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Key Synod official sounds strong conservative theme at opening session

October 05, 2015

A key official of the Synod of Bishops set a strongly conservative tone, unambiguously supporting the traditional teachings of the Church on marriage and sexuality, in the opening session of the October meeting.

Cardinal Peter Erdo of Budapest—who, as relator general, was responsible for summarizing the main themes of the working document to be discussed by the bishops— tackled some of the most contentious issues directly during his Monday-morning address. The Hungarian cardinal stated that Catholics who are divorced and remarried cannot be admitted to Communion as long as they remain in a second conjugal union. He also rejected the idea that homosexual relationships can be treated as similar to marriages.

Cardinal Erdo’s lengthy opening speech set a surprising tone for the October meeting, in light of the widespread expectation that the Synod will endorse the “Kasper proposal,” offering a means of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion; and will take a more positive attitude toward homosexual unions.

The first session of the 2015 Synod meeting opened with a short meditation offered by Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga. Then Pope Francis spoke to the participants, explaining his expectations for the Synod.

The Synod, the Pope reminded the bishops, “is neither a convention, nor a salon, nor a parliament, nor a senate, where people make deals and reach compromises.” Rather, he said, the Synod is the means by which the Church “interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith.”

That deposit of faith, the Pope continued, is not a “museum to visit, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.”

The Pope asked the bishops to work with “apostolic courage, which refuses to be intimidated in the face of the temptations of the world.”

Following the Pope’s address, the Synod delegates were welcomed by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris, acting as president-delegate of the assembly. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops, then reviewed the procedures in place for the October meeting. Cardinal Erdo was the final speaker for the Monday-morning session.

Noting that the Synod is taking place at a time when society is experiencing a “flight from institutions,” Cardinal Erdo insisted on the duty of the Church to uphold the indissolubility of sacramental marriage.

Addressing the Kasper proposal directly, the Hungarian prelate said that while the Church must show mercy to people whose marriages have failed, the acceptance of Christ’ mercy “demands conversion.” In the case of Catholics who have entered into a second marriage, he said, the rule barring reception of the Eucharist is not an “arbitrary prohibition” but a recognition of the “objective truth” that their living arrangement is contrary to the Gospel. Cardinal Erdo said that divorced and remarried Catholics should be encouraged to take an active role in the life of the Church, but that is “different from admission to the Eucharist.”

Regarding homosexual relationships, Cardinal Erdo said that it is wrong to suggest that same-sex unions are comparable to marriages. Citing a 2003 Vatican document, he said: “There is no basis for comparing or making analogies, even remotely, between homosexual unions and God’s plan for matrimony and the family.”

Cardinal Erdo also indicated that he would not accept the calls for “gradualism” in pastoral practice—the suggestions that Catholic pastors could accept couples living in irregular unions, while hoping to guide them into a fuller acceptance of Church teaching. “Between truth and falsehood, between good and bad, there is no law of gradualism,” he said.

In a press conference following the first Synod session, Archbishop Bruno Forte told reporters that the perception of marked divisions among the world’s bishops has been exaggerated because of “bi-polar interpretation” in much media coverage. The notion that the bishops are sharply at odds with each other, he said, is “not the perception inside the Synod.”

Cardinal Erdo, however, returned to the themes of his address when he told reporters that the Synod should not consider any dramatic change in teaching. Catholic doctrine can and should be developed, he said. However, “development is not unlimited. We have to look at tradition.”

 


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  • Posted by: feedback - Oct. 05, 2015 6:13 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis said, "that deposit of faith is a living source ..." "Living" can mean "open to constant changes," like the US Constitution. A much better expression would be "life giving" rather than "living." I am hoping that was just an inaccurate English translation, as the deposit of faith remains unchangeable. Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33 -- Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.