Rorate Caeli

Impossible to excuse or explain away: How the heterodoxy of the Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod of 2015 has been exposed.

(Scroll down this post to see the embedded video of Raymond Cardinal Burke's talk on September 8 at Franciscan University of Steubenville.)

The Instrumentum Laboris for the 2015 Synod was published on June 23 this year, initially in Italian only. An official English translation came a week later. As Rorate noted back in June, the document was largely prepared during a two-day meeting (May 25-26) of the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops that was presided over by Pope Francis himself, before being entrusted to the "Secretariat General" of the Synod of Bishops for its final redaction. This office is headed by Cardinal Baldisseri (the Secretary General) with Bishop Fabio Fabene as its Sub-Secretary: the former is especially close to Francis while the latter worked for Baldisseri even before the current pontificate. It would be ludicrous to argue that they might have secretly edited the document in a way contrary to the Pope's intentions.

Our post on June 25 was the first to have English translations of some of the most crucial parts of the Instrumentum, and one of the first to point out that the document (specifically paragraphs 122 and 123) contains a pathway to heterodoxy -- in this case, the "Kasper hypothesis". 

Instrumentum Laboris for 2015 Synod published: Translation of Selected Passages and Commentary. Plus: Will the "Kasper hypothesis" be smuggled into official Church discipline under the cover of extremely vague and clever language?

John-Henry Westen (LifeSite News) wrote a brief initial commentary on the Instrumentum Laboris (Vatican’s preparatory document suggests October’s Synod will be just as explosive as the last) that focused on its "schizophrenic" language and its ambiguous treatment of moral issues:

The language in the document seems schizophrenic with some solid Church teaching and then vaguely-worded statements skirting open confrontation with Church teaching.  The text thus follows the proposal of Cardinal Kasper who in his EWTN interview said that due to the disagreements among Church leaders, the final document should be a compromise acceptable to all.

Edward Pentin's news report on the Instrumentum Laboris also pointed out the opening provided by its 122nd paragraph to the Kasper proposal, while concluding that the Kasperite hypothesis was not necessarily being endorsed and adding that the document upholds many Church teachings.

A few days later, Sandro Magister's report on this document (June 30, 2015) went so far as to call it a "cold shower" for the innovators while briefly acknowledging that paragraph 123 opens the path to communion for remarried divorcees in a way "apart from sexual continence". (At that time we posted about "Sandro Magister's take" as confirmation of our reading of paragraph 123.)

Nevertheless, the general Catholic and secular media's presentation of this document focused on its alleged conservatism, not shying from presenting it as a defeat for Kasper and the liberals. Little surprise or indignation was publicly expressed by "conservative" Catholics at the spectacle of the Holy See issuing, for the guidance of a Synod of Bishops, a document characterized by vagueness and confusion unprecedented even in the decades before the present Pontificate. This is the extremely sad definition of "orthodoxy" that de facto has become acceptable in many Catholic "conservative" circles -- anything from the hierarchy is acceptable as long as it does not teach heresy explicitly, unequivocally and without possibility of another interpretation. Vagueness is fine as long as it can, at a minimum, be twisted to mean something that is orthodox. Omitting to mention important truths is fine too, as long as these are not formally or explicitly denied. 

Thankfully, more voices were raised in August against the Instrumentum Laboris. Bishop Athanasius Schneider denounced it during his interview with Catholic Voice (August 13. 2015):

In the light of a careful analysis of the facts, one is left with the suspicion that the authors of the Instrumentum Laboris try to push forward the agenda of a certain clerical pressure group in order to change the Divine law of the non-admission of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion.

A few days before, on August 5, Voice of the Family presented its thorough dissection of the document (Synod preparatory document “poses a very real danger to the family”, says Voice of the Family). At the time of its release, the renowned pro-life leader John Smeaton explained the problems with the document in a nutshell:

“The document undermines the doctrine of Humanae Vitae on contraception, is neutral on the killing of unborn children by IVF, and prepares the ground for Church acceptance of cohabitation and same-sex unions.  
“The Instrumentum Laboris also resurrects the discredited Kasper proposals for Holy Communion for unrepentant adulterers, reduces the indissolubility of marriage to a mere ‘ideal’, and undermines the position of parents as their children’s primary educators.”  
Mr Smeaton continued: “Voice of the Family urges Catholics not to be complacent or give in to a false sense of obedience, in the face of attacks on the fundamental principles of the natural law. 
“Catholics have a duty to oppose the direction being taken at the Synod. If that direction is not reversed, the greatest victims will be those who are most vulnerable, especially children, born and unborn”, concluded Mr Smeaton.

