Layers and Walls

I was a bit under the weather yesterday evening so I did not post on yesterday’s events so here goes on that.  After the press conference yesterday, I visited the Basilica of San Clemente.  This church is very, very old.  The “new” part dates from the 12th century.  It in itself is very beautiful with great mosaics and very old frescoes.  Then you can visit the excavations, two levels of them.  The older basilica, extant in the time of St Jerome, is one level down.  Again, mosaics and even older frescoes.  I was particularly touched by a Madonna and Child fresco I saw.  These frescoes are 4th and 5th century.  Restoration work is on-going on them.  Interestingly enough, I noticed that the floor was really, really uneven and I was walking on what felt like something rubbery.  It was “pathways” of new asphalt.  In looking around, I realized this had been achieved to install new lighting, all LED.  I would imagine that LED has less effect on the structures and frescoes.  It is also very humid in these spaces and LED may just hold up better.  The next level down was first century Roman with a temple to Mithras in it.  It is thought that what has been excavated was the imperial Roman mint.  It was hard to follow the plan of this but one thing we were directed to was this small house with herringbone tile flooring that had access to a spring at the back corner from the inside.  That had to have been a luxury in first century Rome.

One thing I noted in the “new” part of the Church was that the sanctuary area was completely walled off by a wall taller than me and I am about five feet six inches.  The only way that the congregation, the great “unwashed”, could see the liturgy was through an iron grilled gate maybe three and a half feet wide.  I wondered why and when the Church decided they needed to create this exclusion from the Eucharist.  And this Synod is proof if there ever was that this is still going on.  We still have “walls” keeping people from the Eucharist.  I see this in the idea of “solid Church teachings”, “difficult teachings”, terms I am hearing coming out of the Synod Fathers.  Basically this is saying you have to follow these teachings to the letter or no “Bread of Life” for you.  I get a sense from some of the comments and interventions from the lay auditors…we are given the full texts of what they say, but not the bishops….that it is some sort of badge of honor to now be “the older brother” (as in the parable of the Prodigal Father/Son).  To have “stuck with it” is their pride and to now allow others an easier path is not acceptable to them.  I am reminded of the NIMBY’s in Montana, those who come to buy property, establish their home and then don’t want others to come in….NIMBY is “not in my back yard”.  We now have NIMC’s….”not in my Church”.

Other observations: someone has posted a petition on-line calling for bishops to stage a walk out of the Synod.  Someone is getting desperate.  There are still “digs” at the pope.  One comment in my notes about “doors wide open”…very much a PF phrase…versus the “narrow pathway” as also very important is an example.  My notes are below.  Also what I keep hearing over and over is “we just need to learn to say…..( the same things)…as we have always said but in a better language”.  This has been tried and tried.  How many “new evangelization” initiatives has the Church tried in the last 50 years?  When will they learn it is the teaching itself that is the problem?  There are glimmers of hope.  I hear very nuanced comments regarding this very thing, made in very subtle ways.  I understand that the German Synod Fathers have been not so subtle.  Wish I could read German.  The summation of comments we get are in the original language so there is no English version of it.

Keep praying, keep praying.  I am getting as bad as PF with his continual request: “don’t forget to pray for me”.


Synod 2015

Press Conference

October 15, 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.  I have transcribed full text of any English speaking panelist or journalist. from the video.


Fr. Lombardi, Vatican Spokesperson

Fr. Dorantes, Official Spanish Translator for the Vatican

Fr Rosica, English media attache for the Vatican

Ms. Ferrauto, French media attache for Vatican

Fr. Dorantes, Official Spanish Translator for the Vatican

Fr. Hagenkord, SJ, Director of Vatican Radio’s German Program

In addition, after the above reported:

Ab Gadecki, President of Polis Episcopal Conf, Posnin

Ab Retes, Tlalnepantia, Mexico



We must report on—a mission impossible—on 93 contributions (interventions..rr) on part 3 that were made between yesterday afternoon and this morning.  This morning as yesterday, the contributions were made in the main hall.  A list of those who spoke is published and available to you.  Plus there was general debate on part 3.  The tone of the contributions was fraternal from both the delegates and the auditors.  Tomorrow there will be a short contribution on this afternoon’s intervention and then two guests.  There will be no press conference on Saturday  Our two guests after the presentation are Ab Gadecki, President of Polis Episcopal Conf, Posnin and Ab Retes, Tlalnepantia, Mexico.

