Lack of transparency during the Synod. A problem?

I am soooo glad that I’ll arrive in Rome with my pilgrimage group after the Synod is over.  I really wouldn’t like to be covering at all from a “press” point of view.

For instance, I noticed at Fishwrap this info tid bit in a piece about the Synod and the spiffy way it is being run by Card. Baldisseri.

Vatican: Synod will be ‘original and innovative,’ but with limited public information

Okay that’s just the headline. But are you already thinking, “Original and innovative? What could go wrong?”

Let’s move on.

Baldisseri, the secretary general of the Vatican’s office for the synod, spoke Wednesday at an event at LUMSA University, a private university in Rome located just east of the Vatican.

The event, one of many hosted in early October by diverse interest groups hoping to have impact on the synod discussions, focused on presenting viewpoints of accomplished women of faith from around the globe regarding struggles stemming from changes in family life.

But it will likely be largely unknown what impact, if any, those groups — or even the petitions of Catholics around the world — will have on the bishops gathered in synod. [Up until this point we’ve been reading blah blah. Now watch!] The Vatican press office announced Monday that no texts from the synod discussions would be released. And unlike in previous synods, no printed summaries of the daily discussions are to be issued, either. [Hmmmm.]

Instead, the press office will host daily briefings with Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, who will be present during the synod meetings and is expected to brief reporters in Italian on general themes discussed each day. [On “general themes”?  Oooo!  That’s be helpful!   “Today the Synod on the Family discussed matters relating to and of interest for the family, from the point of view of the Church in modern times.”] He is to be assisted in those briefings by three priests and one woman who will summarize the events from inside the synod room* in English, Spanish, French and German.


Fishwrappers are probably worked up that they won’t know anything about the impact made by the suggestions of the liberals and dissidents in these lobby groups which are probably hounding the synod participants.

On the other hand, why would they adopt this new method for the Synod?  We are all suppose to accompany the Synod in prayer.  Is this a matter of “Shut up and pray!”?
“Never mind what the Synod participants are saying (about you) behind closed doors!”

Someone who is suspicious might ask (as some are asking in email): Are the interventions (speeches) to be made by the Synod participants secret?  Is there any accountability issue involved here?  Is there any worry that somehow, if the texts of the participants interventions are not made public, they might somehow be “disappeared” or edited one way or another for “correctness”?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mrshopey says:

    So, we are going to get an encyclical or exhortation at the end? OR sometime later?

  2. mrshopey says:

    BTW, on the one hand, I think they should have some privacy in that they need to speak how they have been doing things. That said, the same privacy for correction of some and how they have been doing things. Such as, I would hope that after Cardinal Kasper speaks, there is a CORRECTION by his brothers.
    Although, as of now, his has been published and celebrated along the way. I can hope that a whole lot of correction goes on.

  3. Traductora says:

    This new procedure is very curious and quite disturbing. I wonder who thought it up. I have read that Cdl Baldiserri is supposedly a very close associate of the Pope, so one has to assume that the Pope at least knows about it. The stifling of routine information and the obscuring of responsibility for an act or statement is a very Obamaesque technique and Cdl Baldiserri could virtually have copied it from our current government.

    I also read that the procedure at the conclusion of the synod will be different from usual, and that this time a document will be produced that synthesizes the conclusions on the particular points and will then be approved by majority vote and sent to the worldwide bishops in preparation for next year. I don’t know if it’s going to be secret or not. However, what I found alarming about it was the fact that some of the less positive things to come out of Vatican II, particularly in the documents about the liturgy, were also produced through a sort of administrative sleight of hand where the (many) bishops opposed were essentially confused and rendered powerless by this same technique of synthesis followed by majority vote. (It accounts for some of the vagueness of the language of the final documents, which could then be used by the liberals for destructive purposes.)

  4. jflare says:

    Weeeelll, you never know.
    Maybe they’re making an effort to avoid causing the fools to make public spectacle of themselves while also allowing the shining to not be blasted as directly by an idiot media?
    A likely reason? hmm. I’m not sure I can stretch my generosity quite that far.

