Rorate Caeli

The Problems with the Muzzled and Manipulated Synod (and they have deep theological consequences as well)

"How to make a temporary muzzle" - Synodical Version
We first mentioned here the intention of the Cardinal called "The Pianist" to manipulate the 2014-2015 Synod. This is in full implementation at the moment.

Then, the deliberate efforts of the Synod administration to muzzle the Synod, which leaves it in the hands of a few, of the Holy See Press Office (which makes the only official dispatches on what they consider important), and of the mainstream media, since the mainstream media will always find ways to report things or create expectations that have true, immediate, and irreversible effects on the ground. It is exactly the way Vatican II developed regarding the "Council of the Media" (that Pope Benedict XVI decried so strongly in his last major pronouncement as Pope), but now put in place by the Synod administration itself -- and this had never happened, even in Vatican II. It is as if they took the media manipulation that happened in Vatican II, decried openly by Benedict XVI, and made it official policy!

Fr. Hunwicke explains as well why this bizarre method of synodal manipulation is also profoundly ahistorical and may have deep theological consequences:

What puzzles me most is the fact that it is secret. I had always rather liked the idea (cf S Irenaeus) that Bishops in Synod are not clever individuals pooling their bright ideas, but Bishops with the charisma certum Veritatis bearing public witness to the authentic Teaching handed down by the succession of Bishops in their own Particular Church as part of the convergent witness of all the Churches; and that this is to be contrasted with the twaddle cooked up privately in Smoke Filled Rooms by Gnostic teachers with their alleged secret paradoseis. I don't mean that there's anything wrong with Bishops getting together privately and informally to share, off the record, their ideas about how to handle some crisis: but that, surely, is not a Synodus. Or is it?

Being myself theologically untrained, I am puzzled by the accounts of the micromanaging which seems to be happening: everybody having to submit their contributions in advance. This was not, I think, considered necessary in former pontificates. Should bureaucracy be thus enabled to inhibit the freedom of bishops? They are, in Council, as judges of the Faith, entitled to speak exactly as they judge proper (I recall the respectful comments along these lines of Leo XIII about a bishop who, at Vatican I, had boldly spoken against the proposed definitions). Because what such a regulation does is to deny to a bishop the right to change what he had intended to say in order to rebut or nuance what another participant has just said. Moreover, careful manipulation of the order in which interventions occur could slant the integrity of a process or dialogue.

Nor do I like the power that this secrecy gives to the Press and to the Vaticanologists. Because, whether the micromanagers like it or not, reports and spinning will happen. And not least when some bishop feels that the official report is, from the point of view of his contribution or opinion, unbalanced. Spilling the beans to the Press in such circumstances is, I believe, called 'briefing'.

I believe that B John Henry Newman's well-known remarks in the aftermath of Vatican I would naturally apply a fortiori to a mere Synod: manipulation of synodal process might detract from the Magisterial authenticity of what emerges. (Source)