THE SYNOD FOR YOUTH AND THE FINAL DOCUMENT: IS IT A DONE DEAL?
The Final Document of the 2018 synod was voted on last evening by the synod fathers. It was distributed in Italian only, even though many synod participants requested that it be made available in several languages. You may have seen Edward Pentin’s tweet last night: +Chaput: “Many bishops were frustrated by the lack of advance translations for important issues they were expected to vote on. As one of the synod fathers argued, it’s actually immoral to vote ‘yes’ on significant issues if you can’t even read and reflect on what the text says.”
Media received the Italian-only document as well as a sheet that showed how voting went on each single paragraph of the document, indicating ‘placet’ (it pleases) or ‘non placet’ (it does not please). Not a single paragraph escaped a ‘nay’ vote.
Following is an analysis by Sandro Magister. He presented the original Italian language paragraphs and I used google to translate them, re-reading and editing where needed. If I had left those paragraphs in Italian, you’d have had the same problem as some (many?) of the synod fathers had!
Here is his analysis:
In voting point by point on the final document of the synod on young people, on the afternoon of Saturday, October 27, in almost every case the synod fathers approved the text by a wide majority.
Out of 167 points put to a vote, fully 125 times the votes against were fewer than 10 and the votes in favor equal to or more than 240.
On only fifteen points were the votes against equal to or more than 30. And in only two cases were the votes against more than 50, in any case far from the threshold of the 83 “non placet,” equivalent to one third of the voters, which if crossed would have entailed the non-approval of the paragraph.
In the first case, with 51 votes against, the question in play concerned the increase of “synodality” in the Church. Actually, the six subsequent paragraphs concerning this issue all received more than 30 votes against.
In the second case, with 65 votes against, the point under discussion concerned sexuality, and in particular homosexuality, a word that occurs only twice in the entire document – in paragraphs 39 and 150, which refer respectively to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the 1986 letter of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith – but in realty was the elephant in the room for the whole synod, even where the document is silent on it, for example with regard to the seminaries and the formation of future priests.
Presented here below are eight paragraphs from the final document, each of them the recipient of a few dozen votes against. With the caution that the votes against cannot be automatically attributed to one side or the other, progressive or conservative, but can also be the expression of both, for different and sometimes opposite reasons.
But first it is also helpful to point out that in the run-up to the vote on the final document the synod fathers elected 16 members of the 21 who will make up the new council of the secretariat of the synod that will prepare the next assembly.
For Africa: Dieudonné Nzapalainga, cardinal archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic;
Gabriel Mbilingi, archbishop of Cubango, Angola;
Andrew Ikea Fuanya, bishop of Mamfe, Cameroon.
For Latin America:
Daniel Fernando Sturla Berthouet, cardinal archbishop of Montevideo, Uruguay;
Jaime Calderón Calderón, bishop of Tapachula, Mexico;
Sérgio de Rocha, cardinal archbishop of Brasilia, Brazil.
For North America:
Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, cardinal archbishop of Québec, Canada;
Joseph W. Tobin, cardinal archbishop of Newark, United States.
Luis Antonio G. Tagle, cardinal archbishop of Manila, Philippines;
Oswald Gracias, cardinal archbishop of Bombay, India;
Charles Maung Bo, cardinal archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar.
Christoph Schönborn, cardinal archbishop of Vienna, Austria;
Matteo M. Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna, Italy;
Juan José Omella Omella, cardinal archbishop of Barcelona, Spain.
Anthony Colin Fisher, archbishop of Sydney.
For the Eastern Churches:
Ignatius Joseph III Yonan, patriarch of Antioch of the Syriacs
In addition to these, one head of a curial dicastery and four prelates of pontifical appointment will be part of the new synod council.
The Final Document of the Synodal Assembly
3. It is important to clarify the relationship between the Instrumentum laboris and the Final Document. The first is the unitary and synthetic frame of reference that emerged from the two years of listening; the second is the fruit of discernment achieved and gathers the generative thematic nuclei on which the Synodal Fathers concentrated with particular intensity and passion. We therefore recognize the diversity and complementarity of these two texts. This document is offered to the Holy Father (see Francis, Episcopalis communio, No. 18, Instruction, Article 35 §5) and also to the whole Church as the fruit of this Synod. Since the synodal journey has not yet ended and foresees an implementation phase (see Episcopalis communio, No. 19-21), the Final Document will be a map to guide the next steps that the Church is called to move. Votes in favor 191, against 43
Chapter II – Three crucial junctions
Recognize and react to all types of abuse
Go to the root
30. There are different types of abuse: power, economic, conscience, sexual. The task of eradicating the forms of exercise of authority on which they are grafted and of countering the lack of accountability and transparency with which many cases have been managed is evident. The desire for domination, the lack of dialogue and transparency, the forms of double life, the spiritual emptiness, as well as psychological fragility are the terrain on which corruption flourishes. Clericalism, in particular, “arises from an elitist and excluding vision of vocation, which interprets the ministry received as a power to be exercised rather than as a free and generous service to offer; and this leads us to believe that we belong to a group that has all the answers and no longer needs to listen and learn anything, or pretends to listen “(Francesco, Discourse to the General Congregation of the XV General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 3 October 2018). Votes in favor 204, against 31
Chapter III – Identity and relationships Body and affectivity The questions of young people
39. The Church has a rich tradition on which to build and from which to propose its own teaching on this subject: for example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the theology of the body developed by St. John Paul II, the Encyclical Deus caritas est of Benedict XVI , the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia di Francesco. But young people, even those who know and live this teaching, express the desire to receive a clear, human and empathetic word from the Church. In fact, sexual morality often causes misunderstanding and estrangement from the Church, as it is perceived as a space of judgment and condemnation. Faced with social changes and ways of experiencing affectivity and the multiplicity of ethical perspectives, young people are sensitive to the value of authenticity and dedication, but are often disoriented. They express more particularly an explicit desire for comparison on issues related to the difference between male and female identity, to the reciprocity between men and women, to homosexuality. Votes in favor 195, against 43
