Synod, Day 11, Wednesday October 14, 2015 – As Seen by the Catholic Left

Synod, Day 11, Wednesday October 14, 2015 – As Seen by the Catholic Left

Synod debates divorce question, Pell says mercy found in hard truths


Ladies’ day to be spokespeople at the Vatican press briefing

Joshua J. McElwee | Oct. 15, 2015 | National Catholic Reporter

VATICAN CITY The prelates at the worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family have entered into what has been expected to be one of the most contentious points of their discussions: how the church should treat persons who divorce and remarry without first obtaining annulments.

Amid 93 speeches Wednesday and Thursday by the some 270 prelates at the ongoing Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops, many reportedly referred to that question and expressed widely differing views.

One key issue: whether there could be any possibility for divorced and remarried people to take on some sort of “penitential path” that would eventually allow them to receive the Eucharist.

“We must recognize that the issue of access to the sacrament … was repeated over and over again,” one Vatican spokeswoman said Thursday during a briefing summarizing the discussions. “This issue is particularly interesting so far as it somehow crystallizes the differences existing in the different approaches.”

Romilda Ferrauto said the prelates’ discussions widely boiled down to two separate views: Either wanting to “accompany people in spite of their failures without watering down [church] teaching” or “warning against quick fixes or quick solutions” to pastoral problems.

Ferrauto, one of five Vatican spokespersons presenting broad outlines of the bishops’ deliberations in different languages, said those in favor of some sort of “penitential path” did not want to allow “indiscriminate access to the Eucharist, but a customized approach for each diocese.”

“Depriving these people of Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation is unjustified,” the spokeswoman quoted one of the bishops’ remarks. She said that bishops had said that divorce “is a sort of tragedy for the family” but asked: “How can the church punish something that is part and parcel of the human experience?”

Ferrauto was speaking Thursday during a briefing on the Synod’s deliberations, which are taking place behind closed doors. The Vatican is hosting daily briefings with spokespeople summarizing the discussions in several languages.

Divorced and remarried persons are currently prohibited from receiving the Eucharist under Catholic teaching, unless their first marriages are declared null by church tribunals.

Also speaking Thursday were two synod participants: Polish Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of his country’s bishops’ conference; and Mexican Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes, former head of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM).

Jesuit Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, a native German who normally works for Vatican Radio, gave a brief outline of general themes discussed during the Synod’s open sessions Wednesday and Thursday, saying there were “many, many” speeches by bishops on the topic of access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried.

Hagenkord said one bishop had proposed a “catechumenal path” for such persons, and that Pope John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio was cited frequently in the discussions.

Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who helps the Vatican with English-language media, said one bishop had spoken of a need to “profess the faith with clarity, to know what the creed means and also to know not only such expressions as doors wide open but the importance of the narrow path sometimes, which is difficult to follow.”

Fr. Manuel Dorantes, a Chicago-area priest mainly helping the press office with Spanish-language media, said one bishop had told a particularly moving story about a child of a remarried couple who had received the Eucharist and then shared it with their parents.

That bishop, Dorantes said, wanted to show “the suffering of the children of these divorced and remarried couples.”

Asked by NCR during the briefing how the synod might impact his own ministry in Poland, Gądecki he has been most impacted by the accent of the discussions on accompanying divorced persons “with love, friendship, [and] affirming in them the desire to be loved by the church.”

“We have always thought of the penitential path in that sense,” said Gądecki of the Polish bishops. “Priests have to be in contact with those who are divorced, [and] give them support in their difficulty.”

The archbishop also said there is no fear among the synod bishops about the discussions, stating: “The atmosphere of fear does not exist because we believe in the Holy Spirit.”

Among speeches given by synod bishops Wednesday was one by Australian Cardinal George Pell, who gave the text of his remarks to the British Catholic magazine Catholic Herald.

“Too many have lost confidence in Jesus’s doctrines and doubt or deny that mercy is found in his hard moral teachings,” states Pell in the text. “The crucified Jesus was not afraid to confront society, and he was crucified for his pains, teaching his followers that life is a moral struggle that requires sacrifices, and his followers cannot always take the easy options.”

“Groups of bishops do have the authority to teach, explain, and even develop doctrine; but not even a council with and under a pope can change essential Catholic moral teachings sanctioned by Scripture and the Magisterium,” he continues.

Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin told The Irish Catholic Thursday that he had spoken to the Synod about its failure to speak about the “shattering” effects of clerical child sex abuse on families.

