The Synod and transparency

During Synods past, the interventions (speeches, addresses) of participants were made public, either in the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano or also online.  Yes, weighing through then was pretty boring, but we knew what was being said and who said it.

For this Synod the interventions will not be made public.

I saw this from Lifesite about the reason of the Cardinal who runs the Synod of Bishops, His Eminence Lorenzo Balidsseri, when a journalist pressed him a little.

The first press conference of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family took place this morning with Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, running through the agenda of the Extraordinary Synod.

The Cardinal noted there would be 191 speakers with only four minutes each to make their remarks.  The list of speakers includes 61 cardinals, one cardinal patriarch, 7 patriarchs, one major archbishop, 67 metropolitan archbishops, 47 bishops, one auxiliary bishop, 1 priest and 6 religious.

Speakers were asked to submit their remarks prior to the Synod. However, none of the texts are to be made public.  When the press conferences take place, while some of what was said will be transmitted, the public will not learn who said what.

There were several complaints from journalists about the new rule, which many said demonstrates a lack of transparency.  Frustrated by repeated pointed questions about the matter, Cardinal Baldisseri replied to another reporter who pushed on the matter, “You should come up here if you know everything, maybe you should be a Synod Father.





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  1. SaintsSQPNcom says:

    So in an age when it’s never been easier to distribute information; when every tin-foil-hat-wearer that wants to publish is doing so; when every nitwit with a laptop can broadcast from his bedroom for hours on end; when the Church has been hammered with bad publicity for years over the hierarchy covering things up; when the topic under discussion is some esoteric angels-on-a-pin matter, but family and all that entails; when it’s not even an active floor debate, but just a series of presentations and prepared remarks – the Synod Fathers decide to close the doors.

    I just don’t understand everything I know.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    I am actually okay with this. “Transparency” is too much associated with democracy, and Holy Mother Church is not a democracy… Deo gratias!

    Remember in one of his final papal addresses, His Holiness Benedict XVI, the Pope Emeritus, spoke about the “real council” and the “council of the media” in reference to Vatican II. We already know the secular media is all over this synod, and will jump at any opportunity to do what they do best: spin something minor that a bishop might say into a “change in doctrine and practice”. I say keep the doors of the synod closed and let me know when the post-synodal apostolic exhortation is promulgated… preferably, in Latin!

  3. iPadre says:

    This is the age of the internet. Somebody always breaks the silence. Look at past conclaves. There will be no secrets.

  4. pelerin says:

    What a pity we won’t know who said what. I think this is a big mistake and will lead to people trying to guess, perhaps wrongly, the origin of any quotes which may emerge.

    It will also re-enforce in the minds of non-Catholics that the Church acts secretly, and in this case they will be right.

  5. Deacon Augustine says:

    The last consistory of Cardinals was also supposed in to be held in camera, and then this was immediately breached by Kasper releasing his address to the press. If it had not been for Cardinals Ruini and Caffara speaking out about the huge opposition which Kasper received, we would have been left with the idea that his was the direction in which the whole college of Cardinals was travelling.

    I, for one, do not like this novel concept of a closed-door synod. It gives too much license to the enemies of the Church among the bishops to spin their own message and manipulate the outcome of the synod. If we cannot trust people like Kasper and Baldisseri to hold the clear teaching of Christ from the Scriptures and Holy Tradition, how can we trust them to represent the views of the synod truthfully either? These people are relativists who do not believe in Truth, they see truth claims as being “ideological”, they believe in an amorphous “spirit of the Gospel” rather than the inerrant Word of God which has already been spoken to us by the Holy Spirit. They believe the Holy Spirit is some ephemeral will-o-the-wisp who says one thing at one time to one people, then changes the Will of Almighty God to suit the peoples of another time. They do not believe in a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient God who has bequeathed us His Truth through His Son and His Church in a deposit of faith which comes to us from the Apostles. They believe the Church is a cosmopolitan debating society where every heresy is open for discussion because it has the same status as the true faith – it is one opinion among many competing truth-claims. They are the epitome of the modernists condemned by Pope St Pius X in Pascendi Dominici Gregis – they are heretics who never knew the Lord.

