Now the the Synod of Bishops has concluded the key events are noted. Rocco writes that “After an unusual 12-day wait, yesterday finally brought the Holy See’s translations of the Final Relatio (report) from this month’s assembly. As the Pope himself stipulated in his closing remarks, it bears particular reminding that the 62-paragraph text doesn’t merely represent the closing snapshot of the first gathering, but now becomes the Lineamenta – the initial “baseline” of next year’s Ordinary Synod – presented to the episcopal conferences and the wider church for its discernment in setting the agenda of the climactic showdown, scheduled for 4-25 October 2015 in Rome. (To put the text’s significance in context, the extensive survey released last year under Francis’ close watch served as the Lineamenta for the Synod just past.) With every paragraph of the document voted on by the 183 Synod Fathers – a process previously known as the “Propositiones” all forwarded to the Pope – all of the sections attained an absolute majority of support from the floor. However, three grafs (52, 53, 55) narrowly failed to reach the required two-thirds’ margin (122 votes) for approval, yet were published regardless. While the release of the full list of propositions likewise happened at the close of the last Synod in 2012, the disclosure of the vote-counts on each portion was an innovation at this assembly”.
He goes on to write “Among the sections which garnered the supermajority but registered significant opposition nonetheless, the slimmest margin of full passage belonged to paragraph 41, which called for an improved “pastoral discernment” toward couples living outside the state of Christian marriage. The proposal passed by three votes, 125-54″.
Allen begins, “Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the tumultuous Synod of Bishops on the family, conclusions are up in the air as to what it all meant. Given the clear divisions that ran through the summit, it should be no surprise that after-the-fact interpretations are also all over the map. For some, the outcome was a defeat for Pope Francis and the more open line they perceive him to represent on issues such as gays and divorce and remarriage. For others, the fact that even watered-down language on those points survived in the synod’s final document represents a watershed, even if, like Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster in the United Kingdom said, they feel it “didn’t go far enough.” Those in favour of allowing Catholics who divorce and remarry outside the Church to receive Communion can claim a breakthrough in a call for further study on the issue, since previous Vatican documents have closed the door entirely. Some believe the soap opera quality of the two-week gathering, with conservatives complaining of a plot to stifle their voices and liberals grousing about a lack of nerve, suggest Francis has let loose forces he can’t control”.
Allen posits three conclusions “about the 2014 Synod of Bishops that seem reasonably objective. This is not the end, only the beginning. All along, the 2014 synod was designed to do no more than prepare an agenda for the larger Synod of Bishops on the family called by Pope Francis for October 2015. Among other things, that’s why the fissure Saturday night over whether the bishops had “rejected” two paragraphs in the final document by failing to get a two-thirds vote, one on gays and the other on divorce and remarriage, was a category mistake. In reality, the purpose of this meeting wasn’t to “accept” or “reject” anything”.
Allen goes on to write that “Between now and next year, Francis will likely make some important personnel moves that may alter the character of the next group he brings together. For one thing, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who emerged as a leader of the conservative forces during the synod, likely won’t be at the next one because he’s about to be replaced as the head of the Vatican’s highest court. It’s also possible that German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who was another strong conservative voice in the synod, will no longer be running the Vatican’s top doctrinal office by October 2015. Depending on who takes over, that, too, could alter the chemistry. In general, if the pope’s plan to streamline the Vatican by eliminating or consolidating some its departments is in place, there may be fewer Roman officials in the next synod”.
Burke’s removal has long been known, all that is needed is the official announcement of his appointment. Allen’s point about Cardinal Muller is strange. He has confirmed Muller in his post at the CDF. To then transfer him seems odd. This is not to say that Francis could not change his mind. He could send Muller back to Germany as bishop of Mainz, or perhaps archbishop of Berlin. This would leave a vacancy at CDF. While by no means certain, Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer SJ could take the role as prefect.
Interestingly Allen goes on to note “By the same token, retired German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the chief protagonist of the permissive line on Communion for the divorced and remarried, was at this synod only by special papal invitation, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back, especially after a sideline controversy over remarks about Africans “not telling us what to do.” For their part, the African bishops were surprised when none of them were named to the drafting committee of the final document, and it’s likely they won’t wait to get to Rome next time before making it clear that they expect a place at the table from the very beginning”.
The second point Allen makes is that “The 2014 synod marked a big win for transparency. For that, those on the conservative side of its arguments can claim most of the credit. At the beginning, Italian Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary general of the synod, announced that the texts of bishops’ talks would not be released, and that Vatican spokesmen would provide only generic overviews to the press without citing speakers by name. That led to mounting protests from conservatives, who suspected an effort to mute criticism of the more liberal line held by some of the synod’s key figures. The discontent burst into full public view last Monday, when an interim report contained remarkably positive language on gays, living together outside marriage, and divorce and remarriage. Conservatives objected, and rightly, that the report was taken as the conclusions of the whole synod when not everyone agreed with it”.
The result of this is that “From that point forward, things became steadily more open. Baldisseri was compelled to go along with releasing all the internal reports from the 10 small groups at the synod, and at the end, Francis decided to release not only the synod’s final document, but also the vote totals for each paragraph — and in record time. It seems probable the next synod will be far more transparent from the beginning, because no one will want to go through this again”.
Interestingly Allen writes that “it’s also a safe bet that a few prelates may quietly suggest to Francis that he consider finding other work for Baldisseri, who left a number of people underwhelmed by his performance”.
Where he could go and whether he would be moved is difficult to say. Technically Cardinal Baldisseri would be 75 just before the start of the next Synod and could be retired on age grounds. Yet, Francis may not want to do this and may decide it is better to have Baldisseri see out the 2015 Synod before retiring him. Francis may also be concerned that if he gave ground and replaced Baldisseri then it would look like the project that he may, or may not have in mind, would be under question from Francis himself.
The final point Allen notes is that “Francis doesn’t choke in big moments. He delivered a speech at the end of the synod that virtually everyone agreed was among the best of his papacy. It offered the vision statement of a moderate pontiff, urging the Church to shun both a “hostile rigidity” and a “false mercy.” He drew thunderous applause, including from prelates who shortly before, at least metaphorically, had been at one another’s throats. In effect, it was the kind of speech that both a Raymond Burke and a Walter Kasper could walk away from feeling as if the pope understands them, and it seemed to allow what had been a sometimes nasty two-week stretch to end on a high note. However neat a trick that was, however, it may pale in comparison to the challenge of holding the Church together as things go forward”.
Indeed the speech given by Pope Francis at the close of the Synod was remarkable for a number of reasons. During his speech Francis said “One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals”.
This approach, as Allen said, eased the still substantial tensions Francis said “The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.””
Francis went on to mention “Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions”.
Interestingly, Francis, not given to quoting Canon law said that the Synod was cum Petro et sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), he went on to say, “the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334)”.
This was a very clear word to Cardinal Burke. By quoting Canon Law, Francis effectively reminded Burke, on Burke’s “turf”, that the pope is in charge.