PopeWatch: 13 Cardinals



Concerned about the Synod?  Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa breaks a story that indicates that your concerns are shared by some of the cardinals in attendance:

ROME, October 12, 2015 – On Monday, October 5, at the beginning of work at the synod on the family, Cardinal George Pell delivered a letter to Pope Francis, signed by him and twelve other cardinals, all present in the synod hall.

The thirteen signatories occupy positions of the first rank in the Church’s hierarchy. Among them there are, in alphabetical order:

– Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, Italy, theologian, formerly the first president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family;
– Thomas C. Collins, archbishop of Toronto, Canada;
– Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, United States;
– Willem J. Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, Holland;
– Gerhard L. Müller, former bishop of Regensburg, Germany, since 2012 prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith;
– Wilfrid Fox Napier, archbishop of Durban, South Africa, president delegate of the synod underway as also at the previous session of the synod of October 2014;
– George Pell, archbishop emeritus of Sydney, Australia, since 2014 prefect in the Vatican of the secretariat for the economy;
– Robert Sarah, former archbishop of Conakry, Guinea, since 2014 prefect of the congregation for divine worship and the discipline – Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Italy;
– Jorge L. Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela.

In the letter, concise and perfectly clear, the thirteen cardinals bring to the pope’s attention the serious “concerns” of themselves and other synod fathers over the procedures of the synod, in their judgment “designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions,” and over the “Instrumentum laboris,” viewed as inadequate as a “guiding text or the foundation of a final document.”

Here is the text of the letter, in the original English.


Your Holiness,

As the Synod on the Family begins, and with a desire to see it fruitfully serve the Church and your ministry, we respectfully ask you to consider a number of concerns we have heard from other synod fathers, and which we share.

While the synod’s preparatory document, the “Instrumentum Laboris,” has admirable elements, it also has sections that would benefit from substantial reflection and reworking.  The new procedures guiding the synod seem to guarantee it excessive influence on the synod’s deliberations and on the final synodal document.  As it stands, and given the concerns we have already heard from many of the fathers about its various problematic sections, the “Instrumentum” cannot adequately serve as a guiding text or the foundation of a final document.

The new synodal procedures will be seen in some quarters as lacking openness and genuine collegiality.  In the past, the process of offering propositions and voting on them served the valuable purpose of taking the measure of the synod fathers’ minds.  The absence of propositions and their related discussions and voting seems to discourage open debate and to confine discussion to small groups; thus it seems urgent to us that the crafting of propositions to be voted on by the entire synod should be restored. Voting on a final document comes too late in the process for a full review and serious adjustment of the text.

Additionally, the lack of input by the synod fathers in the composition of the drafting committee has created considerable unease. Members have been appointed, not elected, without consultation.  Likewise, anyone drafting anything at the level of the small circles should be elected, not appointed.

In turn, these things have created a concern that the new procedures are not true to the traditional spirit and purpose of a synod.  It is unclear why these procedural changes are necessary.  A number of fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions.

Finally and perhaps most urgently, various fathers have expressed concern that a synod designed to address a vital pastoral matter – reinforcing the dignity of marriage and family – may become dominated by the theological/doctrinal issue of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.  If so, this will inevitably raise even more fundamental issues about how the Church, going forward, should interpret and apply the Word of God, her doctrines and her disciplines to changes in culture.  The collapse of liberal Protestant churches in the modern era, accelerated by their abandonment of key elements of Christian belief and practice in the name of pastoral adaptation, warrants great caution in our own synodal discussions.

Your Holiness, we offer these thoughts in a spirit of fidelity, and we thank you for considering them.

Faithfully yours in Jesus Christ.


On the afternoon of that same Monday, October 5, during the first discussion in the assembly, Cardinal Pell and other synod fathers referred to some of the questions presented in the letter, without citing it.

Pope Francis was present and listening. And the next morning, on Tuesday, October 6, he spoke.

The text of these unscheduled remarks has not been made public, but only summarized verbally by Fr. Federico Lombardi and in writing by “L’Osservatore Romano.” As follows:

“The pontiff wanted to reaffirm that the current synod is in continuity with the one celebrated last year. With regard to the “Instrumentum laboris,” Francis emphasized that this results from the ‘Relatio synodi’ together with the contributions that came afterward, that is was approved by the post-synodal council – meeting in the presence of the pontiff – and that it is the basis for continuing the debate and discussions of the upcoming days. In this context, the contributions of the various linguistic groups take on essential importance. The pope also recalled that the three official documents of last year’s synod are the two discourses, initial and final, and the ‘Relatio synodi.’ The pontiff emphasized that Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched and then cautioned against the impression that the only problem of the synod is that of communion for the divorced, appealing against a reduction in the horizons of the synod.”

To this account from “L’Osservatore Romano,” Fr. Lombardi added that “the decisions of method were also shared and approved by the pope, and therefore cannot be brought back into discussion.”

