Vatican City, Sep 5, 2015 / 11:00 am
A new book about the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family alleges evidence of a hidden agenda pushed by a handful of bishops in positions of influence.
"I felt it was important to investigate what happened, because I'd heard – and many people had heard – about these accusations and allegations of manipulation during the last synod," said Edward Pentin, author of "The Rigging of a Vatican Synod?"
"And as a journalist, I felt that our task is to search for the truth, uncover the truth in the name of justice," he told CNA in a recent interview.
A long-time freelance reporter in Rome, Pentin covered the 2014 Synod on the Family and afterward spoke with numerous sources – some anonymous, some who are named – who were connected with the synod and who alleged that a hidden agenda was at work.
Pentin is the new Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register, which like CNA is owned and operated by EWTN.
While there was no conspiratorial coup of the synod, Pentin clarified, there was an effort by a handful of bishops to insert their own agenda into the process of discussing pastoral care of families.
Although he made no definitive conclusion of a secret agenda in the book, Pentin said that he compiled evidence from his interviews and research to present it to the reader to formulate his own conclusions.
The "injustice" that Pentin found was that Pope Francis' vision of all the bishops present at the synod being heard was not only being ignored but was "aggressively disregarded."
"The injustice to me was that one side was complaining of being not properly heard, and bizarrely that side was the one that was trying to uphold the Church's tradition and teaching," he said.
However, bishops on "all sides" complained to Pentin about the lack of dialogue and transparency, he maintained.
"I wanted to bring in all sides. So I've spoken to those on the so-called liberal wing of the Church, and I've spoken to those who are trying to uphold the Church's tradition and teaching," he told CNA.
"I wasn't out to get anyone. I wasn't out to pursue an agenda. I just wanted to get to the truth."
Pentin details numerous allegations of a hidden agenda at work. "There are quite a few new things in the book which people don't know about," he said.
For instance, the debate over allowing reception of Communion by divorced-and-remarried persons took center stage at the synod, although it was "hardly discussed" there, Pentin said.
Once the matter appeared in the controversial mid-term report which was released to a firestorm of media misinformation and confusion, many bishops knew that an agenda was being pushed from behind the scenes, he said.
"It eclipsed a lot of the discussions at the synod, even though it was hardly discussed and hardly a subject for the synod," Pentin explained. Many were worried about it being debated at length "because it's used as a vehicle to bring in Church recognition of same-sex unions, cohabitation, and changes to the Church's teaching on sexuality."
The cardinal ultimately responsible for producing the controversial mid-term report or interim relatio, Cardinal Péter Erdö of Hungary, was "bullied and coerced and pushed to write documents that he really didn't want to write" by others in the secretariat, Pentin charged.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, who "was trying to uphold the Church's tradition" on same-sex unions, the author continued, was marginalized during the efforts to draft the final report at the synod.
"He tried to make a point at one of the meetings with Cardinal Baldisseri and the other synod officials, and he was ignored," Pentin said, "two times I think he was ignored."
Cardinal Napier had not wanted to include the matter of same-sex unions in the topic of "marriage," he continued. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. was outraged at the treatment of Cardinal Napier and made it known at the meeting that he must be listened to.
In another story, Pentin told of how bishops at the synod tried to intimidate the editor of a major work defending Catholic doctrine, a book that was sent to all the synod bishops.
Fr. Robert Dodaro was the editor of "Remaining in the Truth of Christ," a compilation of chapters from bishops and theologians defending Church teaching on Communion for divorced-and-remarried persons. The book was sent to each synod bishop before the gathering.
However, it was "clear" how "various officials working in the synod tried to get him removed," Pentin said.
There's even a chapter about previous synods which was important to include for historical context.
"This is not a synod like in the old days before the Second Vatican Council. It's not really a canonical body, it doesn't really have much weight. It's more of a consultative body for the Pope, upon which he can take a decision," he explained.
This is "important" to know because of "those pushing this agenda to make this synod into something much bigger than it really is," he said. "And I think a lot of them would consider it be almost like a Third Vatican Council."
Despite the controversy, Pentin hopes the synod is ultimately "catechetical," since "it will bring to the forefront what the Church really teaches through this debate."