Summation and comments of the interventions:


I will give a very general framework of the interventions, if I can:

  • The importance of the defense of Catholic teaching was emphasized. Extending it and clarifying it on marriage and the question of indissolubility was presented.  The Church has no power to effect the Word of God.
  • According to the teaching of Jesus on who and who cannot access the sacraments: “We cannot control access of the sacraments”.
  • The divorced and remarried and access to the sacraments

I will give just some examples to consider:

  • Proposals were made using a catechumenal type pathway for the divorced and remarried. They are not excommunicated so the Church must do something for them.
  • Proposals were made for the pathway of discernment so couples can make a decision of conscience.
  • Repentance or the model of Kasper was proposed
  • Explain the theological notions. It was proposed to access sacraments based on a case by case approach and not a blanket policy
  • Stress the teaching of the Church more was proposed. This was proposed in a constructive and high quality manner.
  • Need for pastoral care in families
  • Need to have consistent training for couples and need to have “typical” language of concern instead of a pathway

The German speaking group expects a systematic proposal.  This will be a challenge as there are 360 “modi” or proposals on part 2 and already 400 on part 3.

Also the proposals of the German group and full translations of the is coming.


I will try to summarize about 30 interventions that dealt with the English language and some of those which were spoken in the free period yesterday afternoon.  By way of introduction I would like to say that Christian marriage, Catholic marriage, is certainly viewed as an integral element of many of the cultures and societies in which it is found, an element that is holding these cultures together.  The topic we dealt with in these different presentations were inter-cultural, inter-religious, inter-faith, ecumenical, authentic religious interpretations of the law, multi-racial.  It was a vast, vast panorama that was dealing with many different countries: the Church in the East, the Church in the West.  It was quite an interesting perspective on the Church.  Let me go into detail with some of the key elements and these were representative of several.  The first thing is Word of God had a very important part in the interventions yesterday.  Several of the Synod Fathers referred to specific scripture passages, the interpretation of those passages, and what they mean for marriage and family life today.  Too many, we were told, have lost confidence in Jesus’ doctrines and doubted and deny that mercy can be found in any hard moral teachings.  Thus came about several interventions the necessity of a language that will teach the solid truth of the Church but allow language that will speak to people.  Several interventions deal with the importance of that language addressed to young people.  There was a powerful intervention dealing with the significance of World Youth Days and how those World Youth Days become purveyors of Church teaching and how young people come to World Youth Days particularly to hear the teaching in their language solid Church teaching.  They come to see the pope but they come for a different reason as well.  They come to be close to God and to be taught and nourished.  That was a very positive statement about the whole dynamic of World Youth Day.  We heard that we are all “wounded healers”.  We have to practice both preventative medicine and also to be concerned with spiritual health that is nourished by the solid teaching of the Church.  We heard about the formation of priests.  If we are talking about a new way of dealing with marriage and formation of families, this also requires a solid formation in priestly formation.  One of the interventions summed up what several fathers have said.  The mention was made of many future priests who come from broken families.  Unless address the issues that they have in their own families, they will not be good merciful healers.  So, how can priestly formation pay close attention to human formation?  Qualities of priests needed to do good pastoral ministry among families and preparation of couples for marriage: those qualities must involve respect, cooperation, generosity, understanding of co-responsibility.  How do those in priestly formation learn the art of friendship and the ability to communicate difficult teachings in a spirit of love and charity?  If a seminarian makes it to the priesthood without receiving adequate help he is like to show emotional imbalance.  He becomes grumpy, rude, self-centered and rebellious and won’t be a good healer.  Those were some very good points.  Several Synod Fathers spoke of the importance of smiling and one particularly thanked Pope Francis for teaching us how to smile as we pastor people.  The vocation and mission of the family has first of all to do with what real member, real people and real solutions are living every day.  Christian marriage is in integral element of society as I mentioned.  The Church has a mission to families, but we were also told, at least I heard it several times, that families have a mission to the Church, to bring their experiences to the Church.  Some words several Synod Fathers used are particular words, acronyms or whatever you want to call it, in summarizing their presentations and these were quite appropriate especially in the English language: the importance of seeing, the importance of welcoming, the importance of healing, the importance of integrating people into the life of the Church, the importance of scripture passages come up several times., the proper understanding of both Old Testament and New Testament scripture passages as methods of teaching the beauty of marriage and family life.  We talked about very social issues that are affecting families: the questions of immigration, trafficking of women and prostitution, the situation with refuges across the face of the earth unaccompanied child refugees and the break-up of families, the constant migration that is taking place and the Church needing to find new ways to reach out to such people.  Another very important point that came up was to profess the faith with clarity.  To know what the Creed means and also to not only such expressions as “doors wide open” but the importance of the “narrow path” sometime which is difficult to follow.  Finally, the terror reeked upon the face of the earth right now by ISIS and through other groups that are terrorizing humanity but especially breaking up families.  We should not lose sight of that, that those of us in the West can be concerned with some things whereas there are massive issues that are affecting families.  The last point is to summarize about 5 interventions.  There was a reference to Laudato si as being an integral part of the formation of couples for marriage and the formation of families: who are we? what is our role on this interconnected planet?  The evangelization of the family needs to advert to the profound interconnection of everything that God has made.  We have only one heart.  We can hardly consider ourselves to be fully loving if we disregard all aspects of the created world.  That involves many of the elements of Laudato si which have been quoted or referred to.


