Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview
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Polish prelate posts summaries of Synod talks, in apparent violation of procedures

October 08, 2015

The web site of the president of the Polish Episcopal Conference has published, in Polish and in French, summaries of short speeches delivered by 42 prelates at the Synod of Bishops on October 5.

The report on the prelates’ speeches appears to violate the rules established for this year’s Synod. In a break from past procedures, the Vatican has not released reports on the Synod interventions, although individual bishops have been free to make public their own talks.

The summaries of the speeches, whose length was limited to three minutes, came as a journalist expressed his concern at the October 7 daily synod briefing about the extent to which the briefing fully reflected what was being said in the synod hall. The new rules for the Synod have prompted persistent complaints about the lack of information on the bishops’ discussions.

At a press conference two days before the Synod began, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, stated that "the Synod must be a safe space so that the Holy Spirit can act and so that the Fathers have the freedom to express themselves with parresia [boldness] … The Fathers are free to communicate with the media at their own discretion and responsibility. The various stages in the development of the basic document remain confidential, since during the synodal process, the texts are subject to continuous developments right up to the final draft."

According to the web site of Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, several different topics were raised on October 5 following the opening speech delivered by Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdo, in which he called for continuity with the teaching of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, for example, reportedly spoke about the importance of families taking part in the Church’s evangelizing mission, and Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago reportedly stressed the need for families to see themselves as a domestic church rather than an economic unit. Other prelates spoke about poverty and the persecution of Christian families.

“We must defend what God has revealed about marriage and family,” the summary of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s speech stated. “Certain cultural currents and sociological approaches, etc., are a threat to the family. To serve the family, we must start with God's Word.” Cardinal George Pell likewise reportedly spoke of the need to start from the Word of God, rather than sociology, and questioned the composition of the members of the commission who will draft the synod’s final document.

Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny reportedly called for a recognition of “positive elements” in civil unions and for greater leeway for local bishops, and German Archbishop Heiner Koch reportedly asked, “Why the exclusion of the sacraments?” Cardinal Reinhard Marx reportedly was “astonished” by Cardinal Erdo’s talk and said that “we need a debate on the sacrament of marriage: ‘all or nothing’ is not an option.”

On the other hand, Venezuelan Cardinal Jorge Urosa reportedly praised Cardinal Erdo’s address, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko cited St. Paul in speaking of the need to preach the Gospel in season and out of season, and Lebanese Bishop Antoine Nabil Andari criticized the absence of the language of St. Paul from the synod’s working document.

Apparently referring to the working document, Belarusan Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz reportedly said, “We need to talk about family and not other cases. If we agree to give the sacraments to divorced people living in a new relationship, we are in favor of divorce.”

Perhaps the most noteworthy remarks concerned divorce, with Panamanian Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán allegedly stating, “Moses gives consent to the people, he yields. Today, the “hardness of heart” is opposed to God's plans. Might Peter not be as merciful as Moses?” Noting that “Jesus corrects Moses,” Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham reportedly called upon the synod to offer a “spiritual, positive, and immutable” vision of marriage and said that “the instability of marriage is contrary to its nature.”

Some of the remarks summarized by Archbishop Gadecki had already been released to the media by the bishops who made them. Others had not, however, and the publication of the Polish archbishop’s notes seems certain to escalate the debate on the transparency of the Synod.

Ironically, the summaries posted by Archbishop Gadecki were similar to the daily reports that had been released by the Vatican press office during Synod meetings in past years. The practice of providing daily summaries, in which the individual bishops who spoke were identified, was halted last year. Critics of the new procedures have complained that they conflict with the expressed desire of Pope Francis for an open and honest discussion.


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  • Posted by: JimKcda - Oct. 11, 2015 1:15 AM ET USA

    Can our Bishops not have "an open and honest discussion" if their comments will later become known? What about "the truth shall make you free"? There is a place for privacy in all of our lives but this smacks of secret plots, dishonesty & cowardice; e.g., VII. We may not be entitled to every detail, but we are entitled to know where our "leaders" are leading us. We are entitled to identify our enemy so we know who NOT to follow. Afterwards, no more "Spirit of VII" misleading propaganda please!

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Oct. 10, 2015 3:54 PM ET USA

    We should continue to pray for the Synod leaders.

  • Posted by: aclune9083 - Oct. 09, 2015 3:48 PM ET USA

    It is early days and premature to react to the dribs and drabs that are leaked to a hostile press, often in support of the leaker's underlying agenda. Have faith that the Holy Spirit will guide the Synod in truth; if Satan corrupts such results, that, too, will be obvious. our Lady will not let such an august body as this synod fall into error or submit to the temptations of the Father of Lies before all time.

  • Posted by: unum - Oct. 09, 2015 10:08 AM ET USA

    I don't belong to any organized church. I'm a Roman Catholic!

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Oct. 08, 2015 5:59 PM ET USA

    1) The sixties taught us that there is nothing that should prevent ignoring the rules whenever and wherever nevermind any given particulars. 2) IMHO, any debate should be UNtransparent given the extreme bias of the press (e.g. an early draft will become cast in stone if it suits their viewpoint.) Some might argue that Congress is "transparent" why not the Synod? If you believe that, I've got this huge lake in the Mojave up for sale.