Synod Closes With Clearer Vision Than When It Opened


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The Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on marriage and family life concluded this weekend, with Pope Francis praising the two-week meeting for its “spirit of collegiality and of synodality” and participants agreeing to all but the most contentious issues in a final report.

Despite impassioned debate and some concern at how the meeting was steered in a particular direction, especially in its first week, there was general satisfaction with the final result of this ongoing process. Discussions over the Church’s approach to marriage, family and sexuality will continue for the next year, in preparation for the ordinary synod on the family, set for Oct. 4-25, 2015.

“I can happily say that, with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality, we have truly lived the experience of synod, a path of solidarity, a journey together,” the Holy Father said in his closing address to participants Saturday. He added that there were moments of “profound consolation” when listening to the testimony of “true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people.”

He also spoke of “moments of consolation and grace and comfort,” when hearing the testimonies of the families who shared the “beauty and the joy” of their married life. He said the synod was a journey where the “stronger feel compelled to help the less strong” and where the “more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations.”

The Pope highlighted “moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations” and listed these temptations as the “hostile inflexibility” of “so-called traditionalists” and intellectuals; of a “destructive tendency to goodness” of “so-called progressives and liberals”; of transforming “stones into bread” to avoid the ascetical struggle and of “bread into stone” to cast at sinners; of coming down from the cross to “please the people” and “bow[ing] down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God”; and the temptation to “neglect the depositum fidei [the deposit of faith]” and to “neglect reality.”

He warned that the synodal process should “never be seen as a source of confusion and discord” because the Church expresses herself in communion “in the variety of her charisms” and “cannot err.” He reminded the synod participants that he had said, from the beginning, that the synod would take place in “tranquility and with interior peace,” — cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter) — “and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.” He also reminded those present that his duty is “guaranteeing the unity of the Church” and that the “first duty” of any pastor is to nourish his flock and seek the lost sheep.

At the beatification Mass of Pope Paul VI on Sunday that closed the synod, Francis said that participants “felt the power of the Holy Spirit, who constantly guides and renews the Church,” which is called to “waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost it.”


The Final Report

The final report appears to have been well received by the participants. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who had been highly critical of the interim report released last Monday, said it was “a significant improvement” over the earlier document. “I would say that it provides an accurate, if not complete, summary of the discussions in the Synod Hall and in the small groups,” he told Catholic World Report. Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, told Vatican Radio the synod had performed “good work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, under the chairmanship of the Holy Father.” He said the final report would act as a practical lineamenta (prepatory document) on which to work for the next synod.

In the interests of transparency, Pope Francis broke with custom and asked that the voting numbers relating to each paragraph of the final report be published. The results, presented on Saturday, showed that all but three of the 62 paragraphs passed with a two-thirds majority. Those that failed to achieve a “synodal consensus” were proposals to allow some civilly-remarried divorcees to receive holy Communion after fulfilling certain conditions and a period of penitence; a call to deepen discussions over such couples gaining access to the sacraments in view of them having recourse to spiritual communion; and a mention of pastoral care of homosexuals, who, it said, must be received with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

Although these were rejected, Pope Francis asked that they nevertheless remain in the final document. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters Oct. 18 that even though they “cannot be considered an expression of synodal consensus,” they show these topics to be a “work in progress” and that “we still have a ways to go.”

Lay participant Christopher Meney, director of the Centre for Life, Marriage and the Family of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia, told the Register Oct. 19 that these paragraphs should be “viewed somewhat differently” to the rest of the document, as there is “no mandate to go forward in any of those particular areas at the moment.”


Procedural Concerns and Contentious Issues

Although the end result was generally satisfactory, concerns were raised in the synod about apparent manipulation, especially over these contentious issues, by the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, which consists of General Secretary Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and his 15-member council.

The secretariat was viewed as engineering the proceedings in a direction at odds with Church teaching. The interim report, for example, bore little relation to the interventions of the participants. Although it is routine for such a report to be published, the individual interventions of the synod, which also are typically published, were not released. Instead, the media was fed unofficial summaries of each day’s proceedings by the Holy See Press Office.

The Holy See Press Office did not deny accusations of manipulation but stressed that the interim report, largely drafted by special secretary Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, was a “working document” and part of the ongoing synodal process. Synod participants, on the other hand, criticized how it was assembled — particularly its content.

Among its proposals, it advocated looking at the “positive aspects” of cohabitation and civil unions; suggested divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics might have access to the sacraments in some circumstances; proposed a more “accessible and flexible” recognition of cases of nullity; and spoke of the “gifts and qualities” that homosexuals have to offer and of “accepting and valuing their sexual orientation” without compromising on doctrine.

Many were surprised by the interim report’s publication and resented how it played out through the media. Moreover, participants remarked on the speed at which the 6,000-word text was drafted and translated, which pointed to it being prepared before the first phase of the synod was complete.

Authoritative sources told the Register that South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier’s reaction to the report and its publication was “thunderous.”

Cardinal Burke told the Register it had a “disastrous” impact on “Catholics, non-Catholics and people of goodwill,” as it gave the impression that the Church was “abandoning the apostolic faith regarding marriage.” Multiple amendments were inserted into the text during the 10 “small groups” that met in different languages the following week, which paved the way to a more acceptable final report.


The Participants Push Back

But further unease about manipulation was to take place towards the end of the second week, at the end of the small- group sessions. Participants were alarmed when, instead of publishing each of the language groups’ conclusions, Cardinal Baldisseri proposed the secretariat issue a general summary instead. To many, this appeared to be another attempt to steer the synod, and the participants collectively demanded each groups’ conclusions be published, which the secretariat then agreed to do.

