Yesterday was a very busy day for me. I was up at 6 a.m. to get ready to be at the Paul VI Hall at 8 a.m. I took a cab down. I noticed that after he took off with me in back, he was heading continually in the opposite direction for the Vatican. He could have just turned around at the round about down the hill from me and gotten right there. I made some comment to him about the direction he was going, but he kept turning on streets headed in the totally opposite direction. After I was insistent with him, and the meter was at a value more to his liking, he headed down the hill in the right direction. I was attending a morning prayer session in the Synod Hall with a group of the journalists. I was one of two women in the group. In fact, after seeing where the lay auditors were seated, I realized I was one of 30 women or so, in this room of close to 300. It was interesting to see all of these men seating themselves, of course, in ranks….I think they have assigned seating….first cardinals, then the bishops, then the 10 heads of the major men’s congregations in the back row. The Superior General of the Jesuits was seated right in front of where I was standing. He looks like a very sweet man. The lay observers were off to the side and at the back. It is amphitheater type seating. We were hustled out by our “keeper” right before the last note of the last song was sung. I then went to the General Audience as a journalist. When I signed up for this I was told by the Press Office we would be up on a terrace of a building to the left of the stage where the pope sits to give his catechesis. When our “keeper” took us into the square, we were first “parked” in one spot and he told us “stay here”. Then a security guard separated the photojournalists from the group of about 8 of us. He then took the rest of us over to seating right in front of the first barricades down front. He even carried my chair for me! Then a bit latter another security guard took us from there up onto the platform area at the same level as the stage, to the section to the left of it, into the very back row. These sections to the left and right of the stage are those where you need to know someone or grease someone’s palm to get seating. I will post my article submitted to the Missoulian where you can read of my experiences there. We were less than 100 feet from PF.
After the audience, it was on to the Press Conference. Here are my thoughts: there seems to be continual talk somewhere on the final document. Reporters are picking up on someone bringing that final document into question. There are either questions about the validity of the commission tasked with writing it or questions if it will be readable and constant questions of whether there will even be a final document and if it will be published. Fr. Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson is beginning to get testy when a reporter again brings it up. And I think the reporters have all finally gotten the message to not ask another question about the infamous letter!! There are also questions about the mood inside the Synod hall. Again, I think someone is couching a few of these reporters to bring this up. The answers given are getting these reporters nowhere in a hurry on that subject. Following are my notes which are lengthy because I transcribed any English speaker fully from the video tape
October 14, 2015
Please note: although the words and responses of the various entities seem verbatim, they are a “summary” of what I heard them say. Do not assume everything here is exactly as it was said. I do my best to take accurate notes but these news conferences are very fast paced. Please note: all of the words of English speakers are exact, transcribed from the video.
Fr. Lombardi, Vatican spokesperson
Crd Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Head of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales
Crd Philippe Ouedrago, Burkina Faso
Crd Ruben Salazar Gomez, Bogota, Head of CELAM, South American Bishops Conference (Note: arrived wearing plain black cleric suit and color with silver episcopal cross and chain. Others were in red-piped cassocks and red zuchettos….rr)
This morning there was the presentation and speeches of the small groups on part 2 of the Instrumentum laboris (IL). This contribution is preparing for the crux of the matter. I will not brief you today on the presentation from this morning. There was also a half hour in which 15 Synod Fathers took the floor on part 3. I will give you a list of who spoke but not brief you on the contents.
Thank you for this opportunity, Fr. Lombardi. Fr. Lombardi suggested just some general comments for a moment or two. For me this synodal experience has some similarities with others and some differences. The similarities are that it is essentially very hard work and we get very tired. We have now, according to my count, listened to over 200 individual contributions. But one of the differences this time is the interplay between the plenary sessions and the small groups and that, in my experience, has made this process have more energy in it and more creativity. The groups (small groups..rr) of which I am a member, I think, is moving rapidly toward friendship, not just working colleagues, but a growing appreciation and friendship. This morning, we heard the reports from the 13 groups (small groups..rr). You have those reports. It strikes me that they are creative. That there are some common lines. I think two: One, the Instrumentum laboris has complicated the process by combining two sources into one document. It is in part the document from the end of the Extraordinary Synod, which had its own logic and its own flow of thought. Into that has been inserted contributions that came in from the consultations between the Synods. And that combination of two sources has led most groups today to say that the IL was in the part 2 especially in need of some restructuring. It needs a much stronger theological theme to guide the unfolding of part 2. What we have this morning, which you have, is, I think some very creative suggestions about what that theological framework might be. Not 1, but 4 or 5, (of the small group reports on part 2..rr), is each of them rich in it is own way. I could look at more detail at those if you wish but that would be my short opening.
