Francis Is Silent, But Another Jesuit Is Speaking For Him
He is Antonio Spadaro, director of “La Civiltà Cattolica.” In an article in his magazine he has already written what the pope will say on communion for the divorced and remarried
[How will papal spokesJesuit Federico Lombardi spin this from his fellow Jesuit: As the unreliable rantings of a slipshod senile journalist?]
by Sandro Magister
ROME, November 7, 2015 – Last Wednesday, at the weekly catechesis in Saint Peter’s Square, after recalling that the synod fathers have delivered the text of their conclusions to him, Pope Francis limited himself to saying in sibylline language:
“This is not the moment to examine such conclusions, on which I myself must meditate.”
While waiting for the enigma on the pope’s future moves to be unraveled, nothing remains but to rely on an indirect but sure herald of his intentions: the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro with the magazine that he directs, “La Civiltà Cattolica.”
For Pope Francis, Fr. Spadaro is everything. Advisor, interpreter, confidant, scribe. There is no counting the things that he incessantly writes about the pope: books, articles, tweets. Not to mention the papal discourses that show the mark of his hand.
This is why one cannot overlook the account of the synod that Spadaro has written in the latest issue of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” as always printed only after its proofs went through Casa Santa Marta and received the placet of the supreme authority.
They are twenty pages of exceptional interest for those who want a sneak peek not at the form but at the substance of the conclusions that Francis will draw from the synod just ended.
In the previous post on this site, the Dominican theologian Thomas Michelet demonstrated how the final text of the synod, on the crucial issue of communion for the divorced and remarried, lends itself to two alternative interpretations, of continuity or rupture with respect to the preceding magisterium of the Church:
> Synod of Discord. Toward a “De Facto Schism” in the Church?
So then, Fr. Spadaro opts without hesitation for the second mode of interpretation. It doesn’t matter to him that the words “communion” and “access to the sacraments” don’t even appear in the “Relatio.” His peremptory conclusion is that “the ordinary synod has therefore effectively laid the foundations, opening a door that at the previous synod had instead remained closed.”
Presented further below is the complete section of the article that Spadaro dedicates to this question.
But the whole article is a must-read, as shown by these five excerpts full of citations of the talk with which Francis closed the work and bursting with distaste for the synod fathers accused of “dreaming of a world that no longer exists.”
TOWARD A PLURALISTIC CHURCH
“Synodality implies diversity. […] A solution that is good for New Zealand is not so for Lithuania, an approach valid in Germany is not so for Guinea. So ‘beyond the dogmatic questions fully defined by the magisterium of the Church,’ the pontiff himself observed in his talk concluding the synod that it is evident ‘that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent can appear strange, almost a scandal – almost! – to the bishop of another continent; that which is considered the violation of a right in one society can be an obvious and inviolable principle in another; that which for some is freedom of conscience, for others can be only confusion.”
DOCTRINE LIKE STONES
“One critical issue is the one concerning the significance of doctrine. Already at the end of the 2014 synod the pontiff had spoken of the temptation to ‘transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick, that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens.’ Doctrine is bread, not stone. At the end of the ordinary synod the pope repeated the image, saying that the synod ‘bore witness to all that the Gospel remains for the Church the living fountain of eternal newness, against those who want to indoctrinate it into dead stones to be thrown at others.’
“Doctrine – as was reiterated in some small circles – is the teaching of Christ, it is the Gospel itself. This is why it never has anything to do with those ‘closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families,’ Francis furthermore said.”
THE SIEGE MENTALITY
One key issue of the discussion was the model of relationship between the Church and the world. […] For some fathers, the Church is surrounded by a hostile and demonic world from which one must defend oneself, and which one must attack with the proclamation of doctrine. Others, instead, affirmed that the Church’s duty is to discern how God is present in the world and how to continue his work. On the other hand, we can neither live by dreaming of a world that no longer exists, nor fall into the ‘Masada complex,’ or the complex of encirclement. This risks being a lack of faith in God who acts in history.”
THE “CONSPIRACY” OF THE THIRTEEN CARDINALS
Pope Francis spoke twice of ‘overcoming every conspiracy hermeneutic that is sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful.’ And this because, as he himself has observed, ‘opinions are expressed freely,’ but ‘sometimes with methods not entirely benevolent.’ The German group also manifested ‘great distress and sadness’ over the ‘public statements of some synod fathers on persons, contents, and the unfolding of the synod. That contradicts the spirit of encounter, the spirit of the synod and its elementary rules. The images and comparisons used are not only undifferentiated and mistaken, but also offensive.’ Its members – and many others with them – unanimously kept their distance. The synod was therefore not entirely devoid of faux pas, nor of attempts to pressure it from outside and inside of the assembly – before it began and during its development – some of which found their soapbox in the media.”
CLOSED DOOR AND OPEN DOOR
“The door was evoked by some as ‘closed’ or as to be closed definitively, as in the case of the Eucharist for the civilly divorced and remarried; by others as ‘open’ or to be opened for opposing reasons, and speaking in general terms, as a fundamental pastoral attitude. […] The pontiff had used the image of the door in the opening Mass of the synod, spurring the Church on to ‘be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.”
The complete text of the article by Fr. Spadaro in “La Civiltà Cattolica” of November 28, 2015:
And the following is its final part.