I wish to say that we must recognize that issues of access to the Sacraments for the divorced and remarried repeat over and over.  Contributions (interventions..rr) crystalized the differences of opinion.  The role of the Church is not only to be faithful but to accompany those who fail without watering down teaching.  There were warnings about that.  Blanket access to the Sacraments is not the end but assessing on a case by case basis.  There was nuance in some of the contributions.  Many French-speaking interventions were about this.  Love and friendship is at the core of couples in an indissoluble marriage.  Deprivation of the sacraments is unjustified.  Divorce is a tragedy but how can the Church punish a tragedy?  We should not cling to the Sacraments as the only means of grace.  Also brought up was mixed marriage.  There is a need to make the rules more flexible.  It is hard for women who are forced to convert in Muslim marriages.  There is the suffering of couples without children.  Adoption difficulties need to made easier also to homosexual couples.  Interventions spoke to the right to life and also about young mothers who are not married.  Interventions addressed the need for well-trained clergy and the need for clergy to change their attitudes.  African bishops spoke regarding the “new ideological colonization” that is destroying families with contraception, condoms.  They also spoke about equal access to world funding.


  • Interventions spoke of a real pastoral for families, real pathways
  • Interventions regarding the training of clergy. Most families clergy candidates are coming from are not perfect.  Social issues regarding and the care of priest were also mentioned.
  • Training on-line to carry out a training pathway on marriage was suggested
  • Some interventions spoke of the divorced and remarried. It was clearly stated that there is authorization for these people to be welcomed into the Church where they have a consistent life and are not causing scandal.
  • Solace to parents without children was mentioned.

All debates on the divorced and remarried were straight forward and passionate on the difficulties of mercy versus loyalty to Church teaching.  The need to pay attention to the issues without pressure form the public was mentioned.  The teaching is to know what must be considered the recognized pathway with a certain degree of justice to those who were left by the other spouse, who endured divorce.  Spiritual communion is a witness of mea culpa in the faith community, a witness of life.  A bishop told the story of a Mass in which the child of a divorced couple, knowing the parents couldn’t receive  communion, took fragments of the host to the parents.  These are Christians facing tragedy.  We cannot change Church teaching but must consider the care we give to people in difficult circumstances.


I will touch upon some issues not mentioned by the other three.

