Why Should the Synod Fathers Walk Out?


An Artist’s Rendering of the First Vatican Council

A person who still has the indissoluble sacramental marriage bond and who in spite of this lives in a stable marital cohabitation with another person, by Divine law cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. To do so would be a public statement by the Church nefariously legitimizing a denial of the indissolubility of the Christian marriage and at the same time repealing the sixth commandment of God: “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. No human institution, not even the Pope or an Ecumenical Council, has the authority and the competency to invalidate even in the slightest or indirect manner one of the ten Divine commandments or the Divine words of Christ:What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate (Math 19:6)”. – Bp. Athanasius Schneider

Yesterday, I announced my participation in an open letter asking Synod fathers to walk out rather than allow themselves to give the appearance of their consent to a heterodox outcome. This was not solely my idea, nor did it originate with me, though I am one of the text’s two principal co-authors, along with Patrick Archbold of Creative Minority Report and other Catholic publications. We received the help and consultation of others, including two veteran Catholic journalists, a theologian who has taken the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium as laid out by Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and a number of concerned laymen. This work was the result of a nearly-spontaneous idea that arose among a group of concerned Catholics who have seen mounting evidence that the Ordinary Synod on the Family which is happening right now is every bit as rigged as the Extraordinary Synod that happened last year, if not moreso.

With the letter obtaining over 1000 signatures in less than 8 hours (and over 1900 within 24 hours), it seems clear that we do not stand alone in our concerns.

As one might expect after creating something like this, we’ve received a few questions, concerns, and even some angry responses to this initiative, so I wanted to take some time to explain why we are asking for this course of action.

Why are you asking the good bishops to run away? We need them to stand and fight!

This is the most common objection we’ve seen, and it’s an understandable one. We all want to fight evil, but that doesn’t mean we should rush into a slaughter, or worse, allow ourselves to be framed for one. This objection is indicative of an incomplete understanding of what is actually transpiring at the Synod. Our concern isn’t just about a stacked deck or an unfair fight – it’s that the entire outcome has already been pre-determined. We are troubled with mounting evidence that the Synod is only for show, and the goal of those who control it is to simply discard the concerns of its orthodox participants while producing a final document or set of instructions that undermine the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality without ever officially “changing” it.

If indeed the Synod is just ecclesiastical theater, and the bishops in attendance are able to determine that, why should they allow themselves to be used? Why should good bishops and cardinals lend the credibility of their presence to something that is, in fact, a lie? We have not asked them to leave now; our letter requests that “each and every faithful Catholic bishop at the Synod, having made every effort to resist these attacks on Christ’s teaching, if its direction remains unaltered and those faithful voices remain unheard, do his sacred duty and publicly retire from any further participation in the Synod before its conclusion so as to prevent greater scandal and confusion.”

This is a provisional request: IF the direction remains unaltered. IF the faithful voices remain unheard. Retire BEFORE the conclusion – at whatever point they deem any continuation of the exercise to be futile.

When it comes to this Synod, there are multiple causes for concern. It seems important, in light of our request, that we compile some of the more noteworthy among them here:

  • This Ordinary Synod is a continuation of last year’s Extraordinary Synod, which was so extensively manipulated that the details of those events filled an entire book.
  • There were a number of procedural abnormalities introduced to this portion of the Synod which would make it easier to maintain secrecy and to advance the Kasper position.
  • It has been revealed that a group referred to as a “Shadow Synod” were already at work on the final recommendations to be given to Pope Francis before the Synod even began. It remains likely, though uncertain, that this is the same group that has been reported to be meeting privately on a daily basis with Pope Francis as the Synod’s work continues.
  • The roster of papal appointees to this Synod reads like who’s who of heterodox bishops. Most notable among them are Cardinal Walter Kasper, whose eponymous proposal to allow the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion remains the focal point of faithful Catholic resistance to the Synod proceedings; and Cardinal Godfried Daneels, who, in addition to having advocated for same-sex marriage and legalized abortion, has been implicated in silencing clerical sex abuse victims in Belgium – with one notable instance caught on tape. He is also a participant in the so-called “St. Gallen Mafia,” a cabal of prelates who worked in secret against Pope Benedict and wanted to see Cardinal Bergoglio elected to modernize the Church.
  • The information that is coming out of the Synod has been filtered through regional language attachés, with little coming directly from Synod participants. The English-language attaché, Fr. Thomas Rosica, has a clear bias, and has been widely accused of distorting the proceedings to support a heterodox agenda. In retaliation, he has blocked so many Twitter followers discussing his involvement that he has inspired his own hashtag: #RosicaBlockParty. These are not the actions of someone committed to transparency.
  • Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poland has been blogging those Synod discussions and events he believes are important for the faithful to know. The Secretary General of the Synod, Cardinal Baldisseri, ordered these removed from his site, followed by a terse reminder of the restrictions from Fr. Rosica.
  • Before being silenced, Archbishop Gadecki was the reason we came to know that Jose Luiz Cardinal Lacunza Maestrojuan, president of the Panamanian Bishops’ Conference “and appointed by Pope Francis as a synod rapporteur, made so bold as to propose that the Church abandon what Jesus says about marriage and divorce and return to the Law of Moses, whom he blasphemously claimed was more merciful than Jesus, the Font of Mercy.” He is also why we know that Maestrojuan was rebuked by Greek-Melkite Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Gregory III Laham.
  • Archbishop Gadecki also revealed that pro-homosexual theological propaganda has been being distributed among the Synod fathers.
  • 13 Cardinals were reported to have expressed their concerns to the pope about the Synod proceedings. Some have denied their involvement, while new names have emerged as signatories. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the CDF, told Italian daily Corriere della Sera this week, “This is a new Vatileaks: the Pope’s private documents are private property of the Pope and no one else. No one can publish it, I do not know how that could happen. … The intention of those who willed its publication is to sow strife, to create tensions. I think that’s clear.”
  • The pope himself is said to have been dismissive of the cardinals’ concerns.
  • Article 26 § 1 of the official Synod rules states, “To arrive at the majority of votes, if the vote is for the approval of some item, 2/3 of the votes of the Members casting ballots is required; if for the rejection of some item, the absolute majority of the same Members is necessary.” Cardinal Baldisseri refused to acknowledge whether this rule would be honored in the pre-Synod press conference. We received word this week that when certain fathers asked about removing troubling language from the Instrumentum Laboris, they were told, “Well, if you want to get them out, it will require a two-thirds vote.” This is a clear change in the rules, which only require an “absolute” majority of 50% plus one.
  • As we reported on Monday: The documents related to the synod coming out of the Vatican are written in Italian. This has caused some concerns because there are indications that the translations of the documents are being manipulated. Archbishop Chaput expressed his concern on this matter, stating: “As we move on to the process, there is a bit of worry in our group that when the final document is pronounced in Italian, and we’re asked to vote, we may not be very clear on what we’re voting for.”
  • Of the final report committee, Gloria.TV reported: “Sandro Magister has examined the ten-member commission appointed by Pope Francis to write the final report on the synod. Four of them (Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop Fernández, Cardinal Dew and Bishop Semeraro) were appointed by Francis to the Synod. All of them are pro-divorce and pro-homosex. At least three other members represent the same ideology: Cardinal Baldisseri, Archbishop Forte, and the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr Nicolás Pachón.”

This is not an exhaustive list. A good summary of what these factors signify for the Synod can be found in the words of Archbishop Tomash Peta of Astana, Kazakhstan, who has said:

Some synod fathers have not understood correctly the appeal of Pope Francis for an open discussion and started to bring forward ideas which contradict the bi-millennial Tradition of the Church, rooted in the Eternal Word of God. Unfortunately, one can still perceive the smell of this “infernal smoke” in some items of the “Instrumentum Laboris” and also in the interventions of some synod fathers this year.

To my mind, the main task of a Synod consists in indicating again to the Gospel of the marriage and of the family and that means to the teaching of Our Savior. It is not allowed to destroy the fundament – to destroy the rock.

Even if the Synod is being manipulated, this is a magisterial body, and a walkout is unprecedented/would be a schismatic act!