  5. Matt Robare says:

    I’ve heard that some of the trouble with Vatican II was caused by releasing drafts of documents to the press and people using the minutes and so on for their own ends.

  6. robtbrown says:

    This new approach to Synod info all but guarantees lots of anonymous sources.

    Traductora, obviously you are right about the post Vat II admin sleight of hand, but those in opposition to the reformers (read: deformers) took it for granted that nothing important would be changed. IMHO, they’re more alert now and more likely to get their opinions to the press. Sandro Magister will be busy.

  7. John of Chicago says:

    Pope Francis’ homily this morning that opened the Synod is not secret; it’s available at the Vatican Radio website–short, to the point and well worth a read. Here is more than a third:

                The temptation to greed is ever present.  We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. ch. 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours.  Greed for money and power.  And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Mt 23:4)
                We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard.  Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent…  They are meant to better nuture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people.  In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.
                We are all sinners and can also be tempted to “take over” the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings.  God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants.  We can “thwart” God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

  8. RJHighland says:

    I think the less influence the world can have on this Synod the better. As faithful we must pray for the leadership of the Church, may they be guided by the Holy Ghost and come out after the Synod like Peter came out after Pentecost and get the Church back on track. I pray for a stong clear message from our leaders and not the muttled, weak, twisted, double speak we are so accustom to these days. Is that to much to ask for?

  9. acardnal says:

    John of Chicago, I listened/watched the Pope give his speech live on EWTN Saturday. The comments you posted and the rest of his speech could be interpreted by either side of the “communion-for-the-divorced-and-remarried” as being supportive of their position. It’s more of the ambiguous language used at and by the Second Vatican Council.

    At this juncture, the bishops are still free to talk to the public and press outside of the synod so we will get some spin on what is happening inside from that.

  10. Allan S. says:

    I actually like this. The Church is not a democracy, and public pressure and lobbying are not helpful in matters of truth. If a bunch of leaders were gathering to sort out the sum of two and two, would you want them exposed to the noise of all those pushing for “five” or whatever? Since the correct answer is already there (truth may always be discerned by clear headed and un distracted people), it doesn’t require the same approach to “win” the day.

  11. Raymond says:

    Given that Italy has such a “gossip” culture and where rules and laws are not exactly obeyed to the letter, I also expect lots of inputs from so-called anonymous sources from inside the synod.

  12. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Wishing you the best for your tour in Rome 20.x.-30x. Be sure to report on your blog on on the tour, sights, reflections, restaurants.

  13. robtbrown says:

    Allan S. says:

    I actually like this. The Church is not a democracy, and public pressure and lobbying are not helpful in matters of truth. If a bunch of leaders were gathering to sort out the sum of two and two, would you want them exposed to the noise of all those pushing for “five” or whatever

    Yes, I do, simply because it provides the occasion to say why 2 +2 = 4, rather than 5.

    If you’re saying that Truth is not established by referendum, obviously I agree. But Truth is democratic in so far as it’s available to everyone, no matter the social or economic status. It’s not just there for those CEO’s, Hedge Fund Managers, and Sports Stars.

    In many ways, however, the Church is a Democracy. The pope does not inherit the position, nor is he appointed. He is elected. And despite liberal whining, local opinion is always a factor in nomination of bishops.

    Keep in mind that St Thomas Aquinas came from a religious order based on democratic institutions. Masters General, Provincials, and Priors are elected.

  14. Traductora says:

    Yes, robtbrown, that’s true. Many of the bishops at Vatican II were simply blindsided by the proposed changes and really didn’t have the time or canniness to react or even unify the opposition. This time it will definitely be different. I don’t think they need to come in with daggers in their sleeves, but they will definitely need to be vigilant. Be wise as serpents but harmless as doves…

    The fact that Cdl Baldiserri happily went to announce all of these things before a gathering of “diverse interest groups,” including a dissident gay group headed by the dread Sr. Jeanine Grammick, is not a good sign.

