There seem to be no end to the rumors of “hermeneutic of conspiracies” occurring in the Synod. There are groups insistent that the Synod is being “managed” to come up with a certain outcome. Mainly, these are folks who think quite a bit different from most of the readers here. I had lunch with a long-time Vatican reporter I met last year. He thinks all of this talk of conspiracies is just nuts. I think part of it comes out of how the flow of information is being handled. Because Francis decided last year and this year that the various Synod “fathers” speeches would not be published, some say this means he does not want it to get out what they are really talking about. Actually what PF is doing is respecting the request of quite a few bishops. In doing so, it allows them to speak more freely. There is still a lot of mistrust and fear among them as to what could happen to them should PF die and a pope is elected who is a tyrant. The conspiracy theorists are possibly using the fact that the bishops’ speeches are not published to undermine the work of the Synod. There are many who want to see this effort fail and fail big time because they know it would hurt Francis’ image and his ministry. This year, many of the “fathers” have published the full texts of their speeches on blog pages and websites so some of the wind is being taken from the sails of those who want to cry conspiracy and undermine things. Read about this here. Also, we have been told that the reports of the small working groups will be published. Those will come out tomorrow for the first week. Yet, despite the fact that I think that John Allen is not happy with this pope, I have to agree with him a bit as he reports here. I do think he is a bit over the top calling it “A dirty little secret”. You have to go to only two of the news conferences as I now have to realize the message that is being given out is just some crumbs to keep the reporters happy. The constant mantra is that all is going well and everybody is behaving nicely to one another. Today, though, there was a little bit more. So, we will see how it goes in the coming days. My notes from today’s press conference will follow after this next paragraph.
In having lunch with the Vatican reporter I mentioned above today, we had a far-ranging conversation on Church matters and Francis. We agreed one of the main outcomes is increased Synodality. He also pointed out that as conceived by Paul VI, the Synod is an ongoing process. It isn’t just a meeting that are called once in awhile because a pope has a wild idea on some matter. It is truly an on-going thing. The pope does not call for a Synod, he convenes one that is ongoing. We also talked about formats for Synods of the future. He agreed with me that not too far into the future, Synods will not be convened in Rome but will be done using the newest communication technologies with the ability to link up various sites. He asked me what I think Francis will do if he does not see the outcomes he is looking for with this Synod. I answered he will convene another session next year. He was in full agreement with me. We also talked about the abysmal state of the priesthood. He stated that he has also heard that PF is going to tackle this next, right after the Synod by allowng for married priests. He said that will be the one move that PF can make that will have significant impact on the priesthood and the Church. Keep praying, keep praying. I hate to sound like a stuck record but I think it will help!! Can’t hurt, can it??
October 8, 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…rr
Panel: Fr. Lombardi, Vatican Spokesperson
Ab. Menichelli, Italy (Note: he did not come in all decked out in magenta bishop’s garb, just plain black suit and collar..rr)
Beat. Ignace Younan-Eastern Rite (Syrian?), Lebanon
Ab Charles Palmer-Buckle, Ghana
There are no specific reports of general contribution of the work of the small groups that continue to meet. Tomorrow morning, I will be given these reports and they will be available to journalists in the afternoon. Also, the press conference tomorrow will speak to the these reports. Some of the members for tomorrow’s panel are Crd. Tagle (Phillipines), Ab Kurtz(US) and Crd. Varela (Madrid).
–Small groups roster, finalized
–Two contributions from lay couples on part 1 of the Instrumentum laboris. A contribution on
Part 2 will be available tomorrow.
–The technical problems with the blog website for the press have been solved. Audio and video clips of interviews with the Synod fathers are available in various languages.
–I wish to say that the communication of information for the Synod has been established
to guidelines and adopted. Mons. Celli is in charge of communications working with others on
a commission which represents all the different languages. Fr. Lombardi is the ex-officio
secretary. This commission checks the flow of communications of the Synod.
Turned over the floor to the panelists and gave introductions.
Palmer Buckley—Africa is the fastest growing continent in the Catholic Church. There are eight regional conferences and 37 episcopal conferences of Africa and Madagascar. The conferences are multilingual. They prepared for the Synod with a number of seminars. From that work, they prepared a book, An Answer to the Instrumentum Laboris, Our Mission. The African bishops are here at the Synod to share it with the Synod and the Church.
