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Cardinals Confront the Pope: 13 Prelates to Know and Share

Cardinal Collins Portrait

Voice of the Family brings us the scoop on more internal strife coming out of the ever-changing polyhedron of a Synod, where the rules are more fluid than 21st-century gender constructs and orthodoxy is optional:

Thirteen cardinals have written to Pope Francis to protest about the direction being taken at the Ordinary Synod on the Family. The letter, which was handed to the Pope by George Cardinal Pell on Monday 5th October, is a devastating critique of the conduct of the synod. The cardinals state that:

  • the Instrumentum Laboris cannot “adequately serve as a guiding text or the foundation of a final document” because of its “problematic elements”
  • the new synodal procedures are seen as “lacking openness and genuine collegiality” and “not true to the traditional spirit and purpose of a synod”
  • the “lack of input by the synod fathers in the composition of the drafting committee has created considerable unease”
  • and a “number of fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions”.

They conclude:

“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.”

Reports indicate that the Pope Francis addressed the synod the next day and told synod fathers “not to give in to the conspiracy hermeneutic, which is sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful.” The pope’s remarks, which are sure to be interpreted as a public dismissal of his cardinals’ concerns, will heighten disquiet about his own role in the synodal process. As President of the Synod of Bishops the pope is ultimately responsible for the way the synod is conducted and for the documents issued by the Synod Secretariat.

VoF gives us the full list of signatories here:

The thirteen signatories, who deserve our thanks and prayers, are:

  • Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna
  • Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto
  • Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York
  • Willem Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht
  • Péter Cardinal Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
  • Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Wilfrid Fox Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban
  • George Cardinal Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy
  • Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Major Penitentiary
  • Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
  • Angelo Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan*
  • Jorge Cardinal Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas
  • André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, President Delegate of the Synod*

* UPDATE: It has been reported by the Vatican Press Office that Cardinal Scola and Cardinal Vingt-Trois have denied signing the letter.

Let’s hope this isn’t the last we hear of faithful resistance.

UPDATE: Some of the alleged signatories are saying they did not sign the letter. Voice of the Faithful has published another update on this story, which includes a statement issued by Cardinal Pell on the matter.

21 thoughts on “Cardinals Confront the Pope: 13 Prelates to Know and Share”

  1. I notice that this news shows up on the Drudge Report today with a tag from Agence France Press. My only complaint about that report is that is insists on calling these cardinals “rebels” and brands them “conservatives.” I think “loyalists” (i.e. to the teachings of Christ) and “orthodox” (i.e. faithful to Scripture and tradition) would be far more accurate. Anyway, the war within the Church has broken out into the secular news; I think that is good. Many Catholics get their “Church news” from the secularists and they will now come to understand that Francis is hardly the humble gather of sheep he portrays himself to be. I can’t think of a pope in the last 500 years who has more successfully and widely scattered the flock in so short a time.

    • Speculation in some Spanish language sources with contacts in Rome is that it was Spadaro of Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit and close friend of the Pope,who “leaked” this, not to make the Pope look bad but to make it seem as if he was the victim of a rebellion by what is being described as a group of “hard line conservatives.”

      The secular press in Argentina published front page articles about this complete with photos of these “plotters.”

      Bear in mind that Dolan is certainly not a hard line anything, and that several of the others are leaders of dicastries and are actually responsible for advising the Pope of these problems – and you’ll see that an attempt us being made to discredit them.

      • Having seen 30 months of this papacy, you don’t really think Francis is capable of tacking into the wind the way Paul did with Humanae Vitae, do you? And if you mean that by telling them the truth in his famous encyclical Paul was scattering the flock, then I disagree. Those scattered in 1968 by the news that John Rock’s pill was still against nature were no longer spiritually in the flock and thus could not be scattered in the way I mean. Our current pope is scaring the daylights out of the very folks still wishing to follow Christ’s commands, not those hoping for a get-out-of-jail-with-no-strings-attached card straight from the Vatican.

