Synod’s “Relatio” drafting committee. Notice anything odd?

Pope Francis made an interesting move.  He added a few prelates to the group assigned to write the final Relatio (summary and suggestions to be submitted to the Pope).

At this point in the Synod, after all the little speeches, the members break into smaller groups, usually by language, to draft their proposed contributions in few of a final document to be drafted by a sub-committee.

The papal appointees to the drafting group are:

  • Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture.
  • Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C.
  • Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina and one of the pope’s top theological advisors.
  • Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico, president of CELAM, the Latin American bishops’ council.
  • Archbishop Peter Kang U-Il of South Korea.
  • Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón of Spain, superior general of the Jesuit order.

No Africans.

Some people will say that the committee is comprised of members who lean one way or another.   That isn’t what surprised me.

No Africans are on the drafting committee, and yet is it clear that the state of the the family in Africa is considered pretty important.

I guess it isn’t as important as the state of the family in the wealthy West and Northern Hemisphere.

Isn’t that interesting?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Not that supprised, African Clerics tend in my experience to be so gung-ho for orthodoxy (especially in matter of Faith and Morals) that if the Holy Father let one of them loose on the documents he would have something that might actually be unambigious in Catholic teaching.

    As an Amataur Political Scientist do find it very amusing that the Pope who speaks lots about colligiality appoints without warning these liberal clerics the moment the synod fathers elect Conservative ball bashers to write the document. Could this be the Holy Father’s Waterloo ?

  2. bbmoe says:

    My mother-in-law used to use the word “interesting” as the middle of 3 words she might apply as an adjective. The first was “fair,” meaning “If I had grown up anywhere but the Midwest, I’d be doing cartwheels.” Then there was “interesting,” meaning, “I suppose in some circles this is ok. I regard it with deep suspicion until it proves to be an utter calamity, at which point I’ll tsk-tsk and say, ‘I was going to say something.'” The last was “different,” meaning “I’ll tell you want I really think after a couple of cocktails.”

    This is somewhere between “interesting” and “different,” IMO.

  3. ChrisRawlings says:

    My hunch is that the African orthodoxy has a much greater base of support at the synod than some reports may have led us to believe. At the end of the day, they’ll vote on the relatio and there is where the African voice will be most significant.

  4. Lavrans says:

    A while back, a certain well-known priest blogger (not Father Z) [FWIW… I decided that I am a “blogist” rather than a “blogger”.] said something about Pope Francis having “a little Latin American in him” as if to suggest it was not necessarily a good thing. I don’t think he meant it racially or in a bigoted fashion, but rather that there seems to be some peculiarities that most Latin American bishops and priests seem to share that are not necessarily good things. One such thing would be liberation theology, but there are others.

    Long story short, Pope Francis is not really a pope “for the whole world” but rather one who may encompass a new area…and that’s it. The North, West, and a small portion of the South are represented in the man. The East and the rest of the South (Africa), not so much. A pity, really, since the African Church (as a whole, not all) has shown far more dedication to Catholic teaching regarding the family than any other area. If Pope Francis was to open the Church to the world, he obviously forgot Africa or doesn’t consider it important enough.

    Either way. I don’t get it.

  5. Sword40 says:

    Disappointing selection. Not even an attempt at balance. The Faith is subverted again. Sounds like our leadership here in the USA.

  6. Polycarpio says:

    In my latest blog post, I suggest that the communion for divorced and remarried issue shortshrifts more pressing issues for the poor.

  7. mrshopey says:

    Ebola? Were any able to make it to the Synod, or is it via skype, etc?
    Prayers for those in Africa.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    Not good…curious about this oversight.

  9. danidunn says:

    But, Father.

    I think the state of the family is a universal (i.e., Catholic) concern. So, isn’t it good that there are Catholics in the drafting committee? If Africans need to be uniquely represented then women would also need to be uniquely represented.

  10. Unwilling says:

    “You are very cruel,” said her sister, “you will not let me smile, and are provoking me to it every moment.” J.A. P&P 54

  11. Dundonianski says:

    To suggest that this is an “interesting” move by Pope Francis certainly challenges my perspective especially having just viewed the remarkable video interview with Cardinal Burke-surely these draftees lean pretty much one way-which would unlikely mesh with an African view, or that of the redoubtable Cardinal for that matter.

