The Vatican yesterday published the names of participants for the upcoming Synod on the Family, but strangely absent from the list are experts from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, despite the organisation having a faculty in Rome.

Professors from the Institute have been some of the most vocal in criticising the possibility of changing pastoral practice regarding Holy Communion for divorced and “remarried” Catholics.

Family life will be the focus of the extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops that will meet at the Vatican between 5-19 October 2014. The 150 synod fathers taking part will discuss the "pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization."

But the two week meeting is also expected to look at “updating” pastoral practice concerning divorced and “remarried” Catholics who are not allowed to receive the Eucharist. The issue has been widely debated since Cardinal Walter Kasper mooted possible changes to the Church’s pastoral approach in a keynote speech at a consistory on the synod earlier this year.

Many Church leaders were critical of the speech and Cardinals Sean O’Malley and Thomas Collins expressed opinions contrary to Cardinal Kasper's thesis (they also won’t be present at the Synod). But some of the most vocal were associated with the John Paul II Institute. They include Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, founder and former president of the Institute who helped write the last apostolic exhortation on marriage, St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio 30 years ago. Also strongly critical were institute professors Father Juan José Perez Soba and Stanislaw Grygiel.

Cardinal Caffarra, along with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, another former president of the institute, will be participating (Fisichella is also one of the members of the Synod’s ordinary council).

But other members of the institute are conspicuously absent. There may be good reasons for this: for example, Father Manuel Jesús Arroba Conde, canon law professor at the Pontifical Lateran University, of which the John Paul Institute in Rome is a part, is on the list of participants and may be representing the Institute’s concerns.

Still, to have no other expert present from the Institute, nor a number of those who publicly differed with Cardinal Kasper’s speech, appears to go against a purported wish for a full and open debate.