Concerns also were raised by Polish bishops, especially after publication of the interim report. The Register has learned they were particularly distressed that Pope St. John Paul II’s teachings on the family were not getting sufficient attention.

Specialists from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family were not invited to the synod, and there was resentment that some synod prelates argued that John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the familyFamiliaris Consortio, was no longer relevant, as it was more than 30 years old. Polish bishops, sources say, therefore viewed the synod as a rejection of their recently canonized compatriot.

A common criticism during the synod was the attempt by some synod fathers to place a wedge between doctrine and practice, rather than seeing them as one, each in service of the other. This became most visible on the most contentious issues related to divorce and remarriage and homosexuality. Prelates from Africa, in whose cultures traditional moral values remain largely intact, were strongly opposed to the suggested changes in pastoral practice, as were a significant number of Western prelates, including Cardinal Burke and Australian Cardinal George Pell, who leads the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy. The African delegates are understood to have led the opposition to these two areas of discussion that led to these two proposals being rejected.


The Next Steps in the Process

These contentious issues, which to the chagrin of many participants eclipsed much of the debate, might now be put on the back burner for the remainder of the synod process. But the debate is likely to remain heated, if issues related to divorce and remarriage and homosexuality continue to be strongly present. Some senior sources claim the suggestions expressed in the interim report on these matters reflect those of Pope Francis, but the Holy Father has never publicly stated these are his positions. Cardinal Burke has said he has “no evidence regarding the Pope’s thinking in the matter or regarding his alleged support of a relaxation of the Church’s teaching.”

Even so, one senior Vatican official and participant of the synod has privately warned of possible “trench warfare” between opposing groups if these contentious issues continue to be debated, and he sees the Polish and German bishops’ conferences,  which have divergent views on these issues, likely to be at loggerheads in the months ahead. And there is also concern over possible attempts to weaken the importance of Humanae Vitae, Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical that upheld Church teaching regarding the prohibition of artificial contraception, although it was reaffirmed in the final report.

Next year’s synod will be run differently, and some observers have noted how the composition of bishops’ conferences at the next assembly will give African bishops a stronger voice.

Concerns and predictions aside, many are viewing optimistically the rest of the synodal process, which will now be largely played out at diocesan and local levels until the ordinary synod next October. Meney hopes that if discussions over divorce and remarriage are to continue, they may “facilitate a wider discussion on the need for the faithful to appropriately prepare themselves for reception of the Eucharist.” That, he said, “could be a good catechetical opportunity for the Church.”

And noting the Church’s “wonderful and sophisticated teaching around human sexuality, marriage and the family,” he said there’s a “real opportunity now for the Church to go out and proclaim and promote that example: This is what we mean when we say this, and we believe it’s possible for people to live this life.”

“People can live this truth,” he said, “and the Church needs to be confident in proclaiming that and encouraging particularly young people that it’s quite possible for them to embark on a committed, lifelong union, with all it’s up and downs.

“It’s a great way to live a life,” he said, “and having it as a sacramental union gives them a great repository of grace to draw upon when things get a bit tough.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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‘Tireless Apostle’ Paul VI Beatified


VATICAN CITY — Pope Paul VI was a “courageous Christian,” a “tireless apostle” and the “great helmsman” of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis said in his homily at Paul’s beatification Mass on Sunday, Oct. 19.

The Holy Father gave thanks for the life of Paul VI at the Mass, attended by some 70,000 faithful who had gathered in unseasonably warm weather in St. Peter’s Square. As the former pope was declared blessed, a tapestry portrait was unveiled on the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Also present at the ceremony was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whom Paul VI appointed as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, in 1977. Pope Francis and his predecessor warmly embraced and briefly exchanged a few words.

“When we look to this great pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thank you,” Francis said. “Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church.”

Recalling how Paul, who was pope from 1963 to 1978, once said he felt God had perhaps chosen himself for the role as successor of Peter to “suffer something for the Church” and, therefore, show that only the Lord was her guide and Savior, Francis said, “In his humility, the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth.”

“Before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he was able to hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom — and at times alone — to the helm of the Barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord,” the Pope said.


Render to Caesar

Referring to Sunday’s parable containing Jesus’ words: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” Francis said Paul VI truly did this “by devoting his whole life to the ‘sacred, solemn and serious task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ,’ loving the Church and leading her so that she might be ‘a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation.’”

Born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini to a wealthy upper-class family in the Lombardy region of northern Italy on Sept. 26, 1897, Montini entered the seminary in 1916. After his ordination in 1920, he was sent to Rome to study at the Gregorian University and the University of Rome. In 1922, he was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Academy, the training institution for papal diplomats.

After serving as a papal diplomat in the nunciature in Warsaw for a year, he was sent to Rome for health reasons. He was then assigned to the Vatican Secretariat of State, where he remained for 30 years. In 1937, he served as sostituto (deputy) to Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, who was then the Vatican secretary of state. During the war, Father Montini remained in that position and was responsible for organizing the extensive relief work and the care of political refugees.


Archbishop of Milan

In 1953, Pius XII appointed him archbishop of Milan, where he is reported to have “revitalized the entire diocese” by preaching the social message of the Gospel, appealing to the working class and promoting Catholic education at every level.

Elected pope on June 21, 1963, he led the Church through the Second Vatican Council that was begun by Pope St. John XXIII. He committed himself to a continuation of the work of his predecessor and had to deal with tension between papal primacy and the collegiality of the episcopacy.