The Synod for me is quite an experience. I have been in previous synods so I can compare. At the present we don’t know if the final document will be published or what. Our work on the IL is a follow-up of last year trying to analyze a view of the future. We are living in an extraordinary moment of the Catholic Church. paying heed to families, especially broken families. There is brotherly interplay. Divergent opinions are put forward with full freedom.
It is an important past decision that the Church is a family. Life and habits are different in Africa. Family is very important in Africa. This is a third synod for me. What is important in Africa is evangelization in a country (his country…rr) of 7 million is very different. There are diverging opinions and yet similar for the African “shepherd”. We are not here to embrace certain values but to embrace the Gospel of Jesus. We must look at things through the perspective of faith. We must specify to the world what is God’s design. We have common challenges with the rest of the world: vocations, missions, goal of marriage. Loyalty in marriage is very important in Africa. We need to face our issues around the Bible since these are issues to all the other churches. We must foster the value of marriage without neglecting the goal of marriage. The Church needs a wide open door where everybody can enter. Polygamy and polyandry are problems. We have so many forms of polygamy. It is a huge challenge. Europe doesn’t know these problems.
- Austen Ivereigh: I have a question in Spanish for Crd Gomez. I heard that someone from Latin America was told that regional assemblies could provide at Synods. Was this proposition accepted? As head of CELAM do you think the Synod reflects Aparecida?
We organized a meeting on a continental level before the Synod on evangelization on a continental level. I think it enriched the debate. Reality is different from region to region even within one country. Previous meetings will aim at facilitating the unfolding of the Synod.
No—Apariceda was different. It was not a Synod. We used different methods and procedures. It was special. Any meeting of bishops decide……(translation ran out as another question was inserted before the translator completed her though….ff)
- This to Lombardi. What was the Holy Father referring to when he apologized for scandals during the General Audience. Was it the letter (from the 13 cardinals….rr)?
I will be brief. I urge you to get over the letter. He was paying heed to scandals as in the Gospel passage that was read. He was apologizing in general terms. If he wanted to specify further he would have said what he meant. I can’t clarify further. The mass media issues related to Rome could also be part of it. The pope realizes many people are all paying attention to the news. There might be responsibility on the part of the Church
I would like to just make two comments. The moment when us 3 finished speaking (making the introductions..rr), there were people present signaling they wanted to speak. It reminded me very vividly of the moment in the Synod meetings when we pass from formal interventions to the period of free interventions. What happened the last time we were together in the first 10 seconds there were 24 people who has pressed their buttons (buzzers signaling they wanted to speak….rr). So being there and seeing your response is like the Synod watching all the green lights go on at the same time! With regard to the letter, I would just like to say it has not had the slightest effect on the progress of the Synod and the debates within it.
- Edward Pentin: Your eminence, I would like to understand why Crd. Daneels was invited to participate in the Synod in light of the fact that he has been accused of covering up sex abuse scandal cases. He has urged the King of Belgium to sign a law permitting abortion and has professed to being a member of this secretive so-called (??…couldn’t understand him….rr) group. Given all this can you elaborate why his eminence was chosen to serve as a Synod Father. One other question, I just want to know how much you would like to see he Holy Father publish a Relation finalis or an Apostolic Exhortation to bring clarity to the Church’s teaching on marriage and family.
The first question was about who?
(Reponse: Crd Daneels)
I don’t have any comment on that. He was invited and he accepted. That’s as much as I know
I think and my hope certainly is the pope will reflect and issue an exhortation on a magisterium document. That request is beginning to come through in the debates. My own instinct is that the Holy Father has asked us and encourage us to speak very freely because he is very clear about his own role. And secondly, I think my instinct is that he has established a jubilee year of mercy precisely to create the context about the theme of this Synod so it can be received. My hope is certainly that he will complete this process because it seems to me that it will need bringing to conclusions and there is only one person who can do that.
