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21-Aug-14 - Saudi Arabia's Highest Religious Authority Condemns Islamic State

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh Says Group is Islam's "Enemy Number One" By Staff ROME, August 21, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaz...

21-Aug-14 - Pope Tells African Nuns to Serve With an 'Undivided Heart'

Catholic Religious Sisters of ACWECA Receive Personal Message From Francis By Staff Reporter VATICAN CITY, August 21, 2014 (Zenit.org) - As Pope Francis urges religious wo...

21-Aug-14 - Pope Francis Announces Theme of Message for 48th World Day of Peace on January 1

Its Title to Be: "Slaves No More, But Brothers and Sisters" VATICAN CITY, August 21, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Below is the communique issued this morning by the Pontifical Counci...

21-Aug-14 - Pope Meets With His Personal Envoy to Iraq

Cardinal Filoni Back in Rome After Week-Long Visit to Suffering Minorities By Staff Reporter VATICAN CITY, August 21, 2014 (Zenit.org) - The Vatican announced that this mo...

Bridgeport bishop says lifelong 'path of beauty' began with his parents

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2018 / 11:52 am (CNA).- “Other than faith,” Bishop Frank Caggiano reminisced, “the gifts of how I was raised and who I was raised by are the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life.”

“The most inspiring people in my life were my two parents, without a doubt,” Caggiano added. “Without a doubt.”

Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a delegate to the 2018 Synod of Bishops, discussing young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. He told CNA that his own youth was shaped by the lessons of his parents.

“My father was a longshoreman. My father unloaded ships. My father had a third-grade education. He did not speak English very well. And yet at a time when in the docks of Brooklyn it was common to steal, my father never came home with a blessed thing.”

“The two things my father spoke about always were integrity and respect,” the bishop said.

“A warrior, a courageous witness, ‘you got to stand by your guns, even if it costs you your life’- That was my father.”

While he praised his father, Caggiano, 59, minced no words about his mother: “My mother was a saint...Simple as that.”

He told CNA that while both parents taught him lessons he continues to carry, he brought especially his mother’s inspiration to Rome this month, where his short synod speech emphasized beauty.

“All of this animation in my mind about beauty began with my mother,” he said.

Beauty “was the engagement of the heart in faith. It was the piety. It was the gentility. It was-- the house itself-- you knew the seasons of the Church’s year in my house. It was the ritual. It was the traditions that we had. In my mind, all of that is wrapped up in beauty. The conveyance of meaning apart from that written word-- that’s beauty. And that was my mom.”

During his synod speech, Caggiano said bishops “must unlock the power of beauty, which touches and captures the heart, precisely by utilizing the many opportunities now afforded by digital communication and social media to accompany young people to experience beauty in service of the Gospel.”

He told CNA that beauty is an important way to evangelize contemporary young people who “wonder whether or not they are lovable or loved.”

“When you encounter beauty it reflects back who you are,” he said. “Beauty is the encounter with the insight that you are beautiful.”

“The most beautiful image of the Lord is the Lord crucified, because he looks back and says ‘in my physical ugliness and my suffering—that is what you are worth.’ That’s what we’re missing.”

Caggiano said that beauty-- in liturgy, art, music, poetry, and in new forms and mediums offered by digital technology-- captures hearts.

“Try to imagine the first time you fell in love. The two immediate responses to falling in love are ‘I want to know about this person,’ and ‘I want to spend time with this person.’”

“If we can have the moment of being captivated by Christ,” he said, “and then encounter the path of goodness and the path of truth- then you begin a lifelong journey.”

The bishop said that the ongoing Vatican synod cannot by itself prescribe the best ways to evangelize young people through beauty. His hope is that the synod will encourage dioceses and episcopal conferences to experiment with ways to evangelize with beauty.

The Diocese of Bridgeport, which Caggiano has led since 2013, has focused on finding ways to reach young people through “the power of image” on social media, along with an online catechetical institute that aims to marry intellectual formation with images and video, and by offering pilgrimages for young people.

"Pilgrimages for young adults are a powerful way to engage with beauty," the bishop told CNA. He said that the diocese has received grants allowing young people to go to the Holy Land and on other pilgrimages even if they are unable to pay for the trip.

Caggiano said that donors support those trips because they see the fruit. He shared the story of a young woman who accompanied him to the Holy Land, and despite beginning the trip uncertain about faith, began going to Mass daily, and had a powerful conversion to deeper faith.

“Pilgrimage is an act of beauty.”

Beauty, Caggiano said, must also characterize Catholic liturgy. He said that after a diocesan synod three years ago, a small commission begin revising sacramental norms and liturgical policies in the diocese, with careful attention to the importance of beauty. A new policy document is set to be released later this year.

“It will cause a great stir,” he said, because it will call attention to ways in which greater reverence is needed in the diocese.

He told CNA that “how we conduct ourselves at the liturgy can reveal” something about what priests and other ministers believe about the importance of worship.

To foster a greater spirit of reverence among priests, Caggiano is planning to launch next month the “Confraternity of St. John Vianney,” an association of priests, including himself, who will commit to celebrating Mass daily, regular public and private participation in adoration of the Eucharist, and regular sacramental confession.

He said plans for the group are still developing, and that he hopes it will grow “organically.”

“We are going to sit before the Lord and let him be our teacher.”

“There is a natural stance that flows from a spirituality that is embedded in the belief in the real presence,” he said, adding that he aims to help priests develop deeper Eucharistic spiritualities.

Caggiano said the synod of bishops has helped him to develop other pastoral ideas he has been considering. His goal, he said, is to help young people to better know Jesus Christ.

“An encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can be truth, beauty, or goodness.”

“It’s the middle path, the way of beauty, that I think is the most interesting. It’s the glue between the two. So what’s going to capture a young person’s imagination? That’s the question in my mind.”

“The path of beauty,” he concluded, “can be a path of awakening.”

 

Bridgeport bishop says lifelong 'path of beauty' began with his parents

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2018 / 11:52 am (CNA).- “Other than faith,” Bishop Frank Caggiano reminisced, “the gifts of how I was raised and who I was raised by are the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life.”

“The most inspiring people in my life were my two parents, without a doubt,” Caggiano added. “Without a doubt.”

Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a delegate to the 2018 Synod of Bishops, discussing young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. He told CNA that his own youth was shaped by the lessons of his parents.

“My father was a longshoreman. My father unloaded ships. My father had a third-grade education. He did not speak English very well. And yet at a time when in the docks of Brooklyn it was common to steal, my father never came home with a blessed thing.”

“The two things my father spoke about always were integrity and respect,” the bishop said.

“A warrior, a courageous witness, ‘you got to stand by your guns, even if it costs you your life’- That was my father.”

While he praised his father, Caggiano, 59, minced no words about his mother: “My mother was a saint...Simple as that.”

He told CNA that while both parents taught him lessons he continues to carry, he brought especially his mother’s inspiration to Rome this month, where his short synod speech emphasized beauty.

“All of this animation in my mind about beauty began with my mother,” he said.

Beauty “was the engagement of the heart in faith. It was the piety. It was the gentility. It was-- the house itself-- you knew the seasons of the Church’s year in my house. It was the ritual. It was the traditions that we had. In my mind, all of that is wrapped up in beauty. The conveyance of meaning apart from that written word-- that’s beauty. And that was my mom.”

During his synod speech, Caggiano said bishops “must unlock the power of beauty, which touches and captures the heart, precisely by utilizing the many opportunities now afforded by digital communication and social media to accompany young people to experience beauty in service of the Gospel.”

He told CNA that beauty is an important way to evangelize contemporary young people who “wonder whether or not they are lovable or loved.”

“When you encounter beauty it reflects back who you are,” he said. “Beauty is the encounter with the insight that you are beautiful.”

“The most beautiful image of the Lord is the Lord crucified, because he looks back and says ‘in my physical ugliness and my suffering—that is what you are worth.’ That’s what we’re missing.”

Caggiano said that beauty-- in liturgy, art, music, poetry, and in new forms and mediums offered by digital technology-- captures hearts.

“Try to imagine the first time you fell in love. The two immediate responses to falling in love are ‘I want to know about this person,’ and ‘I want to spend time with this person.’”

“If we can have the moment of being captivated by Christ,” he said, “and then encounter the path of goodness and the path of truth- then you begin a lifelong journey.”

The bishop said that the ongoing Vatican synod cannot by itself prescribe the best ways to evangelize young people through beauty. His hope is that the synod will encourage dioceses and episcopal conferences to experiment with ways to evangelize with beauty.

The Diocese of Bridgeport, which Caggiano has led since 2013, has focused on finding ways to reach young people through “the power of image” on social media, along with an online catechetical institute that aims to marry intellectual formation with images and video, and by offering pilgrimages for young people.

"Pilgrimages for young adults are a powerful way to engage with beauty," the bishop told CNA. He said that the diocese has received grants allowing young people to go to the Holy Land and on other pilgrimages even if they are unable to pay for the trip.

Caggiano said that donors support those trips because they see the fruit. He shared the story of a young woman who accompanied him to the Holy Land, and despite beginning the trip uncertain about faith, began going to Mass daily, and had a powerful conversion to deeper faith.

“Pilgrimage is an act of beauty.”

Beauty, Caggiano said, must also characterize Catholic liturgy. He said that after a diocesan synod three years ago, a small commission begin revising sacramental norms and liturgical policies in the diocese, with careful attention to the importance of beauty. A new policy document is set to be released later this year.

“It will cause a great stir,” he said, because it will call attention to ways in which greater reverence is needed in the diocese.

He told CNA that “how we conduct ourselves at the liturgy can reveal” something about what priests and other ministers believe about the importance of worship.

To foster a greater spirit of reverence among priests, Caggiano is planning to launch next month the “Confraternity of St. John Vianney,” an association of priests, including himself, who will commit to celebrating Mass daily, regular public and private participation in adoration of the Eucharist, and regular sacramental confession.

He said plans for the group are still developing, and that he hopes it will grow “organically.”

“We are going to sit before the Lord and let him be our teacher.”

“There is a natural stance that flows from a spirituality that is embedded in the belief in the real presence,” he said, adding that he aims to help priests develop deeper Eucharistic spiritualities.

Caggiano said the synod of bishops has helped him to develop other pastoral ideas he has been considering. His goal, he said, is to help young people to better know Jesus Christ.

“An encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can be truth, beauty, or goodness.”

“It’s the middle path, the way of beauty, that I think is the most interesting. It’s the glue between the two. So what’s going to capture a young person’s imagination? That’s the question in my mind.”

“The path of beauty,” he concluded, “can be a path of awakening.”

 

'Repairing God's House': Maryland parishes hold days of adoration

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Two churches in Maryland have held days Eucharistic adoration with prayers for healing from the recent scandals that have plagued the Church. St. Andrew Apostle Church in Silver Spring, along with Sacred Heart Church in La Plata, hosted a 24-hour “Day of Prayer: Repair My House” October 4-5.

About six weeks before the event, the pastors of the two parishes were discussing how to respond to the recent sexual abuse crisis and it effects both on them as priests and on their parishioners. According to Fr. Dan Leary, pastor at St. Andrew’s, “we both kind of came to this conclusion: repair my Church, repair my Church.”

Following that conversation, a program of events were held in the parishes centered around prayer, fasting, and adoration.

Since the outbreak of the recent scandals over the summer, many bishops, including Pope Francis, have called for the Church to collectively practice penance and fasting.

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the pope issued his Letter to the People of God in which he said it was “essential” that the whole Church acknowledge and respond to the wounds inflicted by the abuse crisis.

“May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled,” the Pope wrote. “A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth.”

Fr. Leary explained to CNA that many pastors have struggled in responding to the pain and confusion the recent scandals have caused their flocks.

“People are wounded, they don’t know who to turn to,” he told CNA.

“The answer is, of course, to turn to the Lord. The Church has the best medicines for spiritual injuries - in the sacraments and in the disciplines of prayer; these have power, real healing power.”

Leary told CNA that when the news of the scandals first broke, he held a listening session shortly afterwards with his parishioners, which he described as “very positive.” But, he said, many priests were asking themselves and each other how to move past simple listening.

“As shepherds, we have to lead, always lead, towards Christ. Many of us in the Washington archdiocese have had listening sessions, and that is such an important part - hearing the needs of the parish. But there comes a time where people want answers, not just listening, and what answer can we give?”

The answer, Leary said, lies in leading by example.

“There is so much power in prayer, and in acts of penance and reparation. These unify us with Christ in his love for the suffering Church. But we have to be the first ones, as priests, to show the way and to ask for our parishioners help, their prayers for us, so that we can serve them as they deserve to be served.”

Inspired by the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Leary and Fr. Lawrence Swink of Sacred Heart, hosted simultaneous days of prayer, reparation, and fasting at their two parishes on the saint’s feast day, Oct. 4.

The parishes, in the northern and southern halves of the Archdiocese of Washington, offered to serve as “poles of prayer” for the archdiocese. Parishioners and other Catholics were free to attend a Holy Hour at either parish throughout the event.

The day was focused on the Blessed Sacrament, Leary told CNA, because it is there Catholics  “will find the ultimate healing and the grace to respond to this time of pain and suffering in the Church.”

Each hour began with the Litany for Priests, composed by Cardinal Richard Cushing, to offer prayers for the ministry of priests.

Leary called the litany “very powerful” and believes it is particularly important to pray for priests during this time, and he said it has been a focus in his own parish since 2009.