Not so. At various points throughout history, there have been bad synods, where manifest problems demanded protest by orthodox participants. A look back through the Church offers certain notable examples. The “Robber Council of Ephesus” (which was really a sham Synod) took place in 449. The heretical Synod of Pistoia was held in 1786 and condemned by Pope Pius VI in 1794.

At the Council of Basel, called by Pope Martin V in 1431, there arose a problem of runaway conciliarism. Conciliarism is an error in which it is believed that true ecclesiastical power rests within the body of the faithful, rather than in the pope or the bishops. According to conciliarism, the leaders of the Church, in exercising their powers of governance, do so because the faithful have thus bestowed this power upon them. (A bit like the way we do Western democracy these days.) Pope Martin died only a few weeks after convoking the council, and his successor, Pope Eugenius (Eugene) IV, saw the truth of what was happening – and that it represented a significant threat to his papal authority, particularly in the wake of the Great Schism. With this in mind, Pope Eugenius suspended the proceedings at Basel, and the orthodox bishops present there heeded his call to resume the council in Florence.  Some bishops, however, remained — believing that even the pope was subject to the authority of a general council — and when they attempted to suspend Eugenius, he excommunicated them.

The 15th Century is a long time ago. They did things differently then.

Fair enough. A more recent example is Vatican I, and the protest of a sizeable number of bishops over the promulgation of papal infallibility in Pastor Aeternus:

The most controverted question to come before the Council was that of papal infallibility. Like the rest of the bishops, the Americans were divided on the advisability and the possibility of a definition. The most active and vocal among them joined the opposition. The undisputed leader of this group was Kenrick. His chief supporters were Purcell, Domenec, Vérot, Whelan and Fitzgerald, of Little Rock.


The preliminary vote on the Constitution Pastor Aeternus, which contained the definitions of papal primacy and infallibility, was taken on July 13. Twenty-eight Americans were present. Eighteen of them approved the constitution as it stood; three asked further revisions; seven voted against it. After considerable discussion, the “International Committee” decided not to cast negative ballots at the public session on July 18. Instead, 55 of the opposition Fathers addressed a formal protest to the Pope and then left Rome. Kenrick, Vérot and Domenec were among the signers.

Only two of the American opponents attended the session at which, to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning, the Pope proclaimed the dogma of infallibility. One was Archbishop McCloskey, who joined 24 other prelates from the United States in voting placet. The other was Bishop Fitzgerald, of Little Rock, who has gone down in history as one of the two Fathers who voted non placet. A satisfactory explanation of Fitzgerald’s decision to attend and vote “no” has never been given.

All of the American bishops accepted the dogma once it had been proclaimed.

In his True Story of the Vatican Council, Henry Edward Cardinal Manning recounts:

The two bishops who voted on that day against the decree, as soon as Pius the Ninth had confirmed it, at once submitted and made a profession of their faith. They proved by their adverse vote the liberty which the 55 who left Rome equally possessed; and by their prompt submission they showed to the world that their opposition had been offered not to the truth of the doctrine, but to the expediency of defining it.

In the instance of the First Vatican Council, these 55 bishops removed themselves from the proceedings rather than vote against the promulgation of Pastor Aeternus, and by extension, Pope Pius IX, openly. They opposed something which in fact became a dogma; but these were not schismatic men, nor were they accused of being such. They were faithful sons of the Church, loyal to her teaching, concerned about the potential damage such a proclamation might do, and ultimately, obedient to the legitimate exercise of papal authority on the matter.

If bishops can in good conscience and without culpability leave an Ecumenical Council in protest over the promulgation of something proven to be a Divine Truth, how much more liberty should they be afforded when faced with the possibility of removing themselves from a Synod attempting to introduce pastoral practices which will lead the faithful into error and sin?

It is an unfortunate fact that those who remain at the Synod until the end will be suspected of complicity in what it produces; as with the letter of the 13 cardinals, it will be very difficult (and perhaps even impossible, depending upon the confidentiality maintained around the proceedings) to know who took what stand and why.

If it comes to a point where the Synod can be deemed irretrievably engineered in favor of a bad outcome, why shouldn’t those who love Christ and His Church remove themselves in protest? It would be a profound statement, and one not soon forgotten.

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