Deacon Nick Donnelly


Looking at the censorship of the bishops’ interventions during the Synod the bulletins issued by the Holy See’s Press Office which favour dissenting novelty, and, the travesty of Faith contained in the interim Relatio post disceptationem searching questions have to be asked. Has the Extraordinary Synod ‘by fitting means’ striven diligently to ‘inquire properly into that revelation and ‘given apt expression to its contents?

If it is confirmed that officials have manipulated the Extraordinary Synod then it's integrity and authority are in grave doubt. 


Over the past week I have alternated between anger and anguish as I have witnessed the chaos unleashed at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Never in my life have I witnessed such confusion and disorientation about the Faith at the heart of the Church, the Holy See of Rome. During the past 35 years I have looked to Rome for certainty and consolation while the storms of dissent and disobedience ravaged the local churches. However, in this week my faith in the competence, even willingness, of Rome to uphold the Faith has been badly shaken.

I know that I’m not alone in weeping for the Church and for the Faith and join my prayer to Our Lord’s prayer for Peter during His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane:

‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ (Luke 22: 31-32).

The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church sets out that the Pope has a special care to ensure that Revelation is ‘transmitted in its entirety’ and ‘under the guiding light of the Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church’. (Lumen Gentium, 25). The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council also spelt out the fundamental responsibility shared in common by pope and bishops, that they:

‘by fitting means diligently strive to inquire properly into that revelation and to give apt expression to its contents’ (LG 25).
And that ‘ a new public revelation they do not accept as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith.’ (LG 25).

Looking at the censorship of the bishops’ interventions during the Synod the bulletins issued by the Holy See’s Press Office which favour dissenting novelty, and, the travesty of Faith contained in the interim Relatio post disceptationem searching questions have to be asked. Has the Extraordinary Synod ‘by fitting means’ striven diligently to ‘inquire properly into that revelation and ‘given apt expression to its contents?

As faithful Catholics our love for, and loyalty to, the Holy Father, as the successor of St Peter, are strong and central to our identity as sons and daughters of the Church. It is heart breaking to ask these hard questions. But as Pope St John Paul II has formally stipulated in his Motu proprio Ad tuendam fidem [To Protect the Faith], as faithful Catholics we have a solemn obligation not to accept or obey anything that is set against that which is ‘required for the holy keeping and faithful exposition of the deposit of faith’. This obligation to the obedience of faith has the force of the Church’s law (Canon 750§ 2). We must not be frightened off or cast aside by wild accusations of Phariseeism.

Has the Extraordinary Synod been conducted in a fitting manner?

When I was in Rome for the first week of Pope Benedict XVI’s Synod on the New Evangelisation each evening we rushed to a local internet café on the Viale Giuolo Cesrae to read the verbatim English translations of that day’s interventions by named cardinals and bishops. This freedom of expression and access to the bishops’ deliberations is absent from Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Synod on the Family. If Pope St John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI had imposed such rigid censorship of the Bishops’ interventions as we are experiencing in this synod they would have been accused of authoritarianism and a lack of collegiality.

Instead of the usual synodal custom of publishing the bishops’ interventions the General Secretariat of the Synod has issued daily bulletins containing brief summaries of unattributed points raised the previous day. These bulletins have proven deficient on two counts: the editors of the bulletins have favoured dissent and novelty rather than the exposition and defence of the Church’s doctrine, and the bulletins have intentionally left those outside the synod in the dark about who said what.

A number of senior cardinals have publicly criticised the conduct of the General Secretariat of the Synod. Cardinal Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told the press that, “These interventions should be published as before. All Christians have the right to be informed about the intervention of their bishops.” Cardinal Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of The Apostolic Signatura – the Church’s highest legal authority – went so far as to accuse the General Secretariat of the Synod of ‘manipulating’ the presentation of Synod’s work. He told Catholic World Report:

“The interventions of the individual Synod Fathers are not made available to the public, as has been the case in the past. All of the information regarding the Synod is controlled by the General Secretariat of the Synod which clearly has favored (sic) from the beginning the [objectionable] positions expressed in the Relatio post disceptationem [Mid-term report of the Synod]”.

