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New Synod Document Causes Fresh Controversy

Card. Lorenzo Baldisseri – en


October 03, 2014: Card. Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops speaks during a briefing on the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (5-October 19, 2014).

Diane Montagna - published on 12/11/14

Paragraphs rejected by synod fathers remain in preparatory document for 2015 assembly.

The Vatican published Tuesday a preparatory document for the ordinary synod on the family to take place in Rome in October 4-25, 2015.  

The Lineamentawhich was issued by the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops led by the Secretary General, Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, is essentially comprised of two main parts. Part I contains the Relatio Synodi — the final report  of the extraordinary synod of bishops on the family that took place in October. Its purpose is to help prepare the upcoming working document for the next synod. 

Part II of the Lineamenta contains 61 questions expressly referring to aspects in the Relatio. According to the secretariat, the questions are intended “to assist the bishops’ conferences in their reflection and to avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine.” Such reflection, the secretariat maintains, “would not respect the conclusions of the Extraordinary Synodal Assembly and would lead their reflection far from the path already indicated.” 

In short, according to a communique issued by the secretariat on Tuesday, the 61 questions are intended “to facilitate the reception of the synodal document and the examination of the themes treated therein.”  

Yet paragraphs 52, 53, and 55 of the Relatio Synodi — which are included in Part I of the Lineamenta — were rejected by the Synod Fathers in October as they did not receive the required two-thirds majority.

According to past practice, they would have been struck from the document, but Pope Francis asked that they be left in the final report, along with a record of the votes they received. 

In early November, at the launch of the German edition of Remaining in the Truth of Christ, a book arguing against Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal on admitting civilly remarried divorcees to Communion, Cardinal Raymond Burke — then Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura — told Aleteia that those three paragraphs should “absolutely” have been removed from the document. 

“We couldn’t have any discussion on that text," Cardinal Burke said, "but we voted paragraph by paragraph, and what’s the point of voting paragraph by paragraph except to either accept a paragraph of have it removed? This is just one more disturbing aspect about the way in which Synod of Bishops was conducted."

Given the synodal Fathers’ rejection of paragraphs 52, 53 and 55, sources close to the Vatican who wish to remain anonymous have questioned the wisdom of including questions about them in Part II of the Lineamenta

They argue that if these paragraphs must remain, then they should at least be placed separately, have some indication that they failed to obtain the two-thirds majority, or have their number of votes listed alongside them. Yet, at present, the voting record that accompanied the final report at Pope Francis’ request does not appear in the Lineamenta.

Such complete transparency, they say, will be especially important as episcopal conferences, “academic institutions, organizations, lay movements and other ecclesial associations” reflect on and examine the Lineamenta in the coming year.

At today’s Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis exhorted the faithful to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to pray for her protection and guidance over the synod. “Your prayer,” he told the faithful, “is very important in this.”

Diane Montagna is Aleteia’s Rome correspondent.

Pope FrancisSynod on the Family
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