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Monday 12 October 2015

The Letter of the Thirteen - signed by Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto

There had been indication that a group of thirteen Cardinals presented a letter to Pope Francis expressing their concerns over how the Synod was being conducted. That letter has now been released by Sandro Magister. 

Waking up this morning on Canadian Thanksgiving, which coincides the 19th anniversary of my turning the age of 40, I was given a glorious gift.

The Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Cardinal Collins signed it!

Your Eminence. Thank you and God keep you strong to persevere. May you always remain in the truth of Christ! Fox and Vox

Thirteen Cardinals Have Written to the Pope. Here’s the Letter

But Francis has rejected their requests en bloc. 

And meanwhile, the “Relatio finalis” has disappeared from the program of the synod

by Sandro Magister 

ROME, October 12, 2015 - On Monday, October 5, at the beginning of work at the synod on the family, Cardinal George Pell delivered a letter to Pope Francis, signed by him and twelve other cardinals, all present in the synod hall.

The thirteen signatories occupy positions of the first rank in the Church’s hierarchy, and three of them are part of the synod’s executive body.

They are, in alphabetical order:

Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy, theologian, formerly the first president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family;
Thomas C. Collins, archbishop of Toronto, Canada;
Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, United States;
Willem J. Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht, Holland;
Péter Erdõ, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, president of the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe and relator general of the synod underway, as also at the previous session of October 2014;
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;
George Pell, Archbishop emeritus of Sydney, Australia, since 2014 prefect in the Vatican of the secretariat for the economy;
Mauro Piacenza, Genoa, Italy, former prefect of the congregation for the clergy, since 2013 penitentiary major;
Robert Sarah, former Archbishop of Conakry, Guinea, since 2014 prefect of the congregation for divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments;
Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, Italy;
Jorge L. Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela;
André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France, president delegate of the synod underway as also at the previous session of the synod of October 2014.

Nota Bene: As of late afternoon on October 12, America Magazine reported that the letter had different names which included Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Cardinals Njue (Kenya), Rivera (Mexico) and Sgreccia (Italy), not Erdo (Hungary), Piacenza (Italy) Scola (Italy) and Vingt-Trois (France

In the letter, concise and perfectly clear, the thirteen cardinals bring to the pope’s attention the serious “concerns” of themselves and other synod fathers over the procedures of the synod, in their judgment “designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions,” and over the “Instrumentum laboris,” viewed as inadequate as a “guiding text or the foundation of a final document.”

Here is the text of the letter, in the original English.

Your Holiness, As the Synod on the Family begins, and with a desire to see it fruitfully serve the Church and your ministry, we respectfully ask you to consider a number of concerns we have heard from other synod fathers, and which we share. While the synod’s preparatory document, the "Instrumentum Laboris," has admirable elements, it also has sections that would benefit from substantial reflection and reworking.  The new procedures guiding the synod seem to guarantee it excessive influence on the synod’s deliberations and on the final synodal document.  As it stands, and given the concerns we have already heard from many of the fathers about its various problematic sections, the "Instrumentum" cannot adequately serve as a guiding text or the foundation of a final document. The new synodal procedures will be seen in some quarters as lacking openness and genuine collegiality.  In the past, the process of offering propositions and voting on them served the valuable purpose of taking the measure of the synod fathers' minds.  The absence of propositions and their related discussions and voting seems to discourage open debate and to confine discussion to small groups; thus it seems urgent to us that the crafting of propositions to be voted on by the entire synod should be restored. Voting on a final document comes too late in the process for a full review and serious adjustment of the text.
 Additionally, the lack of input by the synod fathers in the composition of the drafting committee has created considerable unease. Members have been appointed, not elected, without consultation.  Likewise, anyone drafting anything at the level of the small circles should be elected, not appointed. In turn, these things have created a concern that the new procedures are not true to the traditional spirit and purpose of a synod.  It is unclear why these procedural changes are necessary.  A number of fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions. 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. Your Holiness, we offer these thoughts in a spirit of fidelity, and we thank you for considering them. Faithfully yours in Jesus Christ.

Magister's analysis follows:

On the afternoon of that same Monday, October 5, during the first discussion in the assembly, Cardinal Pell and other synod fathers referred to some of the questions presented in the letter, without citing it.

Pope Francis was present and listening. And the next morning, on Tuesday, October 6, he spoke.

The text of these unscheduled remarks has not been made public, but only summarized verbally by Fr. Federico Lombardi and in writing by “L'Osservatore Romano.” As follows:

“The pontiff wanted to reaffirm that the current synod is in continuity with the one celebrated last year. With regard to the “Instrumentum laboris,” Francis emphasized that this results from the ‘Relatio synodi’ together with the contributions that came afterward, that is was approved by the post-synodal council - meeting in the presence of the pontiff - and that it is the basis for continuing the debate and discussions of the upcoming days. In this context, the contributions of the various linguistic groups take on essential importance. The pope also recalled that the three official documents of last year’s synod are the two discourses, initial and final, and the ‘Relatio synodi.’ The pontiff emphasized that Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched and then cautioned against the impression that the only problem of the synod is that of communion for the divorced, appealing against a reduction in the horizons of the synod.”

