Another Synod, but with new rules and under the cloud of crisis

The Synod Assembly opening on Wednesday is the first to take place under a new set of rules, released just last month.

ROME, October 2nd, 2018 — The curtain goes up Wednesday, on the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. More than two hundred sixty bishops from every habitable continent will be gathered in Rome for the coming three weeks and more, to discuss Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. At least, that’s what it says on paper.

The Synod Assembly opening on Wednesday is the first to take place under a new set of rules, released just last month — rules that are to be implemented according to an instruction published only on Monday of this week — and against the backdrop of major crisis in the Church over episcopal leadership — including papal leadership — especially regarding the coverup of clerical sex abuse, general corruption, and systemic rot in clerical culture high and low.

The new rules are written in typically complex Vaticanese, but the sense of them boils down to something fairly simple: The General Secretary’s near-total control over virtually the whole process, from soup to nuts. In addition to his presiding over the preparatory phase of the Synod Assembly, the General Secretary is responsible for setting the agenda, determining the speaking order and time allotments during floor debates, making procedural rules and communicating changes to them, enforcing the norms of the Assembly, establishing the composition of small groups and the themes for small-group discussion, giving the opening relatio and making progress reports, and curating the Assembly’s archive.

The General Secretary also sits on the final document’s drafting committee, along with the Relator-General (whose work is essentially to frame and facilitate discussion, and is overseen by the General Secretary), the Special Secretary (who assists the Relator-General), one member from each continent, and “some” members appointed directly by the Pope.

The General Secretary answers directly to the Roman Pontiff.

The new rules and procedures will get their first field test as a major worldwide crisis over clerical sex abuse, episcopal coverup, corruption, and general decay in clerical moral culture continues to unfold. The crisis has reached the highest echelons of Church governance. At present, it is at the Pope’s own doorstep. Analysists and commentators across the spectrum of Catholic and secular opinion have described the crisis as the worst since the Protestant reformation.

On Monday, the General Secretary, Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri, described the circumstances as, “[a] providential opportunity,” with which, “to show to young people and everyone else what the Church is.” Baldisseri also said, “[T]he Church is not represented by some who make mistakes. The Church is not known only because of some who have fallen or caused scandal.” Cardinal Baldisseri received significant pushback from participants and observers during the Synod Assembly’s preparatory phase, with much of the criticism focusing on perceived heavy-handedness and over-management of the process.

It remains to be seen how official news coming out of the Synod Hall will be controlled.

According to the Instruction issued Monday — at press time available only in Italian, as is the Apostolic Constitution on the Synod, issued early last month — there is to be a Commission for Information, which will be responsible for establishing “criteria and methods for disseminating news.” The Commission is to be composed of: President and Secretary, appointed by the Roman Pontiff; the General Secretary; the Undersecretary; the Special Secretary; the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication; the Director of the Press Office; five Members elected by the Assembly, according to the Synod Assembly Rules.

The Instruction also says, “On individual topics, press conferences can be held by the Synod Fathers appointed by the President of the Commission.”

The list of bishops taking part in the gathering includes two late additions — from China — who are joining the others already named: John Baptist Yang Xiaoting, Bishop of Yan’an; and Joseph Guo Jincai, Bishop of Chengde. A note from the Press Office of the Holy See sent to journalists on Tuesday afternoon announced the news.

About Christopher R. Altieri 61 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is co-Founder and general manager of Vocaris Media and the author of The Soul of a Nation: America as a Tradition of Inquiry and Nationhood.

7 Comments

  1. Dear Chris,
    Thank you for your informative article. The following paragraph struck me as a reversal of Pope Francis’ claimed policy of decentralization, giving authority for doctrinal decision making back to the local ordinary, “The General Secretary’s near-total control over virtually the whole process, from soup to nuts. In addition to his presiding over the preparatory phase of the Synod Assembly, the General Secretary is responsible for setting the agenda, determining the speaking order and time allotments during floor debates, making procedural rules and communicating changes to them, enforcing the norms of the Assembly, establishing the composition of small groups and the themes for small-group discussion, giving the opening relatio and making progress reports, and curating the Assembly’s archive.
    The General Secretary also sits on the final document’s drafting committee, along with the Relator-General (whose work is essentially to frame and facilitate discussion, and is overseen by the General Secretary), the Special Secretary (who assists the Relator-General), one member from each continent, and “some” members appointed directly by the Pope. The General Secretary answers directly to the Roman Pontiff.” Maybe this explains Pope Francis’ recent concord with China, he has decided his new policy is totalitarianism, because he seems very intent on controlling everything, especially the outcome, which makes the Synod a complete waste of time and money!

    • They think we are medieval peasants. This Vatican is so brazen it thinks we cannot see what is happening here.
      This is not rocket science. It is quite clear, actually. A rigged, fraudulent circus with a preordained outcome.
      God bless A/B Chaput, who tells it like it is.

  2. This is the “Synod of sex abusers, coverup artists, embezzlers and malicious dodo-clericalists.”

    The McCarrick Church Convention.

    Another dark day in “the-counterfeit-Church-without-Jesus.”

    Uncle Ted is so proud…

    Another day for faithful Bishops, clergy, religious and parents to guard our children and seminarians against the liars of “Team Bergoglio.”

  3. Synod is a positive sign. The Holy Spirit is sure to evangelize all the Synod participants. Come O Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

  4. According to the Instruction issued Monday — at press time available only in Italian, as is the Apostolic Constitution on the Synod, issued early last month — there is to be a Commission for Information, which will be responsible for establishing “criteria and methods for disseminating news.”

    Disseminating? Clearly a typographical error for “dissembling.”

  5. Bergoglio’s talking about “new opinions?” This is “Cardinal Martini’s Greatest Hits” for $19.99.

    And terribly passe. This ship has sailed. Martini’s “vision” was just an elaborate, angry sellout, a willed destruction.

    How many young men and women (and self-deluded older adults) have “developed” and “discerned” (lost) their Catholic Faith in favor of an admissions office-led, fundraising-aware, brochure-worthy, counterculture-not-really-counterculture “Ignatian identity?”

    We need to become more “spiritual” open to “surprises” the way the Communist Chinese embody better than all the social teachings of Christ’s Church.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Another Synod, but with new rules and under the cloud of crisis -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.


*