Younan—Mons. Charles (Palmer Buckley) speaks of growth. In the Middle East we have decrease and are alarmed by the situation of the Christian communities in the Middle East. There are terrible problems in families. They are divided and torn. The Bishops are doing what they can to get out of an impasse. The Bishops and Patriarchs are there with the people to help. They are trying to encourage the younger generations to stay in the homelands but not succeeding.
Menichelli—as far as I am concerned I am not going to focus on the Italian reality as you are all well aware of it. There are 21 members in my small group of all ranks of hierarchy plus laity and lay auditors. The work is customarily open and free. They focus well on a task, working in part 1 of the Instrumentum laboris that describes the current situation. We must know the life of the people and families in which they can be inspired by the Church. Even though there are different views, there is fraternal discussion in the group. The Patriarch of Jerusalem brings a very different but enriching view. There is an open and frank atmosphere. There are different ways to express love in families but also there are situations in which the Church “disrupts” family. The small group working together for seven hours means we have to hold each other in esteem.
- To Palmer: There is a conversation going around among the journalists that Africa is blocking the process. It is almost a mission impossible to come up with consensus.
Palmer: Actually, it would be hard for me to say if African is blocking. Pastoral practices in the Church are emphasized. Africa is coming up to increasing pastoral practices. In Africa, family is being whittled back from a wide, extended family to just the nuclear family. WE want to take on best practices to help extended families. Holy Mother Church will need to take a decision in pastoral practice. Doctrine will need to hold on issues. Other difficult pastoral practices need to be discussed. African bishops are here to share what we have as a value to the entire Church.
- To Lombardi: What about the conspiracy of hermeneutics? Has the Holy Father expressed anything publicly or privately?
Lombardi: I won’t deny it though I follow criteria in community. The concept must have full confidence and what we say takes place in a logical way. Must not think there are plots, conspiracies taking place. There is exchange of views in a sincere atmosphere not guided by plots to control the process of the Synod.
- To Palmer: Regarding the situation in Africa, especially north Africa for families. Why is the government and the Church not speaking to it? They must stay the flow of migration which is the problem for these countries. There is silence in the Church and Europe on what to do. In your context, what do you think of the future mission of the family? Is it possible to organize a meeting?
Palmer: I must say we have already had large consultation on migration. There have been two large meetings in Tunis and Egypt to discuss the issues. Around the region there have been lots of discussions. Each episcopal conference is required to take up the issues with their government. We like to “deal” locally. In Ghana, every year a letter has been issued by the Church on the precariousness of youth and the lack of good government in these countries. The Church has observers at the AU (African Union). The world is big on what are the solutions for Africa but not big on considering our histories. The Church has started the African Catholic News Agency. It is an access point for information from various news agencies. I can share this information with you after, providing you resources. Bad governance is leading to the flight of youth who are the brains of our countries.
Younan: I wish to add that these migrations apply in the Middle East. It is forced migration. People want to get out of “this hell” because they are persecuted. Hundreds have been taken hostage by ISIS. For us it is a real catastrophe. Where we live in these lands, this situation has been dragging along for a long time.
Menichelli: This was brought up in his small group with a different interpretation brought up . Why is it happening and why now? The group is exploring reasons. There are no quick solutions to this situation.
- To all three: The Synod has a general rapporteur who is to draft the final report (the General Report Erdo gave on the opening day of this session of the Synod)..rr). So far “debate” has been on that report. It contains the Instrumentum laboris and initial debate(note: from the October 2014 Synod). We have a feeling the General Report (given by Erdo on the opening day..rr) has been “shelved”. Do you believe the General Report of Erdo is a “simple text”? Ulrich yesterday said everyone can refer to whatever. Is the Erdo text (note: they are referring to his the General Report he delivered on the opening day..rr) like others? What do you think?
Menichelli: It is not a “simple” text. It is his interpretation of the Instrumentum laboris. Is it a summary? Ask Erdo if it is an interpretation. The discussion in the small groups is based on the Instrumentum laboris. So the Instrumentum laboris and General Report are not in contrast.