  15. Landless Laborer says:

    Why are orthodox Catholics anxious about the synod?? I’d like to see the answer to that.

  16. Gretchen says:

    I’m assuming there will be a recording made for a permanent record of the proceedings (whether or not it is ever released to the public). If it becomes a matter of “He said/He said” the whole thing could become quite a mess for the very families they are desiring to aid. I’m not expecting a good outcome. I hope that really, really good notes will be taken by those involved. I hope there are assistants who are expert at shorthand and/or have a journalistic sense of note-taking, for the sake of history if nothing else.

  17. KAS says:

    IMO, somebody wised up, realized that quotes from discussions would be used by the press to promote whatever position they favored, thus convincing the average Catholic that certain things were changed when the discussion was still on-going. This sure happened during Vat II when things like women covering their heads were given by the press as no longer and so women stopped wearing them. It happened when the synod was quoted a lot and then people got all upset when Humane Vitae did not follow what the press had led the laity to believe were the new teachings– laity felt whip-sawed and some, what had already fallen into sin, rebelled against correct teaching.

    I think it is not anyone’s business except those involved what they discuss and what is said. I don’t think their conclusions are even our business. Too bad the Pope won’t put a gag order on all the participants under pain of excommunication.

    I think what IS our business is the encyclical we hope Pope Francis will deliver to clarify Church teaching for the many who apparently need it clarified.

    Landless Laborer– we are not anxious about the synod, we are bothered by the use of the press to teach heterodoxy in the name of the synod, essentially catechizing the laity in their own beliefs, which makes teaching the correct teachings much harder. Too many souls are damaged and led into sin by the press jumping to the conclusions they wish to make and then never refuting them when the actual conclusions come out.

    Humane Vitae is STILL not well taught– but the arguments of the synod who have not the authority of the encyclical– are still used to excuse violating Church teaching. We would prefer to avoid a repeat of that mess. So I favor no communication from the synod but waiting for the official conclusions via the Papal encyclical that may come out of it.

  18. McCall1981 says:

    All of the participants are still free to do all of the public interviews they want during the Synod, so anything they want to make public will come out.

  19. marcelus says:

    Don’t have time to translate. Gotta run. Latest popoe Interview with La Nacion Argentina:

    ¿Qué espera el Papa del sínodo que está abriendo? Debe consignarse, antes que nada, que el sínodo es una reunión de obispos de todo el mundo que tiene un carácter consultivo y que su principal trabajo es el de asesorar al Papa sobre un tema determinado.

    Hay ahora en Roma cerca de 200 cardenales y obispos de todo el mundo para tratar el tema de la familia. “No espere una definición la semana próxima”, me dice el Papa, irónicamente. “Éste será un sínodo largo, que durará un año probablemente. Yo sólo le doy ahora el empujón inicial”, añade.

    ¿Le preocupa el libro crítico a sus posiciones que acaba de conocerse firmado por cinco cardenales, uno muy destacado? “No -contesta-. Todos tienen algo que aportar. A mí me da hasta placer discutir con los obispos muy conservadores, pero bien formados intelectualmente.”

    El Papa soltó las riendas del sínodo. “Yo fui relator del sínodo de 2001 y había un cardenal que nos decía qué debía tratarse y qué no. Eso no pasará ahora. Hasta les entregué a los obispos la facultad que tengo de elegir a los presidentes de las comisiones. Los elegirán ellos, como elegirán los secretarios y los relatores.”

    “Claro -acota-, ésa es la práctica sinodal que a mí me gusta. Que todos puedan decir sus cosas con total libertad. La libertad es siempre muy importante. Otra cosa es el gobierno de la Iglesia. Eso está en mis manos, después de las correspondientes consultas”, subraya. Francisco es un papa bueno, pero no un papa al que otros gobernarán. Eso está muy claro en su noción de la conducción política o religiosa.

    ¿Qué le importa sacar como conclusión del sínodo?