- Lamb from the Tablet: In the small groups, Crd Nichols, that you moderate, you say the group fells there is a need for deeper reflection on the relationship between mercy and justice. Do you feel the Synod has not had enough time to reflect on this question which of course is crucial when you are looking at questions on the matter of Communion for the married and divorced and remarried and other issues?
Well, the second section we’ve been discussing over the last few days and the reports concerned this morning is the theological foundation for what is to follow in the third part. In the Instrumentum laboris as it stands, if I remember rightly, there are only two paragraphs, I think 67 and 68, which attempt to present, as it were, a foundation for our understanding of the place of mercy in the economy of salvation. It was certainly a preoccupation for our group and we used as our basic resource two paragraphs from Miseriacordis Voltus (“The Face of Mercdy”, written by Pope Francis to announce the Holy Year coming up….rr), paragraph 20 and 21 where the pope precisely explores the relationship between justice and mercy and gets away from the temptation, which has been around all this year, that somehow there is a conflict between justice and mercy, that somehow mercy replaces justice. So, under the appeal of mercy the Church may say to people “It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s fine. It doesn’t matter”. But, that is a profound misunderstanding of the relationship between justice and mercy. And it was for that we are seeking further development. I think it is interesting to see too that in the report we received this morning, this was the first topic dealt with by the single German-speaking group. There’s no doubt the German report is the most theological. Their first theme was mercy, truth, grace and justice. The report went on to talk about what we need is the wisdom to approach and to attend to each situation and to make the distinction between attending to situations and simply making the exceptions. It is important to remember who is in that group (Is he referring to the fact that Muller is in that group?….rr) and I think it is important for you to know every resolution of that group and this report were accepted unanimously in that group to no tension or division of opinion in that German-speaking group.
- To Crd. Ouedrago: Do you think there is too much of a western voice?
In the French-speaking small group (he is in this one as he speaks fluent French…rr), we have expressed this. It all depends on the author of IL. The accent and focus is mostly western. In Africa it is polygamy and the desire to access the sacraments. But each situation is a specific situation. What matters is to listen to the others.
In Latin America, the situation is specific due to the indigenous culture and the Afro-descendants of slaves. Yet, there are also all the western issues. The majority of the countries are Spanish-speaking and Catholic and this gives a common culture ground to appreciate. Western churches and specific situations need to be highly open to the truth of the Gospel to shed light on situations.
Could I just turn this question around slightly and say that one of the great values of the Synod is that for example we Europeans come to appreciate more and more the riches of the living of Churches in other continents. The ‘resourcement’ of the Church is not just from its European roots but from these different experiences. So, we have listened a lot to the African experience of marriage being between not just between individuals. Therefore the richer concept of the social position of marriage and therefore the resources is of the two families trying to help the young couple to establish and mature. To make a contrast, in my country when a parish is preparing a marriage, the people who are marrying see it essentially as a private event. If the priest says “Let’s make this a parish event, let’s invite everyone from the parish to your wedding”, they’ll say “
Well, hang on a minute. This is our event”. So that’s the richness that we can begin to receive from the African experience and it is the Synods that make this all possible.
- Different small groups ask for a magisterial text. How can we see this request? Is this a limitation to the Synod?
No, I don’t see it as a limitation to the Synod at all. I think it is precisely the evolving of the synodal method that we have seen work over the last 30 years. So, if you think of Evangelii gaudium, which is full of the character of Pope Francis, but it came out of the Synod on Evangelizaion. I think it is the Synod interplay between the proper responsibilities of bishops to listen and to attend to the experience of their churches and to bring it here. And the proper responsibility of the Bishop of Rome to give voice in a definitive way to what emerges to be the core and the heart of the church’s teaching and of its mission. I think it is a proper and fruitful expression of collegiality and primacy.
I already expressed my views on people coming from the “First Evangelization” (I think this is his term for the first churches evangelized in the Christian era, the European Churches….rr). The challenges are many. At the same time, we can be a point of reference. The Synod is the mother and father who are guiding all the members of the family and confirm the faith of all members.
- Despite the diversity, the Church should really give an element of “catholicity” to family. Regarding regional solutions, how do we update all the Churches in all the regions?
