Mail call in Rome

Sandro Magister reports that some number of cardinals signed a letter to the Holy Father, which Cardinal Pell delivered to him on October 5. In short, the letter complained about the theological deficits of the Instrumentum Laboris, the composition of the commission appointed to draft the final Relatio Synodi, and the procedural modifications, all of which point toward one outcome. (We note that, since October 5, the well-oiled machine has started falling apart, notwithstanding its precision German engineering, and the idea of the Synod even having an outcome, much less the one outcome so greatly desired, is not as clear as it has been in the past.) Magister quotes the entire letter, the the nut of which is:

While the synod’s preparatory document, the “Instrumentum Laboris,” has admirable elements, it also has sections that would benefit from substantial reflection and reworking.  The new procedures guiding the synod seem to guarantee it excessive influence on the synod’s deliberations and on the final synodal document.  As it stands, and given the concerns we have already heard from many of the fathers about its various problematic sections, the “Instrumentum” cannot adequately serve as a guiding text or the foundation of a final document.

The new synodal procedures will be seen in some quarters as lacking openness and genuine collegiality.  In the past, the process of offering propositions and voting on them served the valuable purpose of taking the measure of the synod fathers’ minds.  The absence of propositions and their related discussions and voting seems to discourage open debate and to confine discussion to small groups; thus it seems urgent to us that the crafting of propositions to be voted on by the entire synod should be restored. Voting on a final document comes too late in the process for a full review and serious adjustment of the text.

Additionally, the lack of input by the synod fathers in the composition of the drafting committee has created considerable unease. Members have been appointed, not elected, without consultation.  Likewise, anyone drafting anything at the level of the small circles should be elected, not appointed.

In turn, these things have created a concern that the new procedures are not true to the traditional spirit and purpose of a synod.  It is unclear why these procedural changes are necessary.  A number of fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions.

(Emphasis supplied.) Magister suggests that, after Cardinal Pell and others raised some of the same points from the letter in the Synod assembly, the Holy Father made his extraordinary personal intervention to shore up the disposition of the procedure of the Synod and the appointment of the drafting commission. Of course, since October 5, the very idea of a final Relatio Synodi has been called into doubt.

At one point, Magister reported that thirteen cardinals signed the letter. Quickly after the story broke, however, Cardinal Erdo, relator-general of the Synod, Cardinal Scola, archbishop of Milan and papabile last time, Cardinal Piacenza, the major penitentiary, and Cardinal Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, denied that they had signed the letter. Magister’s piece has removed their names, though it still reflects “thirteen” cardinals. At this point, nine cardinals’ names are still associated with the letter. Whether the nine remaining signatories will make statements about the letter remains to be seen.

It likewise remains to be seen whether Magister will defend his own credibility. He has been persona non grata in the Vatican since he distributed a leaked copy of Laudato si’, which, while still a draft, was apparently pretty close to the text that was finally released. Obviously, leaking a letter like the one Magister quotes to Magister would be a provocative act in and of itself.