  12. JARay says:

    This is a glaring omission. It is notable that the Church of England (or Episcopalian in America) is hauled over the coals for its recent changes like women bishops and homosexual bishops etc., by the African bishops of those churches. The Africans are far more into what one might call “traditional” Christianity and they have, vocally at least, broken away from the excesses prevalent in the American or European branches.

  13. Hieronymus says:

    “Some people will say that the committee is comprised of members who lean one way or another.”

    They definitely lean one way, not so sure about the other.

    The Pope clearly thought it was very important to create a group that would inject his voice into the discussion. I’m sure he would have been happy to include Africans if there would have been an outspoken leftist or two to chose from.

  14. torch621 says:

    Well in their defense, the family is in much worse shape here in the West than in Africa.

  15. Joe in Canada says:

    I’m surprised that his choice of a non-bishop was a male religious. He could have put anyone in there from Sr Prema MC to Mother Pelosi.

  16. Clinton R. says:

    The inclusion of Donald Cardinal Wuerl is concerning to say the least. Obviously those prelates who do not have a progressive view of things and also have an ‘addiction’ to the TLM are not wanted or wished to be heard from. Of course this whole Synod would be unnecessary if the traditional Catholic faith had been taught throughout the world the last several decades.

  17. Ralph says:

    I must agree with others who suspect that the exclusion of Africans may be a result of that continent’s Cardinals tendency to orthodoxy.

    During the last conclave my (protestant) father remarked that the selection of an African would, “save your Church”. When a South American was ultimately elected he said, ” this might end up being bad for the entire world”.

    I’m starting to worry he might have been correct on both counts.

  18. jhayes says:

    When you get up Monday morning (in the US) you’ll be able to read the report prepared by the Committee. It will be presented at a press conference by four of the committee members.

    That report will be discussed by the 10 “small groups” during the week and their comments will be taken into account by the committee when it prepares the final version.

    Conferenza Stampa del 13 ottobre 2014

    Si informano i giornalisti accreditati che lunedì 13 ottobre 2014, alle ore 13.00, nell’Aula Giovanni Paolo II della Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, ha luogo la Conferenza Stampa di presentazione della “Relazione dopo la discussione” (Relatio post disceptationem) della III Assemblea Generale straordinaria del Sinodo dei Vescovi (5-19 ottobre 2014) sul tema: Le sfide pastorali sulla famiglia nel contesto dell’evangelizzazione.


    Card. Peter Erd?, Arcivescovo di Esztergom-Budapest (Ungheria), Relatore Generale;
    Card. Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Arcivescovo di Manila (Filippine), Presidente Delegato;
    S.E. Mons. Bruno Forte, Arcivescovo di Chieti-Vasto (Italia), Segretario Speciale;
    Card. Francisco Robles Ortega, Arcivescovo di Guadalajara (Messico), Presidente della Conferenza Episcopale del Messico.

  19. Bea says:

    Quite odd, indeed and then some.

    Found it duplicitous to say the least.

    Found this news on another blog:

    “Cardinal Burke was among those elected by his fellow bishops of one of the three English-speaking circles (the Anglicus A) as moderatore (chairman) of the group to help in the writing of the group reports that make the final report. There were many “conservatives” elected in the different groups, including Cardinal Sarah, moderator for Gallicus (French-speaking) A, Abp. Léonard, relatore (rapporteur) for Gallicus B; Cardinal Bagnasco, moderator for Italicus B; Cardinal Robles Ortega, moderator for Ibericus (Spanish-speaking) A.”

    The secret ballots for the above at least shows the mind of the majority of bishops present.
    Dare we hope?

  20. Vecchio di Londra says:

    So the Pope has chosen six people who all agree with him and with each other, to draft the final report. ‘Interesting’ is definitely the mot juste. Perhaps even ‘Very interesting’?

    I don’t know how many recall the actual debates of the Second Vatican Council, I mean their actual dialogues. They were quite widely reported, and quickly published at the time.
    Those of us who followed them were later surprised by the final documents, that seemed to bear so little resemblance to the cut-and-thrust of each debate, or even to address the core of the issues discussed. We hadn’t realized that the secret was in the ambiguity of language of the documents, and how they might be interpreted by those who were determined to effect change at any price.

    When the bishops all got home, they discovered that in their absence the modernist laity and clergy had promulgated their own versions throughout the parishes. Bugnini then added his contribution (some countries hadn’t even waited for him to make their own radical liturgical changes) and hey presto, a changed Church.

