Who benefits most from new synodal procedures?

October 09, 2015
Source: District of the USA

The new edition of DICI (#322) is now available! Amongst the other interesting international news, DICI 322 continues to report about the problems at ongoing Synod on the Family.

We offer below Fr. Lorans' editorial and a commentary that asks the question: who benefits the most from the new synodal procedures? Another related news piece that we will be offering separately outlines the various requests that have been made from around the world requesting a "clear reminder of the Catholic doctrine on marriage and the family."

Coincidentally, the Angelus Press' Conference, "The Family: Hope of the Church," is simultaneously taking place, and this year the talks can be watched live.

Editorial: The prayer of St. Therese of the Child Jesus

The second Synod on the Family has just opened. On October 2nd, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, its secretary general, drew a parallel between the divisions that appeared in the course of last year’s synod and the work of the Second Vatican Council, which brought forward “diverging positions” but concluded on a “consensus” and finally “the approval of the documents.”

Is this merely a reference to history or a candid admission that the methods used at the Council to obtain this “consensus” and this “approval” will be once again applied at the synod? There is then a good chance of seeing this so-called pastoral mercy set up in opposition to dogma and morality presented as rigid, unsuited and insensitive to “new situations”… Also to be feared is a reminder of the teachings of the Church on marriage and the family, but accompanied by a loosening of canonical regulations, pastorally merciful accommodations, and mercifully pastoral exceptions… which will make the indissolubility of marriage completely theoretical, and recalling it totally rhetorical.

During these three weeks, Vaticanists will weigh risks and evaluate fears; everyone will analyze declarations and spy on the movements of the Fathers of the synod. During these three weeks, amid the almost total indifference of the media, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, whose relics are exposed at the basilica of St. Mary Major, will intercede. As a Carmelite in Lisieux, she prayed to “Jesus, Eternal Sovereign Priest” for priests: “Make them grow in love and fidelity towards Thee; protect them from the contamination of the spirit of the world.” St. Therese of the Child Jesus, pray for the Fathers of the Synod.

Fr. Alain Lorans

Who is advantaged by the new rules governing the Synod?

The work of the 2nd synod on the family began October 5th and will last three weeks. 270 Synodal Fathers are in attendance: 42 members ex officio, 183 essentially elected by the bishops’ conferences off the whole world, and 45 personally appointed by the pope. Among the Synodal Fathers (cardinals, bishops, priests and religious), 54 are from Africa, 64 from America, 36 from Asia, 107 from Europe and 9 from Oceania. In addition to the 270 Synodal Fathers are 24 experts, 51 auditors, and 14 representatives of various Christian confessions. 18 couples are participating in the Synod, chiefly amongst the auditors.

The in camera sessions will take place this year amid new arrangements. Previously the discussion groups split up by languages (the circuli minores) only took place in the second part of the synod, following a first period of plenary sessions. Now, however, the assembly was split from the beginning into 13 groups. The discussion is set up around the three themes of the guiding document (Instrumentum laboris), to be examined one after the other throughout the three weeks of the Synod:

  1. Listening to challenges facing the family;
  2. Discernment of the familial vocation;
  3. The mission of the family today.

The participants gather in linguistic groups for 13 discussions, and those who wish to comment in plenary sessions will be limited to 3 minutes. In contrast to last year’s synod, there will be no mid-session report, something that provoked lively controversy last year. According to several observers, these new arrangements have been put into place precisely to avoid overly conspicuous opposition amongst the various schools of thought.

In spite of all these precautions, the final days of the Synod will no doubt be extremely volatile. A final report will be presented to the full assembly on October 22nd. The Fathers of the Synod will be able to review it and comment in writing. An updated version will be presented to them on October 24th before a vote which must take place on the same day. The participants will have to pay careful attention to the taking into account of their comments by the committee responsible for drafting this report, especially since among the ten Synodal Fathers chosen by Pope Francis for this committee several are very close to him.

Two days before the Synod, on October 2nd, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general to the Synod, cautiously admitted the existence of “turbulence on some topics” without referring to the question of communion for the divorced and remarried. “The pope will have the last word,” he stated, without indicating with certitude that this assembly would conclude with an Apostolic Exhortation from the hand of the Pontiff, as in the past.

In the National Catholic Register of September 29th, American Vaticanist Edward Pentin reported the words of Prof. John Rist, a specialist in patristics and a contributor to the work Remaining in the Truth of Christ (Ignatius Press) published last year in response to the progressive suggestions of Cardinal Walter Kasper: not only will the adoption of these new measures come to “a concerning end result, but also the absence of publicity (no mid-session report) will allow totally false accounts to circulate—even concerning the intention of the pope—with near total impunity.”

(Sources: La Croix—kipa-apic.ch—NCR—trad. Benoitetmoi—DICI no. 322, 9-10-2015)