From this it can be gathered that Francis has rejected the requests of the letter en bloc, apart from the marginal recommendation not to reduce the discussion only to “communion for the divorced.”

And he has not rejected them without a polemical jab, as afterward made known – in a tweet that has not been disowned – by the director of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” Antonio Spadaro, also present in the hall, according to whom the pope told the fathers “not to give in to the conspiracy hermeneutic, which is sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful.”

All of this at the beginning of the synod. But toward the end of the first week of work, something else happened. Once again contrary to the wishes of the letter from the thirteen cardinals.

On Friday, October 9, Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, archbishop of Manila and president delegate of the synod, said out of the blue that with regard to the final relation, “we await the decision of the pope.”

And the next day, Fr. Lombardi clarified that “we do not yet have certainty on how the conclusion of the synod will take place, meaning if there will or will not be a final document. We will see if the pope gives precise indications.”

Incredible but true. With the synod in full swing, a question mark has suddenly been raised over the very existence of that “Relatio finalis” which figured in the programs as the goal toward which all of the work of the synod was finalized.


A spokesperson for Cardinal George Pell said that a private letter should remain private but it seems that there are errors in both the content and the list of signatories.

The Cardinal is aware that concerns remain among many of the synod fathers about the composition of the drafting committee of the final “relatio” and about the process by which it will be presented to the Synod fathers and voted upon.

And in an interview with Crux, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier “acknowledged signing a letter, but said its content was different from that presented in Magister’s report. The letter he signed, he said, was specifically about the 10-member commission preparing the final document.”

Go here to read the rest.  Two of the hallmarks of this Pontificate are on full display at this Synod:  confusion and ham-handedness.


More to explorer


  1. 13 Cardinals? 13 states humbled a King, so why not cheer. Heck, there were only 12 Apostles (well maybe 11 that were really on the team)

  2. The fossil fuel wasted by so many men traveling to this deliberately non infallible brawl ( 50 or 66% vote is not unanimous and infallible ) ….is a sin of consumerist capitalism gone amuck. Were the planes and hotels air conditioned to boot….sure they were. This is anti Laudato Si carnage. Well yes….I bought a $17 Heineken Light keg as they began this part 2 but that was only to help the German laity who must give 10% to Kaspar and others but I found out that Heineken is brewed in Holland and I fear it might break our frig shelf …so the confusion of the synod has spread and contaminated even us far away. Upside here…is that it’s …a great light beer with taste somehow which you miss in Coors light.

  3. This part is critical:

    “The collapse of liberal Protestant churches in the modern era, accelerated by their abandonment of key elements of Christian belief and practice in the name of pastoral adaptation, warrants great caution in our own synodal discussions.”

    This is the elephant in the room. Said differently, there HAS been a collapse of mainstream Protestantism and an adoption of an individualistic spirituality, characterized by its focus on the Golden Rule as the complete explanation for Christianity and, indeed, for life as a whole.

    Formal religion is losing ground, except for Islam and Orthodox Judaism, cross the board. What is coming in is a focus on how we feel. In turn, those feelings define love and acceptance, now fused together. This yields a “cafeteria approach” that draws concepts of mercy, acceptance, and non-judgmentalism from all over the place and a rejection of concepts of savation and damnation.

    It is that last piece that seems at odds with what Pope Francis talks about. He clearly links salvation, damnation, mercy, and personal responsibility. I wonder if he assumes too much in others, assuming that they will honestly explore their strengths and weaknesses. But, then, this is at odds with pastoral duties which seek to draw folks towards Truth, not self-delusion.

  4. Too bad a comment cannot be liked. Bill Bannon is 100% correct. All this weezing and gasping on anthropogenic global warming in Laudato Si is clearly caused by the odiferous hot gas emissions from the sodomite orifices of said cardinals. And these men (effeminate cowardly weaklings except for a certain 13 – or is the number down to nine now with certain denials?) are supposed to protect Church teaching on the family!

  5. “Dolan, huh? That name took me by surprise .”

    It didn’t surprise me actually. He had to reburnish his orthodox image after the whole St. Patrick’s Gay fiasco. Dolan is as phony as a pile of rubber dog droppings.

  6. Greg
    I too am disappointed and suspicious of this man, but in all fairness, Dolan voted in Synod (part one) against those offensive paragraphs that were reinstalled after being voted down, which may, or may not, assist your conclusion that it’s but a self-serving walk back due to criticism of his St. Patrick’s Day fiasco..

  7. don’t back pedal Greg- you were right the first time……. non infallible- that means fallible, right? inflamable means…….. flamable?? irregardless….. i couldn’t believe 3 year ago i had to go to a rally in Albany NY [ capitol ] in support of traditional marriage – i am still in dis belief at the current shananigans. but the SSPX is not in full communion….. huh??

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: