Rewriting [or rather, Fabricating] the History of Two Synods?

Rewriting Fabricating the History of Two Synods?

Despite claims to the contrary, the pope’s views on divorced and remarried Catholics did not get Synodal approval.

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

The now famous dubia sent to Pope Francis by Cardinal Burke and three of his fellow cardinals is a sincere effort to clear up what has become a crisis in the Church concerning marriage, adultery and the requirements for the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist. They have every right to ask Pope Francis to make clear that the teaching of the Church has not, and cannot, change. This is the heart of the matter. The Lord’s words are clear and unchangeable. “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.” (Lk 16:18) The Church’s pastoral concern for people in marital difficulties is rooted and grounded in the truth of these words. “The truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32) Anything else leads into error and sadness.

Critics are dismissing this effort as opposing the Synod Fathers, and even the Holy Spirit. Austen Ivereigh, for instance, argued recently: “Francis cannot answer the cardinals directly – although he has done indirectly countless times – without undermining that action of the Holy Spirit present in the most thorough process of ecclesial discernment since Vatican II. . . . everything in Amoris Laetitia – including the controversial Chapter 8 – received a two-thirds majority in a synod that was notoriously frank, open, and drawn out.”

Ivereigh is referring to a similar statement by the pope:

There all the bishops of the world were heard, during preparation; all the Churches of the world, the dioceses, worked. . . .It is interesting to see the rich variety of nuances, typical of the Church. It is unity in diversity. This is synodality. Do not descend from high to low, but listen to the Churches, harmonize them, discern. And so there is a post-Synodal exhortation, which is Amoris Laetitia, which is the result of two Synods, in which all the Church worked, and which the Pope made his own. . . .all that [Amoris Laetitia] contains, in the Synod it was approved by more than two-thirds of the fathers. And this is a guarantee.

Is this an accurate description of what happened at the two synods? No. Paragraphs 52 and 53 of the final report (relatio) of the 2014 Synod read:

52. The synod father [sic] also considered the possibility of giving the divorced and remarried access to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Various synod fathers insisted on maintaining the present discipline, because of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church as well as her teaching on the indissoluble character of marriage. Others proposed a more individualized approach, permitting access in certain situations and with certain well-defined conditions, primarily in irreversible situations and those involving moral obligations towards children who would have to endure unjust suffering. Access to the sacraments might take place if preceded by a penitential practice, determined by the diocesan bishop. The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735).


53. Some synod fathers maintained that divorced and remarried persons or those living together can have fruitful recourse to a spiritual communion. Others raised the question as to why, then, they cannot have access to sacramental Communion. As a result, the synod fathers requested that further theological study in the matter with a view to making clear the distinctive features of the two forms and their connection with the theology of marriage.

Paragraph 52 received 104 “yes” (“placet”) votes, and 74 “no” (“non placet) votes. Paragraph 53 received 112 “yes” and 64 “no” votes. They did not receive the required two-thirds approval and thus were excluded from the final report according to the rules of the synod.


Pope Francis, however, gave instructions that the two paragraphs should be included. They were not published as an addendum with a note that Francis had ordered their publication. The only way a reader would know what really happened is by consulting the paragraph-by-paragraph vote tallies; but even then, there is no note specifying that a two-thirds majority of the voting synod fathers was needed for approval. The votes clearly showed that two-thirds of the 2014 Synod Fathers did not choose to continue discussing the matter of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics at the Ordinary Synod of 2015.

Pope Francis disregarded all that when he decided to include the two paragraphs in the working document for the 2015 synod (Instrumentum Laboris, paragraphs 122-125). He has complete freedom to do this, of course. But their inclusion represents the pope’s own decision about what he wanted discussed in 2015.

In the Final Report of the 2015 Ordinary Synod, the third chapter (“Family and Pastoral Accompaniment”) paragraphs 84-86, bear the subtitle “Discernment and Integration.” They touch upon divorced and remarried Catholics, particularly paragraph 86, which speaks of an “internal forum discussion with a priest,” and “fuller participation in the life of the Church.” There is, however, no mention here of giving Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. The words “sacrament” or “Holy Communion” do not appear anywhere in these paragraphs.

