VATICAN CITY — A group of bishops, priests and Catholic faithful from around the world, who wish to remain nameless because of what they call a “climate of intimidation” in the Church, have signed four propositions critical of the Amazon synod’s working document and addressed them to Pope Francis and synod fathers.

Using what it calls a “classical method,” the group, which calls itself the Coetus Internationalis Patrum Working Group (International Group of Fathers), lists four theses in the synod’s working document as “unacceptable” and contrasts them with the Church's perennial teaching. 

The group, named after the most influential interest group at the Second Vatican Council which submitted numerous amendments to conciliar documents in a bid to uphold tradition, sent the Register and other Catholic media outlets a copy of the propositions. 

The group stresses that although “numerous” bishops, priests and laity share the concerns, no names will be revealed “because of the growing climate of intimidation and purges present in the Roman Curia and in the Church in general.”

The synod working document, widely criticized since its publication in June, will form the basis of the discussions for the Oct. 6-27 Synod, whose theme is “New paths for the Church and for integral theology.”

The Coetus Internationalis Patrum group begins by stating that the working document, also called an instrumentum laboris, “raises serious questions and very grave reservations because of its contradiction of individual points of Catholic doctrine which have always been taught by the Church, as well as its contradiction of faith in Jesus Christ, the One Savior of all mankind.”

It goes on to say it has “drawn up, following the classical method, four propositions in the form of ‘theses,’” summarizing the document’s main points, and adding that “in conscience and with great frankness, we affirm that the teaching of these theses is unacceptable.”

 

Dominus Iesus

The first of the four relates to “Amazonian diversity:” the assertion made in the document that paths to salvation are no longer reserved exclusively to the Catholic Church and that the Church should “integrate” non-Catholic Christian “modalities” without dogmatism or discipline. 

The Coetus Internationalis Patrum group contrasts such a teaching with passages from Dominus Iesus, the 2000 declaration of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which underlined that the fullness of Christ’s salvific mystery belongs to the Church, and that the unicity (uniqueness) of the Church must be firmly believed as a truth of the Catholic faith.  

The second thesis the group rejects is the working document’s assertion that Pan-Amazonian theology should be taught in all educational institutions, that non-Christian rites and celebrations should be proposed as “essential for integral salvation” and that the Eucharistic rite should be adapted “to their cultures.” 

Again, Dominus Iesus is cited in opposition, specifically Art. 21, which rejects the notion that the Church is “one way” of salvation alongside other religions, or the notion that these other religions are complementary to the Church. Although Dominus Iesus acknowledges various religious traditions contain elements that “come from God,” the Vatican instruction adds it is not possible to attribute “a divine origin” or “salvific efficacy” to the prayers and rituals of other religions, nor should it be discounted that these rituals could “constitute an obstacle to salvation.”

Thirdly, the Coetus Internationalis Patrum takes issue with the working document’s assertion that the Amazon territory and the cry of its peoples is included in various recognized sources of theology, such as Sacred Scripture, the Councils, and the Fathers of the Church.

By contrast, the group cites passages from Dei Verbum — the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution on Divine Revelation —which reasserts the origins of Sacred Scripture, the handing on of Divine Revelation, and the firm link between sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church.

 

Threefold Office Separation

Lastly, the group rejects the working document’s suggestions that “older persons who have families” could be ordained, “official ministries” for women might be created, and that a “new vision” of Holy Orders can come not from Revelation but the cultural practices of the Amazonian people. The group also notes that the document suggests a separation ought to be made between the priesthood and the munus regendi (the priest’s threefold office of priest, prophet, and king). 

Against this, the group cites from six Vatican documents: Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations), Presbyterorum Ordinis, the Council decree on the ministry and life of priests, Pope St. John Paul II’s 1992 post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, Pastores Dabo Vobis, the entirety of Pope St. Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical defending clerical celibacy in the West, Sacerdotalis Coelibatus, and John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which reaffirmed the priesthood is to be reserved to men alone. 

Since its publication, the instrumentum laboris has drawn criticism from notable theologians, including Cardinal Raymond Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider who issued a declaration Sept. 12 citing six “serious theological errors and heresies” and calling for prayer and fasting before and during the synod. 

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also issued a strong critique of his own, as has Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, who warned that “decisive points” in the working document are “heretical” and that it constitutes an “attack on the foundations of the faith.” 


Below is the full text of the Coetus Internationalis Patrum document:

To the Pope and the Synod Fathers:

We, numerous bishops, priests, and Catholic faithful from all over the world, hereby affirm that the Instrumentum Laboris prepared for the coming Synodal assembly raises serious questions and very grave reservations, because of its contradiction of individual points of Catholic doctrine which have always been taught by the Church, as well as its contradiction of faith in Jesus Christ, the One Savior of all mankind. We have drawn up, following the classical method, four propositions in the form of “theses” summarizing the main points of the Instrumentum Laboris. In conscience and with great frankness, we affirm that the teaching of these theses is unacceptable.

 

1. Amazonian diversity, which is above all religious diversity, evokes a new Pentecost (IL 30): respect for this diversity means to recognize that there are other paths to salvation, without reserving salvation exclusively to the Catholic faith. Non-Catholic Christian groups teach other modalities of being Church, without censures, without dogmatism, without ritual disciplines and ecclesial forms (IL 138); the Catholic Church ought to integrate these modalities. Reserving salvation exclusively to the Creed is destructive of the Creed (IL 39).

Against this, among other texts: Dominus Iesus 14 and 16.

 

2. The teaching of Pan-Amazonian theology, which takes special account of myths, rituals, and celebrations of indigenous cultures, is required in all educational institutions (IL 98 c 3). Non-Christian rites and celebrations are proposed as “essential for integral salvation” (IL 87) and we are asked to “adapt the Eucharistic rite to their cultures” (IL 126 d). On rituals: IL 87, 126.

Against this: Dominus Jesus 21.

 

3. Among the various Loci Theologici (that is, among the various sources of theology, such as Sacred Scripture, the Councils, the Fathers of the Church) there is included the territory [of the Amazon] and the cry of its peoples. (IL 18, 19, 94, 98 c 3, 98 d 2, 144).

Against this: Dei Verbum 4, 7, 10.

 

4. It is suggested that ordination be conferred on older persons who have families and to confer “official ministries” on women. There is thus proposed a new vision of Holy Orders which does not come from Revelation, but from the cultural usages of the Amazonian people (which provide for a rotating system of authority, among other things). Therefore there ought to be separation made between the priesthood and the munus regendi (IL 129 a 2, 129 a 3, 129 c 2).

Against this: Lumen Gentium 21, Presbyterorum Ordinis 13, Pastores Dabo Vobis 26; and also: the entire document Sacerdotalis Coelibatus, especially 21 and 26, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 1, 3 and 4; Pastores Dabo Vobis 29.

 

Coetus Internationalis Patrum Working Group

October 1, 2019