    “¡La familia es un tema tan valioso, tan caro para la sociedad y para la Iglesia!”, dice, y agrega: “Se ha puesto mucho énfasis sobre el tema de los divorciados. Un aspecto que, sin duda, será debatido. Pero, para mí, un problema también muy importante son las nuevas costumbres actuales de la juventud. La juventud no se casa. Es una cultura de la época. Muchísimos jóvenes prefieren convivir sin casarse. ¿Qué debe hacer la Iglesia? ¿Expulsarlos de su seno? ¿O, en cambio, acercarse a ellos, contenerlos y tratar de llevarles la palabra de Dios? Yo estoy con esta última posición”, puntualiza.

  20. Janol says:

    At the Vigil ahead of the Synod the Holy Father asked for prayer for three things:

    “Because of this we ask the Holy Spirit for three things for the upcoming synod, he said, the first being “the gift of listening for the synod fathers: to listen in the manner of God, so that they may hear, with him, the cry of the people; to listen to the people, until they breathe the will to which God calls us.”

    Aside from listening, the Pope also invoked an “openness toward a sincere discussion, open and fraternal, which leads us to carry with pastoral responsibility the questions that this change in epoch brings.”

    I find the above a bit confusing (the first two intentions seem to me to be the same and a bit upside down) but perhaps the translation is poor.

  21. robtbrown says:

    An Apostolic Exhortation usually follows the end of the Synod by about a year. This Synod seems to be a preface for the Synod next year, so my guess is the document is about two years away.

  22. robtbrown says:

    Landless Laborer says:

    Why are orthodox Catholics anxious about the synod?? I’d like to see the answer to that.

    I can’t read people’s minds. My guess is the anxiety is because the pope has discouraged a more polemical papacy and encouraged liberals to speak their minds.

  23. Elbereth says:

    “Three priests and one woman”????? Is this a subjective press conference (that’s a rhetorical question, in light of Fr. Lombardi’s usual eloquence) which requires a woman’s interpretation to complement that of the priests’? If they aren’t dependable, perhaps no press conferences would be better than press conferences which feel the need to be demographically representational. And where is the “other” gender represented which the Tablet put down for their options on the survey? Why are those “others” being marginalized?

  24. Allan S. says:

    RobTBrown: thank you for your contribution in respect of my earlier expressed support for an in camera Synod. To respond to the conclusion you have raised, I would reply that – in the matter before us – “democratic” pressure from without would tend to push the 2+2=5 agenda, while – proportionally speaking – those trained in doing accurate sums are perhaps better represented within the Synod. So, keep those out, out.

  25. robtbrown says:

    I’ll restate what I wrote a few days ago. What is at stake in this papacy is not doctrine but the power of national-regional episcopal conferences. Certain German and Latin American bishops have little use for Roman authority.

    Nb: About 20 years ago the German bishops pushed the Every-Divorced-Catholic-Is-His-Own-Marriage-Tribunal as their own official policy. Cardinal Ratzinger, backed by JPII, nixed that project.

  26. Landless Laborer says:

    To KAS and robtbrown:
    Okay, both of those make sense. Somehow I had the feeling people were fretting over the magisterium contradicting itself.
    But still. It seems ludicrous to worry Catholics would accept reversals of dogma from newspapers, except that history does prove otherwise. You have a point. As 21st century Catholics we have the luxury of all magisterial documents at our fingertips, a universal catechism….and being literate. But it just doesn’t matter. We’d rather have it 3rd hand. I haven’t been Catholic long, still trying to understand the practical realities. People are either dumb, lazy, or looking for an excuse. I don’t see this as a media issue.

  27. robtbrown says:

    Allan S,

    My name is not Rob T Brown. Robt is an abbreviation for Robert–for years I thought that was universally known. It wasn’t until I started participating here that found that not to be true.

    The problem with excluding certain people is that it turns into a power play. And what happens when the power shifts? The liberals persecute faithful Catholics. For some time after Vat II it was all but impossible for a prof to get an anti-Proportionalism article published in theological journals.

