The Synod on the Family – the Final Documents. 
The final Relatio Synodi: My Comments & Conclusions.
Having worked through the final Relatio Synodi (RS) and compared it with the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) it is obvious to me that the IL was almost totally rewritten and anything heretical has been removed. The RS followed the same plan as the IL with similar headings but towards the end large parts have been re-ordered as well as rewritten.
The question arises as to how this came about. We have the description from Professor Roberto Mattei that on the evening of Thursday 22nd October a draft of the RS was presented to the Synod but only in Italian and the delegates were sworn to secrecy. Professor Mattei wrote:
The text did not take into any account the 1355 amendments proposed over the course of the preceding three weeks, and substantially reproposed the implantation of Instrumentum laboris, including the paragraphs that had roused the strongest criticism in the Hall: the one on homosexuality and the other on the divorced and remarried.
He goes on to tell us that the draft was rejected and the next morning, Friday 23rd October, it was arranged that it should be rewritten and presented for voting on the Saturday 24th October. To what extent the Thursday draft followed the IL is impossible to know. It seems incredible that it was little changed from the IL and that it was entirely rewritten taking account of the 1355 amendments by the Saturday morning.
Another account is that by Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, someone regarded as being in the liberal camp. He kept a diary which is on the Archdiocesan website where he says that Thursday 22nd October was a free day for the delegates whilst the drafting commission prepared the Thursday draft. He wrote:
But a few others – myself among them – were also tied up, trying to finish our assessment of the 520 proposed amendments to Part III of the working document. My little group resumed work at 9am, with Cardinal Lacunza saying he couldn’t stay beyond 10.30. So we agreed that we would finish by then. As it turned out, we finished by 10.25.
So at same time as the drafting commission were preparing the Thursday draft in Italian to be distributed that evening Archbishop Coleridge and others were considering the 522 proposed amendments to Part III. Are we to suppose that the results of their deliberations were then handed to the drafting commission who incorporated them, suitably translated into Italian, into the Thursday draft that evening? It seems unlikely. Perhaps they were just ignored? Archbishop Coleridge's account is less dramatic than that of Professor Mattei in recounting the presentation of the Thursday draft on the Thursday evening:
"The Secretary General then told us that it was our solemn duty to read the text carefully so that we could present proposed amendments the following morning. This was OK for those who know Italian. But the fact is that many of the bishops (and even some of the cardinals!) don’t know Italian or don’t know it well enough to read and respond to a complex document like this one. Bishop Hurley is one of those, so I had to sit down with him last night and go swiftly through the text so that he knew what he was responding to.
The fun and games started again when Cardinal Baldisseri told us that the draft document was so sensitive and super-secret that we couldn’t even take it home. At this, there were serious rumblings in the Hall. Boos were looming. Sensing mutiny, the Secretary General changed his mind: we could take it home but it was strictly for our eyes only. Not a whisper to anyone else. They weren’t even to know we had the document. “
On the Friday morning amendments were submitted verbally and/or in writing. Archbishop Coleridge commented: “We’re free this afternoon while the 10-man Commission is hard at work processing all the proposed amendments, spoken and written. I don’t think their task will be monumental; most of the substantial suggestions concerned only a few paragraphs.” But was he in a position to know what amendments had been suggested in writing?
On the Saturday afternoon they voted on the 94 paragraphs in 90 minutes. They had electronic voting which was not all that reliable. The Archbishop tells us:
In all the pressing, you hoped to hell that the system worked. This evening it did, though the Archbishop of Sao Paolo had to call for a number of technicians at one point. They either fixed his handset or decided that his vote didn’t really matter.
With one paragraph only getting the absolute minimum two-thirds majority by one vote?!!! Perhaps the Holy Spirit had a hand?
As to at what stage the very extensive rewriting of the IL into the RS took place the whole procedure sounds pretty shambolic with little time for ensuring that the drafting was properly done or that the delegates even understood what they were voting on.
As explained the RS was a total rewrite of the IL. The IL itself gave rise to grave concerns and certain clauses in the IL were seriously in contradiction to the teaching of the church:
- Clause 98 in the IL suggested that there were positive aspects in irregular situations such as Catholics marrying outside the Church (civilly married) and cohabitation thereby tending to indorse such situations. This was attenuated in clause 70 of the RS but it remains ambiguous and as in the 2014 session there were over 50 delegates voting against it. It should really distinguish between good intentions and sins but fails to do so – intentionally?
- Fortunately the earlier clause that there was good in homosexual sexual acts did not even make it to the IL let alone the RS.
- Clause 72 still seems to say that cohabitation can almost be accepted as a step towards marriage but the mention of 'seeds of the word' being found in such arrangements, that was culled from the Shadow Synod, has been dropped.
- On the question of those in irregular situations whether cohabitation or divorced and remarried the whole of the Art of Accompaniment has been rewritten and the idea of a Way of Penance leading to communion for them has been dropped.
- The idea that spiritual communion is available for those who cannot receive eucharistic communion has been dropped.
- There is no more any suggestion that Orthodox practice on second marriages should be considered.
- Clause 63 on Generative Responsibility mentions both Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio as essential guides. There is no qualification of these two documents and in the absence of such qualification their teaching stands. It is only in that context that individual clauses should be read. The appalling interpolated clause 137 in the IL where uninformed conscience was put on a par with the teaching of the Church has not been repeated.
Whilst it is fair to say there are no doctrinal changes there are pastoral openings which no doubt some will take advantage of. Indissolubility of marriage, Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio are reasserted without any caveats. However the whole document is notable for what is not said. Important teachings are not mentioned and there are some very weak passages on abortion, bio-ethics and IVF. The Art of Accompaniment in respect of cohabitation and other irregular situations is plainly open to abuse. Unfortunately the scope for misinterpretation and the skills of those who do misinterpret are large.
My Final Conclusion.
The delegates at the Synod have done a great job in resisting the KasperKampf and effectively rewriting the IL as the RS. However it is still a skeleton produced by the Secretariat; the bones have been cleaned by the Bishops but there is precious little new flesh. From the voting one can see that there were a considerable number of delegates who had reservations about the text particularly in Chapter III where irregular situations were discussed.
Pope Francis now has the task of writing the Apostolic Exhortation. However if he accepts what the Synod has said i.e. that there can be no doctrinal changes but merely some rather vague pastoral suggestions, what is he going to be able to say that has not been already said in Familiaris Consortio and said extremely well? Familiaris Consortio is a document which is as up-to-date and relevant to-day as it was thirty years ago. It has just been largely ignored and its recommendations not implemented.
If this is the case has this whole Synod on the Family achieved anything at all in saying anything that was not already in Familiaris Consortio and ignored a great deal more? Was it needed? Was it a colossal waste of time? What was it? Was it an attempt by the liberals of the KasperKampf to undermine the teachings of the Church on sexual matters which has failed despite every manipulation by the Secretariat?
However if Pope Francis were to ignore this final Relatio Synodi and attempt to redefine doctrine we would be into a completely different ball game.
At present there are just rumours that the Apostolic Exhortation will be published on March 19th the feast of St Joseph - a week before Easter, that somebody in Argentina has drafted it, that there are several drafts in circulation and that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has issued 40 pages of suggestions or critical notes
We, the laity, have nearly the whole of Lent to pray for a good outcome.