I think it is a quite complicated question. The way I would approach the diversity of the Church and its universality would be very simple. What the Church always has to strive for is a kind of critical distance from its local setting, its particular culture. For me there’s quite a strong British way of doing things, a British culture. You see it, for example, well-illustrated in the editorial comments in the London Times news this morning. But the Church has to have a critical distance a bit like an arc light. If there is going to be some light, then the two elements have to be at a critical distance. And the universality of the Church holds the local church to a critical distance. Otherwise it gets too close to the prevailing culture and the light disappears, the critical light. So, for me, the interplay between what we must try to do in Europe or what CCEE must try to do in Europe and the wider church expressed in the Synod and the role of the Holy Father helps us to be kept at a critical distance from our local circumstances and culture.
- I want ask if I well understand if we might not produce a final document but will material go to the Holy Father to work on and Apostolic Exhortation?
Lombardi: I believe I have answered this several times. We envision some document at the end. What is not totally clear is if the Holy Father will receive it as is and publish it or he will revise it. Until a week from this Saturday, we won’t have an idea.
- Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service: The Synod has repeatedly said it would like to have clearer language so the Gospel and the Church’s message can be heard by everyone. But a lot of what we have been reading is perhaps a bit more difficult for regular people. Do you, any of the Synod Fathers, have a plan on how to produce a Synod document that can be made clear to the public, if it is made public, and rigorous for the pope? Do you have a plan where that is possible, where there is theological background foundation and yet regular people can understand it?
From my point of view, the first option we have has been to work hard in our small groups and make positive suggestions. As I said at the beginning, I think some of these language groups, if you read the reports, you see quite clearly creative ways of trying to present the Church’s vision, the Christian vision of marriage. Some of them center around the notion of marriage as a sacrament. Some of them center around Jesus as the Incarnate Word. Some of them center around Jesus as the Light of the World. Some of them took the notion that was in the Instrumentum laboris of the divine pedagogy, that unfolding of God’s plan, but worked very, very creatively on that notion so that there are in one of the French groups and one of the English groups I think indications of how that could be then. Now there is a commission that will take responsibility for presenting to us next weekend, (the weekend of Saturday, October 24..rr), the first and then the final, our final document. (Note: the “first” he is talking about is the draft which will be presented on October 21. The Synod Fathers can debate it and make suggestions for revisions continuing from the 12st up through the night of the 23rd over to the 24th, almost up to the last minute, before the document is finalized…..rr)
I believe, I think, we should take into account the idea of the Church as universal and yet different cultures. The document should have universality but I think it will have language understandable in the regional. Universal language and suitable for comprehension is the goal.
The language groups provide opportunity for interplay. I think something will come out of that. We are here to serve and are owners of nothing. We are here to just collaborate and work, hopeful and trustful it will come up with a document that is understandable by the whole world.
Regarding ideological colonization: poor people are weak. We need a set of measures to access funds. The mass media should teach respect for the poor.
- We are in the middle of the Synod, halfway. There seems a sort of stalemate regarding methods and then the letter. Is there a sense of stalemate on mercy versus truth? This is the first Synod of decentralization. It is talking about many issues but I believe in our society we need to take onboard that the families are facing huge challenges.
What I picked up from the translation was your use of the word “stalemate”. That is not my experience at all, no. I do not think it is like that. There is a lot of energy in the Synod. There are differences of opinion because as his eminence (indicating Ouedrago…rr) we’re a family, families have difference of opinions. But the way everybody is approaching it is taken a real lead from what Pope Francis has said on the second morning, on the Tuesday morning: we must not be guided by a “hermeneutic of conflict”. That is not the spirit or a pathway that is being followed in the Synod. I myself have no sense of stalemate. I have a sense of a real willingness to exploring in depths some of these really difficult issues and that will continue. It’s hard work, it’s halfway, but there is no sense of negativity in the Synod.
It is so important to comprehend the nature of the Synod. We are trying to contemplate God in His mercy. Trying to unveil the mercy of God and its meaning. People coming from different countries can have one soul, one heart. That isn’t ideology but meeting essentially one person.
I don’t see a stalemate. There are some characterizations: conservatives versus radical. Pope John XXIII said the Gospel doesn’t change but we can understand it better. Also, the Church is continually reforming.