Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro misleading statements about the Synod of Bishops

spadaro stairsRecently Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, who edits La Civiltà Cattolica and who is deeply interested in the life and works of Pier Vittorio Tondelli (HERE), made some observations about the recent Synod of Bishops which has caused eyebrows to rise.

First, take a look at Edward Pentin’s summary at National Catholic Register.   It begins:

Jesuit Journal’s Entry at Odds With Synod’s Final Report

Critics say Father Antonio Spadaro’s November reflection on the 2015 synod in La Civiltà Cattolica continues to push a narrative that is contrary to Church teaching.

VATICAN CITY — In early November, the editor of an influential Jesuit periodical wrote a reflection on the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in which he controversially claimed the meeting “laid the foundations” for civilly remarried divorcees to be admitted to the sacraments.
But according to synod fathers who have spoken with the Register about the matter, Father Antonio Spadaro’s interpretation is directly contrary to what the synod actually indicated with respect to the matter.


There is a lot more. Pentin pulls the issues apart and presents the critiques of Spadaro’s claims. Spadaro does not fare well.

Also at the NCReg, check out His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke’s response to Spadaro:

The Truth About the 14th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops?

In the Nov. 28 issue of La Civiltà Cattolica, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, director of the journal and a synod father, presents a summary of the work of the 14th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the vocation and mission of the family (pp. 372-391).

Although the author makes various affirmations about the nature and work of the Synod of Bishops, which demand critical comment in a longer study, one affirmation which necessitates immediate comment is summarized thus by the author:

The synod has also desired to touch wounded persons and couples to accompany them and heal them in a process of integration and reconciliation without barriers. Concerning access to the sacraments for those divorced and remarried civilly, the synod has formulated the way of discernment and of the “internal forum,” laying the foundations and opening a door which, on the contrary, had remained closed in the preceding synod.

I set apart the fact the public declarations by several synod fathers affirm the opposite, that is, they affirm that the synod upheld the constant practice of the Church regarding those who are living in an irregular union. Even as the text of Paragraphs 84 to 86 of the final report of the synod lacks clarity regarding fundamental truths of the faith, the holy Eucharist and holy matrimony, the same lack of clarity has now emerged in the public declarations of the synod fathers.

The fact is that the synod could not open a door which does not exist and cannot exist, namely, a discernment in conscience which contradicts the truth about the supreme sanctity of the Most Holy Eucharist and the indissolubility of the marriage bond. The synod, as the Church has always taught and practiced, has wanted to show love towards the individual who find himself in a situation which is not coherent with the teaching of Christ and his Church.

Christlike love of the individual, however, is not “integration and reconciliation without barriers,” for it is founded upon the irreplaceable truths of nature and grace and is ordered accordingly for the good of the individual and of the whole community. Christlike love accompanies the individual on the way to repentance and reparation, so that he can once again be disposed to meet Christ in the sacraments.

The way of discernment upon which the priest accompanies the penitent who is living in an irregular union assists the penitent to conform his conscience once again to the truth of the holy Eucharist and to the truth of the marriage to which he is bound. As the Church has consistently taught and practiced, the penitent is led in the “internal forum” to live chastely in fidelity to the existing marriage bond, even if seeming to be living with another in a marital way, and thus to be able to have access to the sacraments in a way which does not give scandal. Pope St. John Paul II described the Church’s practice in the “internal forum” in No. 84 of Familiaris Consortio. The Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of June 24, 2000, illustrates the teaching in No. 84 of Familiaris Consortio. Both of these documents are referenced in the final report of the synod, but, sadly, in a misleading way.

To give the impression that there is another practice in the “internal forum,” which would permit an individual in an irregular union to have access to the sacraments, is to suggest that the conscience can be in conflict with the truth of the faith. Such a suggestion clearly places priests in an impossible situation, the expectation that they can “open a door” for the penitent, which, in fact, does not exist and cannot exist.

