I wasn’t going to mention it, but what started out as potentially just noise is gaining in scale as time passes. Yesterday morning, there was a report about an alleged letter having been written by 13 cardinals and hand-delivered to Pope Francis, raising concerns about the procedures of the synod and it initial working document, the Instrumentum Laboris. I won’t say any more about the letter’s supposed content or signatories, since both have since been repeatedly disputed, although some of the cardinals who supposedly signed this letter did admit to having written a similar one to Pope Francis. My main reason for mentioning this disputed letter is to provide context for the reactions from various Synod Fathers that do shed light on their thinking.
First, a statement by the spokesperson of Cardinal George Pell, who was alleged to have hand-delivered the letter to Pope Francis, says - in addition to denouncing the publication of private letters and expressing a concern about the membership of the drafting committee of the Synod’s final report:
“[M]inority 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 rather interesting move, ahead of Pope Francis deciding what to do after the Synod ...
While several cardinals who are alleged to have signed it have denied any involvement, Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier confirmed that he did sign a similar letter - as did Cardinal Pell, while Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is on the 10-member drafting committee for the final report, argued that the suspicions of irregularity were already brought to the Synod as prejudices:
“If you’re convinced this is all rigged, then you’re going to see that everywhere. I think that was the single most powerful negative element as this synod opened, that there was an aura around fostered by a number saying this isn’t going to be a fair synod. So no matter what you do, that’s the starting point. Everything looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.”Cardinal Gerhard Müller, on the other hand, refused to either confirm or deny whether his being on the list of alleged signatories is correct. Instead he delivered a scathing attack on those who published the letter:
“The scandal is that a private letter of the Pope is made public. This is a new Vatileaks: the Pope’s private documents are the private property of the Pope and no one else. No one can publish it, I do not know how that could have happened. Whoever did it needs to justify themselves. The intention of those who wanted it published is to sow strife, create tensions. That seems clear to me.”Cardinal Müller then launched into a categorical denial of any questions about his loyalty to the pope:
“I think [Pope Francis] spoke about those who say that in the Roman Curia there is opposition against the pope [when he warned against a “hermeneutic of conspiracy”]. Those who say and write that there are wolves, that Francis is surrounded by wolves. It is an offensive and criminal expression. I’m not a wolf against the Pope. I know who the Pope is and what primacy means, a thousand times more than those who say these things. As prefect of the Congregation, I am the first collaborator of the Holy Father, not just me but all those who are part of it. And I won’t allow my obedience and my service to the Pope and the Church to be put in doubt.”To conclude the matter, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, stated:
“[I]n terms of content, the difficulties included in the letter were mentioned on Monday evening in the Synod Hall, as I have previously said, although not covered extensively or in detail.Turning back to the interviews and interventions with Synod Fathers, a particularly encouraging one is Vatican Radio speaking with don Roberto Rosa, an Italian parish priest whom Pope Francis has personally nominated as Synod Father. Don Rosa explains:
As we know, the General Secretary and the Pope responded clearly the following morning. Therefore, to provide this text and this list of signatories some days later constitutes a disruption that was not intended by the signatories (at least by the most authoritative). Therefore it would be inappropriate to allow it to have any influence.
That observations can be made regarding the methodology of the Synod is neither new nor surprising. However, once agreed upon, a commitment is made to put it into practice in the best way possible.”
“It was something unexpected, which began with a letter that I sent to the Pope at the beginning of August about some pastoral issues. I wrote without even thinking that would read it. A few days later I received a phone call directly from Pope Francis, who had my letter in his hand and together we talked about several pastoral problems of the family. Then we said goodbye. A few days later, I received the appointment, unexpected, to participate as a Synod Father in this Synod on the family.”Don Rosa then spoke at length about various challenges related to work - both its lack in some cases and its absolutization in others, where it is at the expense of family life. Asked what he would hope to see the Synod do about these challenges, he replied:
“[T]he Church, above all, should propose to those entrepreneurs who are Catholics, engaged in trade, in supermarkets for example, to make a bold choice: to live Sundays and also bring them into life for their employees. This would lead to a rediscovery of the value of work, which clearly is a tool for bringing ahead one’s own family - “ora et labora”, we have been created by God also for work - however, the ultimate purpose of our lives is not the job, it is celebration. I would say that God created us for Sunday. That’s where the sense is of all the work. [...] The Gospel always goes against the current, it is always a great innovation that makes life more beautiful for men and women, in the world, in the Church. So, let’s rediscover the Gospel of life, of a full life!”On the subject of a new language and respect for homosexuals, Cardinal John Dew said the following:
“[Homosexuality is] an issue that people have to to talk about and its an issue that families struggle with, really struggle with. Such people need to be respected you know not not condemned but be respected. If this is their sexual orientation that we have to respect them and try somehow, and no one’s too sure how, but to to include them in the life of the Church. When we have documents which talk about intrinsically disordered or being evil, that’s not going to help people. You know we’ve got to find a way to express what the teaching actually says but not putting things in ways that people feel that they are being branded and they’re being told that the are bad or evil. Scripture was written for a particular time, Paul was writing about particular issues and so for people just to pick out something and even for Church authorities to quote something without putting it in context is not helpful for people. I just hope that something will come out in the final document that helps people to see, I’m sure that’s what Pope Francis is trying to do, this trying to help people to see that the Church is here to to support and assist them. And especially when there’s some area, whether it’s an area of sexual morality or some other difficulty in their families that they’re struggling with.”