“While the individual interventions of the Synod Fathers are not published, yesterday’s Relatio, which is merely a discussion document, was published immediately and, I am told, even broadcast live. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see the approach at work, which is certainly not of the Church.”

If it is confirmed that officials have manipulated the Extraordinary Synod then it's integrity and authority are in grave doubt.

Has the Extraordinary Synod inquired properly into revelation?

It has become commonplace for cardinals and bishops who propose undoing the Church’s doctrine on marriage and sexual ethics to camouflage their real intentions with the ‘doublethink’ phrase ‘Of course Doctrine will remain unchanged, what I am proposing is pastoral’. As George Orwell expressed it ‘doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.’

One of Pope Benedict’s gifts was his ability to cut through such ecclesial doublethink with the double edged sword of God’s Word (Rev 19:15). In 1998, Cardinal Ratzinger challenged Cardinal Kasper’s proposals to admit the divorced and re-married to Holy Communion. Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

‘If at times in the past, love shone forth too little in the explanation of the truth, so today the danger is great that in the name of love, truth is either to be silenced or compromised. Assuredly, the word of truth can be painful and uncomfortable. But it is the way to holiness, to peace, and to inner freedom. A pastoral approach which truly wants to help the people concerned must always be grounded in the truth. In the end, only the truth can be pastoral. "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"’ (John 8:32).

Unfortunately, with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI the doublethink that seeks to hold together two contradictory beliefs about doctrine and pastoral care is wreaking havoc at the Synod. Of the many examples in the Relatio post disceptationem I will give just one about the pastoral care of the divorced and re-married. Paragraph 47 states:

‘For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop –, and with a clear undertaking in favor (sic) of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances’.

Simply put, this paragraph is proposing that divorced and re-married Catholics may be re-admitted to Holy Communion after undertaking some form of penitential self-examination. This proposal totally contradicts the doctrine, originating in Christ’s explicit teaching, that divorced and re-married Catholics are committing adultery because of the indissolubility of the original marriage. If the couple in the civil union don’t live together as brother and sister, the sacramental discipline derived from doctrine is that they cannot receive Holy Communion because they are in an objective state of sin (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1650).

Clearly, the doublethink expressed in the Synod’s Relatio post disceptationem is seeking to undo the indissolubility of marriage. The Relatio also attacks other fundamental doctrines, including those on homosexuality, and the reservation of sexual intercourse to marriage.

Has the Extraordinary Synod given apt expression to revelation?

The confusion and disorientation caused in just one week by the Synod on the Family shows convincingly that something has gone badly wrong in Rome. The chaos has been publicly acknowledged and challenged by senior members of the Synod.

Archbishop Gądecki, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, told Vatican Radio that the Relatio summary of the Synod was not acceptable to the Synod Fathers because, among other things, its presentation of doctrine contained ‘sins of omission’.
While Cardinal Burke also challenged the doctrinal deficiencies of the Relatio and Bulletins:

‘While the document in question (Relatio post disceptationem) purports to report only the discussion which took place among the Synod Fathers, it, in fact, advances positions which many Synod Fathers do not accept and, I would say, as faithful shepherds of the flock cannot accept… The document lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium. In a matter on which the Church has a very rich and clear teaching, it gives the impression of inventing a totally new, what one Synod Father called “revolutionary”, teaching on marriage and the family.’

Cardinal Burke concluded his devastating critique of the Synod by calling on Pope Francis to intervene and publicly challenge the doctrinal chaos:

‘The faithful and their good shepherds are looking to the Vicar of Christ for the confirmation of the Catholic faith and practice regarding marriage which is the first cell of the life of the Church.’

With Cardinal Burke, and the other faithful bishops, we wait for Pope Francis to break his silence and confirm his brethren in the doctrines and discipline of the Catholic Faith, to challenge all who would seek to impose a new public revelation on the divine deposit of faith, to turn and strengthen his brothers in the faith of Christ which does not fail.







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