By Jonathan Ekene Ifeanyi
Cardinal George Pell with his successor as archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher.
Pell reportedly hand-delivered a letter to Francis I, signed by 13 cardinals unhappy with the synod process.
One Peter Five reports: "As the evidence mounts that the Synod's outcome has been pre-determined, I have joined a number of other concerned Catholics in writing an open letter. In it, we request that those Synod fathers who are faithful to Christ's teachings, if they continue to be thwarted in their efforts, walk out of the Synod before it is over rather than allow their participation be interpreted as support."
The conservative blogger adds: "Even at this late hour, we must try to protect the faith."
The online petition calling for a walkout, which can be found at change.org, has garnered roughly 2,300 signatures in two days.
It asks any bishop alarmed by the prospect of progressive changes to Church doctrine to “do his sacred duty and publicly retire from any further participation in the synod before its conclusion,” and suggests that Francis I is responsible for promoting “confusion and scandal.”
The petition urges:
"We thank you for your witness to and defence of the truth of Matrimony and Family proclaimed by the Church, in fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Ordinary Synod on the Family continues its work, confusion and scandal spread among the faithful. Catholics are concerned that some members of this body of apostolic successors, under the guidance of the Pope, are seeking to endorse homosexual relationships, effectively question the indissolubility of marriage, and permit the distribution of the Holy Eucharist to the unrepentant."
The last sentence above refers to the devilish argument put forward by some apostate German bishops and others that people who have had a civil “remarriage” after a divorce should no longer be barred from Holy Communion and other sacraments. The petition says the Synod's working document—Instrumentum Laboris—is "unacceptable from an orthodox Catholic point of view" regarding divorce and attempted remarriage, homosexuality, and contraception, and expresses "profound sorrow" at the ongoing development of the crisis.
The petition warns: "We fear, evidenced by all of the above, that the Ordinary Synod will attempt to recommend changes in teaching and pastoral practice that are contrary to the Gospel of Christ and the constant teaching of the Church on the sacred mystery of Catholic marriage and the nature of human sexuality. This would pose a clear and present danger to souls."
The petition came as Italian papers are reporting that opponents of attempts to liberalise the Church are throwing "poisoned meatballs" in a bid "to weaken the charisma and strength of Francis". They claim that opponents are attempting to corner “the Pope” in a battle between liberals and “conservatives”. The reports also claim that much of the opposition to “the Pope” comes from “conservatives” in the United States.
The liberal tone at the synod was criticised by senior bishops including Australia's Cardinal George Pell. In his intervention, he said: "We have no power to change the central teachings of the New Testament or the essential teachings of popes and councils. We are not like Moses, and while we are the successors of the apostles, we are not their equals."
Pell added: “Too many have lost confidence in Jesus' doctrines and doubt or deny that mercy is found in his hard moral teachings. The crucified Jesus was not afraid to confront society, and he was crucified for his pains, teaching his followers that life is a moral struggle that requires sacrifices, and his followers cannot always take the easy options. He did not tell the adulterous woman to continue in her good work, but to repent and sin no more.”
Despite these statements, however, Pell, one of the Synod’s most outspoken “conservatives”, rejects the call to walk out, saying that “there’s no ground for anyone to walk out on anything.”
Pell, who heads the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, told Crux on Friday that by the midway point of the Oct. 4-25 synod, concerns about stacking the deck circulating in some quarters have “substantially been addressed.”
Pell was among roughly a dozen cardinals who signed a letter to Francis at the beginning of the synod raising doubts about the process, but he says reassurances have been given by Vatican officials that the final result “will faithfully present the views of the synod.”
Among other things, Pell said that Italian (unholy) Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the synod secretary, has stated from the floor of the synod hall that voting on a final document will take place “paragraph by paragraph,” providing a clear sense of where the bishops stand on individual issues.
He also said that members of a drafting committee for the final document have vowed to be true to the content of the synod’s discussions, rather than using the text to promote their own views.
“That’s all we want, for whatever the synod says, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent, to be represented,” Pell said.
“That’s in the long-term interest of everyone, because no matter how it might turn out, people want to feel that the bishops got to that situation fairly,” he said.
Asked if he feels the synod now has a level playing field, Pell said it’s “level enough.”
Overall, Pell said he believes the synod is making “solid progress”.
“I think a lot of good work has been done on the first two parts of the document,” he said, referring to a working text that’s the basis for synod discussions, the anti-Catholic Instrumentum Laboris. “I think there’s generally a good atmosphere in the synod.”
Pell also said that he believes the information flow this time is an improvement on the October 2014 edition of the Synod of Bishops, when there were charges by “conservatives” that Vatican briefings presented a selective vision that generally favoured progressive positions.
“Both sides of the story are getting out this time, I think,” he said.
“In terms of the [synod participants] who are briefing the media, I think they’re getting a mix of left, right, and centre …. it’s better than it was the last time, anyway,” Pell said.
Pell said that he believes the final report must deal with “sensitive issues”, such as proposals to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, even if there’s no clear consensus among the bishops.
“I don’t think we’ll be in that position,” he said, suggesting that opposition to those proposals represents a strong majority in the synod.
“But even if it actually is 50/50 on some significant point, I think the Catholic world has to know that,” Pell said. “I think no matter what happens, it will be public,” he said.
Pell, however, said that the synod fathers are indeed concerned about the composition of the commission that will draw up the final report and about the synodal procedures. Put simply, the commission is full of wolves.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, also a “conservative”, wrote on his blog that those who remain faithful to Catholic teaching are now a new "minority" in danger of feeling excluded. "They are looking to the Church, and to us, for support and encouragement, a warm sense of inclusion. We cannot let them down."