On Sept. 14, 1965, he announced the establishment of the Synod of Bishops called for by the Council fathers. In his homily on Oct. 19, Francis recalled his words when creating the new body: “By carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods [to] the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society.”

Arguably his most famous legacy was his landmark 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae on the regulation of birth — a document produced amid much opposition and which continues to be opposed but has been widely viewed as prophetic. Prior to that, in 1967, he had produced an encyclical on aid and development, Populorum Progressio,

Those who knew Paul VI best have described him as a brilliant man, deeply spiritual, humble, reserved and gentle, a man of “infinite courtesy.” He opened a new era of papal travel and became the first pope to address the United Nations, in 1965. He died on Aug. 6, 1978, the feast of the Transfiguration.

In comments to the Register after Sunday’s ceremony, Dr. Tom Hilgers, founder and director of the Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, said the beatification “was truly an emotionally, spiritually and uplifting experience.”


Paul VI Institute

The Paul VI institute, founded in 1985 to “answer the call for reproductive health care that fully respects life,” grew out of the challenges posed by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae. Hilgers said it was a “special honor” to read one of the bidding prayers at the Mass and to “represent the worldwide FertilityCare and NaProTechnology providers and all those who live and love Humanae Vitae.”

The Omaha, Neb.-based organization has served to build a culture of life in women’s health care throughout the world, developing new approaches that offer superior treatments to women (Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System and NaProTechnology) that challenge mainstream medicine’s reliance on contraception, in vitro fertilization and abortion.

Paul VI was beatified after Vatican officials approved a miracle in 2013 that was attributed to the late pope’s intercession. The miracle involved the healing of an American unborn child who was found to have a high risk of brain damage. After attempts to remove the risk proved futile, doctors said the child would either die in the womb or would be born with severe renal impairment. The mother refused an abortion and instead took the advice of a nun and prayed for Paul VI’s intercession. Ten weeks later, the child’s health had substantially improved and he was born by Caesarean section in the 39th week of pregnancy.

Following the beatification Mass and before praying the Angelus on World Mission Sunday, the Pope recalled how Paul VI was a tireless supporter of the missionary activity of the Church, as shown above all by his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, with which he sought to reawaken “zeal for and commitment to the mission of the Church.”

“It is important to coincide this aspect of Paul VI’s papacy today, the very day we celebrate World Mission Sunday,” the Pope said. He also underlined Paul VI’s “profound” Marian devotion and said, “Christian people will always be grateful” to him for the apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus and for having proclaimed Mary as Mother of the Church during the Second Vatican Council.

Pope Francis proclaimed, “Mary, Queen of the Saints and Mother of the Church, help us to faithfully fulfill the Lord’s will in our life, as the new Blessed did.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent. 

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Archbishop Kurtz on the Synod: ‘Mercy Without Truth Is Not Mercy’


CNAArchbishop Joseph Kurtz, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was one of the 191 synod fathers who took part in the third Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, which concluded Oct. 19.

In this Oct. 16 interview with the Register’s Rome correspondent, Edward Pentin, as the synod was drawing to a close, Archbishop Kurtz reflected on how the synod had proceeded. Among the topics he discusses are the controversial interim report (which was superseded by thefinal report Oct. 18), the importance of pastoral language and the debate over doctrine and pastoral practice.

Your Excellency, did the synod match your expectations?
I’m glad you asked this. I did a blog when I first came, and, quite honestly, it was the result of one of my Holy Hours when I was praying.
What are the intentions of the synod? Three things came so clearly to my mind: to restore confidence to the United States that a fruitful, holy and healthy marriage, open to new life, is attainable — or, to put it another way, that young people or young people getting married today are not simply a message of statistics.

My hope is that that strong message of hope that people yearn for would be very much at the core of the synod. My second [intention], which relates to it, is that we would unfold and uncover in people’s lives and hearts the beauty of the teachings of Jesus and his Church on sexuality, marriage and the family. Then, the third [intention] was to accompany people who were hurting — and what does it mean to accompany them? So that’s what I came with [to the synod].

Not all expectations are answered immediately. Obviously, I had my chance with my intervention [talk] to promote this. My own sense was that the initial document that was released was so focused — and I understand why — on the problems of people who are hurting that I didn’t feel in that first document a strong sense of promoting confidence and of acknowledging the faithful witness of people who, at great sacrifice, are living faithful lives. In my small-group discussions, I found that many people shared those desires that I shared.

The relatio [interim report] caused a lot of problems: People said it seemed to be taking its cue from the world rather than the faith, that it was trying to find a language that the world wants and to seemingly bow down to the world. Is it your view that it had an incompleteness?
Let me say it in a more positive way, and then I’ll return to that. I like the words being used of a missionary option and the more I’m hearing about them.

In the small groups, we went a little deeper. I’m discovering that, really, at the core, there’s a pastoral experience that I found it [the document] to have.

As a pastor, before I became a bishop, it was a very simple one [experience], which was to reach out to people when I meet them, to uncover what I see is good in them and to build on what is good — and then accompany them to Christ.

The document, first released, had a sense of incompleteness to it, and so there were statements made without refinement and clarification. So, for example, the statement regarding the principle of gradualism: The more we get into conversations about it, the more I became comfortable with what is the primary direction. And that is: It’s not a change in the doctrine; it’s not, as St. John Paul II said in Familiaris Consortio, a gradualness of the [moral] law, which I think people think is what’s happening, but, rather, it is an understanding of the law, a desire to live that law, to turn away from sin and selfishness.

