By Maurice Ashley Agbaw-Ebai (AMDG)
Church Historians and Vatican watchers are telling us that a confrontation like that had never been seen before, perhaps not even at the Second Vatican Council. Soon after nine on Thursday, October 16, 2014, the General Secretary to the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, took to the floor and announced that the relationes of the circuli minores would not be made public, a reverse course from what had always happened in the past and that was affirmed in the previous days.
In other words, only the Relatio post disceptationem, which Cardinal Peter Erdo signed and which Archbishop Bruno Forte wrote, would have been fed to the press. Cardinal George Pell rose up strongly against Cardinal Baldisseri’s novelty. After him, a long line of Fathers, from the Archbishop of Brussels, Abp. Léonard, to that of Durban, Cardinal Napier, asked that the matter be, at least, put to a vote. Even the Secretary of State took the floor.
At the end, as Cardinal Christoph Schönborn said at a press conference some hours later that, "the decision to render public the relationes of the circuli was taken by a large majority." The texts are clear, and go in an opposite direction as the one upheld by Cardinal Walter Kasper. The Major Archbishop of Kiev, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, spoke directly of the need of "sending a clear message to the faithful and to the Pope" on the fact that "the family is the stable, faithful, and sacramental union between a man and a woman."
The most controversial and delicate points, from the question of the approaching of remarried divorcees to the Eucharist, to the overture to homosexual unions, were dismantled almost unanimously because many Synod Fathers said very little had been discussed of same sex unions - not more than three interventions in the assembly -yet Monday's Relatio spoke about it ad abundantiam.
A clear consequence of Cardinal Baldisseri's miss-steps and Kasper's anti-African interview to Edward Pentin, led to the addition of one African, Cardinal Napier, and also an Australian, Abp. Dennis Hart of Melbourne, to the original six-man papal drafting committee. Cardinal Kasper has since denied the interview he gave to Edward Pentin, who responded by pasting the recorded interview online. Cardinal Kasper has now been publicly revealed, thanks to the Pentin interview and his denial as a man filled with incomprehensible anti-Christian racial superiority. On a trip to the US that took him to Boston College and Fordham University, New York and other cities, Kasper even made sarcastic side comments about Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI’s liturgical reforms. His criticisms did not stop there. The eventual target was Humanae Vitae of Blessed Paul VI, a magisterial document that has turned out to be very prophetic in many ways.
Take number 17 for example: “Let men and women first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. (Humane Vitae, 17).
Why Cardinal Kasper cannot see that changing Church discipline cannot ignore a change in Church doctrine remains a puzzle. If the second marriage is not “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39), then the words of Christ to the Samaritan woman is applicable: “You are right in saying ‘I have no husband, for you have five husbands, and he whom you now have in not your husband; this you said truly” (John 4:17-18).
In this case, not only will the Church be ignoring the clear and stern admonition of Our Lord on divorce and remarriage as constituting adultery (Mathew 19:9; Mark 10:10-12); but the will be guilty of facilitating the situation described by St. Paul: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27).
Cardinal George Pell said it all: “On the question of divorce and remarriage, I am sticking with Jesus!” Kasper has to be reminded that the solution to the empty pews in the German Church is not a dilution of Christ’s teaching! The Lutherans already did that and the pews became emptier. The Church of England did that and more Moslems go to the Mosques on Fridays than Anglicans go to the Church on Sundays in England! A crisis of faith is met by a robust re-proposal of the joy of the gospel, to cite Pope Francis. At a time when the world is confused about the very meaning of marriage and the family, Catholicism owes the future of civilisation the duty of offering to the world, once more, the beauty of marriage, “in the Lord,” – a union of one man and one woman, exclusive and open to the gift of life, forever – symbolising the “forever” love of Christ for the Church (Ephesians 5:32-33). This is not the time for heterodoxy hidden under a false sense of “mercy” to dominate a Synod of Bishops. Catholicism cannot afford to speak from both sides of the mouth on the issue of marriage and the family. Fortunately, the Church has a rich magisterium to draw from: Casti Connubi, Gaudium et Spes, Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio, Evangelium Vitae, Deus Caritas Est, Evangelii Gaudium, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and above all, the Sacred Scriptures, not leaving out the teaching of Fathers of the Church.
We thank God that the 2014 sausage-making synod is over. We thank God for the bishops who stood for the faith of our fathers and mothers. Now is the time to journey deeply into the timeless teachings of our Holy Mother, the Church. Now is the time for Kasper to retire to a monastery and pray for the Church! Benedict XVI showed a wonderful example of the apostolate of prayer worth emulating, when he abdicated the throne of Peter to take up the new position “at the foot of the cross” – in his own words, to pray for the Church!