The 13 Cardinals Letter is a distraction, a trap.

As intriguing as The 13 Cardinals Letter™ is we have to leave it be now.

The Letter is a tar baby.  Go for it and it entraps you, sticks you in one place.  The more you struggle with it, the more stuck you get.

The Letter the Cardinals wrote (or didn’t write or signed or didn’t sign) doesn’t matter.  One day, months from now, Edward Pentin will piece together the truth.  We can wait.

What does matter is the Danneels thing (the fact that he is at the Synod).

Isn’t it interesting that both Austin Ivereigh and the writers of the Danneels biography backed off from their stories about how Pope Francis was elected?   And what do you think would be the story in the press had Benedict XVI personally invited to the Synod a man beyond 80 who had protected pedophile priests?

If the Letter is the journalistic tar baby, the Danneels thing is the journalistic briar patch.

So, to Catholic journalists out there… forget the Letter.

The Letter is a distraction.

I am sure that that is what the progressivist liberals want the the focus to be on right now.

What does matter is the possibility of the devolution of some functions of the Holy See to regional bishops conferences (The Nightmare Scenario).  As Gagliarducci puts it, “every episcopal conference will adopt its own guidelines to meet doctrinal challenges.” HERE

That’s one that makes me lose sleep.  That’s another journalistic briar patch.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Something else that has not much been noticed: There’s word that the small groups will have to have a 2/3 vote to change the language they were presented with, which includes the controversial Kasper proposals that were inserted by the Pope even though they did not gain the 2/3 needed in the Synod run-up. If that is true it looks like these proposals are to be considered a done deal now unless 2/3 of the cardinals change them. Maybe that’s why Cardinal Marx has changed his tune to appeal to “unity”!

  2. dans0622 says:

    I think you’re right, Father. I simply cannot understand why Danneels is there. Even if the Pope was of a like mind, isn’t there a better representative of that school of thought? I guess he must still have enough sway among some of the College of Cardinals (don’t know why that would be true, either…)

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    Cardinal Dolan said in a radio interview that it was written by Pell and he signed it BEFORE the synod began, and the original was in Italian. He is not embarrassed at all having signed, and Pope Francis already responded to their concerns in the synod hall.

  4. Amerikaner says:

    And where is SNAP on Cardinal Daneels being at the Synod? Nothing but crickets.

    So many wolves.

  5. Robbie says:

    It’s hard to imagine just how serious and devastating the devolution of some Holy See functions to regional bishops’ conferences would be. If the CDF were to be dissolved, I’d hate to see the fallout. Church unity could be at stake, I suppose.

  6. Traductora says:

    Devolution is a threat, and I think the Pope signaled what side he’s on a long time ago: while he currently exercises his powers aggressively, including some that probably aren’t his, in pursuit of his goals, his pose as the simple little “Bishop of Rome” is an indication of what he thinks of the role of the Pope (or Rome, more symbolically speaking): a symbolic center and little more. The Germans can go their way and cater to their evidently large homosexual population, the more syncretist of the African bishops can take over their bishops’ conference and support polygamy, etc. It doesn’t affect the doctrine of Rome because Rome is just symbolic, and what happens in Rome, so to speak, goes no further than Rome – and if what happens in the actual city and diocese of Rome varies from traditional Catholic teaching, well, it’s still symbolically connected to it.

    So that’s one thing. The other problem, something I have seen discussed on foreign language sites, is the primacy of “conscience.” This essentially makes the individual his own little church, and he can approve anything he does, because, after all, he wouldn’t have felt good doing it if it hadn’t been good and morally right, would he? We don’t talk about the fact that conscience is actually just the thing that reminds you that your actions must conform to a set of principles and concepts and tells you when they don’t. But essentially the Pope and his cronies have been all about rejecting even the idea of abstractly true doctrine, applicable in praxis at all times to anyone and everyone, and I think what we will see is the walling off of doctrine and the exaltation of “feelings” as the guide for conscience. Warm and fuzzy is the way to go. If abortions make you feel warm and fuzzy, an effect they seem to have on many of the more liberal among us, well, then it’s cool with God.

    Without getting too much into the letter, I think one thing that people are missing is that three of the people – who have not denied signing it although have mentioned in some cases that the text was not exactly the one finally “leaked” – are heads of dicastries or groups (CDF, CDW and the financial office, the name of which I have forgotten) whose specific function is to discuss things like this with the Pope and warn him of things that do not comply with legal or correct practices. So they were just doing their job. However, I think the fact that it was “leaked” (probably by Spadaro) and is being portrayed as a plot against the Pope is a way to discredit them and possibly even lead to their removal, since all three (without even mentioning the others) would be opposed to both of these programs: the devolution of powers and the substitution of “conscience” (understood as feelings) for doctrine accepted in faith as being the guide for the life of the individual.

  7. MWindsor says:

    If BXVI’s resignation was coerced in any way, is it still valid? I know I read something somewhere about that somewhen, but I don’t recall where…and that was all before the Daneels stuff came out.