You may know I worked in Catholic Charities for two dozen years, and so [I knew] a lot of people were involved in addictive behavior. I’m not suggesting every problem in the world is addictive behavior — of course not — but there are elements there in which, when you’re seeking virtue, it’s tough, and there’s a call for great patience and great understanding.

We know where we’re going … and that person knows what the end mark is. We all know that. But there are ups and downs, and there’s failure and rising up again, and that advice, which was so much in the vademecum [handbook] for confessors in 1997, on the principle of gradualism, is what I see at work here. … Of course, I’ve written on my own blog [about] a fuller understanding and what I would call a correct understanding of what gradualness is, where it can be properly applied and where it is not.

People have all said that it is all very good to be accompanying, welcoming and all that, that that is not a point of contention. What they’re saying is there’s not enough talk about sin, salvation of souls — the ultimate point of all this. Is this a valid point? Or were these issues raised in the small groups?
The first thing we discussed is what I started with earlier: that there is a need to identify the faithful examples of witnesses, and I still believe that is the best way to lead people. It has always been the best way.

People are unbelievably inspired by a saint. These were the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen: He said it is a lot easier to crowd evil out than to drive it out. So, pastorally, I, of course, acknowledge sin, my need for redemption, the need for the cross. I also acknowledge the fact that most people will be accompanied by someone who first loves them and then leads them on that process of conversion.

But doesn’t loving also mean telling them the truth? For example, telling someone they might be living in mortal sin and explaining the law of gradualism, which, as I understand it, means making a break with sin and then gradually working towards holiness.
It does, and you’re absolutely right. I guess the best place that I saw, where we took it up, was to make sure we don’t have any false divide between mercy and truth. They are one.

In other words, mercy is the best path to truth, and mercy without truth is not mercy. There has been great discussion and even some amendments that have talked about that importance.

A lot has been said about doctrine and that it won’t be changed, but that it is possible to change pastoral practice. Cardinal Raymond Burke says it’s a false dichotomy: You cannot have one without the other, and practice must serve doctrine. What’s your view on this?
I mention this [in my blog], and most people recall it, which is: How we pray and what we believe are integrally connected, and also true is what we believe and how we provide pastoral practice are fully connected.

If there is not integrity in how we pray, how we worship, what we believe and how we provide pastoral practice, it will break down. What I have called for, in any amendments that I was able to provide, was to make sure that any creative pastoral practice being considered would be firmly grounded in good, solid theology.

The issue of language and changing language — removing words like “living in sin,” “intrinsically disordered” and “contraceptive mentality” — was raised at the synod. It’s said that’s a change in pastoral practice that doesn’t serve doctrine, because you’re taking away half the truth, as it were, that you’re softening it. What do you say to this?
Well, Familiaris Consortio, I don’t think, used the words or phrase “living in sin.” I would consider Familiaris Consortio a very solid document of pastoral praxis. I would make a distinction: The kerygma — namely, repent and believe in the Good News, the thing that always accompanies the giving of ashes on Ash Wednesday — that is the kerygma of Jesus Christ, and we cannot water down or change that kerygma.

How do we bring someone to Christ? I guess that would be the other question. How do I go about bringing someone to Christ? As a pastor, I made lots of parish visitations — a third of the parish, every summer, I would seek to visit. And there were people who were distant from the Church. Believe it or not, the first thing I said when I entered their house was: “Well, I haven’t seen you for a while!” That [using phrases like “living in sin”] would not be a way of inviting them, and I think most people know that. So I think what we’re talking about here is: see the person first.

We have to lead them to Christ. We would not do them a service if somehow we hid or watered down the truth. You’re absolutely right about that, but I would say that, in my own pastoral practice, there were different ways I would approach someone. I would eventually get to that process, but I would deal with what I thought would first touch their hearts and bring them [to openness to the faith]. And I think that’s what a good pastor has always done, don’t you?

But some feel that, in this day and age particularly, it’s necessary to hold up the truths, as someone said, like a lighthouse, not simply a torch, walking with them — or, perhaps, both are needed?
I’m not a good one on voting one analogy over another, so if you’re looking for an analogy on that, well, analogies are supposed to serve, not become the source of debate [laughs].

But would you agree with that: that it is important to have a kind of lighthouse, and the Church is that guiding light?
First of all, evangelization is announcing the Gospel. The Holy Father is saying in his apostolic exhortation — which, of course, completed the work of the last synod — that the first words to talk to people about are about joy.
It was interesting to me [to see] that when the Catechism begins — the first chapter — it’s on happiness. I don’t think that’s an accident. If you go back to Augustine, back to the history of the Church, people first want to be inspired, and inspiring is not watering down truth: It is leading people to the beauty [of faith and truth]. Now, as people uncover the beauty, then I think they can come to understand the wisdom and depth of Church law, of Christ.

Another observation, certainly during the synod press briefings, was little mention of Christ, Jesus and the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith.
I agree with that. I think there was more mention, actually, in the instrumentum laboris. I agree with that, and I don’t think it was a deliberate effort not to mention Christ. I think what happens is, when you do a working paper, you don’t get everything in.

I will be disappointed if we don’t begin with a strong affirmation of the call of Christ. Marriage and family, grounded in natural law, is a call to all people, people who believe in Christ and to the whole world, and so we’ll be mindful of that. I’m not suggesting with these words that somehow the gift of marriage and fidelity is only meant for Christians. No, it’s meant for the whole world and for society. But I think you are correct in saying that the leadership — and the joy that we call people to — has to be firmly rooted in the love of Jesus Christ and his sacrificial love, and there’s no resurrection without the cross.