“This is a major synod on the vocation and mission of the family, and for us to ignore the whole issue of abuse in the discussions and indeed in the synod hall would be a mistake,” Martin said he told the gathering.

“We know only too well the horrific impact of sins and crimes of abuse in the church family: the betrayal of trust, the violation of dignity, the shame — both public and private, the anger and alienation, the wound that never seems to heal,” he said.

Martin also said he was opposed to the idea of giving regional or local bishops’ conferences authority on certain matters related to marriage and the family.

But he also stressed that the church adopt more inclusive language toward gay people, saying the church needs to be “very aware that some of the language that can be used in Church circles about gay people is to them disrespectful and offensive.”

The synod is meeting again in open session Thursday afternoon and Friday. The members will then meet in the 13 small discussion groups, separated by language preference, on Saturday and Monday.

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4 comments on “Synod, Day 11, Wednesday October 14, 2015 – As Seen by the Catholic Left

  1. [The good guys and the bad one – or rather, the bad guys and the good one]

    Challenges of Reporting from the Synod: Homophobic Statements, Leaked Documents, the Rumor Mill, and How to Keep Up With It All

    October 16, 2015 – Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

    We’ve passed the midway point here at the synod in Rome, and I have to say that trying to navigate through all the information coming out of it has been like trying to drive in a hurricane! So much happens here everyday, followed by so much analysis, that it is barely possible to report even a small slice of it.

    While I am trying to write about LGBT and related issues, I must acknowledge that these are not the big news items, at the synod–at least not so far. The exception this week was the intervention made by Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea. His speech to the synod, by any standard, bordered on the extreme. Religion News Service reported:

    “. . . [I]n one particularly eye-opening speech to the assembly last week, a leading African cardinal blasted the ‘idolatry of Western freedom’ as equivalent to ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ and compared both to ‘apocalyptic beasts.’

    “Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, a top official in the Roman Curia, also said that divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage in the West, and Islamic fundamentalism in Africa and elsewhere, both had a ‘demonic origin’ that the synod had to combat.

    ” ‘What Nazi-fascism and communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,’ Sarah said.”

    I mean, how does one rationally respond to such statements? I fear that even reporting it gives it a a modicum of respectability which it clearly doesn’t deserve. His statement is an example of how homophobia distorts a person’s thinking. Fortunately, I have not heard that anyone else in the synod has voiced agreement with him, so I doubt his words have had much influence. Having spoken them, though, Sarah provided ammunition (and, yes, the weaponry metaphor is correct here) to other homophobic people to physically and psychologically harm LGBT people. His statements are irresponsible and un-Christian.

    The much bigger news this week, though, was the leaked letter to Pope Francis organized by Australia’s Cardinal George Pell, and signed by about eight bishops (hard to say for sure because the original number of signatories was 13 but now four have disavowed signing it). The letter criticized the new process of the synod which Pope Francis has instituted. While Pell said it was not meant to be a public letter, it somehow found its way to an Italian daily newspaper. If you are interested, more information can be found by clicking here.

    And then there was the mysterious apology offered by Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square this week. Pope Francis began his talk by saying, “I would like to ask forgiveness in the name of the church for the scandals that have happened in this last period both in Rome and at the Vatican. I ask forgiveness.” The Vatican Press Office declined to identify or speculate about what the pope’s reference was to. Click here for more information on this topic.

    Many guesses were made about what Pope Francis meant. My guess, and it is one that I have not seen elsewhere, is that Francis may have been apologizing for Sarah’s speech, which was made in the synod last week, and which were made public two days before Francis’ audience.

    The biggest part of my reluctance in posting information about these stories sooner is that it is hard for me to gauge how important these items are to the rest of the world outside of Rome. Since I live in Washington, D.C., I am very aware that what is big news “inside the Beltway” is not always big news to the rest of the world. When both of these stories broke this week, they both had the feel of being “inside St. Peter’s Square” stories, but after the searching the web, I realized that they were being circulated more broadly than I originally perceived.

    So I am learning a lesson here that is also germane to one of the main discussion topics of the synod. At Wednesday’s press briefing, London’s Cardinal Vincent Nichols was discussing the proposed idea of whether to allow bishops more local decision-making in pastoral outreach on issues related to marriage and family. Nichols offered the following analogy of how a broader perspective can help correct myopic vision. The following is from The National Catholic Reporter’s story on the briefing.