This analysis argues that the instrumentum laboris, which will form the basis for discussions at the Ordinary Synod in October 2015, threatens the entire structure of Catholic teaching on marriage, the family and human sexuality. 
It does this by: 
– undermining the doctrine of Humanae Vitae by proposing a false understanding of the relationship between conscience and the moral law (paragraph 137) 
– discussing artificial method of reproduction without giving any judgement on the morality of such methods or making any reference to previous Catholic teaching, or to the enormous loss of human life that results from their use (paragraph 34) 
– proposing the admission of the “divorced and remarried” to Holy Communion without amendment of life (paragraphs 120-125) 
– reducing the indissolubility of marriage to the level of an “ideal” (paragraph 42) 
– suggesting that cohabitation and “living together” have “positive aspects” and can, to some extent, be considered legitimate forms of union (paragraphs 57, 61, 63, 99, 102) 
– preparing the ground for the acceptance of same-sex unions by acknowledging the need to define “the specific character of such unions in society” (paragraph 8
– denying the full rights of parents regarding the provision of sex education to their children (paragraph 86) 
In these and other ways, the document poses a very real danger to the family, especially its most vulnerable members, and to the integrity of Catholic doctrine.

We should also not forget Roberto de Mattei's own analysis: The Instrumentum laboris and Catholic Moral Tradition in Extra-matrimonial Situations.

Only yesterday (September 10), First Things published an open letter to the Pope appealing to him to uphold Humanae Vitae in response to Paragraph 137 of the Instrumentum Laboris: 

Paragraph 137 addresses a key document of the modern Magisterium, Humanae Vitae, in a way that both calls the force of that teaching into question and proposes a method of moral discernment that is decidedly not Catholic. This approach to discernment contradicts what has hitherto been taught by the Magisterium of the Church about moral norms, conscience, and moral judgment, by suggesting that a well-formed conscience may be in conflict with objective moral norms. 

As Catholic moral theologians and philosophers, we feel morally obligated to speak out against the distortion of Catholic teaching implicit in paragraph 137. If endorsed by the Synod, the defective text of the Instrumentum laboris would lead to confusion among the faithful. Paragraph 137 should be removed and replaced by a paragraph that speaks of the conscience in a more precise fashion, that celebrates the wisdom and beauty of Humanae Vitae, and that helps spouses to appreciate that the graces are available to them to live out God’s plan for the gift of sexuality.

The letter -- AN APPEAL - RECALLING THE TEACHING OF HUMANAE VITAE (AND VERITATIS SPLENDOR) -- was prepared by two Associate Professors of the John Paul II Institutes and endorsed by a veritable "who's who" of theologians and philosophers who have defended moral orthodoxy and tradition in the Church. Among the nearly 60 signatories are two auxiliary bishops (Bishops Peter Elliott and Andreas Laun), Abbot Jean-Charles Nault OSB of Saint-Wandrille, and luminaries such as Robert Spaemann, Leo Elders SVD, John Finnis, Luke Gormally, Germain Grisez, Norbert and Renate Martin, Josef Seifert, Juan José Perez Soba, and many others. 

Last but not the least: as announced on Rorate at the end of August, Raymond Cardinal Burke gave an address on The Synod on the Family: Addressing the Instrumentum Laboris, which is required watching (or listening) for anyone who wishes to understand what is at stake in the Synod and the marriage "reforms" that have just been enacted by Pope Francis. His talk begins at around the 18-minute mark. 


NB: We understand that in the upcoming book Christ's New Homeland - Africa, one of the articles is an essay by Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou (Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture) that expounds at length on his significant reservations about the Instrumentum Laboris.

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