Who is advantaged by the new rules governing the Synod?
The work of the 2nd synod on the family began October 5th and will last three weeks. 270 Synodal Fathers are in attendance: 42 members ex officio, 183 essentially elected by the bishops’ conferences off the whole world, and 45 personally appointed by the Pope. Among the Synodal Fathers (cardinals, bishops, priests and religious), 54 are from Africa, 64 from America, 36 from Asia, 107 from Europe and 9 from Oceania. In addition to the 270 Synodal Fathers are 24 experts, 51 auditors, and 14 representatives of various Christian confessions. 18 couples are participating in the Synod, chiefly amongst the auditors.
The in camera sessions will take place this year amid new arrangements. Previously the discussion groups split up by languages (the circuli minores) only took place in the second part of the synod, following a first period of plenary sessions. Now, however, the assembly was split from the beginning into thirteen groups. The discussion is set up around the three themes of the guiding document (Instrumentum laboris), to be examined one after the other throughout the three weeks of the Synod: 1) Listening to challenges facing the family; 2) Discernment of the familial vocation; 3) The mission of the family today. The participants gather in linguistic groups for 13 discussions, and those who wish to comment in plenary sessions will be limited to three minutes. In contrast to last year’s synod, there will be no mid-session report, something that provoked lively controversy last year. According to several observers, these new arrangements have been put into place precisely to avoid overly conspicuous opposition amongst the various schools of thought.
In spite of all these precautions, the final days of the Synod will no doubt be extremely volatile. A final report will be presented to the full assembly on October 22nd. The Fathers of the Synod will be able to review it and comment in writing. An updated version will be presented to them on October 24th before a vote which must take place on the same day. The participants will have to pay careful attention to the taking into account of their comments by the committee responsible for drafting this report, especially since among the ten Synodal Fathers chosen by Pope Francis for this committee several are very close to him.
Two days before the Synod, on October 2nd, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri (on the picture), secretary general to the Synod, cautiously admitted the existence of “turbulence on some topics” without referring to the question of communion for the divorced and remarried. “The Pope will have the last word,” he stated, without indicating with certitude that this assembly would conclude with an Apostolic Exhortation from the hand of the Pontiff, as in the past.
In the National Catholic Register of September 29th, American Vaticanist Edward Pentin reported the words of Prof. John Rist, a specialist in patristics and a contributor to the work Remaining in the Truth of Christ (Ignatius) published last year in response to the progressive suggestions of Cardinal Walter Kasper: not only will the adoption of these new measures come to “a concerning end result, but also the absence of publicity (no mid-session report) will allow totally false accounts to circulate—even concerning the intention of the Pope—with near total impunity.”
(Sources: La Croix – kipa-apic.ch – NCR – trad. Benoitetmoi – DICI no. 322, 09/10/15)