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Letters from the Synodal Abyss

Letter #3: Cardinal Pell Backpedals

by Christopher A. Ferrara
October 20, 2015

Like everything else in the drearily predictable farce now unfolding here in Rome, this was no surprise: after having led the initiative to deliver a letter signed by 12 other cardinals politely protesting the stacked deck and apparently predetermined outcome of Phony Synod 2015, Cardinal Pell has suddenly declared things aren’t so bad after all.

As reported by John Allen, Cardinal Pell has distanced himself from an online petition by the faithful calling for a walkout of the Phony Synod, telling Allen that “concerns about stacking the deck circulating in some quarters have ‘substantially been addressed.’”

Some quarters?  It was the Cardinal’s own letter that expressed these concerns.  Substantially addressed?  How can that be, when absolutely nothing about the rigged rules of this dog-and-pony-show has been changed? To recapitulate:  (1) the basis for the Synod’s final document is still the blatantly heterodox Instrumentum Laboris, supposedly based on the final report of Phony Synod 2014, but which actually contains some 84 additional paragraphs larded onto the document afterwards by unknown draftsmen; (2) the final document is still to be drafted by an unelected committee of ten whose members, almost all of progressivist orientation; (3) the Synod Fathers will not even see the final document until two days before the Synod ends, when they will be given a ridiculous 2.5 hours to debate it among themselves, and a mere half day to propose amendments, after which (4) the final document will be dropped in their laps on the Synod’s last day for a YES or NO vote, with no further changes permitted.

This is no “Synod on the Family.” It is an elaborate rubber stamp for whatever the shadowy committee of ten has drafted. The prelates in attendance are merely a front for a backroom operation. We all know it. Cardinal Pell knows it. The other twelve cardinals know it.  Indeed, the entire Synod knows it.  They are all being used: some willingly and in connivance with the Synod controllers; others unwillingly but, for the moment, without serious opposition.

In an apparent face-saving move, Cardinal Pell told Allen that he is now content with the Synod procedure because Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Synod secretary, said that “voting on a final document will take place ‘paragraph by paragraph,’ providing a clear sense of where the bishops stand on individual issues.”  So what?  The document will still be the work of an unelected committee and will doubtless be filled with time bombs to be detonated after the voting should they be adopted. 

And there is still no assurance from Baldisseri that the wise requirement of a 2/3 super-majority will not be ignored, just as Francis ignored it regarding the infamous three rejected paragraphs of the final report of Phony Synod 2014. Those paragraphs failed to receive the required 2/3 support, yet Francis ordered them included in the document anyway and they are now deemed part of the “definitive text” of the Instrumentum.  Demonstrating the height of the cynical manipulation of this fraud of a Synod, Baldisseri told the Synod Fathers that while only a simple majority was needed to get those paragraphs into the document, even though the rules required 2/3, “if you want to get them out, it will require a two-thirds vote.” 

Here we have yet another arbitrary rule change. Under the Synod rules the rejection of a paragraph, as opposed to its adoption, requires only a simple majority — 50 percent plus one.  So, under the ever-shifting rulebook for this rigged game, 2/3 are required to adopt a provision, unless Francis decides that 50 percent plus one will suffice, whereas only 50 percent plus one are required to reject a provision, unless Francis decides that 2/3 are necessary.  Heads Francis wins, tails the Synod Fathers lose.

In a dismal retreat from his original position as expressed in the letter, Cardinal Pell declared to Allen that “all we want” is for “whatever the synod says, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent, to be represented.”  Really? So, the preservation of sound Catholic orthodoxy is no longer a concern?  Whatever the Synod says is fine with the Cardinal, so long as the majority view is accurately presented and democracy prevails?

Worse still, when asked whether he thinks the Synod is now a level playing field, Pell said that it’s “level enough.”  Your Eminence, please!  In your letter to the Pope you rightly complained that the Instrumentum, forced upon you as the foundation of the Synod’s final document, has “various problematic sections” and “cannot adequately serve as a guiding text or the foundation of a final document.” You protested that “the new synodal procedures will be seen in some quarters as lacking openness and genuine collegiality,” that the “absence of propositions and their related discussions and voting seems to discourage open debate,” that “[v]oting on a final document comes too late in the process for a full review and serious adjustment of the text,” and that “a number of fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions.”

But now, according to Cardinal Pell, the unfairly tilted playing field is suddenly “level enough.”  The odor of craven retreat is palpable.

Is there no one who will resist the tyranny that imposes this hoax on princes of the Church and descendants of the Apostles?  Is there not a single prelate among the 270 gathered here in Rome who has the courage to resist a blatant abuse of papal power that threatens incalculable harm to souls? Have they all submitted to the cult of Il Supremo that has replaced a proper understanding of the papacy and its limits?

As even the loyal opposition appears to have been browbeaten into abject submission, it becomes clearer with every passing hour that the only appropriate response to the outcome of the Phony Synod will be outright resistance on the part of the Catholic faithful. As it was during the time of the Arian crisis, so will it be today.  As Cardinal Newman wrote concerning the role of the laity at the height of Arianism:

[I]n that time of immense confusion the divine dogma of our Lord's divinity was proclaimed, enforced, maintained, and (humanly speaking) preserved, far more by the “Ecclesia docta” than by the “Ecclesia docens;” … the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism;…
[A]t one time the Pope, at other times the patriarchal, metropolitan, and other great sees, at other times general councils, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth; while, on the other hand, it was the Christian people who, under Providence, were the ecclesiastical strength of Athanasius, Hilary, Eusebius of Vercellæ, and other great solitary confessors, who would have failed without them.

Such a time has come again. We must face this reality — without despair but rather with complete faith in the promise of Christ that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church. The Church will survive even this pontificate.