Ultimately and to the most serious harm of the universal Church, it creates the expectation that the Roman pontiff can sanction a practice which is in conflict with the truths of the faith. The Synod of Bishops, in accord with its nature and purpose, cannot be the instrument of such an expectation.


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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    Almost comical is the “he says I you say” comments being made about the synod. We are all adults we can and must take responsibility for our actions and take the spiritual rewards for them too.
    Let everyone take communion; for some it will be Holy and others not so and will be a reception as God wants it to be. We must count on the fact He does not want us to sin and He will take not part on these sinful occasions. Furthermore in Isaiah Chapter one God tells us what He will do when our sacrifice does not suit Him. He states very plainly I do not want holocausts but atonement and reparation. We have a duty to make this known to these foolish opinionated souls whose hymn of, “anything goes” is a dreadful error. We have a duty to remind them as Paul did kindly of what happened to the unworthy Judas, a spiritual suicide I would claim. The unworthiness works so harshly on a live and informed conscience. Those who teach we can do anything in a state of sin should remember the Trinity does very little for the prayers of the impure. Of course the shouting and yell from the Gandarenes will now echo through out the Church as they will be pricked by the sharp point of their conscience. Remember when you receive Him under the veils of bread and blood and you have not truly repentant as Catholics are and ably demonstrate by the use of the Sacrament of Penance, it is quite likely to be an empty tabernacle and the veil is covering the emptiness of a despairing eternity

  2. Paul says:

    Isn’t this the same tact used for Humane Vitae?

  3. Ferde Rombola says:

    Coming from a Jesuit this is not surprising. Spadaro is merely continuing the anti-Christ propaganda, which the heretics hope will eventually sink into the mind of the faithful so deeply there will eventually be no opposition. This is a tactic from Satan, whom they serve. It is the tactic of The Big Lie. What is most striking, they really believe God doesn’t see what they are doing.

    “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.”
    St. John Chrysostom
    [One day, I hope, people still stop attributing this to St John Chrysostom.]

  4. ThankyouB16 says:

    My Dear Friends of this Blog, and Dear Father Z:

    I hope someone can respond to something that seems to me to be absent from the news from the time the Synod ended: Is there not, in principle, a specific possibility that the “internal forum” can indeed be a door to nullity and then, eventually, Holy Communion? Ratzinger republished an essay as B-16 at

    He writes, “Admittedly, it cannot be excluded that mistakes occur in marriage cases. In some parts of the Church, well-functioning marriage tribunals still do not exist. Occasionally, such cases last an excessive amount of time. Once in a while they conclude with questionable decisions. Here it seems that the application of epikeia in the internal forum is not automatically excluded from the outset…This question, however, demands further study and clarification. Admittedly, the conditions for asserting an exception would need to be clarified very precisely, in order to avoid arbitrariness and to safeguard the public character of marriage, removing it from subjective decisions. ”

    Could it be possible that Pope Francis will provide the fruit of “further study” and the safeguards that B-16 spoke of? Something like: a man tried to get an annulment, but through no fault of his own, the case was inconclusive or even ruled as “we cannot grant an annulment based on the evidence”–but the man is a very serious Catholic who, on the pain of damning his own soul (he also believes in Hell; goes to TLM; does not practice birth control; loves true social justice; reads Father Z’s blog; etc.) , is morally certain there was no real marriage in the first place. Let’s say he’s one of those “I had a conversion later” types; he knows well what he was and what he now is…

    Possible use of the internal forum solution here?

    By the way, Ratzinger, in the book “Salt and Light,” says that he could imagine an “extra-juridical” process with an “experienced pastor” to help determine that the first marriage was not valid. (The key here: the moral certainty of the “extra-juridical” process concludes there was no real marriage in the first place. No question of having had a valid marriage and then a “re-marriage.”)
    No one talks about this from the Ratzinger from the CDF years. Why?

  5. John of Chicago says:

    Your reference to Isaiah chapter one is very apt. And what is it that Isaiah says God finds so unworthy that it makes our prayers and sacrifices repugnant to Him?

