Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
More and more there is talk in Rome that this synod is being engineered by groups intent on steering the Church in a heterodox direction, and increasingly evidence is coming to light that points to it.
The first and most obvious example was the interim report published on Monday. It still remains unclear who exactly wrote it and how many eyes had seen it before it was made public, but the strong criticisms of it from such Church leaders as Cardinals Raymond Burke and Gerhard Mueller are enough to point to a lamentable lack of scrutiny, with consequences for souls.
Archbishop Bruno Forte, the synod’s special secretary, known to be a keen advocate for changes in pastoral practice, is thought to have been one of the main authors -- certainly the passages on homosexuality that drew most media attention.
It's also believed the general rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo, was cajoled into signing off on it. To help the cardinal along, observers say, he was given five assistants on Friday, including Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Fr Adolfo Nicolas, the head of the Jesuits. There was notably no one from Africa, but as Cardinal Walter Kasper told me yesterday, these five were chosen because they are “open people who want to go on with this.”
Many synod fathers have made it known they were not expecting the “relatio” to be made public, despite it being common procedure during synods for such a document to be published.
“Just like you, I was surprised that it was published,” Cardinal Wilfrid Napier told reporters Tuesday, adding: “You people got the document before we got it, so we couldn’t have possibly agreed on it.”
Even more revealingly, Cardinal Napier lamented the “media exaggerations” (they portrayed the Church as making a “stunning” and “revolutionary” step towards homosexuals), saying that once such media perceptions are “out there” in the public, “there’s no way of retrieving them.”
This is common sense and could have been predicted given the controversial subject matter, as Father Lombardi admitted yesterday: “It’s something all of us with anything to do with communications could have foreseen,” he said.
So whoever was behind the release of the document most probably knew the impact it would have, and effectively sent it over the heads of everyone, including the Pope. When I asked Father Lombardi today if the Holy Father had seen it before it was published, he returned to the fact that it is standard procedure to send out the report -- remarkably for such a sensitive document -- without even the Pope or the synod presidents having to see it.
But there are other examples of this being engineered. The restrictions on reporting on the synod, ostensibly to free up discussion, is perhaps the most obvious. The move has been criticized by Cardinals Mueller and Burke, among others.
Other examples can be seen at the daily press briefings, where a picture of unity and harmony is often conveyed, but it’s one at variance with what one hears coming from individuals in the synod hall. Interestingly, it has been observed how little Jesus is mentioned during these briefings, replaced by the generic language of welcome, feelings and accompaniment.
In his interview with the Register published yesterday, Cardinal Burke said what is being presented to the media does not tally with what’s happening in the assembly. “What is coming out does not reflect the reality, in my judgment,” he said. “I am speaking very openly about it because I think it is my moral obligation.” And he added people “are pushing the agenda” of Cardinal Kasper and his proposal for the divorced and civilly remarried.
Some have said this synod reminds them of the methods used to hijack the Second Vatican Council. Veteran Vatican watchers say such engineering is unprecedented in the modern Church.
Perhaps given the reported shenanigans, and what is at stake, the best answer is to pray. Earlier today, Voice of the Family – an international coalition of pro-life groups – drew attention to the fact that Archbishop Zbignev Stankevics, the archbishop of the Latvian capital Riga, is making an “urgent call” for prayer for the outcome of the synod.
The archbishop has called on the synod to take a strong stand in defense of Catholic sexual ethics and to avoid diluting the Church’s message in order to appease her critics.
Voice of the Family recommends praying the following traditional Catholic prayer for bishops:
“O God, who hast appointed Thine only-begotten Son to be the eternal High Priest for the glory of Thy Majesty and the salvation of mankind; grant that they whom He hath chosen to be His ministers and the stewards of His mysteries, may be found faithful in the fulfillment of the ministry which they have received. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.”
Voice of the Family also recommends that families pray for themselves during the Synod, saying the following traditional Catholic prayer to the Holy Ghost:
“O eternal Spirit of Love, Bond of unity in the Holy Trinity, preserve love, unity and peace in our home. Make of it a faithful reproduction of the Holy House of Nazareth, upon which Thou didst look with such kindness. Bind us all together, not merely by worldly ties, but by the golden bonds of charity, prayer, and mutual service. By the gift of piety, help us to forgive and forget the little grievances which the events of life and diversity of character may foster among us. Whatsoever duty may call us, let us never bring dishonor upon our home and family. Ward off from our home the spirit of pride, irreligion and worldliness. Allow not the lax principles and perverse maxims of the world to take root among us. Teach us to love and respect that Christian modesty which reigned supreme in the Holy Family. As by Thy help we live in unity here below, give us, we beseech Thee, the grace of final perseverance, that together we may praise Thee and love Thee through a happy eternity. Amen.”