VATICAN CITY — Before the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, the Vatican faced criticism for failing to appoint a faculty member from the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in any capacity.
With the March 14 appointment of Father José Granados — a priest of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the vice president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome — as a consultor to the secretary general of the synod, that implied oversight has been corrected.
“Father Jose Granados is an excellent choice to serve as a consultor for the Ordinary Synod [of Bishops] on the Family,” David Schindler, dean emeritus and a professor of fundamental theology at the John Paul II Institute in Washington, told the Register.
“A consultor also for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father Granados taught for many years at the Washington session of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America. He is a great teacher and a profound and prolific author of books in patristics and in systematic theology and Catholic doctrine.
“His book, Called to Love, co-authored with Carl Anderson, is a widely read and well-respected study of St. John Paul II’s theology of the body,” Schindler noted.
Mary Shivanandan, who has retired from her position as a theology professor at the Washington session, also welcomed the news of Father Granados’ appointment.
“Father José Granados, who is one of the leading proponents of the theological anthropology of the John Paul II Institute, brings the whole Trinitarian vision of the family to the synod discussions.”
“The institute’s uniqueness lies in conceiving marriage and family and all the moral complexities associated with it as a manifestation of God’s self-revelation as a Trinitarian communion of Persons,” explained Shivanandan, who is the author of Crossing the Threshold of Love.
“Father José himself has made a special study of the theology of the body and its nuptial meaning, which alone is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine.”
Further, she noted that the priest is one of several professors from his religious order, founded in 1987, to study and teach at the various John Paul II institutes around the world.
“The Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are dedicated to the family in all its aspects, theological and pastoral.”
Father Granados, who also serves as a visiting professor of patristics and systematic theology at the institute in Rome, will join 11 other consultors. They will be involved in preparations for the upcoming Ordinary Synod of the Bishops on the Family in October.
A notable omission at last October’s synod was any faculty member from the John Paul II Institute, although some previous institute presidents did attend, including its founding president, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra.
But some observers contend that Father Granados will need backup support to have his voice heard, as most of the other consultors also took part in last year’s controversial synod and hold views contrary to those of the institute.
For example, Salesian Father Aimable Musoni, professor of systematic ecclesiology and ecumenism at the Pontifical Salesian University, wrote a book in 2007 entitled Identità e storicità nella Chiesa (Identity and Historicity in the Church). Father Musoni’s director for the book was Cardinal Walter Kasper, who also wrote its preface. Cardinal Kasper is regarded as the leading figure in the push for holy Communion for divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics.
Also, Father Maurizio Gronchi, a consultor at the last synod, who teaches dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, penned a long article for L’Osservatore Romano in December 2013 that aimed to rehabilitate the thinking of the French philosopher Jesuit Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The Vatican, in a 1962 monitum (reprimand) deemed Father de Chardin’s works “replete with ambiguities or, rather, with serious errors, which offend Catholic doctrine.”
Jesuit Father Georges Ruyssen, a canon-law expert at the Pontifical Oriental Institute and also a consultor at last year’s synod, once floated the idea of Eucharistic sharing between a Catholic and a member of a reformed denomination within a mixed marriage.
Professor Giuseppe Bonfrate, who teaches theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, gave an interview around the time of last year’s synod, in which he speaks of a “need of feeling with the faith, which puts the imagination and emotion in play. You have to start with this,” he said. “Everything, then, in the Christian experience, is proclaimed and celebrated by having a graduality, introducing a path that remains open until the end.”
Furthermore, for a synod that will largely focus on moral issues, some have pointed out the lack of experts in moral theology or moral philosophy. They also highlight the absence of female theologians with expertise in the area of marriage and family. One such candidate suggested could be professor Tracey Rowland, dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia.
The synod was also criticized for largely ignoring John Paul II’s teachings on marriage and the family, particularly his 1981 apostolic exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio (The Christian Family in the Modern World).
Father Granados has underlined the importance of upholding Church teaching when it comes to the family, saying in a recent interview, “Today, more than ever,” family ministry “needs the light of doctrine: a story that allows engaged couples to prepare their love for the ‘forever’ of marriage and that encourages parents to tell their children why life is worth living.”
During last year’s synod, he noted it had become clear this “rich vision” of the Church’s doctrine “has been lost.” He also said the proposal to admit Catholics who had divorced and remarried — and had not secured an annulment — to holy Communion reflected a “very poor” idea of Christian doctrine, which was viewed as an unreachable ideal that should instead be “adapted to their reality and weakness.”
The Spanish priest is also the author of Eucharist and Divorce: Towards a Change of Doctrine? He has asserted that if giving holy Communion to the divorced-and-remarried faithful were allowed, it would change “not only doctrine, but also the very source from which the doctrine comes.”
Also, given the fact that the upcoming ordinary synod is more binding on the faithful than last year’s mostly information-gathering event, the presence of Father Granados should allay some of the fears of many who believe a change in Church doctrine is imminent.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Joan Frawley Desmond is the Register’s senior editor.