    I do not trust men who do not believe in Truth – I want to know their every move.

  6. lana says:

    It seems wise to me. If there are more Kasper-type proposals do we want them broadcast, quoted, accepted as truth, jumps to conclusions that they will be accepted, ?

  7. mrshopey says:

    It may be wise considering the manipulation esp from CNS with their last interview. The only thing that would be reported on would be what Kasper said anyway. It has upset the faithful. Unfortunately, a lot turn to secular media to read reports so they are being feed an agenda along with it. I can understand why they did this.

  8. Traductora says:

    Cdl Baldisseri…”…if you know everything, maybe you should be a Synod Father…” Wow. Talk about arrogant clericalism. The journalist was simply asking questions, which is what journalists are supposed to do.

    There’s no need for secrecy, particularly since these are not even discussions but prepared papers. There are no laypeople involved in this (except for a couple of observers) and whatever laypeople on the outside think – since Cdl Baldiserri’s main objective seems to keep laypeople from knowing about or having an opinion on the Synod Fathers’ positions – has always been of no importance to Church officials.

    I guess the new “open” and “humble” Church we keep hearing about looks a little different from what one might expect.

  9. acardnal says:

    There is no need for secrecy. The argument that the bishops can “speak more freely” because they know their comments won’t be published is nonsense. They are not discussing national security information, contracting bids or bishop’s personal health issues. Presumably, they are discussing divine revelation, doctrine, faith and morals. Let the discussions/interventions be made public. Total transparency is the best policy. If it doesn’t happen, the leakers will leak, the spin control will occur, and the conspiracy theories will proliferate. Not good.

  10. acardnal says:

    Light dispels the darkness.

  11. Tim Ferguson says:

    If the reporters could possibly come to full agreement (herding cats, I know), they should en masse refuse to attend the press briefings from hereon in.

  12. Kerry says:

    The enemies of the Church can lie perfectly well without knowing what was said.

  13. SimonDodd says:

    The interventions will not be released. Instead, they will be leaked, selectively.

  14. Sonshine135 says:

    If they “testify t0 the truth” what need do the Bishops have of secrecy. After all, didn’t Our Lord publicly make His words known? Was He not often misunderstood? I suppose it is time for Him to return to Rome to be crucified again.

  15. Bosco says:

    It is a travesty (but not altogether unexpected) that someone has directed that these synodal proceedings will be reduced to carefully prepared ‘sound-bites’ and propagandistic ‘photo-ops’.

    Justice and Mercy demand that the sheep have a right to know precisely where their ‘Shepherds’ stand in matters of faith, morals, doctrine, and ‘pastoral practice’.

    How else can the sincere Catholic know if he or she has been given a scorpion instead of an egg? Matthew 11:12

  16. thomas tucker says:

    If you are prone to getting testy, you probably should not be giving a press conference.

  17. KAS says:

    I still think the silence is good. Precedent has been that when the content of presentations is public, the press picks and chooses the quotes it will use, and then go promote whatever outcome the press wants. The result are Catholics who see quotes from the actual presentations in the paper and allow themselves to be catechized by the news.

    With this, responses to “leaks” can be as simple as: “A leak is as good as a lie since it is neither verifiable nor official” and therefore to be ignored.

    I want to see the encyclical the pope may write after in which he will clarify Church teaching once more. Anything previous to that from this synod is unlikely to be very useful since the press cannot seem to help skewing the message no matter how clearly it is said.

  18. donadrian says:

    It is entirely appropriate that the Synod fathers should be able to speak honestly and openly with each other without looking over the shoulders at comments in the media, and that their deliberations should be confidential. It was the initial leakage at the start of the process that has led to months of shrill and often unedifying tohu-bohu almost entirely on one aspect of the Synod’s task. If the Bishops’ discussions cannot be held under what in Great Britain are known as ‘Chatham House rules’, i.e. confidentiality and non-attributabilty, they might as well not have gathered.

  19. Traductora says:

    Er…it wasn’t leaking. Cardinal Kasper and several others were going around openly making statements to the press and managing the entire public presentation of the Synod so it looked like a foregone conclusion that their position would be supported. If the bishops are saying something that so much conflicts with the law of the Church and the Gospels that they’re afraid people will find out about it, maybe they should think twice about saying it, much less proposing it.