We know that, and I’ll give you an anecdote: One of the things, when I was a family counselor, I would say to people — these were people who were coming with some difficulties — was: “Who has loved you the most in your life?” And, Edward, I got the most beautiful examples of sacrificial love. I tell people: “Don’t explain to me that people do not understand sacrificial love — they understand it very well and they’re capable of understanding very quickly the sacrificial love of Jesus and the laying down of his life.” What’s the problem, with all of us, is that a lot of things get in our way: priorities, secularism — the whole thing.

So I think it doesn’t take long to reach out and come to know someone, to love them, to begin to lead them to Christ — that they will understand very quickly the sacrificial love of Jesus. That’s the thing that attracts them to other people.

People have said this synod has been slanted in a certain direction and certain voices haven’t been heard, and the media restrictions placed on it play into that argument. Are you concerned about that?
I favored the fact that the relatio — the interim report — would be made public, just as they had been in past synods. I actually favored, also, that the reports of the small groups be made public. And they were made public.

My question really refers to the interventions in the first week, which were summarized generally.
I wish they were [made public]; I wish they were. I think the understanding was — if I understand it correctly — that the Holy Father himself wanted to promote as free a conversation as possible, and so didn’t want to inhibit someone from thinking: I won’t say what’s in my heart because it’s going to be in writing. I guess that’s the thinking.

I guess, in retrospect, I would say I would have liked to have had the intervention that I gave, that was in writing, being printed in the same way as it was two years ago. I suspect that, in future synods, we may turn to that. That’s my guess. I favor that. I think that that is better.

Regarding the midterm relatio, it’s fair to say many were furious with it, as they felt it gave a false view to the media of the Church’s stance on these issues.
I would say [what I said at] the press conference [on Oct. 15]. I said at that time, this relatio was a working document, and if, for some reason, that was not portrayed by the media in that way, please do so. That’s what I said, and, today, what I can say, which I couldn’t say yesterday, is: “Hey, we have 10 more working documents,” and I asked people to read them, and I was inspired by them today.

There’s a certain richness to each of the 10 groups, but I think there are some commonalities; and I think that is going to help the process because, as I said yesterday, the work of the synod needed to be refined and clarified. There was an ambiguity that we could not have lived with.

Let me end with a word of hope. I want to go home and be able to announce to people: We need your help; we’re pushing for a great renewal in the gift of marriage and family; we need to support faithful couples. And you know what I said at the press conference yesterday, and I really believe that. I hope people do not picture faithful couples as being a rather narrow group of people.

I think there are many people out there who are living very faithful lives, and they’re the silent majority right now. We need to acknowledge them and call them forth.

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Sources: ‘Trench Warfare’ Ahead for Catholic Church Over Marriage, Family


Pressure from Catholic Church leaders closely allied to Pope Francis on changing the church’s approach to marriage and the family is likely to lead to a year of “trench warfare,” top Vatican sources say.

Churchgoing Catholics will face continued pressure to accept a change in pastoral practice towards homosexuals and divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, as well as changes to other contentious issues.

News of the concerns came at the end of a fractious Synod of Bishops that concluded at the Vatican on Sunday. The two-week synod, involving nearly 200 prelates from around the world, resulted in what many observers saw as a victory for those opposed to the more contentious changes.

But it came in the face of pitched battles between those who favor reform and those who do not.

Proponents have been pushing for the church to accept secular thinking with respect to marriage and the family, saying their proposals are more “pastoral.”

Opponents fear such changes will substantially alter people’s perceptions of Catholicism and effectively weaken the Church’s established teaching in these areas.

And yet despite a concerted effort to manipulate the assembly to accept them, proposals to allow remarried divorcees to receive Communion after fulfilling certain conditions and penitence, and to give a warmer welcome to homosexuals, failed to reach a “synodal consensus” — a two-thirds majority — in the assembly’s final report, issued Saturday.

Observers have viewed this as a blow to Pope Francis’ agenda, although the pontiff has yet to publicly disclose his position on these issues.

The Oct. 5-19 synod was widely criticized by participants for being engineered by ideologically motivated prelates. They reportedly made concerted efforts to steer the assembly toward radical reform and away from Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching on marriage and the family.

The exclusion of experts from the John Paul II Institute for the Study of Marriage and the Family, as well as references to his teaching, led to Polish bishops voicing their concern about the proceedings of the synod. Many of them saw it as a rejection of their recently canonized compatriot.

Prelates from Africa, where traditional moral values remain largely intact, were also highly opposed to the changes, as were a significant number of Western prelates including American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who heads the church’s “supreme court”, and Australian Cardinal George Pell who leads the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.

The October meeting was the first of two synods of bishops called by Pope Francis to discuss possible changes to the way the Church views marriage and family life. A second, larger synod will take place next October, after which the Pope will issue a final document with his conclusions.

Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.

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Cardinal Kasper’s Comments: CMTV Exclusive Interview


Cardinal Burke: ‘The Truths of the Faith Have Not Changed’


Cardinal Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican’s highest court), is known for his straight talk and ardent orthodoxy to the Catholic faith.

A participant in the ongoing Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, Cardinal Burke, along with Cardinals Gerhard Müller, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences; Carlo Caffarra,  archbishop of Bologna, Italy; and Velasio De Paolis, president emeritus of the Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See, wrote Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, affirming Church teaching on marriage.

He discussed the synod, marriage and the talk he presented to delegates in an Oct. 11 interview.


Your Eminence, could you share the contents of your intervention?

My intervention stressed to the [synod] fathers that the marriage nullity process, as it is, has been carefully developed over the centuries to provide for a response according to the truth, a response to a claim of a nullity of marriage.