    “Nichols also praised the universality of the church in his remarks, saying that the local church has to ‘strive for is a kind of critical distance from its local setting, its particular culture.’

    ” ‘The church has to have a critical distance, a bit like an arc light,’ he said. ‘If there’s going to be some light, then the two elements have to be at a critical distance. The universality of the church holds the local church to a critical distance, otherwise it gets too close to the prevailing culture and the light disappears.’”

    I totally agree. But only if we also recognize that sometimes the universal Church can also learn something from the particular cultures in which it is embedded. The checks and balances should go both ways.

    Another part of the challenge of keeping up with everything is that there are so many channels of information dispersing news and documents, and it seems that new ones emerge every day. For instance, while neither journalists nor the public have access to the synod hall to hear the discussions, many bishops have made their presentations and other thoughts public in a variety of different ways.

    Here are a few sources that I have found helpful. I offer these to those of you whose appetite for synod news just can’t seem to be sated. Just click on the links below to get to the named source.

    Vatican Sources

    The Vatican Press Office is maintaining a blog about the synod, which includes links to press briefings’ summaries and interviews with bishops. You can read it in any one of six languages, including English.

    Vatican Radio publishes a report on the press briefings daily, as well as other stories about the synod. Additionally, the video of the daily press briefings are available each day on the Vatican’s YouTube channel.

    You can read the Vatican’s Daily Bulletin (available in five languages; click “EN” in the upper right-hand corner of the Bulletin page for English), which contains links to all press releases of the particular day, some are synod-related and some are not.

    Individual Bishops’ Sources

    Washington, D.C’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl made his synod intervention available on his blog.

    New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan also posted his synod intervention on his archdiocesan blog.

    Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge is maintaining a blog about his synod experiences and reflections.

    Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich is offering video reflections about the synod on the archdiocese’s YouTube channel.

    Crux posted a news story on various ways that bishops are using the web and social media to get their messages directly to people.

    Other sources

    I’ve found the following news sources to be invaluable in interpreting the sometimes Byzantine language of the Vatican:

    National Catholic Reporter‘s Joshua McElwee and Father Thomas Reese, SJ are providing news, interviews, and analysis

    Religion News Service‘s David Gibson and Rosie Scammell are offering succinct and incisive news coverage of the synod.

    Crux‘s Michael O’Loughlin, John Allen, and Ines San Martin have been reporting news, analysis, and background information.

    Salt and Light TV, a Canadian Catholic outfit, is offering expanded synod coverage on their website and also on their blog.

    Grant Gallicho, Commonweal’s associate editor, has been providing illuminating commentary on the magazine’s blog.

    Dispatches, a blog of America magazine, has synod reports from Gerald O’Connell

    Robert Mickens, a seasoned Vatican observer, offers synod commentary in his “Letter from Rome” column on Global Pulse magazine.

    For a British take on the synod, check out the blog reports by Christopher Lamb on The Tablet’s website.

    Terence Weldon’s posts at Queering The Church always offer intelligent commentary on Catholic LGBT issues, and his posts about the synod are no exception.

    I’ve previously mentioned, and it’s definitely worth repeating, that FutureChurch’s Debra Rose-Milavec has been blogging at SynodWatch, providing great reports and commentaries. Though other travel obligations have caused to be absent from Rome this week, she will be returning by the time the third and final week of the synod opens on October 18th.

    So, while being here does have some advantages in terms of covering the news of the synod, I have to acknowledge that even if you are not present here, the Internet has provided many ways to keep in touch with information that is being made public.

    Have you found other internet sources of information about the synod that you find useful? If so, please share your sources with other Bondings 2.0 readers by providing the web addresses for the sites you found in the “Comments” section of this post.

    • After blasting Cardinal Sarah, the poor sodomite says, “Terence Weldon’s posts at Queering The Church always offer intelligent commentary on Catholic LGBT issues, and his posts about the synod are no exception.” Queering?

      It’s clear that Cardinal Sarah is the only one speaking the truth with force. Homos are rightly included with murderers as they murder the soul and destroy society.

      The Synod is a sin crying out to Heaven for vengeance.

    • The sods want you to think they’re just kind, tolerant “Christian” types. Don’t pay any attention to bakers being fined out of their livelihood, clerks imprisoned for non-homo-approval. Just wait until they can do whatever they want to you for disobedience. But then it will be too late.

  2. May God Bless Cardinal Robert Sarah and protect him from the pro modernist, homo, liberal and commie bishops at this synod, in Africa, and in Rome.

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