To this account from “L'Osservatore Romano,” Fr. Lombardi added that “the decisions of method were also shared and approved by the pope, and therefore cannot be brought back into discussion.”

From this it can be gathered that Francis has rejected the requests of the letter en bloc, apart from the marginal recommendation not to reduce the discussion only to “communion for the divorced.”

And he has not rejected them without a polemical jab, as afterward made known - in a tweet that has not been disowned - by the director of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” Antonio Spadaro, also present in the hall, according to whom the pope told the fathers “not to give in to the conspiracy hermeneutic, which is sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful.”
All of this at the beginning of the synod. But toward the end of the first week of work, something else happened. Once again contrary to the wishes of the letter from the thirteen cardinals.

On Friday, October 9, Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, archbishop of Manila and president delegate of the synod, said out of the blue that with regard to the final relation, “we await the decision of the pope.”

And the next day, Fr. Lombardi clarified that “we do not yet have certainty on how the conclusion of the synod will take place, meaning if there will or will not be a final document. We will see if the pope gives precise indications.”

Incredible but true. With the synod in full swing, a question mark has suddenly been raised over the very existence of that “Relatio finalis” which figured in the programs as the goal toward which all of the work of the synod was finalized.

The “Relatio finalis,” in fact, was the subject of extensive remarks from the secretary general of the synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, in his official presentation on October 2:
That same day, Baldisseri also revealed that Pope Francis had appointed a commission of five cardinals and bishops precisely “for the elaboration of the final relation.”

On October 5, in the opening talk for the work of the synod, Baldisseri returned to illustrate in even greater detail the phases of elaboration and approval for the “Relatio”:

> Relazione del segretario generale

And he talked about it again in the assembly on the morning of October 6, right before the pope spoke.

Not to mention the official working calendar for the synod, which still assigns four full days, from October 21-24, to the writing of the “final relation,” to its presentation in the assembly, to the discussion and presentation of written observations, to its rewriting, to its re-presentation in the assembly and to the definitive vote:

> Calendario dei lavori

In the letter to Pope Francis, the thirteen cardinals expressed their hopes for the restoration of the procedure of past synods, which ended with votes, one by one, on “propositions” to be offered to the pope. Or that at least, in the absence of these propositions, there be a point-by-point vote on a “Relatio finalis” written by an elected commission, not one appointed from on high.

But if even the “Relatio” - as implied - is to be no more, the only product of the synod can be nothing other than a re-elaboration of that “Instrumentum laboris” which the thirteen signers of the letter maintain is incapable of acting as “the foundation of a final document,” partly because of its “various problematic sections,” which are of uncertain fidelity to doctrine.

Because it is true that the 270 synod fathers are working day after day to re-elaborate the “Instrumentum” from the ground up. But it is just as true that the rewriting of the text will be the prerogative of that commission entirely appointed by Pope Francis in which the innovators have an overwhelming majority, the opposite of what holds true in the assembly. And in a sprawling, rambling text like the “Instrumentum” - not telegraphic like the “propositions” of many past synods - it is much easier for a repeat of the 2014 synod to take place, with the inclusion of vague, kaleidoscopic formulas that are hard to reject in assembly with a straightforward vote.

“Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched,” Pope Francis pledged in referring to the entire conduct of the synod from 2014 to today, in response to the “concerns” of the thirteen cardinals of the letter.

But Cardinal Tagle, a prominent representative of the innovators, also said at the press conference on October 9, with visible satisfaction:

“The new method adopted by the synod has definitely caused a bit of confusion, but it is good to be confused once in a while. If things are always clear, then we might not be in real life anymore.”


Bear said...

Happy birthday.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday Vox ! May God Bless you today and always !
I cannot express my joy at hearing now for the second time a strong voice from our Cardinal Collins, keep storming heaven with your prayers people, God will choose who's conscience to stir. We need to pray for our clergy, incessantly !

"Mary, Mother of all priests, take them under your special protection and lead them ever to the highest priestly sanctity. Amen"
Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, pray for us, pray for all our clergy.

Anonymous said...

Cardinal Dolan? Now that is confusing. I'm a New Yorker. We have all things gay from the archdiocese, including now the approval of the Grand Marshall for gays to openly identify and march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. And noting that the in pope's whirlwind visit he referenced Dolan's pet peace and justice communist, Dorothy Day, and and had an openly gay man as lector at the Madison Square Garden Mass. I'm more than a little skeptical that this Cardinal/politician who speaks and acts out of both sides of his mouth, would sign anything even softly defiant of the papal initiatives. Could he be the Pope's mole?

Sandpiper said...

Happy Birthday Vox. May your 19th 40th birthday celebration have more cake, less candles. God Bless you Mightily for your heroic work.