    Secrecy actually leads to more leaks, and managed and massaged information is the worst of all. The press will really have a field day reading things into it, and with no real knowledge of what actually happened, they’re free to do as they wish.

  20. Deacon Augustine says:

    acardnal, you said “Light dispels the darkness.”

    Amen, and amen. The only thing that prefers the darkness is sin.

  21. Vecchio di Londra says:

    In that linked Lifesite report, the next bit (after the Cardinal’s sarcastic outburst)eads:
    “In explaining the decision, Cardinal Baldisseri said that the Pope wanted the Synod Fathers to have ‘freedom of expression’ and that they should be free to divert from their prepared remarks.He also noted that should the Synod Fathers wish to give interviews with the press they are free to do so and thus make their positions publicly available.

    Really? That’s not exactly an assurance of confidentiality. And no resemblance at all to Chatham House rules.
    It means the actual words and arguments used in the Synod cannot be known, while participants can give interviews to journalists in order to ‘explain their position.’

    It seems flagrantly open to abuse, with bishops able to say one thing inside the Synod but something quite different to the media.

    And how far does ‘explaining your position’ allow for steamrollering media-interview attacks on opponents, coupled with assurances that your position is shared by the Holy Father?

  22. Vecchio di Londra says:

    One other comment in the Lifesite report: “Father Thomas Rosica, English-language spokesman for the Extraordinary Synod and a participant, told LifeSiteNews that this Synod will be more transparent than others in the past because the Vatican is launching a special website for the event with video interviews, documents, and other materials. He also said that the texts that will be read during the Synod will mainly summarize the results of the pre-Synod questionnaires from each of the Synod Fathers’ dioceses.”
    So each contributing bishop’s summarising of the results of these notorious questionnaires (which were distorted by malcontent lay activists in many dioceses) will form the ‘main’ substance of the Synod and the basis of discussion?
    I can’t be the only one who finds this proposed procedure bizarre.

  23. Charles E Flynn says:

    These reports should be worth reading during the Synod:

    Synod Day 1 – Between Paul VI and the “Legalists”, by Robert Royal, for The Catholic Thing.

  24. ChrisRawlings says:

    Did anyone notice the first reading from Galatians today? Wow, right?

    Cardinal Erdo spoke at the Synod about the necessity of mercy always paired with justice. That is exactly the point in all of this. Perhaps that is the point if todays Gospel as well.

    Cardinal Burke also gave a new interview to Vatican radio expressing discomfort at the heap of unattainable expectations about this synod. So many things can’t happen that the media and plenty of Catholics want to happen.

  25. NBW says:

    I pray and hope that all goes God’s way for the good of His people and the Church. Having the Synod behind closed doors wouldn’t worry me as much if there were many solid, Traditional priests and bishops there.

  26. JKnott says:

    Just a thought, but perhaps those in the Kasperian Kamp, may believe that revealing the comments of the faithful clergy will cause great offense to the remarrieds and hurt their feelings terribly. Based on Kasper’s recent comments about referring to the remarried state as adultery, along with other doctrinal truths is basically unkind and merciless etc. etc. etc. etc.. . Some might conclude that Cardinal Kasper’s major objective in the Synod is to actually abolish anything that hurts anyone’s feelings even if it is over their eternal salvation (except for the FFI types). So, muzzle and gag the “ideology” of the truth and cover up who’s who and how many are manifesting fidelity to the teaching of the Church.

  27. SimonDodd says:

    KAS says: “I still think the silence is good.” But it won’t be silence. The pro-Kasper interventions will be leaked, and by the time anyone gets around to countering the narrative, the conventional wisdom will have congealed: “The synod is with Kasper.” And catholic journalists can write as many articles as they like coming up with as many things as they like that we ought to know and share about why we don’t really know what the balance was among the Synod fathers, but it ill be far too late. The narrative is already “the Church can and will change.” The selective leaking of interventions by Kasperite bishops will confirm that narrative and add the synod’s backing, even if those interventions don’t actually reflect the truth. And so we will charge into next year with the overwhelming impression and expectation of change, which will even further suppress disagreement. The train is pulling out, KAS. If it isn’t stopped now, there’s nothing that will stop it once it gets up to speed, unless the Holy Ghost steps in and more-or-less physically restrains Francis. But have you ever seen a train run at full-tilt into the buffers? If the overwhelming impression is of imminent change on an incredibly and painfully intimate question, and the Pope says “nope,” what does that look like? Humanae vitae is a best-case scenario.