It’s not just a question of juridicism or legal encumbrances and so forth, but a process that’s actually quite simple and straightforward. It guarantees, as much as we humanly can, that a judge will see all of the arguments, proofs in favor of nullity and all of those in favor of the validity of the marriage and then come to a judgment regarding the claim of nullity.

Therefore, to tamper with the process is very dangerous. And, if I may, I wish to respond to Cardinal [Walter] Kasper’s assertion that the matrimonial-nullity process is not of divine law. Well, the individual elements of the process are not of divine law, but that the Church has a well-articulated process by which she can arrive at the truth in response to a claim of nullity is of divine law.

The Church cannot irresponsibly declare marriages null. This is contrary to the teaching of Our Lord himself, obviously. So, then, I point out in the intervention that, in the Signatura, we’ve been studying the work of the tribunals for over 50 years. We know a lot about what is happening with causes of nullity of marriage.

The popular move is to get rid of a second instance: In other words, if a declaration of nullity is given in the first instance, the need to have the decision confirmed in a second instance, as is now required by universal Church law, would be eliminated. But I ask: What could be more reasonable, in so serious a matter as declaring a marriage null, that there be a control, a check?

That is why Pope Benedict XIV introduced the requirement in the 18th century: because there were serious abuses of the process.


Are there examples of what can happen when the second instance is removed?

Yes, we already know what happens when it is taken away, because in America, from 1971 to 1983, effectively, there was no second instance. Marriages were declared null wholesale; people wrote about “Catholic divorce” and the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church: “They teach that marriage is indissoluble, and when anyone comes forward asking for a declaration of nullity, they grant it.”

Even the Secretariat of State admonished the U.S. bishops about it. In my essay in the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ, you will find a footnote in which I document all this. And then there is a wonderful quote from John Paul II who says: “To declare null a marriage which is valid destroys the foundation for the life of the individual, society and the Church itself.”

We cannot go forward if the sacred reality of this truth is not respected. So I’m very much opposed to the idea of streamlining this process or making it administrative.

For instance, to suggest that each bishop, either by himself or through one or two priests, would interview couples and decide on the nullity of their marriage is contrary to the requirements of truth and justice. It is impossible.

With regard to the supposed excessive duration of the process of marriage nullity, the experience of the Apostolic Signatura shows that, when the personnel in the tribunal are well prepared, the process is completed with the norm established by the Code of Canon Law, within a year for first instance and within six months for second instance (Canon 1453).

We find that, when the process goes on too long, the fault is that there is a lack of personnel in the tribunal or those working in the tribunal are not properly prepared for their work.


Would it not be better, in this case, to improve the marriage preparation of couples?

This is the point. We need to improve the preparation of the couples and to teach, in depth, the truth about marriage, which we have not done well for over 50 years. We need to give a sound catechesis to children on the truth about marriage, so that when they come into their young adult years, they understand what the call to marriage is all about and the seriousness of it.


If this did go through, and the streamlining did happen with the dangers you mention, then you could conceivably have cases of marriages declared null when in fact they are not so. Who would have to answer to God for that? The judges?

That’s right. Those who, without making a proper investigation, gave the impression to someone who was indeed in a valid marriage that the judges had arrived at a judgment of nullity. But the judgment of nullity must always be made before God. The judges must come to moral certitude regarding the alleged nullity before giving a judgment.

It is true that in many, if not most, cases the judges cannot arrive at absolute certainty. But when they follow a carefully reasoned process, they can say: “As much as is humanly possible, we have no reasonable doubt that the claim of nullity is true.” Then everyone’s conscience is clear, even if they make a mistake.

But if you’re just declaring marriages null in order to permit people to enter a new marriage or to permit people who have already attempted marriage after a divorce to receive holy Communion, then you are going to declare marriages null that are not null. So it is very serious, and I wouldn’t want it on my conscience.


Many are criticizing the relatio for its lack of Catholic teaching and the effect it will have on Catholics and non-Catholics? Are these concerns valid?

Yes, the concerns are valid. The document lacks a proper foundation in the sacred Scriptures and the perennial and rich teaching of the Church regarding holy matrimony. It also does not reflect a proper theological anthropology, with its reference to the natural law. The effect which the document has already had upon Catholics, non-Catholics and people of good will has been disastrous. The document, not without reason, gives the impression that the Catholic Church is abandoning the apostolic faith regarding marriage.


What is your general assessment of the synod so far?

To me, there has been a tremendous lack of clarity in the discussions that are taking place, and I am particularly concerned about what I am reading in the secular media.

I read the transcript of a transmission on RAI [Italian state television] this past Tuesday night, I think, that was viewed by some 5.7  million Italians. The synod was depicted as opening the door to holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, as if this was all that the synod was about or what the synod was principally addressing and as if there was a consensus that those in irregular unions should be admitted to receive the sacraments of penance and the holy Eucharist.


It’s being spun in that direction?

Yes, and this didn’t begin just at the time of the synod, but has been going on at least since the consistory on Feb. 20-21 of this year, when Cardinal Walter Kasper gave his discourse and began to give interviews and speeches to sustain his position. His book was published in five languages.

The idea has built up that this synod is being convoked really — to put it plainly — to change the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage. That is a betrayal of the Catholic faith and a betrayal of our mission to the world.

The Catholic Church is one of the few institutions left in the world that upholds and teaches the truth about marriage, even if there have been these failures in some tribunals to uphold it. Now, if we no longer teach the truth about marriage, why are we Catholic?


Did you get the sense in the synod that the overriding push is being made to bring this radical change about?

On the part of some, yes, and you read it in some interviews, which state that there are certain prelates pushing it. I do not understand it, and I am very clear about it.