  8. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    It is worth stressing that Cardinal Danneels not only “protected pedophile priests” but a former fellow professor at the seminary whom he consecrated bishop at some point in the course of his 13 years of incestuous pedophile abuse, by trying to dissuade the victim from having this brought to the attention of the Pope while encouraging him to feel guilt.

    Damien Thompson has attended to the matter pretty emphatically, now – with what sequel awaits to be seen.

  9. Phil_NL says:

    Briefly echoing something I wrote a while ago:

    Don’t look at Danneels. A lot of smoke surrounds him, who knows how much fire, but his is a last ditch effort. He won’t be able to influence things much longer. Therefore: look at who Danneels talks to. Figure out who will take up his fight. Probably he’s at least as much recruiting people to carry on his torch as trying to influence this synod. It’s the next generation Danneelses that should worry us.

    And as for regional bishop conferences: I don’t like it either, but I wonder if it would make much practical difference. It’s not as if the Germans (to name the obvious first candidates on the list) are heeding the Pope if they can avoid it. Formalizing bad ideas can also be bad for those who support them; open discord or inconsistency draws much more attention than quiet insubordination. That the good guys seem to be without aces up their sleeves doesn’t mean the other side has a flush. In fact, I would be suprised if they’d have a sound battle plan. Create chaos and improvise seems more like it. Well, chaos can work two ways, eventually.

  10. pj_houston says:

    Fr. Z: “What does matter is the possibility of the devolution of some functions of the Holy See to regional bishops conferences (The Nightmare Scenario).”

    Exactly, this has been their plan all along. As someone once wrote, call it apostasy by administrative change: the Holy Father will publish a wonderfully orthodox declaration at the end of the Synod, say great things about the family, and put everyone at ease. But, behind the scenes he will delegate the real meat and potatoes to the bishop’s conferences. He will at a later date publish “guidelines” for Bishops on how they are to deal with divorced and remarried Catholics, as well as the role of homosexuals within the Church. The Vatican will do this quietly – no fanfare. Using both the tools of the modern bureaucracy, as well as a passage of time, a sea change of Catholic moral thought will take place, but the dogma will remain. The Amen Chorus will cheer, and the average Catholic will just slip into a deeper morass of indifference. Call it the slow-burn method.

  11. Benedict Joseph says:

    A headline I spotted today at LIFESITE “Synod spokesman: Majority back letting local churches decide on how to deal with homosexuality” This was part of a presentation made today at the press review by Jeremias Schroder OSB. I am not surprised by anything from this pontificate, but this is bizarre. It relates to your citation of Gagliarducci: “every episcopal conference will adopt its own guidelines to meet doctrinal challenges.” In the short run this surely would be agonizing, but in the long run just might be the best conclusion to this abhorrent event. It would paint for history in the boldest colors the unassailable fact that at this moment in Church history we were led by unbalanced men. It would give ample grounds for a reform in the future.
    Otherwise this Synod can only produce at best, a spineless finale that will leave everything in a state of ambiguity to the delight of those who thrive in that sandbox and profit from it. The desired outcome of a strong presentation of orthodox Roman Catholicism is impossible to imagine. One cannot hope to get blood from a stone. The likely outcome is a Bergoglian conundrum that will be deemed genius by the masses and the media, hang like a dagger in the back of Roman Catholicism, and serve as a stumbling block for many a soul.

  12. MikeM says:

    There is one important point to take away from the letter. The Synod fathers did not agree to this process and many of them do not believe that it can produce a good document… Any document that comes out of it should be viewed through that lens. Ordinarily, the product of a meeting of 270 bishops would be something to approach with some deference. Whatever document comes out of this process should not receive any special consideration by faithful Catholics, nor should it be given much political weight since there will not actually be any reason to believe that more than a handful of bishops are anything but disgusted by it.

  13. Phil_NL says:


    That is certainly a tactic that Francis could use, especially if he wants to bury the issue for some years. But it won’t last. There is enough spread between the various countries that some bishop conferences will be doing things that are going to grate with their neighbouring conferences.
    For example, I doubt that the Dutch and the Poles will go nearly as far as the Germans, and that will create tension. (The Poles have JPII’s legacy and memories of communism, the Dutch have, over the past decade, got much more solid bishops. I wouldn’t bet the ranch on them holding the fort, but the landscape is quite different from what it was. The biological solution is pretty advanced here, and Card Eijk and a few others are pretty stable).

    In the end, Rome will have to harmonize things to some extent again. Surely, there will be damage done along the way, but I wouldn’t even bet on even having such a thing as a bishop conference a century from now. It’s a pretty useless institution, and giving it more power will increase the counterforces that will want to see the institution gone as a whole.

  14. DonL says:

    Devolution (under the guise of Subsidiarity), while the call from on high for nations to “distribute”other’s wealth is strangely never to be evaluated with the eyes of Pius XI’s definition (Principles of Subsidiarity) of moral wrong.

  15. BCSWowbagger says:

    @Amerikaner: To be fair, I rather doubt SNAP is closely following the synod. They aren’t particularly interested in the intimate mechanics of doctrine and pastoral practice; they just want to prosecute abusers. Maybe you should tip them off to the high esteem in which the Pontiff holds Cardinal Daneels!

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