  28. Joe in Canada says:

    Good call. It’s obvious that even many faithful Catholics are blown to and fro by leaks, interviews, second hand reports, etc. Hearing what goes on in the Synod would change absolutely nothing in the Synod, it would only fuel speculation and worry.
    I also agree with Thomas Tucker: maybe not the best person to be giving press conferences.
    About Fr Rosica, just remember he invented the term “Taliban Catholics” for lifesitenews. Nuf said.

  29. gracie says:

    Ideally this Synod should be televised. It probably would be pretty boring listening to speaker after speaker getting up and having his 4 minute say but it would prevent anyone afterwards from putting a spin on what was said.

  30. wmeyer says:

    I am OK with it being closed. But it must either be fully closed, or fully open. The alternative is to allow certain members to exploit the opportunity for “leaks” and spin.

    I am inclined to prefer closed, for the simple reason that there are too many in the media–secular and otherwise–just waiting to use and abuse the sound bites they collect. none of that will inhere to the benefit of the Church or the faithful. There will be spittle-flecked nutties, on all sides. Much noise will be made, and most of the sound and fury will signify nothing.

  31. Penta says:

    I’ve got an idea. Maybe it’s stupid, but it’s an idea.

    Invite CSPAN in. Not EWTN, CSPAN. Let them do “gavel to gavel” coverage.

  32. Choirgirl says:

    Not stupid. I’ve been thinking the same thing re CSPAN.

    Although Cardinal Baldisseri’s lapse of Vatican decorum has my sarcasm meter up to the ceiling, I will try to remain calm.

    I agree with Cardinal Burke and others that this Synod is a trainwreck waiting to happen, and the closed doors only serve to up the full head of steam. I also agree with those who said that we lay people have the right to know who is who and who said what. What happened to those open windows of Vatican II? St. John XXIII, are you watching this?

    As a side note re Cardinal Burke’s comments on the true meaning of Pastoral: not only is it in the nature of man that he needs to confess to wrong doing and needs a sign of forgiveness, he also needs to know where he stands in relation to God, His love and His law. Hence the mega popularity of such confessors as St. John Vianney and St. Padre Pio who were readers of souls. “Pastoral” as feel good non-judgementalism does not serve this deep need and neccessity, and, IMO, is one of the major sources of suffering in the aftermath of Vatican II. Today’s traditional religious orders provide fulfilment of this need, which is a powerful drawing card. The libs have much to fear regarding the growing popularity of the Priestly Society of St. Peter, and others.

  33. The Masked Chicken says:

    I suppose, in the end, whether or not the synod should be open or closed depends on whether this is a deliberative synod or an exploratory synod. Theology is a science and the question is, in my mind, is the synod, first-and-foremost, doing science or are they defining policy. If they are doing science, then, it must be open, because hidden science almost always leads to unexpected results. If they are setting policy, then being closed is fine.

    Of course, I have no idea why they are having the synod in the format they are having it in. If all 141 papers have already been submitted, then copies should have been distributed to the conferees with a six month reading/comment period to ask for clarification. Then, they would only need, maybe, three days of discussion and that’s it. I have never seen this type of format used before where the readers would get up and read their papers, making corrections or comments as they go along. Four minutes is not enough time for this sort of thing. At all of the conferences I attend, the speaker, usually, gets 20 minutes with 5 minutes for questions. If everybody already had the papers, why would the speaker need to read his or hers?

    Then, the public gets a summary? Why not just release the synod proceedings? Things can’t be that modified by that many people while they are speaking (and most proceedings allow the author to revise before publication).

    Ultimately, this tells me that this is an advisory meeting and, therefore, related to policy. It might be likened to Spock (Card. Burke) arguing with Dr. McCoy (Card. Kasper) with Capt. Kirk (Pope Francis) making the final decision.