I can say very honestly to you: I do not know how I could accept such a thing in the Catholic Church. I just could not.


This also brings us to the media and how the Vatican is disclosing the contents of the synod. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has criticized the way it has been handled and the restrictions placed on what is disclosed. What is your view on this? Are criticisms of these radical proposals, for example, being purposely withheld?

I have not been able to study the mechanism because the sessions themselves and other things have kept me so busy. But I have seen the fruit of it, and, somehow, what is coming out does not reflect the reality, in my judgment. I am speaking very openly about it because I think it is my moral obligation.


So a lot of what is going in the synod doesn’t tally with what the Vatican is reporting to the media?

Not in my judgment. There are people who are pushing the agenda of Cardinal Kasper, and, obviously, some are following that line, but I do not believe in it, and there are many others who do not accept it.


One reported discussion was about changing the language of some terms such as “living in sin,” “contraceptive mentality” and “intrinsically disordered.” It was said there was a “great desire” to alter the language and make it more “inclusive,” but there was no criticism of this reported, which many found surprising.

I was not able to say so publicly, but I have quoted John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, when he says we have to call things by their proper name. He properly called abortion murder, which it is. And here, now, some want to say cohabitation is not living in sin. Well, what is fornication or adultery? And the same thing with regard to same-sex relations, which have come up. Some do not want to talk about disordered acts. Well, what is a homosexual act? It is disordered. And how am I being kind — if you are beset by this inclination and do these acts — how am I being charitable to you by calling the acts by some other name or by giving the impression that there are good aspects to the acts?

That is the other thing. Some are saying that we need to find the good aspects of de facto unions and homosexual unions. What are the good aspects of unchaste acts? There cannot be.


On this issue of doctrine and pastoral practice: Synod participants, according to the reports coming from the Vatican, keep stressing that doctrine cannot be changed but pastoral practice and discipline can. What is your view of this?

This is a false dichotomy. Some keep repeating it and repeating it. It has never been the case in the Catholic Church that she rightly countenanced a difference between her discipline and her doctrine, because all the discipline we have is at the service of the doctrine, to safeguard it and promote it. To say that we are just going to change some disciplinary rules and doctrine will remain the same, first of all, is false, and, secondly, what will your Catholic in the pew, so to speak, think when something contrary to doctrine is permitted in practice? They will think: “Well, the Church has obviously changed its teaching on divorce and the indissolubility of marriage.” It is not a pretty picture.


Critics say these things have been discussed for many years and there’s nothing new.

Yes, this whole debate is just like going back to the 1960s and before the synod of 1980, when John Paul II’s magisterial Familiaris Consortio, his apostolic exhortation, set these things forth clearly. They have been set forth clearly by Pius XI in Casti Connubii [Of Chaste Wedlock] and by Pius XII and Paul VI.

Now, the questioning again of the Church’s teaching and discipline is being justified by saying the world has changed so much. Well, no matter how much the world has changed, the truths of the faith have not, and the magisterium needs to be presented with more vigor and honesty today than ever.

And I will tell you this: From my experience — and I have had a fairly ample experience — as a pastor of souls, people are attracted to the truth even when it is painful for them, at first, to hear. They know in their own hearts that something is not right.

If you want to be the “nice guy” and say it is okay and so forth, that does not help them, and they are not ultimately going to be attracted to that.


What do you say to the view that the Church cannot be led into error on faith and morals, and so there’s nothing to worry about here; that the Church’s magisterium will always remain the same, and we need to trust in God more that all will be fine?

Absolutely, in the end, the forces of hell will not prevail against the Church. The Holy Spirit will protect the Church. But, in between, by our own foolishness and error or whatever it may be, we can betray the faith, which has happened, in fact, in the past.

We had a whole Arian heresy that practically destroyed the Church in her early centuries. Even bishops were involved in spreading the heresy that Jesus was not true God, consubstantial with the Father.

The other thing that is being said, which is absolutely pernicious, is that the power of the keys is much greater than we imagine and that, therefore, the Holy Father can dispense from many more marriages than we presently think.

This position reflects the confusion between the fullness of power, which of course the Roman pontiff has, and absolute power, which he does not have.

Christ alone has absolute power, and the Roman pontiff, first among everyone, must be obedient to the word of Christ, to the Church’s doctrine on faith and morals.

For example, it was observed that the pope can dispense from a marriage which is not consummated. This is true, because of the inherent relationship between marriage consent and its natural expression in the conjugal union. The marriage consent is valid, but if it does not reach its natural expression in the conjugal union, then the pope can dispense the couple from the marriage.

Now, an old argument from the 1960s and 1970s has been raised again, suggesting that we cannot just define consummation physically, we have to take it in a bigger sense, what used to be called existential consummation. Then the marriage can be dissolved at any point along the way, if somehow it has not become all that one or both partners desired.

This is nonsense. Consummation means consummation, that is, the conjugal act.


How do you see this synod concluding? What do you expect from it?

There is going to be, on Monday, the relatio post disceptationem (post-discussion report), and then we are going to meet in little groups from Monday afternoon until Thursday, making what are called modi, suggestions of changes, corrections or additions to the report. The only ones you can make are the ones that the majority in the little group approves. But, clearly, if someone objects in conscience to something in the report, even if his objection does not obtain a majority of support in the small group, then he is morally obliged to make such an objection known.

When all of the suggestions have been received from the small groups, the document for the next synod will be presented. Of course, no synod decides anything, but gives counsel to the Holy Father, who has the responsibility to decide.