        • HV was a long, long time coming. So long, and so delayed, that the rumors were flying around that the Church was going to “change her teaching on contraception”. My parents remember it well and clearly. that was the general co0nsensus in the pews. The idea was not corrected, nor condemned.
          They all sat on their hands, umm-ing and ahh-ing, consulting worldly “experts” for their learned opinions. Then when HV finally appeared, it was way too late. Addiction to the pill was in full swing. The horse had bolted.
          Yes, HV is very good in what it says, but the delayed-by-years timing was atrocious. Would you let some thief or murderer run riot in your home while your family is there for more than 2 seconds?
          If that is his one good act, then it has to be weighed against all the destructive forces that he not only left unchecked, but signed off on himself. He used to be heard weeping and lamenting, and would say so in public appearances, that the Smoke of Satan had entered the Church, but he was on duty promoting the destruction!
          Something funny happened at Vatican II. I don’t know the motives of the people who caused it, whatever it is, but can only look at the casualties in the last 50 years.
          Paul VI has already had his Particular Judgement. Only God, infinite in mercy, knows how it went.

          • But we will soon know. His canonization awaits only a second miracle, and I understand that one in Italy is already under scrutiny. I’m old enough to remember as an adult the times you speak of. More than addiction to the pill — I really don’t think it’s that so much as addiction to sexual sin — the cause of Catholic decline here and in Europe was the ruinous 60s, all the cheap philosophy (think Marcuse, Simone de Beauvoir and her boyfriend the Communist gnome, etc.), the worthless noise passed off as music, the degradation of university life and academic standards, the hideous and criminal political thuggery (SDS, Black Panthers) and their “conservative” counterparts (YAF), the debased plastic arts, etc.

            It was a time of total societal collapse and Catholics joined in the “fun”. If we are to look for Catholic culprits, perhaps we should look to what some media dope called “the Greatest Generation”, that of my parents. Two wars in less than a quarter century had exhausted the sense of human dignity. And we have to remember that most of the sodomite priests of the recent scandals and their enablers in chanceries across the globe were brought up in the pre-Vatican II Church.

            So maybe Paul VI can be forgiven his weaknesses — I agree with you that they were many and grave — because he was the product of a society in serious decomposition. Regardless, when we examine the collapse of the Catholic Church after 1965, we have to understand that the phenomenon is far more complex than many would like to think, and that its origins involve more than just Masons and Communist infiltrators.

          • Well, in these times we live in, when kissing a Koran and praying with pagan devil worshippers, and sacking the liturgy and traditional expressions of piety while replacing them with non catholic novelty ( to the destruction of the faith of many) can get you canonized, then what am I doing trying to keep the traditions of holy Saints and my forefathers in the faith? I repeat what I said before: something funny happened at Vatican II.

  2. Looks like we could have some auxiliary bishops for The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and The Sovereign Military Order of Malta in the near future. Where else can orthodox bishops be exiled?

  3. Given Cardinal Pell’s rather specific remarks, I have the feeling that the retractions issued today were the product of a certain unwillingness on the part of the Cardinals in question to have their names associated with such an act of open defiance to Pope Francis. The number 13 has been independently confirmed (by Raymond Arroyo’s sources), as has the approximate content of the letter. In other words, I think it probable that Magister’s original report is accurate, and that the Cardinals simply do not want to be charged with causing (additional) scandal. Without knowning Magister’s source, it’s hard to say whether they’re intentionally throwing him under the bus.

  4. I find it somewhat hard to believe that some of those Cardinals on the list signed on given what we have heard about them in the past. Praise be God if they have indeed abandoned their past and joined forces here but given that many are saying they didn’t sign it…… well….

    • Seeing Cardinal Dolan’s name on the list causes one to wonder about the veracity of the report, although perhaps the prayers of the faithful have been fruitful in turning him toward a more orthodox position that those he has taken in the past.

      • Indeed, this is what Dolan had to say when asked about signing this letter – make of it what you will.