    The Chicken

  34. Choirgirl says:


    If the overwhelming impression is of imminent change on an incredibly and painfully intimate question, and the Pope says “nope,” what does that look like? Humanae vitae is a best-case scenario.

    If I were giving out prizes, you’d get an all expenses paid trip to the Pilgrimage site of your choice (first class air and all connections, continental plan, all taxes and gratituities included).

  35. Choirgirl says:


    It may be a “mosh pit” Synod, so to speak. ;-)

  36. The Masked Chicken says:

    Speaking of Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy on marriage consider the following quotes:

    [From, This Side of Paradise]:

    “(Once she’s materialised she rushes to put her arms around him, but he doesn’t respond.)
    LEILA: You’re no longer with us, are you? I felt something was wrong.
    SPOCK: It was necessary.
    LEILA: Come back to the planet with me. You can belong again. Come back with me, please.
    SPOCK: I can’t.
    LEILA: I love you. I said that six years ago, and I can’t seem to stop repeating myself. On Earth, you couldn’t give anything of yourself. You couldn’t even put your arms around me. We couldn’t have anything together there. We couldn’t have anything together anyplace else. We’re happy here. (crying) I can’t lose you now, Mister Spock. I can’t.
    SPOCK: I have a responsibility to this ship, to that man on the Bridge. I am what I am, Leila, and if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.
    LEILA: I have lost you, haven’t I? And not only you, I’ve lost all of it. The spores. I’ve lost them, too.
    KIRK: The Captain discovered that strong emotions and needs destroy the spore influence.
    LEILA: And this is for my good? Do you mind if I say I still love you? You never told me if you had another name, Mister Spock.
    SPOCK: (wiping away her tears) You couldn’t pronounce it.”

    [From, Requiem for Methuselah]:

    [Kirk’s quarters]

    “KIRK: Spock.
    SPOCK: The epidemic is reduced and no longer a threat. The Enterprise is on course five one three mark seven, as you ordered.
    KIRK: A very old and lonely man. And a young and lonely man. We put on a pretty poor show, didn’t we? If only I could forget.
    (He rests his head on his arms, on the desk. McCoy enters)
    MCCOY: Jim. Oh, thank heaven, sleeping at last.
    SPOCK: Your report, Doctor.
    MCCOY: Oh, those tricorder readings on Mister Flint are finally correlated: He’s dying. You see, Flint, in leaving Earth with all of its complex fields within which he was formed, sacrificed immortality. He’ll live the remainder of a normal life span, then die.
    SPOCK: On that day, I shall mourn. Does he know?
    MCCOY: Yes, I told him myself. He intends to devote the remainder of his years and great abilities to the improvement of the human condition. And who knows what he might come up with.
    SPOCK: Indeed.
    MCCOY: Well, I guess that’s all. I can tell Jim later or you can. Considering his opponent’s longevity, truly an eternal triangle. You wouldn’t understand that, would you, Spock? You see, I feel sorrier for you than I do for him because you’ll never know the things that love can drive a man to. The ecstasies, the miseries, the broken rules, the desperate chances, the glorious failures, the glorious victories. All of these things you’ll never know simply because the word love isn’t written into your book. Goodnight, Spock.
    SPOCK: Goodnight, Doctor.
    MCCOY: I do wish he could forget her.
    (McCoy leaves. Spock goes over to Kirk and initiates a mind meld)
    SPOCK: Forget”

    [From, Amok Time]:

    “SPOCK: Yes. I’ll follow you up in a few minutes. You will instruct Mister Chekov to plot a course for the nearest Starbase where I must surrender myself to the authorities. (the sound of a transporter off screen) T’Pring. Explain.
    T’PRING: Specify.
    SPOCK: Why the challenge, and why you chose my captain as your champion.
    T’PRING: Stonn wanted me, I wanted him.
    SPOCK: I see no logic in preferring Stonn over me.
    T’PRING: You have become much known among our people, Spock. Almost a legend. And as the years went by, I came to know that I did not want to be the consort of a legend. But by the laws of our people, I could only divorce you by the kal-if-fee. There was also Stonn, who wanted very much to be my consort, and I wanted him. If your Captain were victor, he would not want me, and so I would have Stonn. If you were victor you would free me because I had dared to challenge, and again I would have Stonn. But if you did not free me, it would be the same. For you would be gone, and I would have your name and your property, and Stonn would still be there.
    SPOCK: Logical. Flawlessly logical.
    T’PRING: I am honoured.
    SPOCK: Stonn. She is yours. After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true. Spock here. Stand by to beam up. Live long, T’Pau, and prosper.
    T’PAU: Live long and prosper, Spock.
    SPOCK: I shall do neither. I have killed my captain and my friend. Energize.”

