Do the Pope’s Synod Picks Signal Support for Controversial Agendas?

Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, 16/09/2015:

"... Observers point out that many, if not the majority, of the Pope’s choices are those who would like to see changes in pastoral practice regarding issues relating to marriage and the family in a bid, in their view, to make the Church’s teaching more relevant and merciful to the complex nature of human relationships today. Opponents consider some of their proposals heretical, and subtly intended to adapt the Church’s teaching to secular values, thereby diminishing the gravity of what the Church has always considered sinful behavior.

Archbishop Cupich

One of the Pope’s choices is Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago who, in 2011, discouraged priests and seminarians in his diocese from participating in demonstrations in front of Planned Parenthood businesses or supporting 40 Days for Life, a pro-life movement that conducts vigils at abortion facilities. He also recently morally equated the trafficking of aborted baby parts by Planned Parenthood with the immorality of unemployment, forced migration and other social justice issues.
Controversially, the Pope has again chosen 82-year-old Cardinal Godfried Danneels, archbishop emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, to take part in the Synod. The cardinal reportedly advised the King of Belgium to sign an abortion law in 1990, told a victim of sexual abuse to keep quiet, and once said same-sex “marriage” was a “positive development,” although he also distinguished such a union from the Church’s understanding of marriage.

Despite attendance in Belgian churches collapsing since the 1960s, and the country falling steeply into secularism (in 2013, it passed a law allowing child euthanasia), Cardinal Danneels isn’t the only Belgian on the list of papal delegates.

Another is 74-year-old Bishop Lucas Van Looy of Ghent. The bishop, already an alternate for Belgium’s representative at the synod, said he was “surprised” by the appointment and assumed it was because of his “experiences in the world Church and as chairman of Caritas Europe and member of the international administration in Rome.”

Bishop Johan Jozef Bonny of Antwerp, who will be the third prelate from Belgium at the upcoming synod, called for Church recognition of same-sex unions last December. Bishop Bonny has also voiced in a new book his opposition to Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth) and the notion of the natural law. Although not present at the synod last year, he wrote to the meeting, stressing that the Church urgently needs to connect with contemporary society, showing more respect for homosexuality, divorced people and modern kinds of relationships.

In the 2000s, Bishop Bonny was an assistant at the Vatican to Cardinal Walter Kasper, whom the Pope has chosen again to take part in the synod, despite the cardinal’s controversial thesis on readmitting civilly divorced Catholics to holy Communion.

The Order of Papal Delegates

The order of papal delegates may also hint at their influence in shaping a synodal agenda. Topping the list is Cardinal Angelo Sodano who, at 87, remains dean of the College of Cardinals and still holds close and influential ties to the Holy See diplomatic service that he directed while serving as Vatican secretary of state.

Second on the list is Cardinal Danneels, followed by Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who said recently that a stable same-sex relationship is better than a “temporary” one. Cardinal Kasper, 82, is listed fifth, while Cardinal Burke, a strong opponent of the Cardinal Kasper thesis, is noticeably left off the list, despite the Pope’s calls for synodality and inclusivity.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, a close confidant of the Pope who is listed seventh, told a Dallas audience in 2013 the Church “did not have a monopoly on truth anymore nor could she pontificate on a thousand human matters.”

Also included in the list is Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, and an old acquaintance of the Pope. In an interview earlier this year, he said the Pope is moving slowly “to ensure the effectiveness” of reform. “If you go slowly it's more difficult to turn things back,” he said. “You have to realize that he is aiming at reform that is irreversible.”

Other Picks

Among 23 expert collaborators, the backgrounds of some challenge orthodox teaching such as professors Maurizio Gronchi, Michele Guilio Masciarelli, and Georges Henri Ruyssen. The German language relator is Jesuit Father Bernd Hagenkord, who attended the “shadow synod” in Rome in May that sought to influence opinion on Church teachings in favor of same-sex unions...

The Pope has also chosen Jesuit Father François-Xavier Dumortier, rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, to take part in the synod. The university was the venue of the secret synod-related meeting in May, and a second similar symposium held last week and headed by Cardinal Rodriguez.

Also on the Pope’s list of delegates is Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, who headed the commission on annulment reform announced last week. In an article for L’Osservatore Romano Sept. 8, Msgr. Pinto said it is “no longer time simply for analyses, it is time for action in order to begin that work of justice and mercy so long awaited — by re-ordering the pastoral practice and canon law, to a large extent in effect for almost three centuries.”

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