        “There were a number of bishops, one of whom was Cardinal George Pell, whom I respect very much, and we were chatting about a couple of concerns that we had. George said…why don’t we get together – we love the Holy Father, we trust him, he’s urged us to be honest with him as possible – why don’t we write [to] him that we’re worried. We’re worried, first of
        all about the “Instrumentum Laboris” which has a lot of good things, but we’re kind of worried if that’s the only document that we’re going to be talking about at the synod. Secondly, we’re a little worried about the process: there seems to be some confusion. And, thirdly, we’re a little worried if we could have a say in the people who are going to be on the final drafting committee. Cardinal Pell, in his good shrewd way,
        said: ‘Am I correct in summing up some of the concerns?’ And some of us, myself included, said ‘that seems good enough to me, if you have a letter to the pope count me in.’ And sure enough I signed it….The letter wasn’t in English, it was in Italian.” It was written “even before the synod began…the
        day after it went in, the Holy Father, very sensibly, at the beginning of the next day [Oct. 6], he didn’t refer to the letter but he said, hey everybody, I’ve heard from some of you that you’ve got some concerns…[and then the Holy Father] listed
        the exact concerns that I’ve just mentioned… and he said, ‘let me try to respond to that.’”
        “I said, here you go, Holy Father, you told us
        to be honest and we were. You’ve answered right to these [concerns]. I’m grateful you paid attention. So let’s get on with the work.”

        “I’d forgotten about it, and I didn’t think it was controversial at all” [but then I heard that] “somebody’s leaked it, and there are various versions who signed it. I don’t know all about that stuff!”

  5. Insufficient attention is being paid to the symposium, held on the eve of the synod at the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, that was reported here by lifesitenews.

    This conferences raises many questions pertinent to assessing whether the conclusion of the synod (now Vatican III?) was pre-ordained, or whether the Pope’s designs –all along!–were for the synod to address larger issues of “reform” (the theme of the symposium!) that go way beyond questions about the family.

    Notably, what funding sources brought all those people in and paid for this symposium? All those travel expenses and lodging. A press release said there were four such sources. Isn’t the laity entitled to know?

    One need not attempt to contribute to the “hermeneutics of conspiracy” (what a mouthful) to ask mere common-sensical, level-headed queestions about the intent of this conference held on the eve of the synod.

    It really depends on how the question is *phrased*, and in good Jesuitical fashion, it is important to carefully exegete the precise wording of anything Fr. Spadaro, S.J. or the conference attendees might say in response to the hypothesis floated by Tosatti.

    *If* the question is: was this conference, and Fr. Spadaro, intending to develop talking points that would influence the synod, and as a causal consequence the Pope as well, it takes extraordinary naivete to deny that’s what was going on. Of course, themes (presumably) addressed at this pre-synod symposium have been in the air for decades. But there must have been great value for the Kasperite wing of the Church in holding a symposium that would crystallize and outline the various themes being pushed by the many bishops and cardinals at the synod who want to see the Church revamped radically.

    There is the distinct question whether this conference was working on the text of a document or documents for use by the Pope post-synod, and that appears to be unknown.

    Keep in mind, however, the Jesuit Spadaro’s relationship to this Pope. Moreover, it stretches the imagination to consider that the Pope was not fully aware of, and sanctioned, this group that convened right before the synod. The Pope is, after all, a Jesuit!! (and so is the Pope’s
    handler, Lombardi, interestingly.)

    Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine that the deliberations of this conference, via Spadaro, would
    not have reached the Pope. Whether there are talking points that the Pope will adopt in his homilies or talks, or in published documents, and that were taken directly from points made at this conference, is anyone’s guess. Time may tell. After all, the results of the conference
    are to be published. A really interesting open question (again) is whether–even–this conference dwelled on points the Holy Father *already* intended to make post-synod.

    If so–the synod was merely window-dressing? Why was it convened, then?

    Odd, isn’t it, how little is really known about this conference. (On the other hand, this is consistent with the criticisms about procedural rules at the synod.)