Part II Chapter IV – The art of discerning The Church, environment to discern Ecclesial conscience
109. The conscience of every believer in his most personal dimension is always in relation with the ecclesial conscience. It is only through the mediation of the Church and her tradition of faith that we can access the authentic face of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Spiritual discernment therefore presents itself as the sincere work of conscience, in its commitment to know the possible good on which to decide responsibly in the correct exercise of practical reason, within and in the light of personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Votes in favor 205, against 34
Part III Chapter I – The Synodal Missionary of the Church A constitutive dynamism The synodal form of the Church
121. The lived experience of the Synod participants aware of the importance of a synodal form of the Church for the proclamation and transmission of the faith. Synonymous with “awaken” synodality, which is a “constitutive dimension of the Church. […] As St. John Chrysostom says,” the Church and Synod are synonymous “- because the Church is nothing other than the “walking together” of the Flock of God on the paths of the history of Christ the Lord “(Francis, Speech for the Commemoration of the Synod of Bishops, 17 October 2015). Synodality characterizes both the life and the mission of the Church, which is the People of God formed by young and old, men and women of every culture and horizon, and the Body of Christ, in which we are members of each other, starting from those who are marginalized and trampled. During the exchanges and through the testimonies, the Synod brought out some fundamental features of a synodal style, towards which we are called to convert. Votes in favor 191, against 51
Chapter III – A renewed missionary impulse – Women in the Synodal Church
148. A Church that seeks to live a synodal style can not but reflect on the condition and role of women within it, and consequently also in society. Young people and young people ask for it with great force. The reflections developed require to be implemented through a work of courageous cultural conversion and change in daily pastoral practice. An area of particular importance in this regard is that of the presence of women in the ecclesial bodies at all levels, also in functions of responsibility, and of women’s participation in ecclesial decision-making processes while respecting the role of the ordained ministry. It is a duty of justice, which finds inspiration both in the way in which Jesus was related to men and women of his time, and in the importance of the role of some female figures in the Bible, in the history of salvation and in the life of the Church. Votes in favor 201, against 38
Sexuality: a clear, free, authentic word
150. There are questions concerning the body, affectivity and sexuality that need a more in-depth anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration, to be carried out in the most convenient modalities and levels, from local to universal. Among these emerge in particular those related to the difference and harmony between male and female identity and sexual inclinations. In this regard, the Synod reaffirms that God loves every person and so does the Church, renewing its commitment against any discrimination and violence on a sexual basis. Equally it reaffirms the determinant anthropological relevance of the difference and reciprocity between man and woman and considers it reductive to define the identity of people starting only from their “sexual orientation” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on pastoral care of homosexual persons, October 1, 1986, No. 16).
In many Christian communities there are already paths of accompaniment in the faith of homosexual persons: the Synod recommends encouraging these paths. In these ways people are helped to read their own story; to adhere freely and responsibly to one’s baptismal call; to recognize the desire to belong and contribute to the life of the community; to discern the best forms to make it happen. In this way we help every young person, no one excluded, to increasingly integrate the sexual dimension into his personality, growing in the quality of relationships and walking towards the gift of self. Votes in favor 178, against 65
Chapter IV – Integral formation The formation of seminarians and consecrated persons
163. The specific task of the integral formation of candidates for the ordained ministry and for the consecrated life of men and women remains an important challenge for the Church. The importance of a solid cultural and theological formation for consecrated and consecrated persons is also recalled. As for the seminars, the first task is obviously the assumption and operational translation of the new Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis. During the Synod some important emphases emerged, which should be mentioned. In the first place the choice of formators is not enough that they are culturally prepared, they must be capable of fraternal relations, of an empathic listening and of profound inner freedom. Secondly, for a proper accompaniment serious and competent work will be needed in differentiated educational teams, which include female figures. The formation of these formative teams in which different vocations interact is a small but precious form of synodality, which affects the mentality of young people in initial formation. Thirdly, formation must aim at developing in future pastors and consecrated persons the ability to exercise their leadership role in an authoritative and non-authoritarian manner, educating young candidates to give themselves for the community. Particular attention should be paid to some formative criteria such as: overcoming tendencies to clericalism, ability to work in a team, sensitivity for the poor, transparency of life, willingness to be accompanied. Fourthly, the seriousness of initial discernment is decisive because too many young people who present themselves at seminaries or formation houses are welcomed without adequate knowledge and a thorough re-reading of their history. The question becomes particularly delicate in the case of “wandering seminarians”: relational and affective instability, and the lack of ecclesial roots are dangerous signals. To neglect ecclesial legislation in this regard constitutes irresponsible behavior, which can have very serious consequences for the Christian community. A fifth point concerns the numerical consistency of the training communities: in those too large there is a risk of depersonalisation of the path and of inadequate knowledge of young people on the way, while those too small risk being suffocating and subject to the logic of dependence; in these cases the best solution is to set up inter-diocesan seminars or training houses shared among several religious provinces, with clear training projects and well-defined responsibilities. Votes in favor 217, against 22