Who is Trying to Rig Synod14?

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I ask the question in my headline because of reports like this from Edward Pentin in the National  Catholic  Register:

“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…

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[…]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…

[…] 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.”

At the outset, the Secretary General of the Synod, Cardinal Baldisseri, called for a free discussion, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the relatio did not accurately represent or summarize what was actually said during the synod’s proceedings. Take this revealing quote from the Associated Press:

“In fact, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he recalled only one speech out of about 265 about gays during the debate.”

If that was the case, who inserted this language into the relatio?

It’s one thing to call for free discussion and it’s another to release a summary that distorts what was discussed. It’s one thing to openly debate ideas and it’s another to stealthily promote a heterodox position in an effort to bring external pressure to bear on the church.

As a result of the relatio fiasco, an extraordinary event took place at the synod –Father Zuhlsdorf translates a report of what happened which appeared in La Stampa:

The General Secretary of the Synod [Card. Balidsseri] announced the decision not to publish the reports of the Circuli Minores [subcommittees by language groups, tasked with contributing elements to the final report]. The announcement provoked the protest of Card. Erdo [the president or chairman for this Synod], and numerous other Synodal Fathers. The Pope, silent and very serious. At last, Fr. Lombardi announced that the reports of the commissions would be made public.

[…] Erdo took the floor, implicitly distancing himself from the report that bore his name, and saying that if that “disceptatio” had been made public, then the others of the Circulo Minores ought to be made public.

His speech was followed by an avalanche from many others along the same line, underscored by thunderous applause.

The Secretary of the Synod, Card. Balidisseri, was watching the Pope, as if in search of advice and lights, and the Pope remained silent and very serious.

Silent also were the Under-secretaries of the Synod, Fabene, Forte, Schoenborn and Maradiaga. 

Kasper wasn’t there.

Finally, Fr. Lombardi announced that the reports of the Commission would be made public.

Now, Pope Francis does not speak during the regular sessions of the synod, so nothing can be made of his silence.

But the thunderous applause of the synodal fathers does mean something — it means they are tired of having their contributions and deliberations misrepresented to the outside world.

Father Zuhlsdorf later added more details of what happened:

“Apparently, Card. Pell was the first one to rise up against Card. Baldisseri. When Baldisseri made the announcement, Card. Pell took the floor and said that the reports had to be published and that they were tired of the manipulation.

From that point, the bishops also rose up. When Baldisseri repeated his position, he was effectively shouted down.

At that point, Card. Baldisseri turned to the Pope and got the nod to publish.”

As a result of this minor uprising, you can now read what the various language groups of synodal fathers have discussed since Monday, and it is fascinating reading. English Group C’s report, authored by Archbishop Edward Kurtz, begins “[We were] surprised by the release of the relatio to the media,” etc. English Group B, led by Cardinal Napier, begins by noting the diversity of their group (“five were from Africa, seven from Asia, one each from Oceania, the United States of America and Europe”), and, perhaps as a result of its geographical composition, discusses the problem of polygamy. English Group A, led by Cardinal Burke (yes) is actually the most conciliatory of the three, but all three seek to heal the defects of the initial relatio in a positive way. All three improve upon the relatio in critical ways. All three demonstrate that the revisionists do not have a monopoly on innovation — far from it! In fact, these new documents reveal how many  fruitful and promising pastoral proposals there are from the “traditional” voices at the synod.

The publication of the conclusions reached by the various language groups is a huge victory for transparency and therefore for the ultimate success of the synod.

But we still deserve an answer about who orchestrated the release of this damaging relatio language. Who is trying to put words into the mouths of the synodal fathers?

Cardinal Baldisseri? Archbishop Forte? Cardinal Kasper? Who?

And in the same vein, why has there not been more reporting of this dramatic scene that took place at the synod? Why is it only being reported by the Italian press?

If transparency and openness are what was promised, let’s have them.

In the meantime, keep praying for truth and courage at Synod14.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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Thomas Peters, 33, grew up in Southern California and attended college in Michigan. He has two graduate degrees in theology. He began his award-winning American Papist blog in 2006, which went on to become one of the most popular Catholic blogs in America. He was one of a handful of Americans invited to the Vatican’s first-ever Bloggers’ Meeting in Rome. Peters has appeared in dozens of TV, radio and online media outlets over the years discussing the intersection of Catholicism and political activism, debating topics related to life, family and religious freedom, in addition to writing and speaking about the future of social media and online organizing. From 2010-2016 he served as an advisor to CatholicVote.org. He and his wife Natalie live in Washington DC. You can follow him on Twitter @AmericanPapist.

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