An open door to communion for the divorced and remarried
by Antonio Spadaro S.I.
Concerning the baptized who are civilly divorced and remarried, the “Relatio synodi” first of all affirms that they “must be integrated into the Christian communities in the different ways possible.”
The logic that guides numbers 84-86 of the document is that of integration, the key to a solid pastoral accompaniment. Once again the Church shows herself to be a mother, telling the civilly divorced and remarried to be aware that they belong “to the Body of Christ that is the Church,” that they are “brothers and sisters.” It says that “the Holy Spirit infuses them with gifts and charisms for the good of all.”
The intention is therefore that of affirming that these persons have not lost the vocation for the good of all, their mission in the Church. Their ecclesial participation can express itself in different ecclesial services, and one must “discern which of the different forms of exclusion currently practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational, and institutional fields can be overcome” (no. 84). For the Christian community, taking care of these persons “is not a weakening of its faith and of the witness to the indissolubility of marriage: on the contrary, the Church expresses its charity precisely in this care” (ibid).
The “Relatio synodi” incorporates the overall criterion expressed by Saint John Paul II in “Familiaris Consortio”: “discerning the situation well.” There is in fact a difference “between those who have made sincere efforts to save the first marriage and have been completely unjustly abandoned, and those who by their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage” (no. 85). But there are also those who have contracted a second union in view of raising the children, and are subjectively certain in conscience that the previous marriage, destroyed beyond repair, had never been valid (cf. no. 84).
The synod therefore affirms that it is the duty of priests “to accompany the persons in question on the path of discernment according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop.”
This itinerary imposes a pastoral discernment that makes reference to the authority of the pastor, judge and physician, who is above all “minister of divine mercy” (cf. “Mitis et misericors Iesus”). In this sense it follows the path of the recent motu proprio of Pope Francis on the reform of canonical procedures for annulment cases. And in this reference to the bishops can be seen an important policy of reform on the part of the pope, which attributes greater pastoral powers to them.
The document proceeds on this path of discernment of individual cases without putting any limits on integration, as appeared in the past.
It also expresses that one cannot deny that in some circumstances “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified” (CCC 1735) on account of various influences. “As a result, the judgment on an objective situation must not lead to a judgment on ‘subjective imputability’ (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, declaration of June 24, 2000, 2a)” (no. 85).
There is a general norm, but “responsibility for certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases.” This is why “pastoral discernment, while taking into account the rightly formed conscience of persons, must take these situations upon itself. Even the consequences of the actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases” (ibid).
The conclusion is that the Church realizes that one can no longer speak of an abstract category of persons and close off the practice of integration within a rule that is entirely general and valid in every case.
It is not said how far the process of integration can go, but neither are any more precise and insurmountable limitations set up. In fact, “the journey of accompaniment and discernment directs these faithful to come to grips in conscience with their situation before God” (no. 86). This reasoning sets personal conscience as the foundation of the Church’s action and judgment (no. 63).
“When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking” (CCC 1777); so in concrete terms “the conversation with the priest, in the internal forum,” the “Relatio synodi” says, “contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on that which prevents the possibility of a fuller participation in the Church’s life and on the steps that can foster it and make it grow” (no. 86). This discernment is aimed at the “sincere search for God’s will”: it is characterized by the “desire to reach a more perfect response to it”; and it is shaped by the “demands of truth and charity of the Gospel proposed by the Church” and by conditions such as “humility, discretion, love of the Church and its teaching.”
Cardinal Schönborn, interviewed by “La Civiltà Cattolica” before the synod, had affirmed that there are situations in which the priest confessor, who knows the persons in the internal forum, can come to the point of saying: “Your situation is such that in conscience, in your and my conscience as a pastor, I see your place in the sacramental life of the Church.” And the confessor can affirm this precisely in consideration that the conditions established by “Familiaris Consortio” were, 35 years ago, a step forward, meaning more open and attentive toward the experience of persons than in previous times.
The tension over the sacramental situation of the civilly divorced and remarried arises precisely from the fact that “Familiaris Consortio” affirmed of them: “They must not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life” (no. 84). It is a concept that Pope Francis has also repeated many times.
But this “openness” raises the serious problem of what may be this acknowledged “ecclesial communion.” How is it truly possible to be in ecclesial communion without arriving, sooner or later, at sacramental communion? Postulating that full ecclesial communion is possible without full sacramental communion does not seem to be a way that could inspire much confidence.
Also to be noted is the fact that there is no longer any mention of “spiritual communion” as an alternative path to the sacrament, as there had been until the extraordinary synod.
The way of discernment and of the “internal forum” exposes one to the possibility of arbitrary decisions, of course, but “laissez-faire” has never been a criterion for rejecting good pastoral accompaniment. It will always be the pastor’s duty to find a way that corresponds to the truth and life of the persons he accompanies, perhaps without being able to explain to everyone why they should make one decision rather than another. The Church is sacrament of salvation. There are many pathways and many dimensions to be explored for the sake of the “salus animarum.”
Concerning access to the sacraments, the ordinary synod has therefore effectively laid the foundations, opening a door that at the previous synod had instead remained closed.
On the contrary, one year ago it had not even been possible to certify by qualified majority the debate on the issue, which had in fact taken place. Therefore one may rightly speak of a new step.