    Sure, the topics of discussion were identified for the public. But what was *said* there? Do we really need to wait for a published proceeding to hear more about this from Fr. Spadaro and the attendees? Especially what concrete recommendations were made about “reform”, on the very eve of the synod?

    And perhaps Father Spadaro can explain the difference in days between the official date of the conference “September 28 to October 2” versus the 12 days of activity? What were all those conference-goers doing all that time? Sightseeing?

    Scroll down on this webpage for the telling comment that “the seminar also collected criteria for action and concrete proposals for reform.” That doesn’t sound to me like abstract theological discourse, but rather something more…programmatic.

    Also,not so incidentally, consider that this conference, right before the synod, is on “the reform and reforms in the Church”, a far broader theme than the much more circumscribed theme of this synod. What grandiose designs! You’d think it had been held on the eve of Vatican III.

    According to the link above, “The seminar, [was] an unofficial initiative of men and women theologians both lay and ordained”. Was it really completely “unofficial” and, if so, in what sense? After all, “The participants reportedly came from 13 different countries, prominent among them were Italians as well as Argentinians; and among them also was the close friend and collaborator of the Pope, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez. . . .Both Father Spadaro and Archbishop Fernandez are also known proponents of both the “Kasper proposal” and a more liberalizing and indulgent moral teaching in the Church. Both men are papal appointees for the 2015 Synod”. So, again: the conference was “unofficial”? Perhaps, just partially? Officially Unofficial?

    In sum, let’s not be naive. Anyone should take with a big grain of salt any blanket rejection by Spadaro might want to make that this conference was not in some sense influential, and possibly quite influential, in “priming” (‘lo, “rehearsing”) discussion for the synod. Not to mention that it may have been one more stream of input into whatever the Pope has to say post-synod. Whether it will influence *documents* is another matter.

    Whether the will of the Pope, or the Pope’s views or predilections, are reflected in the particular array of views represented at that conference is also a matter of speculation. But
    won’t it be really interesting if it turns out that most or all of the points at the conference (once published) reflect a theologically liberal, even dissident, ideological bias of the kind represented by the vast majority of Jesuits.

    Again: not to contribute to the “hermeneutics of conspiracy”! But, just asking some plausible questions, in a reasonable and systematic way.

    Note in this context that the Kasperite claims about “lived experience”, and Spadaro’s comments that appeared here
    The Kasperites will claim that they attend to “lived experience”, the “deposit of life”, and that their adversaries are stuck on doctrine and theory. But all this talk of life experience, meeting people where they are, the pretense that what’s being discussed is fresh and new, etc etc is all a red herring, a distraction from the real issues–which have to do with clashing theoretical ecclesiological visions of the relationship between Pope and bishops. Not to mention: on obedience to the magisterium, and theoretical differences about the nature of the human person. Do not be fooled by the Kasperite claims that they are not interested in theoretical positions–they are. And these positions are intimately conjoined to the pastoral questions.

    One has the sense that the Pope, if Spadaro is correct, is attempting to “write large” a particular interpretation of Ignatian spirituality–and impose it on the entire Church. Very troublesome, since the Jesuits are such a source of dissident theology.

    As a final note: someone should do textual analysis, using the appropriate software, to demonstrate that the locutions and diction of assorted Jesuits, including those attending, also appear in public statements or documents issued by the Pope.

  6. The list of the 13 signatories, according to America Magazine:

    – Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, Italy, formerly the first president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family;

    – Thomas C. Collins, archbishop of Toronto, Canada;

    – Daniel N. Di Nardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, vice-president of the U.S. Bishops Conference;

    – 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;

    – John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya.

    – George Pell, archbishop emeritus of Sydney, Australia, since 2014 prefect in the Vatican of the secretariat for the economy;

    – Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico City, Mexico;

    – Robert Sarah, former archbishop of Conakry, Guinea, since 2014 prefect of the congregation for divine worship and the discipline of the sacraments;

    – Elio Sgreccia, president-emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Vatican City;

    – Jorge L. Urosa Savino, archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela.


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