  28. NYer says:

    Perhaps the synod fathers have finally recognized how the media will skew information, reinterpreting it in secular terms. We have repeatedly witnessed how this process works, as exemplified by their “news reports” from on board flights accompanying the Holy Father. Western society is obsessed with political correctness whereas the Catholic Church’s teachings pose a conflict with their agenda. I still recall some of the media coverage from VCII, in particular their report that the Catholic Church had dropped Friday abstinence. The news coverage never mentioned that it was still in effect with the option to substitute another form of personal sacrifice, when appropriate. I was young at the time and it wasn’t until many years later that I actually read the documents. Since then, I have returned to Friday abstinence. What a small sacrifice for Christ who sacrificed all for us. I will take this silence as a positive move and continue to pray for all in attendance.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    The less that is publicized, the less the msm can twist things. I am all for this lack of transparency.

    Glad you are going at the end of the month, Fr Z. Have a great time!

  30. marcelus says:

    Claro -acota-, ésa es la práctica sinodal que a mí me gusta. Que todos puedan decir sus cosas con total libertad. La libertad es siempre muy importante. Otra cosa es el gobierno de la Iglesia. Eso está en mis manos, después de las correspondientes consultas”, subraya. Francisco es un papa bueno, pero no un papa al que otros gobernarán

    This is from yesterday’s interview with la nacion (Argentina):

    “Of course that is the synodal practice that I like. That everyone can speak their mind in total freedom. Freedom is always very important. A different thing is governing the Church. That rests in my hands after the proper consultations. ”

    It ends: Francis is a good Pope but not one that will be ruled by others.

  31. marcelus says:

    I don’t know how it goes but shouldn’ t Crdl Muller and others start giving interviews? Kasper is everywhere.I mean everywhere in the world press.

  32. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Marcelus quoted the article and didn’t have time to translate. Here you go, folks:

    What does the Pope expect of the Synod that is opening? Before anything else, it should
    be noted that the Synod is a meeting of all the world’s bishops which has a consultative
    character, and that its principal work is that of advising the Pope about a predetermined

    In Rome, there are now around 200 cardinals and bishops from all the world to deal with
    the topic of the family. “Do not expect a definition by next week,” the Pope says to me,
    ironically. “This will be a big synod that will probably last a year. Now I only give
    the initial push,” he adds.

    Does the book critical to his positions bother him, that just was made known to have been
    signed by five cardinals, one very prominent? “No,” he answers. “Everyone has something to
    contribute. To me, it even gives pleasure to discuss it with the very conservative but
    intellectually well-formed bishops.”

    The Pope has dropped the reins of the Synod. “I was a relator of the synod of 2001, and
    I had a cardinal who decided for us what had to be dealt with and what not. This won’t
    happen now. Until I gave the bishops the faculty that I had, to elect the presidents
    of the commissions. They will elect them, as they elect the secretaries and the relators.”

    “Of course,” he notes, “that is the synodal practice that I like. How they all can say
    their business with total liberty. Liberty is always very important. The
    governing of the Church is another thing. That is in my hands, after the corresponding
    consultations,” he underlines. Francis is a good pope, but not a pope that other people
    will govern. That is very clear in his notion of political or religious conduct.

    What does it matter what happens as the conclusion of the synod?

    “The family is such a valuable topic, so dear to society and to the Church!” he says, and
    adds, “Much emphasis has been put on the topic of divorced people. An aspect that will
    be debated, without a doubt. But for me, another very important problem is the new
    real customs of the youth. Youth are not getting married. It is a culture of the
    age. Many young people prefer to live together without marrying. What must the Church
    do? Expel them from her bosom? Or instead approach them, hold onto them, and try to
    bring them the Word of God? I am with this last position,” he points out.

  33. marcelus says:

    Suburbanbanshee says:
    5 October 2014 at 10:04 pm
    Marcelus quoted the article and didn’t have time to translate. Here you go, folks:

    Thank you!

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