WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE SYNOD ON YOUTH, FAITH, VOCATIONS – WHAT IS THE REAL ROLE OF THE 2018 SYNOD INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS?

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WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE SYNOD ON YOUTH, FAITH, VOCATIONS

The 25-day long Synod of Bishops on the theme, “Youth, the Faith and Discernment of Vocation,” opened this morning in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, an ever stunning venue, with Mass presided over by Pope Francis.

This is the third synod that Francis has convened after the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family. As he did previously he also chose the theme for the 2018 synod.

The very first meeting of the synod began at 4:30 this afternoon with talks by the Holy Father, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, and Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha of Brasilia, Relator General of the just-begin synod. (photos vaticannews)

Cardinal Baldisseri, who also organized the 2014-2015 synods on the family, began his 4900-word talk by noting, “It is appropriate here to recall that the Holy Father has affirmed right from the start of the pathway to the synod, that the Church “wishes to place herself as a listener to the voices to the sensitivities, to the faith and even the doubts and criticisms of young people. Therefore we must first of all listen to the young people but also – and it is for this reason we are gathered here – we must answer their challenges with the hearts of pastors, through appropriate proposals and the good advice of the Holy Father.

Cardinal Baldiseri also spoke of the just-released Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis communio, written by the Pope and published on September 15. He noted this was a long path of revision of the institution of the Synod and in particular of the Synod methodology. In fact, there were many new elements in that document.

Cardinal Baldiserri noted that present at this 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops are 267 synod fathers, 8 fraternal delegates, 23 experts and 49 auditors for a total of 347, to which we must add Pope Francis.

The cardinal referred to four different events and elements that led up to the synod that began today. He noted the online questionnaire, saying there were 221,000 contacts, of whom 100,500 young people who answered all of the proposed questions: 58,000 girls and 42,500 boys. Almost 51,000 participants, corresponding to 50.6%, turned out to be young people between the ages of 16 and 19.

He then mentioned one very significant data: the country from which we got the greatest number of answers to the questionnaire was Uganda with more than 16,000 completed answers.

Baldisseri then outlined the other pre-synod elements: the international seminar on the condition of youth today that took place in September 2017, the pre-synod meeting with 300 young people from March 19 to the 24th, 2018 in the Vatican with the Pope, and last, but certainly not least, the Instrumentum laboris, the working document of the synod,

He said “in the 25 workdays of the synod that begins today, we have before us the instrumentum laboris which not only constitutes the point of departure for reflection and debate but the base text for the elaboration of the final document which at the end of the synod works will bring together the results reached by this synodal body.”

The secretary general went on to say that, after these first presentations, the synod Fathers will start to speaking, doing so in the order in which their request to speak, via a synod form they had to fill out, arrived in Rome. Basicall they are scheduled to speak only once in these 25 days, although the cardinal said there will be periods, usually lasting an hour, for free interventions. Because of the number of speakers, time will be limited to four minutes.

He also explained that participants will also work in small groups called circuli minores: these will gather people by language.

In the end, the speeches of the synod Fathers, the collective works of the language groups and the reports of the language groups will be gathered and synthesized into a text which will constitute an integrated development of the instrumentum laboris.

WHAT IS THE REAL ROLE OF THE 2018 SYNOD INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS?

Reading Cardinal Baldisseri’s remarks, a lot of questions arose in my mind about the overarching importance that he gives to the synod’s Instrumentum laboris, or working document. I cannot deny it is indeed an important document, without which no synod has ever proceeded.

The Instrumentum laboris is born from responses to the Lineamenta, an outline of the future synod topic and focus that is composed by the secretariat general of the Synod of Bishops and sent to all Episcopal conferences, Oriental or Eastern Catholic Churches, offices of the Roman Curia and the Union of Superiors General before the start of the assembly. Responses are sent back to Rome and studied, evaluated and analyzed by synod personnel.

The Instrumentum laboris is drafted from this input, read and approved by the Pope and sent to the bishops called to the synod. The bishops may then make their own changes, suggestions and contributions. The final document is usually released to the public, always in Italian.

The instrumentum laboris is not necessarily an indicator of what the conclusions of a synod will be,but can give an idea of the general consensus in the Church on the subject of discussion.

