Catholic World News

At synod, prelates call for fidelity to Church teaching; US cardinal emphasizes Confession

October 10, 2012

On the third day of the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 32 synod fathers spoke on various aspects of the synod’s theme, “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.” In addition, two fraternal delegates – a Finnish Lutheran bishop and the president of the American Bible Society – offered contributions to the synod’s deliberations.

Archbishop Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the most prominent prelate to address the synod on October 9, made a plea for Church unity.

“The new evangelization demands that we overcome certain intra-ecclesial debates in which, for many years, the same themes arise again, and to re-propose instead the Christian faith in its fullness and perennial novelty,” he said. “In this fullness and novelty the collegiality between bishops finds consistency and the force of communion, which must never become the pretext for a misunderstood autonomy.”

“The new evangelization demands that we draw upon this communion, and will be effective only if it is founded on the unity of the bishops with Peter’s Successor and among themselves,” he added. “This unity is the cornerstone on which the Lord builds His Church.”

Other prelates echoed this theme of fidelity, including Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

“Jesus did not leave our understanding of Sacred Scripture and Tradition in the care of various opinions, which clearly might be very diverse and as well as continually sowing uncertainty and confusion, but he left us the great treasure of the Magisterium,” he said.

“The greatest obstacle to becoming a constructive theologian (or pastor), and therefore one who is efficacious from the point of view of the new evangelization is undoubtedly pride along with its natural ally – selfishness,” he added. “The obsession with becoming great, original, important, reduces more than a few to being ‘shepherds who feed themselves and not the sheep’ (Ez. 34:8), in reality becoming largely irrelevant in the Kingdom of Heaven, and counterproductive for the growth of the Church and evangelization.”

Other synod fathers addressed topics as varied as migration, Eastern Catholics in Latin-rite territories, the proper order of the sacraments of initiation, and honoring women evangelizers. Some prelates spoke about the centrality of Christ and his message of salvation.

“The goal of all evangelization is to foster an encounter between the person and Christ,” said Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, Australia. “The time has come for us as bishops to place Christ at the heart of our preaching and teaching, and encourage our priests and deacons to do the same. We must help people to be captured by the fascination which the Jesus of the gospels exerts on hearts and minds.”

Quoting G. K. Chesterton, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York emphasized the importance of the Sacrament of Penance.

“The Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and inspires us to answer His invitation to repentance,” Cardinal Dolan said, adding:

The Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, but what we got instead, sadly, in many places, was the disappearance of the sacrament.

So we have busied ourselves calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves. Yes, this is good.

But the answer to the question “What's wrong with the world?” is not politics, the economy, secularism, pollution, global warming... no. As Chesterton wrote, “'The answer to the question 'What's wrong with the world?' is two words: I am.”

I am! Admitting that leads to conversion of heart and repentance, the core of the Gospel invitation. That happens in the Sacrament of Penance. This is the sacrament of evangelization.


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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Oct. 10, 2012 12:02 PM ET USA

    Well, Cardinal Dolan's stock just ticked up a few points. I hope he takes his plea for the Sacrament of Penance on the road and scores a run. I have been amazed that the Popes have had the Year of the Eucharist before a Year of Penance.