Some are saying that this synod is just a consultation and, therefore, there should be no great concern about its final document. But if this synod — which is a meeting of all the presidents of the conferences of bishops, together with the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and other papal appointees — gives a strong statement in favor of certain positions, it will be very difficult at the next meeting to resist the acceptance of those positions.

In the meantime, the mass media will take the document of this synod to be the teaching and discipline of the Church.


Do you see any good coming from it?

One good, I hope, is that people wake up to the seriousness of these discussions and to what is at stake and that there will, in the end, be the energy to teach positively about marriage, to put a strong emphasis on catechesis and on all the other ways that we can uphold the beauty and truth of the Church’s teaching on marriage.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Read more:

Evidence Emerges of an Engineered Synod


More and more there is talk in Rome that this synod is being engineered by groups intent on steering the Church in a heterodox direction, and increasingly evidence is coming to light that points to it.

The first and most obvious example was the interim report published on Monday. It still remains unclear who exactly wrote it and how many eyes had seen it before it was made public, but the strong criticisms of it from such Church leaders as Cardinals Raymond Burke and Gerhard Mueller are enough to point to a lamentable lack of scrutiny, with consequences for souls.

Archbishop Bruno Forte, the synod’s special secretary, known to be a keen advocate for changes in pastoral practice, is thought to have been one of the main authors — certainly the passages on homosexuality that drew most media attention.

It’s also believed the general rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo, was cajoled into signing off on it. To help the cardinal along, observers say, he was given five assistants on Friday, including Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Fr Adolfo Nicolas, the head of the Jesuits. There was notably no one from Africa, but as Cardinal Walter Kasper told me yesterday, these five were chosen because they are “open people who want to go on with this.”

Many synod fathers have made it known they were not expecting the “relatio” to be made public, despite it being common procedure during synods for such a document to be published.

“Just like you, I was surprised that it was published,” Cardinal Wilfrid Napier told reporters Tuesday, adding: “You people got the document before we got it, so we couldn’t have possibly agreed on it.”

Even more revealingly, Cardinal Napier lamented the “media exaggerations” (they portrayed the Church as making a “stunning” and “revolutionary” step towards homosexuals), saying that once such media perceptions are “out there” in the public, “there’s no way of retrieving them.”

This is common sense and could have been predicted given the controversial subject matter, as Father Lombardi admitted yesterday: “It’s something all of us with anything to do with communications could have foreseen,” he said.

So whoever was behind the release of the document most probably knew the impact it would have, and effectively sent it over the heads of everyone, including the Pope. When I asked Father Lombardi today if the Holy Father had seen it before it was published, he returned to the fact that it is standard procedure to send out the report — remarkably for such a sensitive document — without even the Pope or the synod presidents having to see it.

But there are other examples of this being engineered. The restrictions on reporting on the synod, ostensibly to free up discussion, is perhaps the most obvious. The move has been criticized by Cardinals Mueller and Burke, among others.

Other examples can be seen at the daily press briefings, where a picture of unity and harmony is often conveyed, but it’s one at variance with what one hears coming from individuals in the synod hall. Interestingly, it has been observed how little Jesus is mentioned during these briefings, replaced by the generic language of welcome, feelings and accompaniment.

In his interview with the Register published yesterday, Cardinal Burke said what is being presented to the media does not tally with what’s happening in the assembly. “What is coming out does not reflect the reality, in my judgment,” he said. “I am speaking very openly about it because I think it is my moral obligation.” And he added people “are pushing the agenda” of Cardinal Kasper and his proposal for the divorced and civilly remarried.

Some have said this synod reminds them of the methods used to hijack the Second Vatican Council. Veteran Vatican watchers say such engineering is unprecedented in the modern Church.

Perhaps given the reported shenanigans, and what is at stake, the best answer is to pray. Earlier today, Voice of the Family – an international coalition of pro-life groups – drew attention to the fact that Archbishop Zbignev Stankevics, the archbishop of the Latvian capital Riga, is making an “urgent call” for prayer for the outcome of the synod.

The archbishop has called on the synod to take a strong stand in defense of Catholic sexual ethics and to avoid diluting the Church’s message in order to appease her critics.

Voice of the Family recommends praying the following traditional Catholic prayer for bishops:

“O God, who hast appointed Thine only-begotten Son to be the eternal High Priest for the glory of Thy Majesty and the salvation of mankind; grant that they whom He hath chosen to be His ministers and the stewards of His mysteries, may be found faithful in the fulfillment of the ministry which they have received. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

Voice of the Family also recommends that families pray for themselves during the Synod, saying the following traditional Catholic prayer to the Holy Ghost:

“O eternal Spirit of Love, Bond of unity in the Holy Trinity, preserve love, unity and peace in our home. Make of it a faithful reproduction of the Holy House of Nazareth, upon which Thou didst look with such kindness. Bind us all together, not merely by worldly ties, but by the golden bonds of charity, prayer, and mutual service. By the gift of piety, help us to forgive and forget the little grievances which the events of life and diversity of character may foster among us. Whatsoever duty may call us, let us never bring dishonor upon our home and family. Ward off from our home the spirit of pride, irreligion and worldliness. Allow not the lax principles and perverse maxims of the world to take root among us. Teach us to love and respect that Christian modesty which reigned supreme in the Holy Family. As by Thy help we live in unity here below, give us, we beseech Thee, the grace of final perseverance, that together we may praise Thee and love Thee through a happy eternity. Amen.”

Read more:

EWTN News Nightly, Oct. 17th



The Catholic Channel – SiriusXM


Teresa Tomeo – Catholic Connection, Oct. 16


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