What a day! Following a quick trip to the market to buy coffee and orange juice, an interview for AP television, reading emails and answering a few in the press office, attending the press briefing that began at 1 pm and ended at 2:20, I had time to eat a croissant for lunch and get over to the North American College for an interview with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB.

Got home at 4:20 and the second part of my work day began: study the notes from the press conference and write a column, upload photos from the briefing for my blog, upload the audio interview of Abp. Kurtz, prepare my weekend show for Vatican Radio which we tape tomorrow and edit my interview of Cardinal Dolan for my EWTN radio show, “Vatican Insider.” Hopefully it will not be another two-slices-of-pizza-for-dinner evening.

I am fairly sure my schedule mirrors that of many journalists covering the synod. My interview with AP television was interesting. They saw my video on Youtube of the tap dancing seminarians at last April’s Rector’s Dinner at the North American College and decided to do a feature story given that the video, as of today, has garnered 242,020 views!! They have also interviewed, as you would imagine, the two dancing NACers – David Rider is now Fr. David Rider and John Gibson is soon to follow! Bless them!

If October 16 rings some kind of a bell for you, it was 36 years ago today – almost at the exact same time that I am writing these words! – that Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland was elected to the papacy, taking the name of John Paul II. Thank you for your years at the helm of the barque of Peter, St. John Paul!


The press briefing on the synod today featured Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the multi-lingual Dominican archbishop of Vienna and an Italian couple present at the synod, Prof. Francesco Miano and his wife Pia de Simone (women keep their maiden names in Italy).

Before each of the three guests made opening remarks, Father Lombardi made a few business announcements. He said journalists would receive the texts of what was said in the 10 language groups that have been meeting this week, with the explicit approval of the members of all groups. He was clear that these texts are, as was the relatio published Monday, only working texts, not definitive ones. Suggestions, proposals and amendments to the relatio or report that were made in the language groups – seems there many hundreds! – will be studied and eventually incorporated into a final document that will probably be ready sometime after Saturday evening.

He announced that Pope Francis, when it was brought to his attention that not all continents were represented on the small group that will write the final report, named Cardinal Napier of Durban, South Africa and Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia as members.

Father Lombardi also announced that Cardinal Mueller, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, told him that what has been reported that he said about the relatio – that it was “shameful” – is not at all true, “not at all my style.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The relatio – and what was “lost in translation” (or perhaps “transformed in translation”) when it was translated into different languages from the official Italian – was the main takeaway at today’s briefing.

A re-translated English text of the relatio (re-translated from the English text we were given Monday) was provided today to journalists. Several key paragraphs, especially those in the section related to homosexuality, had been notably changed (I want to be careful here to insist on the fact that we were always told it was a draft, a working text, not a definitive one).

In the first instance, the original English we received called this section of the relatio or report, “Welcoming homosexuals.” Today’s translation says, “Providing for homosexual persons.” The same section, Para 50, said in the original, “Are we capable of welcoming these people…” Today it says: “Are we capable of providing for these people?”

When asked about the changes – and which translation journalists should use – Fr. Lombardi said, “we have always said that the Italian is the original text of the relatio and that is the text you must use when writing.”

This is obviously fine if you speak Italian.

By the by, it might be helpful to remember that Monday, during the press briefing to present the relatio, Cardinal Peter Erdo, relator general of the synod, in answer to a question about the report, pointed to his right, to Archbishop Bruno Forte and said, “ask him, he wrote it.” So the author is apparently an Italian archbishop.

The original English – not today’s document – corresponded precisely to the Italian: Title: “Accogliere le persone omosessuali” (“Welcoming homosexuals”) – siamo in grado di accogliere queste persone… ( “Are we capable of welcoming these people…”)

Another word I noted (and this was reported in CNA) that was truly “transformed in translation” was the Italian word “valutando.” This was translated in both the original English and today’s English as “valuing” when in reality the accurate translation is “evaluating.”