    [Finally, from, The Naked Time]:

    “Briefing room]

    SCOTT [OC]: Engineers, man your stations. Engine rooms, report. Cycling station, report. This will be an emergency restart of engines.
    KIRK: Where have you been? What happened?
    SPOCK: My mother. I could never tell her I loved her.
    KIRK: We’ve got four minutes, maybe five.
    SPOCK: An Earth woman, living on a planet where love, emotion, is bad taste.
    KIRK: We’ve got to risk a full-power start. The engines were shut off. No time to regenerate them. Do you hear me? We’ve got to risk a full-power start!
    SPOCK: I respected my father, our customs. I was ashamed of my Earth blood. (Kirk slaps him) Jim, when I feel friendship for you, I’m ashamed.
    KIRK: (hitting him repeatedly) You’ve got to hear me! We need a formula. We’ve got to risk implosion!
    SPOCK: Its never been done! Understand, Jim. I’ve spent a whole lifetime learning to hide my feelings. (finally hits Kirk back)
    KIRK: We’ve got to risk implosion. It’s our only chance.
    SPOCK: It’s never been done.
    KIRK: Don’t tell me that again, Science Officer! It’s a theory. It’s possible. We may go up into the biggest ball of fire since the last sun in these parts exploded, but we’ve got to take that one in ten thousand chance!
    UHURA [OC]: Bridge to Captain. Engineer asked, did you find
    KIRK [Backhands communication screen]: Yes, I found Mister Spock! I’m talking to Mister Spock. Do you understand?
    UHURA: Yes, sir. Three and a half minutes left, Captain.
    KIRK: I’ve got it, the disease. Love. You’re better off without it, and I’m better off without mine. This vessel, I give, she takes. She won’t permit me my life. I’ve got to live hers.
    SPOCK: Jim.
    KIRK: I have a beautiful yeoman. Have you noticed her, Mister Spock? You’re allowed to notice her. The Captain’s not permitted
    SPOCK: Jim, there is an intermix formula.
    KIRK: Now I know why it’s called she.
    SPOCK: It’s never been tested. It’s a theoretical relationship between time and antimatter.
    KIRK: Flesh woman to touch, to hold. A beach to walk on. A few days, no braid on my shoulder.
    SCOTT: Captain.
    KIRK: Scotty, help.
    SPOCK: Stand by to intermix. I’ll call the formulae in from the Bridge.
    UHURA [OC]: Entering upper stratosphere, Captain. Skin temperature now twenty one hundred seventy degrees.
    KIRK: I’ve got to hang on. Tell them. Clear the corridors, the turbo lift. Hurry. (Scott and Spock leave) Never lose you. Never.”

    The Chicken

  37. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Has anyone else been struck by the juxtaposition of Fr. Pani’s article about discussion within the Council of Trent, and this innovative seclusion of what is said inside this Synod?

    I have only read the translated report about Fr. Pani’s article, and do not know what accounts of what transpired within the Council of Trent sesssion became available, to whom, when. Nor do I know when the previous procedure began – of “the interventions (speeches, addresses) of participants [being] made public, either in the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano or also online” during a Synod.

    Were discussions – insofar as they were ‘recorded’ and made available – only accessible in a longer retrospective, and to a select few, historically (until fairly recently)?

    My archival heart tends to as full a record as possible (video, audio, shorthand/’court-recorder’-style), whoever gets to see it, and whenever. But if anything is going to be disclosed – or be permitted to be disclosed – in the course of the proceedings, it does make sense to have a full, clear record just as readily available, so anyone can check the accuracy of any report, the context of any quotation, etc.

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