PopeWatch: Synod Chicanery




Chicanery, to be polite, is afoot in regard to the Synod next year.  Father Z gives us the details.




The outline of features for the next Synod of Bishops in October 2015, or Lineamenta, has been released.  The Lineamenta is based on the last Synod’s final document, the Relatio Synodi.  For the Relatio, the members of the Synod voted on each paragraph.  According to the Synod’s own rules, established and approved by those appointed by Pope Francis to run the Synod, in order to be included in the Relatio each paragraph had to receive a 2/3’s majority of voting members.  Some paragraphs, on Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and on homosexuality, very controversial paragraphs, did not receive 2/3’s as a sign of “consensus”.  They received 1/2, but not 2/3’s (therefore, not “consensus”).  That means that they shouldn’t have been included in the Relatio Synodi.  However, Pope Francis decided that they should be included anyway.  He overrode the rules of the Synod.  The only way you can tell that those particular paragraphs were not supposed to be included is a) to know the rules (which most people don’t) and b) look at the voting stats included in the Relatio (which most people don’t).

Many have the sense that those who are guiding the activities of the Synod are trying, like border collies, to drive the members of the next Synod to a predetermined position.

There is a precedent.  For example, during the last Synod, there was the midpoint report on what was discussed in the first phase, the Relatio post disceptationem.  Some paragraphs appeared in that midterm report, apparently written by Archbp. Bruno Forte.  They concerned, for example, homosexuality.  However, the paragraphs seem not to have resembled anything that was actually said by the members during the first part of the Synod.  In am amazing and, for the Holy See, unusual feat of efficiency, somehow the organizers of the Synod managed – mirabile lectu – to get the midpoint Relatio translated into five languages, bound, and distributed to the members.  By way of contrast, the final Relatio was released in Italian only, and then there was a provisional English version published not by the Synod office but by the Press Office.  It is hard to find and riddled with translation errors.

It is hard to watch this and not wonder about manipulations that aim at a specific outcome.

In any event, the Left has not been idle since the close of the Synod last October.  Watch the catholic media.

A great deal is going to take place on the rhetorical battlefield between now and the opening of the next phrase, next October.

For example, much is going to be made of the questions that are woven into the Lineamenta, questions that go to conferences of bishops for their subsequent exploration.

Among the questions…

Concerning communion for the divorced and remarried is no. 38:

“Sacramental pastoral practice with regard to the divorced and remarried requires further examination, also with the evaluation of the Orthodox practice and taking into consideration ‘the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances.’ What are the perspectives in which to act? What are the possible steps? What are the suggestions for avoiding undue or unnecessary forms of impediments?”

One concern homosexuality is number 40:

“How does the Christian community turn its pastoral attention to families that have within them persons with homosexual tendencies? Avoiding all unjust discrimination, in what way can it care for persons in such situations in the light of the Gospel? How can it present them with the requirements of God’s will in their situation?”

These are the most hotly debated questions partly because they have significant impact on other foundational dimensions of the Church’s doctrine and practice.

Here is an authoritative reaction.


Today at Sandro Magister’s place, one of the Cardinals who contributed to the Five Cardinals Book, His Eminence Velasio Card. DePaolis delivers some blunt words.  The book was called, by the way,  Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church.

Card. De Paolis wrote, and I am jumping in medias res and adding my emphases and comments:

The proposition, to the extent to which it provides for the possibility of admitting the divorced and remarried to Eucharistic communion, in fact constitutes a change of doctrine. [That’s it!] And this [get this…] contrary to the fact that it is said that there is no intention to modify doctrine. Moreover, doctrine by its very nature is not modifiable if it is the object of the authentic magisterium of the Church. Before talking about and dealing with any change in the discipline in force, it is necessary to reflect on the nature of this discipline. In addressing this matter one must, in the first place, reflect on this doctrine and on its level of firmness; there must be careful study of what can be modified and what cannot be modified. The doubt has been insinuated into the proposition itself when it calls for exploration, [get that?] which must be doctrinal and prior to any decision.

We can also ask ourselves if it is the competency of a synod of bishops to deal with a question like this: the value of the doctrine and discipline effective in the Church, which have been formed over the course of centuries and have been ratified with statements on the part of the supreme magisterium of the Church. Moreover, who is competent to modify the magisterium of other popes? [NB…] This would constitute a dangerous precedent. Furthermore, the innovations that would be introduced if the text of the proposition were approved would be of unprecedented gravity: [That’s code for “total disaster”.  So, what are we talking about here?  Perpend…]

a) the possibility of admitting to Eucharistic communion with the explicit approval of the Church a person in a state of mortal sin, with the danger of sacrilege and profanation of the Eucharist; [Which, if you believe in what the Church teaches about the Eucharist, is bad.  Alas, many people approach the Eucharist as “they put the white thing in your hand, we sing the song, and we all feel good”.]

b) doing this would bring into question the general principle of the need for the state of sanctifying grace in order to receive Eucharistic communion, especially now that a generalized practice has been introduced or is being introduced[get that?  did you?] into the Church of receiving the Eucharist without previous sacramental confession, even if one is aware of being in grave sin, with all of the deleterious consequences that this practice involves; [For consequences see St. Paul’s 1 Cor 11.]

c) the admission to Eucharistic communion of a believer who cohabits “more uxorio” would also mean bringing into question sexual morality, particularly founded on the sixth commandment; [Which is GOD’s positive law.]

d) this would also lend support to cohabitation or other bonds,  [guess what kind] weakening the principle of the indissolubility of marriage.

