By Catholic News Agency's Vatican Observer, Andrea Gagliarducci

For Cardinal Baldisseri, consensus at the Synod of Bishops remains important

A cardinal peruses the news in the Vatican's Synod Hall during the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Oct. 10, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
A cardinal peruses the news in the Vatican's Synod Hall during the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Oct. 10, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

.- Even though the 2014 Synod on the Family's final report included three paragraphs that failed to gain a consensus among the synod fathers, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishop maintains that the principle of consensus remains valid.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri recently granted an interview to “La Settimana,” a Italian weekly magazine specialized in religion. In the interview, Cardinal Baldisseri spoke about the renewal of the  Synod of Bishop and the main issues the discussion at the last synod zeroed in on.

He identified the “doctrinal framework on the marriage, the foundation of the family” as one of the points of strength of the recent synod’s final report.

The 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family was held in October, and served as a preparation for an Ordinary Synod on the Family which will be held this autumn.

“I would also add the announcement of the Gospel of the Family, and the push for marriage preparation in a social framework that has completely changed since St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio was written,” Cardinal Baldisseri underscored.

St. John Paul II promulgated Familiaris consortio in 1981.

All the issues presented by Cardinal Baldisseri were included synod’s final report, as a result of a lively discussion among the synod fathers.

After discussion in small groups, many synod fathers criticized the midterm report, and asked the synod to focus more on the positive examples of Christian families; to rewrite the introduction and to more often refer to the Gospel of the Family; and also that it adopt a more prudent approach concerning the issues of the divorced and remarried, and homosexuals, in order not to produce confusion among the faithful about Church teaching.

For example, the third English-speaking group, chaired by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, said that “we strongly felt that the tone of the entire document should express our confidence in marriage.”

And the second English-speaking group, headed by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, said the midterm report placed “too much emphasis on the problems facing the family,” and urged that the final report “provide an enthusiastic message which would encourage and inspire hope.”

All of these issues were welcomed by Cardinal Baldisseri as points of strength of the synod’s final report.

Cardinal Baldisseri did not identify points of weakness in the synod’s final report, but rather spoke of “a path of renewal of the institution (of the Synod) that has just begun, and that perhaps aroused some reaction in some.”

“There was not a lack of transparency in the development of the synod’s discussion. It was rather the contrary,” Cardinal Baldisseri claimed.

The 2014 synod has been criticized in some circles for a lack of transparency, because in previous synods the interventions, or speeches, of the participants were made public. The 2014 synod, overseen by Cardinal Baldisseri, did not publicly release the texts of the interventions.

The secretary general of the synod said the real news of the final report “is that the Holy Father chose to publish it immediately it in its entirety, including the paragraphs that did not reach the supermajority of two-thirds of the votes.”

According to the synod's regulations, paragraphs that do not receive a supermajority of two-thirds  have not gained a consensus, and thus customarily are not published in the final report.

At the 2014 synod, two contentious paragraphs on the divorced and remarried, and one about homosexuals, failed to garner two-thirds of votes – though they did receive a simple majority.

Cardinal Baldisseri stated that “the norm regarding a supermajority were  inserted in the synod regulations only about 10 years ago. The principle that consensus, or at least the wider and qualifying adhesion (to each paragraph), remains valid.”

The lively discussions during the synod are described by Cardinal Baldisseri as an expression of “the spirit of communion, with great respect for the diverse positions, although the positions were contrasting in some issues.”

The secretary general of the synod stressed that the work of the small groups was “fundamental, serious, and rich in ideas,” so that their “changes or contributions were inserted into the framework of the mid-term report” to create the final report.

The cardinal also recounted that “there was a lively exchange of opinions” regarding the publication of the small groups' reports, while many synod fathers did not even consider it opportune to publish the mid-term report.

Cardinal Baldisseri stated that “there are new situations that must be faced, not avoided … some of these situations never occurred before; they need a doctrinal deepening and pastoral courage to find proper solutions, always respecting truth and charity.”

He affirmed that there are “attacks on and radical critics of the family, especially in the western world,” and stressed that “the Church is on the front line to respond (to these attacks) and to defend the institution of the family as a foundation of society and – for Christians – as the domestic Church.”

Cardinal Baldisseri also recounted that the synod’s discussion “very much zeroed in on the need for more knowledge of Church teaching on marriage and the family, and – at the same time – on the need to give an adequate formation for marriage to young people.”

Another issue at stake was that of “the streamlining of the procedures for declarations of nullity” and of “the Christian education of families,” since it is from families that “Christian faith arises, and there one should find the primary and determining reference point for Christian education.”

In conclusion, Cardinal Baldisseri said that “Pope Francis desires that the synod fathers, bishops from all over the world, and the faithful be involved. In his speech at the end of the synod, the Pope said that we have one year we can use to bring ideas and proposals to maturation with true discernment, and find solutions.”

“The Pope is clear with these words. There must not be any reticence, recession of thought, or fear in carrying forward the work of deepening (the synod’s issues). The Church is driven by the Holy Spirit.”

Tags: Synod on the Family, Cardinal Kasper