Palmer: I would like to offer another perspective. This Synod is a result of a long path. Thanks to the pope’s questionnaire sent out. It was published so all could answer. Then there was the Extraordinary Synod. So we took the answers of the questionnaire and input from episcopal conferences. We were given a year to respond to the Lineamenta and then the Instrumentum laboris was drafted, taking all into account. What Erdo did contains the richness of the debate (from last year..rr). Those who think it has been shelved need to learn that the African delegates respect Erdo’s General Report.
Younan: The Synod is a privileged place, because of the small groups. We can freely discuss all points. Then we make a summary.
Menichelli: I feel it is a “Synod of the People”. We have not invented the themes. Over the last year, we have enriched them.
- An issue has been raised that the Synod is too “western” in its style and vocabulary. Must there be universal solutions or more western solutions?
Younan: probably the media thinks it is too western. The goal is more universal than we assume and tend to talk on solutions for the married.
Palmer: Anything good coming out of Africa is not good enough for the western media. Only if there is “black” news does it get attention. Africa and other nations, such as those in Latin American are contributing well. That it is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic assures it is not European. Issues discussed are of all humanity.
Menichelli: Note: the simultaneous translation of his remarks at this point went off but whatever he was saying, he was very impassioned but then again he is Italian!!..rr
- There was a question also raised by one of the Synod fathers on better involvement of women. Was this discussed in the small groups? Also what about the sisters?
Menichelli: Yes, it was discussed in small groups. An important contribution to the discussion was about women deacons. But we must take into account theological and doctrinal issues. We must think of the potential pastoral responsibilities for women. The issue of women is
welcomed and discussed.
- We have seen video of the beheading in the Kabul valley. Was it discussed? Will there be another document of solidarity with persecuted Christians come out of this Synod as last year?
Younan: The tragedy of Christians in the Middle East is hard to describe. It cannot be dismissed as current affairs. We try our hardest for the voices of these people to be heard. We feel we have been forgotten and betrayed. Western states are following policies of economic expediency. Tragedies are experienced by our people when historic and ancient Christian areas are destroyed. The Patriarchs and Bishops are shaken by the cry of alarm from these regions. The western world needs to avoid economic expediencies in seeking reconciliation of this situation.
- Many African bishops have spoken out against gay marriage and have spoken for the criminalization laws. Can the Church and the Synod come up with a statement regarding these bishops speaking out?
Palmer: The Holy Father when he said “Who am I to judge?” on the way back from Rio caused a huge repercussion in Africa. The African countries were told, I believe by the UK, that if gay marriage was not accepted, aid would not come. The Holy Father offered more teaching also. After a bishop’s conference, a paper came out on the respect of gays. Yet we want respect for our sovereignty. All sons and daughters of Africa, they are our blood, are children of God and must be respected. It takes time for voices to be heard when cultural differences have been for so long. It is deceptive to think things will change over night. Give countries time to deal with it in their own time. I want to underline that all children are God’s. It is naïve to think we will change over night. Give us time.
- To all the panelists: Don’t you think that the role of women and the issue of gay marriage are out of context for this Synod?
Menichelli: These issues are not out of the remove from the part and parcel of family issues. The issues of this year are not the same as the last. Last year it was challenges to the family. This year it is the vocation and mission of the family. The focus is on the human evangelical mission. We are not blind to the problems. Themes of the Synod: Family is a container of the life for everybody. The more family is lived the more people are helped.
Younan: There are difference between marriage as the Church preaches and the union between people. Marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman.
- To Palmer: You said there are 36 episcopal conferences in Africa. Based on the list provided why wasn’t the continental episcopal conference invited? The catholic nature of the Church you stressed led us to believe problems in Africa are same as the rest of the Church yet the Instrumentum laboris seems to indicate otherwise. What tools does the Church in Africa have to help the situation of families there?
Palmer: The continental episcopal conference OSHAM (not sure that is what he called it…rr) is quite large but not invited. Our fault we did not invite it. It is a great institution in the African Church. They have important contributions. Your second question: Yes we maintain that part 1 of the Instrumentum laboris did not understand the African perspectives. Documentation distributed to the African bishops has emphasized this. The Holy Father says to freely express our concerns. I think our concerns will be welcomed by the Synod.
Lombardi: The continental episcopal conferences were not invited because this would have created dual representation. Some heads of continental conferences were elected by their regional episcopal conferences and some were invited b