Blunt language for important questions in troubled times.

Be sure to get the Five Cardinals Book™ and see what DePaolis says there!


Go here to read the comments.  At times like this in the life of the Church, we get down to basic questions.  Perhaps the most basic is what it means to be Catholic.  Some seem to claim that to be a Catholic one must follow the Pope of the day no matter what.  Certainly all Catholics owe respect and loyalty to the Pope.  However, what if a Pope acts against  clear Catholic teaching.  What then should Catholics do then?  PopeWatch hopes that Pope Francis and his advisors realize that if they attempt to ram through allowing divorced and remarried Catholics, whose prior marriages have not been annulled, to receive communion licitly, that this question will no longer be of merely academic interest.

More to explorer


  1. . The Synod is non infallible from the get go. A Pope needs virtual unanimity ( not two thirds) of world Bishops to declare anything with them as infallible in the extraordinary magisterium as was done by polling for the anti abortion statement of Evangelium Vitae section 62. This Synod therefore could err and many dioceses will ignore it afterwards if it does. Rome instead should be involved in instructing persecuted Catholics in Kenya and Nigeria as to whether they should take up arms or let jihadists mow them down monthly. But that would require that Pope Francis face questions of lethal self defense which facing is politically incorrect in a man who thinks life sentences are hidden executions….and thinks jihad is not central to Islam. He instead of leading African Christians in a moral dilemna of being slauthered is busy about very first world issues….how can we max out Eucharist reception. He could be raising a billion dollars a year from Catholics from his bully pulpit and from his 1 billion Catholics to pay for relocating Catholics away from Islam to South America.
    But that would be administrative. We’ve redefined Popes as constant authors not administrators. And we now have a mess that is the logical result of the Pope as non responsible intellect….we’re exploring. Two Popes reversed Romans 13:4. This Popes hopes to reverse Trent on sanctifying grace as requisite for the Eucharist….maybe to achieve union with the Orthodox. Who knows. The Synod is non infallible anyway which means it can err….two thirds….is not unanimity and unanimity is required for the infallible outside ex cathedra.

  2. In Mosquito Heaven which is Human Hell!

    I do wish that the Pope would realize the wisdom of Saint Jame’s statements about governing one’s tongue.

    Ver. 5-6. The tongue is indeed a little member, yet doth great things:[2] causeth great evils and mischiefs, when it is not carefully governed; as a little fire,[3] it kindleth and consumeth a great wood. It is a world of iniquity, the cause of infinite evils, dissensions, quarrels, seditions, wars, &c. It defileth the whole body, even the body politic of kingdoms. This fire, kindled by hell, sets all in a flame during the course of our lives, (literally, the wheel of our nativity ) from our cradle to our grave. (Witham)

    Ver. 7. Is tamed, &c. The wildest beasts may be tamed, lions and tigers, and the rest,[4] and so managed as to do no harm. (Witham)

    Ver. 8. But the tongue no man can tame, without the special assistance of God. (Witham) — Wherefore we are to understand, says St. Augustine, that as no one is able of himself to govern his tongue, we must fly to the Lord for his assistance. (St. Augustine, ser. 4. de verb. Matthew vi.) — It is an unquiet evil,[5] which cannot be stopt[stopped]. It is full of deadly poison, which brings oftentimes death both to men’s bodies and souls. (Witham)

    Ver. 9-13. By it we bless God, &c. Such different effects from the same cause, as of blessing God, and cursing men, created to the likeness of God, seem contrary to the ordinary course of nature; for a fountain form the same source doth not send forth both sweet and bitter streams. — Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? &c. This seems to be connected with the admonition given at the beginning of the chapter, be not many masters; let none pretend to this but who have wisdom and knowledge, which also may be known by their prudent and mild conversation.


  3. The chicanery and blatant manipulation built into this latest synod could
    only happen if the Pope was on board with it. It’s appalling to me that Pope
    Francis has engineered a synod that gives lip service to collegiality and
    uses the attending bishops to provide a veneer of respectability for his
    otherwise predetermined results. It’s cynical, manipulative, and hypocritical.
    If his objectives were noble, his theology sound, and his arguments persuasive,
    this Pope wouldn’t have to resort to such underhanded manipulations to get
    what he wants.
    Perhaps in this pontificate synods should be called ‘politburos’, which is what
    they’ve come to resemble.