  • The recent motu proprio on nullity and the need to train legal experts to implement the new guidelines was mentioned. The judgement on nullity is a service to the Church.
  • The contribution of Reconciliation—only mentioned once in the Instrumentum laboris—is an important expression of God’s mercy.
  • The fact that Christian families are to be shown tenderness even to those who live in difficult situations.
  • Christians who live in love ae best situated to experience love and mercy and to witness that to the Church and world.
  • There were responses from both the Asian and African bishops raising the issues of mixed marriages. These are and expression of dialogue and ways to dialogue and expressions of love and understanding.  Also difficulties with mixed marriages occur not just with Muslim-Christian marriages but at the Asian level also.   We need to have specific options.
  • Migrants in the difficult situations of living in poverty and as illegals can’t marry if they want to do so. The Church needs to recognize these situations.  Also many live below the poverty line in other countries cannot afford to marry.



I worked in the Vatican until 1992 and then became the bishop of Posnin.  The Polish episcopal conference, of which I am president, is working on a pastoral program for Poland and the jubilee of Baptism in Poland, and also World Youth Day in Krakow coming up next summer.  Already there are 120 countries and 360,000 participants signed up.  As to the Synod, this is my fourth one so I have a long experience at synods.  It is always a valuable experience that guides and enlightens and conveys a strong message and is a strong presence in the world.  And it is important because the Synod Fathers come with experience.  This enlarges the vision of the Church and is not confined to one country.


My diocese is on the Pacific coast near Puerto Viarta.  I became a bishop after 25 years in the priesthood.  I have been a priest for a total of 42 years.  I was in one diocese for 12 years and I am now an archbishop in the western part of Mexico.  There are 20 million people in my diocese.  As an archbishop I have held various posts in the Mexican Episcopal Conference and in CELAM (the episcopal conference for all of Latin America and the Caribbean..rr) first as general secretary, then vice-president and then as president.  I organized the fifth general conference of CELAM (Note: this was the conference at Aparecida from which the document arose that Crd Jorge Bergoglio was the main author.  This document is noted by many to be the model of Church that the man who is now Pope Francis is using to guide the Church.  In writing this document, he employed the help of Victor Fernandez as a ghost writer.  Victor Fernandez was also ghost writer for Evangelii gaudium and is on the committee to help complie and write the final document for this Synod.  In mentioning this, in my opinion, this bishop is sending a signal….rr).  I am also a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.  I have attended four synods.


  1. I would like clarification on Kasper’s theory. Was it discussed?  Reconciliation as a pre-step to Eucharist was mentioned.  Is this the first step to giving Eucharist to the divorced and remarried?


Reconciliation was raised as an issue present in the Oriental (Orthodox.rr) churches.  If the first marriage is not successful, there is a need to consider the reason and to find a pathway to recognize what mistakes were made to contribute to the failure of the marriage.  The Synod has never thought it could make decisions on this.  We are just sharing viewpoints on this issue.

  1. From CNS, Catholic News Service: My first question is to all. You have spoken of many proposals.  The small groups have spoken of rewriting many parts of the Instrumentum laboris.  How do families fall within World Youth Day in your experience?


On the basis on my small group, parts of the drafting of the significant parts of the Instrumentum laboris was discussed.  Some want to just change the words and some not at all.  There are extremes of view but in my opinion the IL could be systematized better to present it at World Youth Day.  I envision some discussion at World Youth Day on family and marriage.  The family is attractive when presented in the best way.  Statistics make us consider that the first institution for youth, the most important, is a happy family.  Youth dream of living in a happy family but reality is sometimes cruel.  With the proper preparation they can have a happy family.

Retes: as to the IL it is a summary of the different consultations of the episcopal conferences over the last year and the document that was the product of the Extraordinary Synod of last year.  It is a summary of the replies try to be loyal to the debates in those conferences.  It is a toll for the work of this synod and not a final work.  It needs to be systematized using all the proposals being made in this synod.