Official Italian, Para 50: Le nostre comunità sono in grado di esserlo accettando e valutando il loro orientamento sessuale, senza compromettere la dottrina cattolica su famiglia e matrimonio?

English: Are our communities capable of this (this meaning offering a welcoming home), of accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony.

It does change considerably if you substitute evaluating for valuing.

What changes will we see in the final relatio? We will have to read the Italian to know.

Cardinal Schonborn, in introductory remarks at the briefing, said the current synod is not his first but he has been greatly impressed by the amount of interest shown for the ongoing synod. He said he felt it was “because the themes touch each one of us, we are all from families, we have families, we have the immediate family and the broader one of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.” He said that, “when there are problems in life, the first recourse is always family.”

The cardinal then told an interesting story to make a point – the story of the Donner Pass pioneers. The Donner Pass is a mountain pass in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains where, in November 1846 a group of 91 pioneers heading to California – the Donner party – became blocked by snow and bad weather and was forced to spend the winter on the east side of the mountains. Conditions were so terrible that only 41 survived the winter hardships and, said the cardinal, it was those who had family ties who survived and eventually reached California.

He stressed “how important it is now for us, for the synod to show this reality of family ties, of survivors. We need to remember how such ties are linked to survival. Too often we see only the immediate family but we need to see the broader family. We need to look at the fundamental role of family in society. The Pope wants us to mainly look at what is positive about the family, its beauty and the need for family. Not only but the beauty but also the challenges.”

Above all, Cardinal Schonborn underscored how this discussion on the family is a “camino,” a walk on a path. The discussion on the family began last February with the consistory, it continues now with this synod and will end next October at the ordinary synod on the family… And in between there will be discussions, etc. at diocesan and parish levels throughout the world. The cardinal said a key word throughout the synod has been “to accompany.”

The married couple said their synod experience was a “great experience and great responsibility. It is a decisive moment for the Church in the spirit of Vatican Council II and also of the Church’s love for every person.” Pia de Simone spoke of the great seriousness of this synod, saying it is also “very realistic.” The synod is looking at the “effective reality, the beauty of family relations and, as Cardinal Schonborn said, the search for new pastoral ways to help and support families.”

Cardinal Schornborn was asked how he planned to talk to Catholics back in Austria who, on the basis of what they have read and heard about the synod, might have doubts and fears.

He began his answer by saying, “I too have doubts and fears.” He said the main challenge not only of the synod but of bishops and priests everywhere is how to live with the “tension” that comes from obeying and living doctrine and also acting like Jesus who lived and preached mercy. “Joining the two is the perennial challenge for us. We must find equilibrium. We cannot forget doctrine and yet Pope Francis speaks of ‘field hospitals’ in caring for the suffering.”

(In fact, in an interview with Antonio Spadaro, director of the Italian Jesuit magazine Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis said: “I can clearly see that what the Church needs today is the ability to heal wounds and warm the hearts of faithful, it needs to be by their side. I see the Church as a field hospital after a battle. It’s pointless to ask a seriously injured patient whether his cholesterol or blood sugar levels are high! It’s his wounds that need to be healed. The rest we can talk about later. Now we must think about treating those wounds. And we need to start from the bottom.”)

He spoke of doctrine but the archbishop of Vienna also noted that in the teaching of Pope John Paul there was a notable development of theology, of Christian doctrine, as sen for example, in his theology of the body. Traditional theology did not have this idea.” He asked, “Will Pope Francis contribute to a doctrinal development? We’ll see. He invites us to pastoral conversion, to looking at situations, to become missionaries.”

On questions regarding homosexuality, Cardinal Schonborn said, “for the Church, the principle is to first look at the person, not the orientation. This is a basic, human, Christian behavior. While the Church teaches respect for every human person and their innate dignity, this does not mean respect for all human behavior. Same sex orientation is not the fundamental orientation the Creator has given for men and women.” He also noted “we should not look first in the bedroom but in the living room.”

He also said he knew a same sex couple and they are “wonderful human beings.” He said that when one partner became very sick, the other was “almost saintly” in caring for them.