The Amazon synod organisers are at odds with Pope Francis


Catholic Herald, 15 August 2019

In a recent interview granted to La Stampa, Pope Francis spoke about the Synod for the Amazon, which will take place in October. The Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris (IL) was released in June and has been subject to withering criticism since, in particular from Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

While most attention has been given to the proposed discussion of ordaining mature married men to the priesthood in remote areas, the IL has also been found wanting on theological grounds: Cardinal Müller and others believe it calls into question the universal mission of the Church and leans toward a pantheistic eco-spirituality.

It seems the IL even caused alarm in the Melbourne prison where Cardinal George Pell is being held pending his appeal. In a recent letter to his supporters, Cardinal Pell wrote that there is “reason to be disturbed” by the IL.

“This is not the first low-quality document the Synod secretariat has prod­uced,” Pell tartly noted.

This remark helps to explain the context: the concerns about the IL are framed against the experience of the previous synods, especially the twin synods on the family in 2014 and 2015.

Therefore the big news from the La Stampa interview is not that big. Pope Francis said that the ordination of married men is “absolutely not” among the main topics, it is simply one point among others.

True enough, but a topic does not have to be the main topic in order to be of great consequence. Officially, the 2014-15 family synod was not “mainly” about Communion, divorce and the Church’s moral teachings as expressed in Veritatis Splendor. But those subjects dominated the response to the synod and to Amoris Laetitia – by both supporters and critics. A stain on a shirt does not mean that the entire fabric is soiled, but it does properly garner the most attention.

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