Baldisseri reproves Chaput, says abuse crisis won’t stop synod success

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops speaks at the Vatican Press Office on June 26 2014 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA 3 CNA 6 26 14 Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The secretary general of an upcoming synod of bishops said Monday he thinks the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church will not be a hindrance to the success of the meeting. He also criticized the recent decision of an American archbishop to publish a theologian's critique of the synod's working document.

"I do not think [the abuse crisis] is an impediment," said Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, but that it is perhaps a "providential opportunity… to show to young people and everyone else what the Church is."

He told journalists Oct. 1, that "the Church is not represented by some who make mistakes. The Church is not known only because of some who have fallen or caused scandal."

Speaking just two days before the start of the assembly on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, Baldisseri said young people are intelligent and often speak openly and honestly and that he believes they understand "human frailty."

The cardinal raised questions about Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia's publication last month of an anonymous theological critique of the instrumentum laboris, or working document, of the synod.

The critique was published Sept. 21 at the website of the journal First Things. It was presented by Chaput, who withheld the author's name, but referred to him as a "respected North American theologian."

Shortly after its publication, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago wrote to First Things, expressing concern about "the problematic nature of some forms of anonymity," and asking why First Things had chosen to publish an unsigned critique, even one proffered by Chaput.

In response, Chaput said of the "the anonymous nature of the critique: I certainly agree with the cardinal that unnamed sources can be regrettable. So is the toxic environment in many of our academic communities that makes them necessary."

While Baldisseri did not name Chaput directly, he said during his press conference that "the person in question" is a member of the synod's planning council and was in attendance when the text was presented.

Chaput was one of 15 members of the council that drafted the instrumentum laboris and because of that role, will participate in the synod as an "ex officio" member.

"If he had some objections, he could have demonstrated them; we would have inserted them, calmly," Baldisseri said of Chaput.

"I do not understand because then, afterwards, he makes a declaration."

Baldisseri also answered a question at the press conference about the decision by some bishops to not attend the Synod. Pointing to Cardinal Tobin, who said last month he needs to be present in his diocese during "this time of crisis," he noted those bishops who "cannot come" are free to appoint substitutes to go in their place.

The synod will run Oct. 3-28. According to Baldisseri, the general sessions are expected to take about the first two weeks, with the last week and half comprised of meetings of small working groups organized according to language.

In attendance will be 266 "Synod Fathers," 31 "ex officio" members, 181 electees of the bishops' conferences, and 41 members appointed by the pope. There will also be 49 auditors, of which 34 are between the ages of 18 and 29.

Baldisseri's press conference also presented an instruction from the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on regulations for the celebration of synod assemblies and the work Secretariat.

The instruction implements the direction of article 26 of Episcopalis communio, the apostolic constitution published last month, and is to be read in connection with that document, said Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops.

The first part of the instruction outlines who participates in the synod and their function, and the second part gives the procedure of the assemblies, including liturgies, attire, and the process for drafting and voting on the final document, which it says must be approved by two-thirds of voting members.

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The instruction does not set official languages but says they will be "made known in good time to the Members by the General Secretariat."

It also outlines that "those who participate in the Synod are bound by papal secrecy as regards the counsel (pareri) and the vote of individuals."

"All the functions and procedures are regulated in order to facilitate as much as possible the debate and the exchange of opinions among the Synodal Fathers, so as to bring out the richness of the voices of the Churches scattered throughout the earth," Fabene said.

"In this way, the Synod appears to all effects as a particular expression of the indissoluble bond that unites the Bishops with each other and with the Pope in service to the People of God," he said.

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