31 October 2019

From Words to Deeds. The Six Points On Which the Post-Synodal Exhortation Is Already Written

Pray fervently that Francis's post-synodal exhortation does as little damage as possible to our Holy Mother Church.

From Settimo Cielo

By Sandro Magister

With the synod for the Amazon filed away, the anticipation is now over what Pope Francis will decide, on the basis of the votes delivered to him in the final document.

To judge by the improvised speech in Spanish that Jorge Mario Bergoglio gave in the synod hall at the end of the sessions, on the afternoon of Saturday October 26, his decisions will not take long. And in essence they are already written.

To identify them it is enough to go over step by step this speech by the pope, in its verbatim transcription.
First of all, Francis made it clear that for the next synod the issue that appeals to him is already there, that of synodality.

“One of the issues that was voted on, which received a majority - three issues received a majority for the next synod - is that of synodality. I don’t know yet if this will be selected or not, I have not decided yet, I am reflecting and thinking, but I can certainly say that we have come a long way and we must travel even further on this path of synodality.”
In the second place, the pope said that the document in which he will establish how to put into practice the votes of the synod for the Amazon will come soon, probably before the end of December:

“The postsynodal exhortation that - it is not obligatory that the pope do so - the most probable thing, no, excuse me, the simplest thing would be: ‘Fine, this is the document, do it yourselves,’ however, a word from the pope on what he experienced at the synod could do some good. I would like to do so before the end of the year, so that too much time doesn’t go by, everything depends on the time I will have to think.”
Third. On the “vexata quaestio” of the female diaconate, already discussed by a commission of experts that he set up in 2016 but that did not reach any agreement at all, Francis said that he will recall the commission to life with new members whom he will appoint, under the aegis of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith:

“There has been talk of new ministries, […] of creativity in this, […] and we will see how far this can go. […] I accept the request to recall the commission or perhaps open it to new members in order to continue to study how there existed in the primitive Church the permanent diaconate [of women - editor’s note]. You know that they came to an agreement among everyone that was not clear. […] I will seek to redo this with the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, and to bring new persons onto this commission, and I take up the gauntlet that they have thrown: ‘And we want to be heard.’ I take up the gauntlet.” (After this last remark, the official bulletin that reproduces the pope’s speech writes that there was a round of applause).

On this point, as is well known, the final document of the synod, at no. 103, pushed just a bit further. It limited itself to saying that “in the multiple consultations undertaken in the Amazonian area the permanent diaconate for women was urged” and that “for this reason the issue was also very much present at the synod,” to conclude with this wish: “We would therefore like to share our experiences and reflections with the commission and we await its results.”

And even so the votes against were 30 and the abstentions 14, a quarter of the voters. But the proponents of the diaconate - and ultimately the priesthood - for women have nevertheless claimed it as a success. It was enough for them, for the moment, that a “process” be set in motion. And this is just what they got, with the immediate and explicit support of Pope Francis.
Fourth. Concerning the call for the new “Amazonian rite” in the liturgy, however, in his speech Pope Francis stepped on the brake. This will not be elaborated by a local commission appointed by the bishops of the Amazon, as proposed in the final document of the synod at point 119, but will be seen to by the Vatican congregation for divine worship, which has as its prefect the unyielding cardinal Robert Sarah:

“There was talk of a ritual reform, opening ourselves to the rites, this is within the discretion of the congregation for divine worship, and it can be done following the criteria and in this I know that they can act very well, and make the necessary proposals that inculturation requires.”

With matters put this way, it will therefore be entirely unlikely that the new rite, if it ever comes to be, will be “enriched,” as wished for by the final document of the synod, even “with the way in which the [Amazonian] peoples take care of their territory and relate to their waters.”
Fifth. On the proposal of new organisms of management and coordination for the Church in the Amazon, in his speech Francis pronounced himself in favor. 

But he said more. He added that he also wanted to open an “ad hoc” section at the Vatican:

“And a contribution also with respect to the organization of the Roman curia. It seems to me that there is a need to do this, and I will talk about how to do it with Cardinal Turkson. To open an Amazonian section within the dicastery for promoting integral human development.”
Sixth. And the ordination of married men to the priesthood? Curiously, it seems that the pope’s speech was missing any explicit reference to the question, which in fact was the most discussed of the entire synod.

In reality Francis did make the reference. By implication, in two parallel passages. In a caution to journalists and in an invective against what he calls the Catholic “élite.”

To journalists:

“A thanks to the media. […] I would ask a favor of them: that in their diffusion of the final document they adhere above all to the diagnosis, which is the weighty part, which is the part where the synod really expressed itself best: the cultural diagnosis, the social diagnosis, the pastoral diagnosis, and the environmental diagnosis. […] The danger could be that they may dwell […] on the little disciplinary things that have their transcendence, but that would not do the good that this synod must do.”

To the Catholic “élite”:

“There is always a group of […] Catholic “élites,” and Christian at times, but above all Catholic, who want to go to the “smattering” and forget about what’s “big.” I am reminded of a passage from Péguy, I looked it up,  I will try to translate it well, I think that it could help us when it describes these groups that want the ‘smattering’ and forget about the ‘matter’: ‘Because they do not have the courage to be of the world, they believe that they are of God. Because they do not have the courage to be on man’s side, they believe that they are on God’s side. Because they do not love anyone, they believe that they love God.’ For me it went well, I did not fall prisoner to these selective groups that from the synod want only to see what has been decided on this intraecclesiastical point or on that other, and reject the body of the synod, which are the diagnoses that we have made in the four dimensions.”

The “smattering,” the “intraecclesiastical point” to which Pope Francis alludes is none other than the ordination to the priesthood of what are called “viri probati,” proposed in these words in point 111 of the final document:

“We propose to establish criteria and dispositions on the part of the competent authority, in the framework of ‘Luumen Gentium’ 26, to ordain as priests men who are suitable and recognized by the community, who have a fruitful permanent diaconate and would receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, being able to have a legitimately constituted and stable family, in order to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments in the remotest areas of the Amazonian region.”

It took this tortuous formulation, packed with restrictive conditions, to obtain a scanty approval of the proposal. And above all it had to be put on the record, at the conclusion of the paragraph, that “in this regard, some spoke out for a universal approach to the issue.”

This point 111, in fact, was the only point of the final document that was in serious danger of not reaching the two thirds of the votes necessary for approval. Out of 181 voters, with the quorum set at 121 votes, the “placet” were 128, the “non placet” 41, and the abstentions 11.

But it is public knowledge that this synod was conceived and organized precisely with this primary objective: “to open” to the ordination of “viri probati” in the Amazon in order to then extend the innovation to the whole Church.

Exactly as had happened with the double synod on the family, aimed at giving the go-ahead to communion for the divorced and remarried.

Back then as well, Francis hurled bolts at those who were stuck on that “smattering” instead of looking at the magnificence of the whole.

And meanwhile he demolished with a little footnote, in the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” the greatness of two millennia of “what God has joined, let no man put asunder” (Mt 19:6).

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