Pro-life groups attending an international conference at the Vatican last week have accused the chief organizer of the upcoming Synod on the Family of sowing confusion over the Church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

Voice of the Family, an international coalition of pro-family groups, said in a Jan. 25th statement that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who addressed the conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for the Family, was "undermining" doctrine by defending the right of theologians to contradict the Church’s teaching in this area.   

The 74 year-old former Holy See diplomat reportedly told delegates the Church should not be “shocked” by theologians contradicting Church teaching, and he defended the right of Cardinal Walter Kasper to assert that divorced persons living in unions not recognized by the Church should be permitted to receive Holy Communion.

The purpose of the Jan. 22-24 conference was to provide opportunity for 80 lay groups to study provide input for the October 2015 synod. 

Explaining his position, Cardinal Baldisseri allegedly said dogmas can evolve and there would be no point holding a Synod if what has already been said were simply repeated. He also suggested that just because a particular understanding was held 2,000 years ago does not mean that it cannot be challenged, Voice of the Family said.

Patrick Buckley, international envoy for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, pointed out that the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage “is founded on the words of Jesus Christ. These words may have been spoken 2,000 years ago, but for Catholics they remain nothing other than the unchanging commands of God.”

The coalition's director, Maria Madise, said in the communique that "everything seemed up for discussion at this conference, including questions already clearly resolved by the magisterium of the Church.

"Such discussion," she added, "distracts from the task of finding real solutions to the problems faced by real families ... Suffering families are not assisted by the sophistry of professional dissenters, whether clerical or lay.”

Cardinal Baldisseri is said to be a supporter of the Cardinal Kasper position. In an interview in November, Cardinal Raymond Burke said the synod's secretary general has “identified himself very strongly with the Kasper thesis, and he is not hesitant to say so and has gone around also giving talks in various places." Cardinal Burke said he is less outspoken than Cardinal Kasper but "nevertheless it’s clear that he subscribes to that school.”  

Various pro-life delegates at last week's conference noted that organizers said participants had reached a consensus in the discussions, but this was not what they experienced.   

Voice of the Family is urging the faithful to pray that the Pontifical Council issues a clear reaffirmation of Catholic teaching on marriage and family in a document it will publish on the three-day meeting.

I asked Cardinal Baldisseri's office if he would like to respond to the Voice of the Family statement, but no one has yet to respond. 


UPDATE - 12pm, Jan. 27th

Cardinal Baldisseri has responded to the Voice of the Family statement saying: "The statements attributed to me by 'Voice of the Family' do not correspond to my thought. Probably, having spoken in Italian, some phrases could have been limited by the simultaneous translation. I therefore invite you to read the text of my address."

The cardinal sent a copy of the Italian text of his address which can be found here

Voice of the Family has answered the cardinal's response, saying: "The reported comments were made by Cardinal Baldisseri in response to a question put forward after the address by a concerned delegate. Therefore they will not be found in the text."