A two-thirds majority approved these three paragraphs. Even so, there were many votes against: paragraph 84 was approved by a vote of 187-72; paragraph 85 was approved by a vote of 178-80; paragraph 86 was approved by a vote of 190-64.

A Crux website story on the 2015 Final Report observed about paragraph 86: “Over the years, advocates of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion often have suggested that permission could be given through the ‘internal forum,’ meaning a private exchange with a priest or a bishop, so the reference to the internal forum could be read as encouraging that view, likely explaining why it drew among the highest number of “no” votes of any section of the report. As written, however, it’s not entirely clear that receiving Communion is the form of ‘fuller participation in the life of the Church’ to which the paragraph refers.”

The Synod Fathers who voted in significant numbers against these three paragraphs were obviously wary of what “fuller participation” meant in light of the earlier efforts to promote sacramental participation by the divorced and remarried. Their apprehensions were not imaginary.

In short, it cannot be demonstrated that two-thirds of the Synod Father at either the 2014 or 2015 synods voted for a change in sacramental discipline and a development of doctrine whereby, in some cases, people living in an objective state of adultery, who intend to continue living in such a state, may now receive Holy Communion.

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11 comments on “Rewriting [or rather, Fabricating] the History of Two Synods?

  1. Poor Father. He’s splitting hairs.

    Paragraph 52 received 104 “yes” (“placet”) votes, and 74 “no” (“non placet) votes. Paragraph 53 received 112 “yes” and 64 “no” votes. They did not receive the required two-thirds approval …

    That’s 58% and 64%. The bottom line is, practically 60% of the bishops at the Sin Nod were all for changing doctrine.

    Arius, your time has arrived.

  2. Robin: Hmmm… non placet…. Holy, lexicon, Batman! That’s Latin!

    Batman Indeed, Robin. It’s good that you have a keen eye for languages.

    Batman: I trust that your Latin teacher at Fordham Prep has helped you to become acquainted with the Latin verb placēre.

    Robin: I think so, Batman.

    Batman: Let’s be certain of it, old chum. There is no sense in slacking off and falling behind just because the media want to try to keep you distracted with the fake news story about Russian hackers and Kim Kardashian’s waxed posterior. If you slack off on Latin homework, the next thing you know you’ll be hanging out with juvenile delinquents in 7-Eleven store parking lots and setting off M-80 firecrackers in milk cartons while listening to Metallica on your iPod as the new high-octane reefer disintegrates what’s left of your brain cells. We can’t let that happen. So, while we have your attention focused on Latin, Robin, let’s review the conjugation endings for placeō, placēre, placitus, placitum.

    Robin: Oh, boy…let’s see…uh…. placeō, placēre, placitus, placitum.
    It’s second conjugation….placeō, placēs , placet, placēmus , placētis….

    Robin: I think Plácido Domingo’s first name is derived from the supine of placēre via the related Latin adjective placidus – placid, gentle, quiet, still, calm, mild, peaceful….

    Batman: I’m sure your Latin teacher at Fordham Prep will give you extra credit for that piece of etymology, Robin. But always remember: civilization begins or falls with whether we are learning the proper Latin endings.

    Robin: I’ll try to remember, Batman.

  3. There is something cockeyed about priests like this one jumping into the fray over Amoris Latitia. He was one of the EWTN anchors during the Conclave that elected Bergoglio. Listening to his commentary during the Conclave was depressing. He praised some of the most well-known progressives that were, at the time, among the papabili. He remains under obedience to a bishop who told devotees of Mohammed at a mosque in his diocese that the Church wants them to be “good Muslims.” No mention of Christ nor the need to embrace Him for salvation. He is one of the many neo-cons who think they are traditionalists, but are not even close. If the drama regarding the dubia was solved tomorrow in an orthodox fashion, he would herald it as a huge victory for authentic Catholicism. As indeed it would. BUT, AL did not appear out of thin air; it’s the logical “terminus ad quem” to the past 50 years of creeping and debilitating Modernism. The good Father’s continuing to serve the structure and the men of the post-conciliar Church, which he will do no matter how the AL crisis concludes, makes him part of the problem and not the solution. He can write all the nice essays he wants on web sites; the Church will remain in a crisis until priests like him refuse to obey heretics, formal or material.

