Waiting was torn to pieces by inner controversies which not always came under the spotlight. Against the background of the Synod on the Family, currently at the center of the reflections of 270 Synod Fathers, there is the contrast between the more conservative spirit of the clergy and the progressive one, which sees in a different way the relationship to keep up with the divorced, for instance, or the opening towards homosexuals. Provided that what is being discussed are not personal rights, it is precisely on discipline that there are serious contrasts within the Church.
The position of the intransigent party is expressed very clearly in the recently published book “Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family” presented in the United States. Especially as far as the admission of the divorced and remarried to the sacraments is concerned, the text signed by 11 cardinals does not grant any opening. For the Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes (the vice president of the Pontifical Council for Laity and the current leader of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” ), a look at the history of the Church “leaves little reason to think that the most recent attempts and views have now found the philosopher’s stone”. The zeal of those who hope for a change of course, that is, in an opening of the Church on the topic of Communion for the divorced, is considered praiseworthy, but not acceptable. According to Cordes, those who remarried, transgressed Jesus’ commandment and live in a situation that is in contrast with the will of God. Therefore they “cannot have access to the Holy Communion”. Even if all this – he stresses with a tip of provocation – would receive the applause of the media. And not only that of the newspapers. A considerable section of the ecclesiastical hierarchy agrees with the line of mercy often invoked by Pope Francis. And the gaze turns towards the discipline of the so-called merciful marriage in the orthodox church.
On the topic of “information”, the Synod Fathers will be present at the daily briefings organized on this occasion by the Vatican press office. It is one of the methodological novelties illustrated by the secretary of the Synod, the cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, during a press conference held at the Vatican. “Media communication and information during the last Extraordinary General Meeting on family was abundant and very comprehensive – said the Tuscan Cardinal -. The same mode will be used during this Ordinary General Assembly”. And remember the fundamental criterion the Holy Father recalled several times: “The Synod should be a protected space for the Holy Spirit to be able to act in it; so that the Fathers can have the freedom to express themselves. The Fathers – stated Baldisseri – are free to communicate with the media at their discretion and responsibility”. This opening to external communication is certainly a novelty in the procedures.
Due to a decision taken by Pope Francis, the Synod on the Family, which opens with Mass on Sunday and will begin its work on Monday, will follow a more effective method than the previous ones, which, in the intentions of the Pope, will encourage concrete decisions. Practically, the 270 Synod Fathers will take on their discussion where the Extraordinary Meeting hold last year had ended. The latter had approved by simple majority the “propositiones” on the hypothesis of admitting the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist and on a greater openness towards gays in parish communities (a topic raised loudly by the coming out Mons. Charamsa did yesterday), opening on both topics was asked by the Catholic basis through the questionnaires wanted by the Pope and by an absolute majority, all of the others concerning the topic of the pastoral care of the family. Those proposals, supplemented by the results of a second survey wanted by Pope Francis between the two Synods, have now merged in the Instrumentum Laboris “.
“With this text in hand, composed of the ‘Relatio Synodi‘ voted last October and of the contributions of particular Churches, the Fathers are preparing to begin discussion of the challenges of the family, in the discernment of their vocation and for the announcement of their mission,” said the general secretary Lorenzo Baldisseri.
The three weeks of the Synod will be dedicated respectively to the three issues on which decisions are expected to be taken (in the form of “not binding proposals to the Pope”): “Listening to the challenges of the family”; “The discernment of the family’s vocation”; “The mission of the family today”. Thre are going to be three-minutes-long speeches, but the discussion will take place mainly in the 13 “small groups”. Each one of them will provide a summary document at the end of every week, that will be published by the Vatican Press Office.
A Commission, in which there are no members of the Roman Curia, will prepare the summary document and at the end of each one of the three stages of work will take care of the elaboration of the draft of the final report which will be presented in the audience hall and will be, explained the Cardinal Baldisseri, “the elaboration of the three texts that have already implemented the collective modes of Circuli minores – whose reports were read in the audience hall and published – further interventions are to be advanced respecting the collegian work hitherto conducted”. Subsequently, the Commission will ensure that processing of the final text of the Relatio finalis, that on Saturday, October 24 will be presented in the audience hall and in the afternoon will undergo suffrage in the Assembly”.
Among the synod fathers there are: 74 Cardinals (including 1 patriarch cardinal and 2 major archbishops), 6 patriarchs, 1 major archbishop, 72 archbishops (including 3 holders), 102 bishops (including 6 auxiliary bishops, 3 vicars apostolic and 1 emeritus), 2 parish priests and 13 religious men. The origins of the Fathers who come from five different continents are distributed as follows: 54 From Africa, 64 from America, 36 from Asia, 107 from Europe and 9 from Oceania. “Besides, in this Synod Assembly will partake – said Baldisseri – other figures invited from different cultures and nations: 24 Experts and collaborators of the special secretary, 51 auditors and 14 fraternal delegates. Is noteworthy also the fact that, because of an Assembly on the topic of the family, we wanted to put special emphasis on married couples, parents and heads of the family, for a total of 18 people, 17 among the auditors and one among the experts”.
The Pope will have to provide a final text on the work of the Synod Fathers and “the last word” will be up to him. It was precisely Bergoglio who wanted a final document already last year, under the sign of true collegiality. Everything has been thought in the name of a true and complete synod expression.