  21. truthfinder says:

    Actually, I’m not too sure we’ve heard much about Fr. Pachon, sj, since around his election as superior. In some ways, I’m not surprised he’s there, in other’s, well, we’ll see what happens.

  22. CharlesG says:

    Can someone please clarify if the relators elected by the different language groups (including Cardinals Burke, Sarah and Bagnasco) are also on the relatio drafting committee? If that is the case, then there is African representation in Cardinal Sarah on the committee. And if that is the case, then it would appear that the groups have elected fairly orthodox “conservative” representatives, so the Pope has balanced that out with more “liberal” voices. I hope it is just that and not that the committee is entirely composed of liberal Kasperites and the orthodox have been shut out.

  23. Toan says:

    Well, at least Card. Kasper isn’t on the list…

  24. Gaetano says:

    I fervently pray that the African bishops will save the Synod, and I think they will.

  25. Gaetano says:

    The contrast is striking:

    Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama:
    “The doctrines remain the same. We are not going to invent new doctrines … or suppress doctrines that the church has practiced for years.”

    Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin:
    “This synod can’t simply repeat what was said 20 years ago.”

    I thought the Church has been repeating what was said 2,000 years ago.

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  28. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the Universal Church for Ron and Mavis Pirola, from Sydney, Australia.

    The Pirola family have considerable archdiocesan connections in the east of Australia. I would lay money that – far from being ‘hand picked by the Vatican’ – they were simply wheeled out by the usual suspects in Australia to give the Synod the accepted party line about ‘the Australian Church’ and our wonderful homegrown independence from stuffy old Rome.

    Ron and Mavis also took it upon themselves to tell the Synod precisely how a practising Catholic couple should behave when their openly gay son wants to bring his partner to the Christmas dinner where the grandchildren will be present. Naturally, Ron and Mavis believe in inviting the partner so that the grandchildren can see how tolerant everyone is.

    Cardinal Burke, God bless him, took a differing view.

    I apologise. In dust and ashes.

  29. SimonR says:

    John Thavis has a useful summary of the relatio post disceptationem

    I find the relatio particularly disturbing. Not for the first time during this Pontificate, I find myself wondering where it will all lead to.

  30. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Gaetano: Exactly. We also have Archbishop Fernandez, the rector of the Pontifical Catholic university of Buenos Aires (and said to be the Holy Father’s theological adviser) claiming that “if we simply teach what we’ve always said, the Church doesn’t grow”. He gave the example of slavery, which “was for a long time doctrinally acceptable for the Church, yet pastoral ministry to slaves brought a different insight.” Such growth in doctrine however “requires time and reflection,” he said. (Briefing to journalists last week at the synod.)

    Firstly: to bring the evil of commercial slavery into the same category as the Gospel teaching on Marriage…Really!

    And secondly: That claim about the Church’s alleged attitude to slavery is often put out by anti-Catholics, but it’s unfounded by history. Pope Eugene IV issued a condemnation of slavery in 1435 (‘Sicut Dudum’). Paul III issued an anti-slavery proclamation ‘Sublimis Deus’ in 1537. Gregory XVI ‘In Supremo’ – 1839. Other popes before and since also condemned the practices of slavery and the slave trade.

    But we’re not ‘teaching what we’ve always said’, are we – we’re teaching what *Christ* said, and it had and has a clear meaning. The words ‘But please feel free to alter what I’ve just told you in the light of changing circumstances,’ do not appear in any of his quoted sayings in the Gospels, nor can they even be imagined as being said.

  31. Vecchio di Londra says:

    just for clarification, in the final line: ‘nor can they even be imagined as being said *by Him*.’

  32. Son of Trypho says:

    He doesn’t need to appoint any Africans because the final document will most likely be deliberately ambiguous and vague – to enable the Western/Euro’s to implement their ideas and to permit Africans to do as they wish in their areas. The damage will be done in terms of permitting behaviours and innovations rather than enforcing them widely – once done, they cannot be undone.

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  34. mamajen says:

    I noticed a (rather odd) statue on the desk near Pope Francis in synod footage from the video of Cardinal Pell’s interview. FWIW, I learned that it’s a depiction of the Holy Family carved from ebony and gifted to Pope Francis by bishops from the Democratic Republic of Congo:

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