  4. Cardinal Burke also continues his pursuit for doctrinal “clarification”. He is still just a neoCon. If he were a real solid ” traditionalist”, he would not need “clarification”. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear understands what the Pope is saying. Pope Francis is a heretic. And, you know, I understand why Pope Francis attacks the 4 cardinals, yet shows sympathy for the SSPX. The 4 cardinals are just sticking to the letter if the law, and should plainly see the Pope is openly going around the formalities of law and violating the spirit of the law. I think Pope Francis, even if he disagrees with the SSPX, respects them more because they don’t need any legal technicality or ” permission” to consecrate a new Bishop or ordain a new priest. All these canon laws are what deters the “neoCons” from attacking, and the Pope just laughs in tbeir face to see them so hung up on legalies. So the SSPX makes a new bishop? So what! If they subjectively perceive it for the good it is still doing the right thing. And I think Pope Francis lijes this attitude. Maybe God is inspiring the Church to stop being so fixated on the observance if canon law. The disagreement between Traditionalists and Francis is not over legalisms, but over the understanding of what is the Tradition.

    • So the SSPX makes a new bishop? So what! If they subjectively perceive it for the good it is still doing the right thing.

      If they go and make more bishops, they’re done. That always belongs to the pope, unless, of course, there’s no pope. Then there’s no Church. Then it doesn’t matter.

  5. The SSPX made bishops before, and they can do it again. It did not make them schismatics before, and it would not make them schismatics again. Nor was there any valid “excommunication”. St. Athanasius consecrated bishops during the Arian crisis. No big deal! That’s a normal function of a bishop. A Catholic gets hung up over such legalisms of episcopal consecrations and falls into a Pharisee mentality. Archbishop Lefebvre did the right thing. And all these other cowards who did not want to be ” on a trajectory towards schism”? They spent most of their years bad-mouthing the SSPX. What is “tough guy ” Cardibal Burke going to do about Pope Francis? Sure hr will go through the motions of resistance. Get on his knees, and beg Pope Francis for “mercy” is what he will do in the end. I will recall how I read he and Cardinal Pozzo had walked out on Sandro Magister during a talk he did, in 2012 or 2913, in which he suggested that the Pope was conspiring, or orchestrating a plot to systematically replace conservatives and put progressivists in their places. The two walked out on Sandro- because the two cardinals thought it was a rash judgement and attack on the Pope. That’s what I call a narrow mind.

    • Men can and do change for the better, ghebreyesus.

      The EWTN interview with the cardinal demonstrates that. He is taking a very tough position and he will face the consequences of his stance.

    • I tend to agree with Ghebreyesus here. The situation is perhaps similar to a bishop who finds himself in a remote mission territory and must consecrate a successor bishop even though he has no means of communicating with the Vatican. Only in this case it’s not geography that isolates the SSPX bishops, but that the current regime in Rome has lost the Catholic Faith (as per Archbishop Lefebvre).
      I recall reading recently that Cardinal Zen told the faithful in China to pray at home rather than attend Masses sponsored by the Communist state church. And now the Vatican itself appears to be siding with the same Communist state church.
      The obligations imposed by Canon Law are such that they can be fulfilled reasonably, otherwise they lose their binding force, and then higher obligations apply (such as, that of preserving the priesthood and the Mass).

      • St. Athanasius was Patriarch of Alexandria. He was effectively pope for 1/5 of the known world. He didn’t have to call Rome to ratify his decisions. Had he not made bishops, he would have failed in his duty.

  6. Prior to the aggregation which came to be known as the Pio-Benedictine Code of 1917, canonical laws were distinct, regional and sometimes at variance on specificities.

    Nevertheless, the Church has always operated under canonical authority and it has been considered a vital element, a distillation of both Tradition and the Perennial Magisterium, for practical adjudication of issues.

    Any organization, even a divine institution run by fallible, sin-prone men, needs rules.

    That said, the Wojtylan version of the 1980s was described,prior to its release, to one prominent American canonist by a bishop in Rome in terms I will paraphrase here…

    “It’s a mess. But that’s what the Boss wants.”

    That description does not obviate JPII’s Code. It is the law, as it stands now. Even though we may hope it will soon be improved and modified in a manner designed to debride clots of liberalism where they occur, especially concerning matrimonial law, canonizations and liturgical innovations currently enshrined.

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