Cardinal Pell: Three-quarters of synod responses objected to draft relatio

VATICAN CITY – The final version of the relatio from the Exraordinary Synod on the Family will get a vote on Saturday and probably not released until Sunday at the earliest, but Cardinal George Pell warns that those expecting support for a “secular agenda” had better be prepared for disappointment. Catholic News Service interviewed Pell, who serves in the Vatican as prefect for the Secretariat for the Economy, at the end of the circoli minori process. Pell said the draft relatio was “tendentious, skewed,” and broadly opposed on the synod floor when discussed:

Cardinal George Pell said working-group reports from the Synod of Bishops on the family finally give a true picture of the assembly’s views, counteracting what he characterized as a misleading midterm report.

“We wanted the Catholic people around the world to know actually what was going on in talking about marriage and the family and, by and large, I think people will be immensely reassured,” Cardinal Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, told Catholic News Service Oct. 16, the day the reports were published.

“We’re not giving in to the secular agenda; we’re not collapsing in a heap. We’ve got no intention of following those radical elements in all the Christian churches, according to the Catholic churches in one or two countries, and going out of business,” he said.

According to Cardinal Pell, three-quarters of the statements following the release of the draft criticized it in one form or another. The unanimous vote to publish the circoli minori report summaries reflected the desire of the synod’s participants to correct the record, Pell asserts. Among the objections, as we heard yesterday, was the lack of “prophetic language” — Scriptural teachings on the nature of marriage, and the tradition of the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Catholic Church). When it came to addressing non-traditional relationship forms, Pell said the draft relatio took an “idealized version of every imperfect situation.” Some of the working groups, Pell noted, said the draft language would create more confusion than it resolved if the language remained the same.  “If people are heading in the wrong direction,” Pell said, “there’s no virtue for the church to be saying that’s good.”

On the question of allowing the divorced and remarried to access the Eucharist, Pell sees no change coming. Only three of the ten circoli minori reports expressed any support for that at all, Pell notes, and says that issue is a “stalking horse” for a more radical agenda anyway:

“Communion for the divorced and remarried is for some — very few, certainly not the majority of synod fathers — it’s only the tip of the iceberg, it’s a stalking horse. They want wider changes, recognition of civil unions, recognition of homosexual unions,” Cardinal Pell said. “The church cannot go in that direction. It would be a capitulation from the beauties and strengths of the Catholic tradition, where people sacrificed themselves for hundreds, for thousands of years to do this.”

This matches up with other signals being sent from within the synod as well. The appointment of Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier to the commission tasked with writing the final version of the relatio after the amendment process begins today seems to have been a nod to this criticism as well, given Cardinal Napier’s very public criticism of the draft relatio on Tuesday. The final, approved version will not be published immediately, as the Vatican will want to take care with the translation this time around, and the meeting on the Middle East on Monday will have the staff tied up for a while. But at least at the moment, it appears that the document will look significantly different than its draft, and that will prompt lots of questions for the synod participants — as Napier lamented on Tuesday.