    “When you stretch out your hands I turn my eyes away. You may multiply your prayers, I shall not be listening. Your hands are covered in blood, wash, make yourselves clean. Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease doing evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, discipline the violent, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow…”
    “The faithful city, what a harlot she has become! Zion, once full of fair judgement, where saving justice used to dwell, but now assassins! Your silver has turned into dross, your wine is watered.
    Your princes are rebels, accomplices of brigands. All of them greedy for presents and eager for bribes, they show no justice to the orphan, and the widow’s cause never reaches them.”
    Isaiah 1:15-17; 21-23

    Again and again and again and again–the Scriptures repeat and repeat that it is how I/we treat the “widow and the orphan,” “the poor and the stranger ” that really does seem to matter to God.

    In other words–Mercy? Justice?

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    “The penitent is led in the ‘internal forum’ to live chastely in fidelity to the existing marriage bond, even if seeming to be living with another in a marital way, and thus to be able to have access to the sacraments in a way which does not give scandal.”

    The formulation here is accurate. The delicate matter lies in the ability for the priest to give access to the sacraments to those living chastely while appearing to live with another in a marital way without provoking scandal. One would have to assume that this would require a certain amount of public knowledge of the true chaste state of the irregular-appearing relationship within the parish (not in itself a problem.)

  7. MAJ Tony says:

    More “If you can’t control the outcome, control the narrative.” As for the internal forum, whether that is legitimate is one thing, but it’s application would be fraught with abuse, I would fear, without some serious training of such priests. Further, if you’re to go all that trouble, just do the right thing and set up the proper apparatus (tribunal), because getting a timely decision is apparently the biggest issue where no such organization exists, or is inadequate to the volume.

  8. Kathleen10 says:

    The responses should bounce off Fr. Spadaro and end up at the pope’s feet.
    It is his responsibility to clear up these messes, but that is not going to happen.
    We need Cardinals who are willing to loudly, clearly, and publicly use the word “heresy”. In the age of Nice no one wants confrontations, but, it’s hard to see how things could possibly improve until those confrontations occur.

  9. JARay says:

    I am one of those “fundamentalist Catholics” which the Pope doesn’t like. And yes, I believe that I have the truth just as Jesus proclaimed when he said I am the way, the truth and the life. As a child I learned my catechism which contained the Act of Faith which said “My God I believe in Thee and all Thy Church does teach because Thou hast said it and Thy Word is true”. I am that kind of Catholic and I am proud of it.

  10. scotus says:

    Does the Church teach complete Biblical inerrancy or limited Biblical inerrancy? (Limited biblical inerrancy is the idea that the Bible is only inerrant when it speaks of matters of faith and morals.) After the Second Vatican Council some people jumped on a statement in Dei Verbum to argue that the Council approved limited Biblical inerrancy. All sorts of people in high-up positions immediately reacted by declaring that that interpretation of Dei Verbum was incorrect. Have all those clarifications put to be the theory of limited Biblical inerrancy. No way. It’s as alive today as it was in the 1960s. So Cardinals can issue whatever clarifications they like about the Final Document of the Synod but there will be people who push the interpretation proposed by Fr Spadaro. Only a completely unambiguous statement from the Pope is going to settle the matter and we know that unless he’s talking about things like climate change where he has no qualifications whatsoever, Pope Francis does not like speaking unambiguously.

  11. Justalurkingfool says:

    I believe that I once wrote to Cardinal Burke, himself, to ask for his intercession for “repentance and reparation” in our broken marriage, I never got a reply.

    No one among the clergy has ever been willing to raise a finger. Not for 26 years.


  12. iamlucky13 says:

    @ ThankyouB16 – Pope Benedict XVI says in the quoted passage that he was thinking of situations where the marriage tribunal did not or could not make a reasonable conclusion regarding nullity. For example, when I read him talking about places where well-functioning marriage tribunals don’t exist, I think of the Chaldean Catholics being driven from their homes by ISIS, with their bishop in exile, or much of China where the Catholic Church is suppressed, except under bishops who were appointed by Bejing, rather than Rome (and who’s legitimacy as bishops I’m not clear on).

