Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
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Report: cardinals express serious concerns about Synod to Pope

October 12, 2015

Sandro Magister, the Vatican reporter for L'Espresso, has published a letter to Pope Francis, purportedly signed by 13 cardinals, expressing serious concerns about the current synod of bishops.

The letter's existence, its contents, and the names of the cardinals who signed the letter quickly became the dominant topic of discussion at the Vatican. 

After expressing concerns about the synod’s working document and procedures and the composition of the committee that will draft the synod’s final document, the signatories of the October 5 letter reportedly wrote:

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.

The letter’s 13 signatories, according to Magister, were Cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Thomas Collins, Timothy Dolan, Willem Eijk, Péter Erdo, Gerhard Müller, Wilfrid Napier, George Pell, Mauro Piacenza, Robert Sarah, Angelo Scola, Jorge Urosa Savino, and André Vingt-Trois. However some of those cardinals have denied signing the letter.

The lists of signatories originally provided by Magister was impressive. Cardinal Erdo is the synod’s relator general, while Cardinals Napier and Vingt-Trois are among the synod’s four presidents-delegate. Cardinals Müller, Pell, and Piacenza head curial discasteries. However, four of those cardinals-- Erdo, Scola, Piacenza, and Vingt-Trois-- have subsequently stated that they did not sign the letter posted in Magister's report.

It is not clear how Magister obtained the cardinals' letter, and why he listed the names of cardinals who now say they did not sign it. Informed Vatican sources indicated that a letter had indeed been written, but Magister's information, regarding the letter and its signatories, was imprecise. Many Vatican-watchers speculated that Pope Francis was responding to this letter when, in an unscheduled address to the Synod, he reportedly cautioned against a "hermeutic of conspiracy" regarding the procedures for the meeting.

Magister is a veteran Vatican journalist, who has sometimes expressed criticism of Pope Francis. The Holy See Press Office suspended Magister’s credentials in June after he published an early draft of Laudato Si'. Although the Vatican stressed at the time that the leaked draft was only a preliminary version of the encyclical, it proved to be very close to the final document.


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