From DICI: Contrasting synodal reactions

November 20, 2015
Source: District of the USA

Bishop Schneider worries that the Synod's effects will result in a Protestantization of Catholics, while Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea describes some problems with the synodal procedures.

From the newly-published DICI #325, we offer these observations from Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea concerning the troublesome Synod on the Family.

Bishop Schneider: Towards a “Protestantization” and an “Anglicanization”

In the French newspaper Present on November 13, in answer to Anne Le Pape’s questions, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana in Kazakhstan, declared:

"This last assembly of the Synod showed the entire world the image of a profoundly divided episcopate, and that in doctrinal and disciplinary measures that have already been decided by the episcopal magisterium and the ordinary and universal magisterium, in particular: the grave immorality and unnatural nature of acts of sodomy, and of practicing homosexuality, the impossibility of admitting impenitent adulterers to the sacraments, the immorality of all practical forms of divorce. Not since the Arian crisis in the 4th century have we heard of Catholic bishops insolently and shamelessly proclaiming heresies or semi-heresies in an official assembly of the Church. The world was able to witness this appalling fact during the Synod sessions.

It was also clear that the control of the principal administrative structures of the Synod (“the behind-the-scenes power”) was resolutely placed in the hands of ecclesiastics in support of the said doctrines and semi-heretical practices. Which leads to the impression that in our days, one is free and has every right in the Church to propagate unorthodox theories with impunity, and even to be rewarded for doing so in the end. The nature of the bishops’ magisterial ministry consists in keeping and faithfully administering the Deposit of the Faith that does not belong to them.

One of the most important expressions of this ministry consists in shedding light upon the Catholic truths, without changing their meaning. On the contrary, in the Synod there was an eclipse of the truth that has caused a general situation of confusion as to the discipline of the Church regarding divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Pope St. Gregory I explains in the Pastoral Rule, II, 7, that in the head of the body of the Church, the bishops have the function of the eyes, and that if the bishops adopt the spirit of the world, they fill the eyes of the Church with a dust that clouds her vision."

Q. Have the worries you voiced for the future of the family proven justified? Some of the Synod Fathers feared there would be ambiguous declarations. What was the outcome?

"A. Among other ambiguous declarations, I would like to point out the ones I consider the most dangerous, as they undermine the very foundations of Catholic truths:

  • The accent placed on the positive qualities of persons living in an objective and permanent state of sin, thus minimizing the reality and gravity of the evil. It is a sort of moral camouflage and a spiritual illusion.
  • The improper and inadmissible application of the principle of moral imputability to the case of irregular conjugal unions. This presupposes, or at least favors, the theory of a “fundamental option” and the theory that denies the distinction between venial sin and mortal or grave sin, both of which theories are condemned by the Magisterium.
  • Making admittance to Holy Communion depends, in the end, on the divorced person’s own decision, according to the state of his conscience and his discernment in his “heart of hearts” with the help of his confessor, without requiring a life of complete continence. This opens the door to the Protestant principle of subjective judgment, and thus to a sort of “Protestantization”.
  • Making admittance to Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics depend on the position of the local bishop. This opens the door to the principle of doctrinal and disciplinary particularism, and therefore to a sort of “Anglicanization”, that leads to the dissolution of true catholicity."

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Anca-Maria Cernea: A tense climate, a lack of transparency

In Correspondance europeenne dated November 10, Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea, doctor at the Victor-Babes Center for diagnosis and treatment in Bucharest (Rumania), an attendee at the Synod on the family, answered Marie Perrin’s questions. These are the terms in which she described the climate that reigned at the Synod:

"The atmosphere was not peaceful, far from it: it was a tense climate; tension on the fundamental debates, but also because of the lack of transparency that characterized the Synod. In the first days, there were several reactions to the procedures that were not well defined, and in particular reactions to the nomination of ten official reporters charged with the elaboration of the final document, and to the doubt as to whether this final document would be published or not.

Within the work groups, I for my part was surprised and shocked to see that the report of the first week did not faithfully reflect our discussions, which it was supposed to resume, but rather expressed the reporter’s personal opinion. I would say that this one-sided way of presenting the debates was even more strikingly obvious in the report of the third part. Even if the discussions were difficult, maybe more so than in other circles, most of the time the different arguments voiced were taken into account and there were many small partial victories for those who defended the traditional teaching of the Church.

As for the distribution of our studies over the three weeks, I have to say that the volume of work was enormous and that the second half of the document, the most important half, that contained all the most delicate points, was only touched on for a few days in the third week. What is more, the heavy daily schedule did not always make it possible to have enough perspective, especially in the late afternoon when the essential subjects were often treated.

I remember one afternoon in particular when two cardinals from our group, who had been absent until then—for they were part of the group of ten charged with writing the Final Report—, arrived just in time for a point to which they and other Synod Fathers of the Western countries seemed to attach a great importance: the paragraph on homosexuals and the general way in which the document should speak of homosexuals.

It was at that very moment that I realized any discussion was useless, for most of these Fathers, who dominated the debate in our group, seemed already to have established their position and were not interested in hearing any other arguments. They seemed already to have decided that homosexuals must absolutely be mentioned in the document of the Synod on the Family, and that in a positive way, saying only that they should not “be discriminated”. When I insisted that we also recall the context, the paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that says that homosexual acts are sins, they end up forcing me to be silent—although in other discussions they had allowed and even encouraged me to express myself.

Another difficult point was the language: the language levels were unequal, and some participants lost the thread of the conversation now and then, and were thus unable to intervene as they would have liked to. This problem also played a role in the conclusion of the Synod, for while the discussions had taken place in linguistic groups for three weeks, the final report was only offered to the Synod Fathers in Italian, a language that only a quarter of them, 3 of the 13 minor circles, mastered.

If they wanted to propose any amendments, they had to study a complex text in a language unknown to most of them, in a very short amount of time, from the evening of Thursday, October 22, until 1:00 p.m. the next day: it was practically impossible! We may well wonder just how far the lack of transparency and the tight timelines were part of a predefined strategy."

(Sources: apic/imedia/present/correspondance europeenne—DICI no. 325, 11-20-2015)

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