    In those situations, it’s conceivable that a Catholic may honestly believe that their marriage was invalid, but have no tribunal to petition, and no reasonable expectation of such in the foreseeable future. Or perhaps there is a tribunal, but it’s overseen by an appointee of a government with a long history of meddling in the family, corruption, or bribery, so it’s a known fact that if there is more than one child or if the proper officials aren’t paid off, there’s no chance of a nullity finding regardless of the evidence.

    Even then, he’s basically saying, “The door to this limited circumstance is not necessarily closed. We need to discuss it more and proceed carefully.”

    However, the topic of most contention at the Synod was not annulments, as Pope Benedict was talking about, but divorce.

    Even some of the most difficult divorce situations such as those mentioned by Cardinal Kasper don’t fall within the scope of what Pope Benedict was talking about – suppose a Catholic had additional children with a second spouse. Can’t, for the sake of the children, their parents live together despite the invalidity of the second marriage, and yet still receive Communion? The answer is still that they need to have the validity of their first marriage investigated.

    Otherwise, the answer remains no, because the alleged “mercy” of treating the second marriage as valid is not possible without perpetuating the merciless injustice done to the first marriage.

  13. Fr. Pius, OP says:

    Fr. Z-

    I’d also encourage you to post Cardinal Pell’s recent comments on the issue in his homily for the feast of San Clemente at the Basilica di San Clemente in Rome. An excerpt:

    In a world, then, filled with violence, both historically and presently, the Church continues to be a beacon of hope, a sure guide. Some have wanted to say of the recent Synod, that the Church is confused and confusing in her teaching on the question of marriage. This is not the case. The Church’s teaching on sexuality, marriage and family continues to be based on Jesus’ own teaching about adultery and divorce; while St. Paul’s teaching on the proper dispositions to receive communion also remains essential on the vexed question of the impossibility of communion for the divorced and civilly married. Such a “possibility” was not even mentioned in the Synod document.

    We now await the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation, which will express again the Church’s essential tradition and emphasise that the appeal to discernment and the internal forum can only be used to understand better God’s will as taught in the scriptures and by the magisterium and can never be used to disregard, distort or refute established Church teaching.

    You can find the full text here:

  14. Nicolas Bellord says:

    We have had the Synod on the Family and it has taken place over two years and no doubt has cost a great deal of money in air fares alone etc. And yet all we have at the end of it is a document in Italian on the Vatican press website which purports to be the Relatio Synodi or final report. On the Vatican website for the Synod there is nothing. Is this not rather strange? We have no official translation into any other language so how can those who do not have a sound knowledge of Italian discuss it or indeed take anything from it? Does somebody not want us to read it?

    As to the internal forum. The idea is that somebody may believe in conscience that his first marriage was invalid. However even if he does he cannot get married again in a Catholic Church unless he gets an annulment of the first marriage. He can of course contract a civil marriage but surely in the eyes of the Church this is an irregular union and is not a valid marriage and therefore he is in an irregular or sinful situation. So I am not sure what purpose this theory of the internal forum serves. I stand to be corrected.

  15. THREEHEARTS says:

    I do not want to start a mutual admiration society and neither I feel would John of The Cross. Yet I must ask what does Jesus who is mercy and love look for so His mercy may be applied. It is Atonement and Reparation and as Jesus told St Faustina I am Mercy but above me is the Father, He is Justice.
    He looks for atonement and sorrow as does any priest in confession. The trouble is in confession today rarely does a priest today ask himself or look for a truly sorrowful soul. In St Teresa of Avila when she writes of spiritual love she talks of how if we have this love we see how inferior we are to God and tears flow. The Gift of tears or compunction the second step when we learn to mentally pray correctly. I find as Faustina and Teresa writes so carefully about is how priests today and then the laity have lost the way of introspection. If you do want to know what I mean read of St Padre Pio in the confessional. Just once in the last two years was my confessor able to ask or state you have forgotten something I believe.

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