  1. Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register (Note: [tongue in cheek] The other NCR..rr). How much of a concern do you, and the Synod Fathers as a whole, are the grave implications to soul and to the salvation of someone receiving the Eucharist without the bare minimum requirements?  How much has this been discussed?  Just one other question.  There’s been an atmosphere of fear I’ve heard among Synod Fathers in talking, among some of the Synod Fathers.  How does that square with the Pope’s wish for openness and freedom of discussion? (My observation: as soon as this question was posed was that there was an almost audible gasp from the room of journalists and a deafening silence right after he posed it and before the bishops responded….rr)


There is no atmosphere of fear.  The Holy Father’s presence solves that.  As to Eucharist for the Divorced and remarried, this is a possibility we don’t counsel.  The focus for us for the divorced  and remarried is on all forms of ecclesial life that they can participate in.  “These people” (my “ marks..rr) are a witness to the difficulties of marriage for the parish community.  There are many options in the life of the Church.  They are not excommunicated.  As far as I know they are aware of their great need for Eucharist sometimes more than other who can access it. Reconciliation is a sacrament they can access.  It is important to the spiritual life.  This is my opinion.


We try to integrate all who are Baptized.  The Church tries to consider all members part and parcel of the Church.

  1. Tom Reese, National Catholic Reporter: I’m trying to get a feeling of how the Synod is going to affect you in your ministry when you return to your diocese.  Is there anything that you were doing in the past that you are going to stop doing because of what you heard in the Synod or is there anything you weren’t doing that you will now do when you return to your diocese?

Gadecki:  What I get form the Synod is to focus on accompanying the divorced with love and friendship so that they can have an idea of love by the Church, that they are not outcasts.  The pathway of Reconciliation is always thought as such.  Priests must accompanying without the Church as an illusion.

Retes: The importance of enrichment with a universal and global vision.  I will come back with an awareness of problems and proposals to solve problems.  The mixture of episcopal conferences is that all members give to the Synod report what they observe regarding initiatives.

Lombardi: I was struck by the many proposals on accompanying coupled, teaching and preparing them for marriage.  We summarize here so I can’t give you all the nuances and proposals.  It is a rich debate.

  1. There are certain situations in which couples live anomalous situations in regards to the Church. Many think these shouldn’t be castigated.  I have heard speech of flexible teaching her.  What is this flexible teaching considered in regards to Eucharist and Reconciliation in relation to anomalous situations.


It is the idea where the pastoral and Church teaching go hand in hand.  Jesus told us we must welcome everybody.  We are not justifying anomalous situations but trying to understand them.  The idea is to make the process more flexible because of the changes in nullity.


There is no authority than legitimate regular Catholic marriage.  On a case by case basis we must accompany with friendship and mercy.  We must focus on the question:  what conversion will be at the end of the pathway of Reconciliation?  If it comes, is it just a desire or request?  If so it is not valid.  The second marriage cannot wipe out the links of the first marriage.  There are other ways to salvation such as a virtuous  life, faith in action.  Never condemn because that is the hand of God.

  1. This is a general question: how do you consider accompanying in tangible terms? With respect to the contributions of the Holy Father in regards to the economy and family, what are the tangible proposals?


I will answer the second part of the question first.  The ides is of investing economically in family on the part of governments and other entities.  The Holy Father, thanks to the Jubilee of Mercy, states it is merciful to provide to everyone.  This is God’s plan.  The notion of complementarity of men and women trust in the love of God.  Think of the very start of the family and God’s plan.  This takes place in different ways, even divorcing and remarrying, pregnancy without marriage and so on.  These are all anomalous situations.  It is important to express mercy in the light of God’s love.


Tangible accompaniment is involved with spirituality in parishes.  Priests involved for pastoral time is limited but if we involve families and couples, the situation could change positively.  Many people would have more contact with pastoral care of the divorced.  Various communities and societies/lay associations are working with families.  Their involvement would provide to the pastoral.  I don’t think it is advisable to rely on on-line courses.  Maybe for some parts as an initial step.  But the need for a personal pathway can’t be replaced with an on-line course to all personal issues.

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One Response to Layers and Walls

  1. I cannot thank you enough for your colorful, faithful reporting–makes me feel like I am there. Jack and Sheila Giesler first connected me to CCM some years back and I was recently able to return the favor when they switched emails and did not realize you were sending these regular gems. Keep up the good work. I look forward to and read every post, often forwarding them to others.

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