- Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico City, Mexico;

- Robert Sarah, former archbishop of Conakry, Guinea, since 2014 prefect of the congregation for divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments;

- Elio Sgreccia,  president-emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Vatican City;

- Jorge L. Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela.

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