  4. Bill Bannon wrote, “The Synod is non infallible from the get go”

    That is true, as far as it goes. However, recall the Council of Orange (529) held by 14 Gallican bishops (assembled for the dedication of a church) that produced eight canons condemning Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. The acts were transmitted to Pope Boniface II in 531, who, without consulting anyone, ratified them by his Apostolic authority and ordered them to be promulgated to the whole Church. All theologians agree that these canons are of ecumenical authority and infallible.

    Perhaps more to the point, what is being proposed is not a doctrinal definition, but legislation. Now, “the door is shut” may be true or false, but “shut the door” can be neither, so no question of infallibility can possibly arise.

    As for legislation, Canonists have always applied to the Holy Father the words of Pomponius in the Digest, “id est ut quod ipse princeps constituit pro lege servetur – What the Prince himself lays down is to be taken for law.” [Dig. Pomponius l.S. enchir] and those of Ulpian, in the same book, “Quod principi placuit, legis habet vigorem – The prince’s pleasure has the force of law” [Dig. 1.4.1pr. Ulpianus 1 inst.]

  5. Michael PS,
    In our day the Pope because of the IC and the Assumption would have to use the language of ex cathedra to make infallible a non unanimous Synod. And in this case he would destroy all authority since Trent which affirmed the sacraments….said this:

    CANON XI.-lf any one saith, that faith alone is a sufficient preparation for receiving the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist; let him be anathema. And for fear lest so great a sacrament may be received unworthily, and so unto death and condemnation, this holy Synod ordains and declares, that sacramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made beforehand, by those whose conscience is burthened with mortal sin, how contrite even soever they may think themselves. But if any one shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated. – See more at: https://www.the-american-catholic.com/2014/12/10/popewatch-the-core-of-the-question/#comments

  6. “All theologians agree that these canons are of ecumenical authority and infallible.”
    Only because these cannons bear witness to the Truth.
    ” The prince’s pleasure has the force of law”.
    All bishops are the Princes of the Catholic Church. If the prince’s pleasure are the force of law, than all bishops must be heard to be infallible.
    ““How does the Christian community turn its pastoral attention to families that have within them persons with homosexual tendencies?”
    Is Pope Francis speaking of homosexual children and siblings or is Pope Francis speaking of homosexual, cohabitating sodomists?
    If Pope Francis is calling homosexual, cohabitating sodomists, “families” , the Catholic Church has already been swindled and Pope Francis is naked.

  7. After reading my comment, it has occurred to me to state that some seminaries are teaching that sodomy is NOT a SIN. I have been exposed to several “catholic” priests who have lectured that sodomy is not a sin and therefore assault and battery of an innocent child is not sinful, nor is it violation of another person’s civil rights.
    Can you imagine the assault and battery of minor children to proceed if Pope Francis declares that sodomy is not a sin by allowing “families” of practicing homosexual sodomists to the Holy Eucharist.
    Although the state has declared that sodomy is not a violation of civil law (Lawrence vs. Texas), it is the duty of the Catholic Church to declare that sodomy is a violation of moral law and that the human person must not indulge in sodomy to save his very immortal human soul.

  8. Bill Bannon

    The language of Trent bears careful examination. There is a clear dogmatic statement, concluding with an anathema.

    There is also a legislative provision, “this holy Synod ordains and declares…” requiring sacramental absolution, “where a confessor may be had.” ((The casuists discuss the case of a priest in an isolated village, who has to celebrate Sunday mass)

  9. Mary de Voe wrote, “Only because these cannons bear witness to the Truth.”

    But we only know that because Boniface II ratified them

  10. Michael PS,
    I read of that exception for priests. But it probably requires him to make an act of contrition with a firm purpose of amendment …firm purpose of amendment….which is not what the liberal side of the Synod is envisioning for the second marriage people because they should straightway then return to their original vowed partner and leave the wife they are with….otherwise they don’t have a firm purpose of amendment which is required.

  11. This last synod was a joke, worthy of parody on Saturday Night Live (which I haven’t watched since the 1980s). So will the next one be.

    I would like to see the Roman Pontiff try to push through the entire Church the desires of the German bishops. Go for it, Holy Father. Somewhere there is another St. Catherine of Siena – Cardinal Pell, or the Polish bishops conference, or the cardinal from Nigeria, who will call it exactly what it is – a steaming pile of dog doodoo.

  12. “Some paragraphs, on Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and on homosexuality, …received 1/2, but not 2/3’s (therefore, not “consensus”). That means that they shouldn’t have been included in the Relatio Synodi. However, Pope Francis decided that they should be included anyway. He overrode the rules of the Synod.” Any surprise here? Anyone ever work in a Jesuit university?

  13. On or about Oct 18th, 2014, when Card. Pell famously slammed his fist on the table and shouted, “Stop manipulating this synod!”, of course Pell wasnt speaking to Card. Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general of the synod of bishops, but directly to Pope Francis, who had been seen passing notes back and forth to Baldisseri during the reading of the synod summary and manipulating Baldisseri’s comments and actions. “He overrode the rules of the synod.”

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