Rorate Caeli

The Sick Game of the Synod: They manipulate, and then they mock - and then they manipulate again

a guest-post, 
by Maike Hickson

Andrea Tornielli, a well-known Vatican expert and friend of Pope Francis, wrote on 8 October an article about Pope Francis which could potentially lead to a world-wide public reaction of indignation. In his article, which is entitled “Pope Urges Bishops Not to Give in to Conspiracy Theories”, Tornielli reports that Pope Francis had been contacted by 13 cardinals and bishops who participate at the Synod on the Family and who have grave concerns about possible manipulations exercised especially by the General Secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldissieri. As Tornielli reports:

Right from the very first press briefing, some Synod Fathers were said to be calling into question the agreed working method for the assembly. Vatican Insider has learnt that the accusation was in fact far more serious. Essentially, 13 cardinals and bishops participating in the Synod, suggested that the Synod was in some way being “steered” by the General Secretary (and ultimately by the Pope) so make it so that the Synod went down the openness route.
Tornielli himself is obviously convinced that there are no grounds for such concerns. He says in a somewhat mocking tone:

It is interesting to note that for weeks, outside the assembly, other clerics and certain media outlets closely linked to them, had been repeating the same old chorus of the Synod being “rigged” in order to put the Church’s “traditional doctrine” on marriage “at risk”. The boldest statement regarding this, came from Cardinal George Pell, who reiterated the contents of an article published by American magazine First Things, signed with the pseudonym Xavier Rynne II. The 13 Synod Fathers who backed the conspiracy theory then appealed to the Pope.

When Tornielli speaks here of a Synod being “rigged,” he clearly hints at the excellent work of Edward Pentin, whose recently book, The Rigging of a Synod?, describes in a very detailed and well-researched way the manifold reasons why many Catholics see that manipulations have indeed been applied to the last 2014 Synod. As if in a Stalinist political event, all those very serious claims and concerns are simply being pushed off the table by the close friend of Pope Francis, who has written already several books on the pope. He concludes: “Essentially, there is no conspiracy at play.”

Tornielli then recounts how Pope Francis on Tuesday made a surprise statement at the Synod meeting, indirectly responding “to the Synod Fathers who had made the conspiracy claims and to their external church and media supporters,” as the Italian journalist puts it. Pope Francis, he reports:

used the term “hermeneutics of conspiracy” defining it as “sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful”. What he meant by this is that this is the complete opposite of the task which the Synod Fathers have been called to perform. It was a call for an end to this mentality which sees plots and conspiracies everywhere.

It was no other than the friend of Pope Francis, Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J, Director of the Holy See journal Civiltà Cattolica, who had first reported on Pope Francis' expression “hermeneutics of conspiracy” (“ermeneutica cospirativa”) in a tweet of 6 October:

With this reaction and comment, Pope Francis simply ignores the serious complaints instead of addressing them in detail, so that the Catholic faithful could regain trust in the procedures and contents of the Synod. And that there are still grounds for suspicion, has been shown by Edward Pentin on the same day, 8 October. To sum up the grave developments as he reveals them:

 the Instrumentum Laboris which has been strongly opposed by many experts, “for the first time, remains the main text for the synod for the bishops to work on, and which will end up as the final document.”
 for the first time, the amendment of a paragraph of the document requires “those in the small groups passing a vote by a two-thirds majority instead of a vote on propositions at the end. The collective 'modi' (amendments) are then submitted to a commission to evaluate which amendments are to be made or not.”

As Pentin concludes:

This means that controversial paragraphs in the document, such as the Cardinal Kasper proposal that failed to achieve a two-thirds majority at the end of the last synod, appear to now require a two-thirds majority vote to amend them. “The burden of proof now is on the side that wants to amend them,” said a synod official. “So bishops are now trying to clarify that three controversial paragraphs that did not get the two-thirds majority now require a two-thirds majority just to change them.”

One cannot be more stunned by this revelation by Pentin. If this procedure turns out to be finally implemented – even after due resistance – it means that the paragraphs which did not find the approval at the last 2014 Synod but which were kept nevertheless in the Final Report upon decision of Pope Francis, are being imposed upon the Universal Church as supposed “agreed-upon” statements of the Synod!

But worst of all, Pope Francis now even denies that there was ever anything said at the last Synod that put the Church's doctrine into question! According to the above-quoted article by Tornielli:

[Pope] Francis also clarified that “Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched, no one called it into question in this assembly or in the Extraordinary assembly. It has been preserved in its integrity”.

If this is a correct quote by Pope Francis – and Tornielli, after all, is a friend of his – then that means that he flatly denies that both the Kasper proposal as well as the claim that there are positive elements to be found in homosexual relationships – both claims had been made in the mid-term report of the 2014 Synod – are not undermining the Catholic Church's Doctrine of 2000 years. This statement is a direct insult to all those Cardinals and Bishops who have spoken up against the three controversial paragraphs in public, such as: Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Cardinal George Pell, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, Cardinal Wilfried Napier, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Cardinal Raymond Burke, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop Cyril Vasil', Bishop Athanasius Schneider and Bishop Barthélemy Adoukonou.