Rorate Caeli

UPDATED - Synod, week 2 begins: 13-Cardinal Letter Rejected by Pope - Plus, Pell Appeal Ignored

The letter sent by thirteen Cardinals, all of whom are present at the Synod (this is important, since so many Cardinals were deliberately excluded or as kept away as possible from the Synod body because they disagree with the German view that is clearly favored by the Pope), contained specific complaints about the suffocating procedure put in place in order to ensure a specific result.

The letter was signed by Cardinals Caffarra (Bologna), Collins (Toronto), Dolan (New York), Eijk (Utrecht), Erdö (Esztergom-Budapest, president of the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe and Synod Relator-General), Müller (Prefect of Doctrine for the Faith), Napier (Durban, President-Delegate), Pell (Secretary for the Economy), Piacenza (Penitentiary Major)*, Sarah (Prefect of Divine Worship), Scola (Milan*), Urosa (Caracas), Vingt-Trois (Paris, President-Delegate *). [Update: there was a mix-up in the early report by Sandro Magister, later clarified: the four additional signatories were Cardinals DiNardo (Galveston-Houston), Njue (Nairobi, Kenya), Rivera (Mexico City) and Sgreccia (emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life)**]. 

The text was the following:

Your Holiness,

As the Synod on the Family begins, and with a desire to see it fruitfully serve the Church and your ministry, we respectfully ask you to consider a number of concerns we have heard from other synod fathers, and which we share.

While the synod’s preparatory document, the "Instrumentum Laboris," has admirable elements, it also has sections that would benefit from substantial reflection and reworking. The new procedures guiding the synod seem to guarantee it excessive influence on the synod’s deliberations and on the final synodal document. As it stands, and given the concerns we have already heard from many of the fathers about its various problematic sections, the "Instrumentum" cannot adequately serve as a guiding text or the foundation of a final document.

The new synodal procedures will be seen in some quarters as lacking openness and genuine collegiality. In the past, the process of offering propositions and voting on them served the valuable purpose of taking the measure of the synod fathers' minds. The absence of propositions and their related discussions and voting seems to discourage open debate and to confine discussion to small groups; thus it seems urgent to us that the crafting of propositions to be voted on by the entire synod should be restored. Voting on a final document comes too late in the process for a full review and serious adjustment of the text.

Additionally, the lack of input by the synod fathers in the composition of the drafting committee has created considerable unease. Members have been appointed, not elected, without consultation. Likewise, anyone drafting anything at the level of the small circles should be elected, not appointed.

In turn, these things have created a concern that the new procedures are not true to the traditional spirit and purpose of a synod. It is unclear why these procedural changes are necessary. A number of fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions.

Finally and perhaps most urgently, various fathers have expressed concern that a synod designed to address a vital pastoral matter – reinforcing the dignity of marriage and family – may become dominated by the theological/doctrinal issue of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. If so, this will inevitably raise even more fundamental issues about how the Church, going forward, should interpret and apply the Word of God, her doctrines and her disciplines to changes in culture. The collapse of liberal Protestant churches in the modern era, accelerated by their abandonment of key elements of Christian belief and practice in the name of pastoral adaptation, warrants great caution in our own synodal discussions.

Your Holiness, we offer these thoughts in a spirit of fidelity, and we thank you for considering them.

Faithfully yours in Jesus Christ.

[Letter and signatories revealed by Italian journalist Sandro Magister, formally excluded as a correspondent by the Holy See Press Office by papal orders since June 15, 2015]

The letter, delivered on October 5, was, of course, completely ignored by the Pope. But it is a powerful witness. We will return to it in the future. The great division has never been more palpable.


Despite that, Cardinal Pell insisted on several procedural points. We know that thanks to the summary notes made by the Polish bishops, later suppressed due to the censorship imposed by Secretary-General Baldisseri. Still on the same day of the letter delivery he complained of the very composition of the committee charged with writing a final report for the Synod, clearly slanted:

Card. George Pell (Vatican), Prefect of the Economy Secretariat - It is convenient to start it all not from sociology, but from the Word of God. We appreciate the value of free debate, yet there must be a clear distinction between modi and propositiones [made by the small language groups]. Can the three-part current presentation of the 2015 Instrumentum Laboris be kept? Why was the Committee [charged with] writing the final Relatio of the Synod named in this composition?

Pell's appeal on that day also went unanswered. 

Perhaps he need not have worried, since we do not even know anymore if there is going to be a final Relatio at all: as soon as it became unclear to the manipulators whether, despite all manipulation, they could find clear majorities in favor of heterodox or at least highly ambiguous inclusions in the final Relatio, then this final report came into question as well: rules are being changed every single day.

* Scola: after publication, spokesman denied his signing of the letter; Vingt-Trois also denied signing letter. Piacenza denied afterwards as well. / Erdo also denied it afterwards.
** Four additional names confirmed by Gerard O'Connell for America magazine.

Update: Journalist Edward Pentin reveals that Cardinal Pell fully confirms his signature, and despite saying the content of the letter should have remained private, all his reservations on several issues remain.

Statement from Spokesperson for Cardinal George Pell

Monday 12 October 2015

A spokesperson for Cardinal Pell said that there is strong agreement in the Synod on most points but obviously there is some disagreement because minority elements want to change the Church's teachings on the proper dispositions necessary for the reception of Communion.

Obviously there is no possibility of change on this doctrine.

A private letter should remain private but it seems that there are errors in both the content and the list of signatories.

The Cardinal is aware that concerns remain among many of the Synod Fathers about the composition of the drafting committee of the final relatio and about the process by which it will be presented to the Synod fathers and voted upon.

Journalist John Allen Jr. also says that Cardinal Napier confirms his signature in general terms: "Napier acknowledged signing a letter, but said its content was different from that presented in Magister’s report. The letter he signed, he said, was specifically about the 10-member commission preparing the final document."