Reading Cardinal Baldisseri’s words, it does sound like the Instrumentum laboris for this 2018 synod is the be all and end all for the synod: “…we have before us the instrumentum laboris which not only constitutes the point of departure for reflection and debate but the base text for the elaboration of the final document which at the end of the synod works will bring together the results reached by this synodal body.”

Will synod Fathers actually be able to change, delete, etc what they do not like and add or otherwise contribute at the end of the synod the elements they found to be the principal focus and talking points of the participants?

Since its publication on May 8, 2018, this document has been heartily criticized for what it contains and what it does not contain

Robert Royal, president of the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, D.C said in a piece dated October 3 for “The Catholic Thing”: “I am in Rome for the Synod on “Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” which begins today. I’ll be here, Deo Volente, essentially the whole month of October. It’s an inopportune time for such an event: the abuse crisis – and the involvement in that crisis of several bishops participating in the synod – have damaged the Church’s credibility with young people. The “Working Document” (Instrumentum Laboris) is cumbersome and deeply flawed – more sociology than theology – as our friends Archbishop Chaput and George Weigel have argued. And the “Instrumentum” betrays signs of wanting to move the Church more in the direction of secular culture rather than moving the culture in the direction of the Church. But the show goes on. The Catholic Thing will be bringing you regular synod reports (daily, if warranted) from Rome, as well as our regular columns during October. This is a crucial moment: Oremus pro invicem”

He also noted that, “Just yesterday, Cardinal Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, questioned the “loyalty and honesty” of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput. After the tumultuous 2015 Synod on the Family, Chaput was elected to the Council of the Synod of Bishops (basically the planning committee) with the most votes for any single candidate by the bishops of the whole world. His recent offense? Substantial criticisms of the Working Document intended to guide the month’s proceedings.”

Read on for Abp. Chaput’s analysis:

Rome, Italy, Sep 29, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- In an op-ed column published Saturday, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has restated his concerns about the upcoming synod of bishops on young adults, faith and vocational discernment, set to begin Oct. 3.

The column was published in the Italian newspaper Il Foglio.

According to Chaput, after the Pennsylvania statewide grand jury report, and abuse problems in Chile, Germany and elsewhere, “the Church is in turmoil.”

“In this turbulent environment, the Holy See will host a world synod of bishops, October 3-28, in Rome. Keyed to the theme of ‘young people, faith, and vocational discernment,’ a more ironic, and more difficult, confluence of bad facts at a bad time for the meeting can hardly be imagined.”

The archbishop explained that, “this does not mean the synod need fail in its work. Francis’ personal appeal and the good will it can engender remain strong.”

“This is why many young priests, like those who wrote an open letter to delegates of the impending synod earlier this month, see an opportunity in the synod’s subject matter. As they make clear, the synod’s success depends on a profound confidence in the Word of God and the mission of the Church, despite the sins of her leaders.”

“It’s in the light of their faith, and the faith of other young men and women like them, that the synod’s instrumentum laboris or ‘working document,’ needs to be reviewed and revised. As it stands, the text is strong in the social sciences, but much less so in its call to belief, conversion, and mission,” Chaput wrote.

Citing a recently published theological reflection, Chaput lamented within the document “‘serious theological concerns…including: a false understanding of the conscience and its role in the moral life;’ a ‘false dichotomy proposed between truth and freedom,’ a ‘pervasive focus on socio-cultural elements, to the exclusion of deeper religious and moral issues,’ an ‘absence of the hope of the Gospel,’ and an ‘insufficient treatment of the abuse scandal.’”

“Comments like these sound harsh,” Chaput admits, “but they are not wholly unwarranted. A synod that deals with issues of sexuality and young people should also deal — honestly and thoroughly — with the roots of a clergy sexual abuse disaster involving minors.”

“Neither the Pope nor the Church is served – particularly in a time of humiliation and crisis – by an overdose of sentiment, accommodation, and sociology. Faith demands more than that,” Chaput, who is a delegate to the synod, concluded.

Il Foglio – The Sheet- was founded in 1996 by Italian journalist and agnostic intellectual Giuliano Ferrara. Despite its limited circulation of 47,000, the newspaper is regarded as one of Italy’s most independent and influential voices in matters of politics, culture and religion.

Click here to read entire Abp. Chaput piece in First Things: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/09/thoughts-on-the-instrumentum-laboris