He told CNA that these prayers have “borne tremendous fruit, especially the Litany for Priests,” and have been “so effective in helping people to understand the beauty, the dignity of the priesthood.”

Understanding the priesthood, Leary told CNA, is crucial for Catholics to gain a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Otherwise, it’s just a man sitting there listening to their sins,” he said.

“But if they see it as a priest, who sits in persona Christi, and then the Mass is an act of sacrifice in persona Christi, their faith will elevate.”

Leary hopes that other churches in the area will be inspired by the event and host their own versions. St. Andrew Apostle plans on hosting a 40-hour Eucharistic Adoration around the feast of St. Andrew, which is celebrated on November 30. This event will also include prayer intentions for priests.

'Repairing God's House': Maryland parishes hold days of adoration

Washington D.C., Oct 14, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Two churches in Maryland have held days Eucharistic adoration with prayers for healing from the recent scandals that have plagued the Church. St. Andrew Apostle Church in Silver Spring, along with Sacred Heart Church in La Plata, hosted a 24-hour “Day of Prayer: Repair My House” October 4-5.

About six weeks before the event, the pastors of the two parishes were discussing how to respond to the recent sexual abuse crisis and it effects both on them as priests and on their parishioners. According to Fr. Dan Leary, pastor at St. Andrew’s, “we both kind of came to this conclusion: repair my Church, repair my Church.”

Following that conversation, a program of events were held in the parishes centered around prayer, fasting, and adoration.

Since the outbreak of the recent scandals over the summer, many bishops, including Pope Francis, have called for the Church to collectively practice penance and fasting.

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the pope issued his Letter to the People of God in which he said it was “essential” that the whole Church acknowledge and respond to the wounds inflicted by the abuse crisis.

“May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled,” the Pope wrote. “A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth.”

Fr. Leary explained to CNA that many pastors have struggled in responding to the pain and confusion the recent scandals have caused their flocks.

“People are wounded, they don’t know who to turn to,” he told CNA.

“The answer is, of course, to turn to the Lord. The Church has the best medicines for spiritual injuries - in the sacraments and in the disciplines of prayer; these have power, real healing power.”

Leary told CNA that when the news of the scandals first broke, he held a listening session shortly afterwards with his parishioners, which he described as “very positive.” But, he said, many priests were asking themselves and each other how to move past simple listening.

“As shepherds, we have to lead, always lead, towards Christ. Many of us in the Washington archdiocese have had listening sessions, and that is such an important part - hearing the needs of the parish. But there comes a time where people want answers, not just listening, and what answer can we give?”

The answer, Leary said, lies in leading by example.

“There is so much power in prayer, and in acts of penance and reparation. These unify us with Christ in his love for the suffering Church. But we have to be the first ones, as priests, to show the way and to ask for our parishioners help, their prayers for us, so that we can serve them as they deserve to be served.”

Inspired by the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. Leary and Fr. Lawrence Swink of Sacred Heart, hosted simultaneous days of prayer, reparation, and fasting at their two parishes on the saint’s feast day, Oct. 4.

The parishes, in the northern and southern halves of the Archdiocese of Washington, offered to serve as “poles of prayer” for the archdiocese. Parishioners and other Catholics were free to attend a Holy Hour at either parish throughout the event.

The day was focused on the Blessed Sacrament, Leary told CNA, because it is there Catholics  “will find the ultimate healing and the grace to respond to this time of pain and suffering in the Church.”

Each hour began with the Litany for Priests, composed by Cardinal Richard Cushing, to offer prayers for the ministry of priests.

Leary called the litany “very powerful” and believes it is particularly important to pray for priests during this time, and he said it has been a focus in his own parish since 2009.

He told CNA that these prayers have “borne tremendous fruit, especially the Litany for Priests,” and have been “so effective in helping people to understand the beauty, the dignity of the priesthood.”

Understanding the priesthood, Leary told CNA, is crucial for Catholics to gain a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Otherwise, it’s just a man sitting there listening to their sins,” he said.

“But if they see it as a priest, who sits in persona Christi, and then the Mass is an act of sacrifice in persona Christi, their faith will elevate.”

Leary hopes that other churches in the area will be inspired by the event and host their own versions. St. Andrew Apostle plans on hosting a 40-hour Eucharistic Adoration around the feast of St. Andrew, which is celebrated on November 30. This event will also include prayer intentions for priests.

Pope Francis at canonization Mass: 'Jesus is radical'

Vatican City, Oct 14, 2018 / 05:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- "Jesus is radical,” Pope Francis said in his homily at the canonization of Pope Paul VI, Oscar Romero, and five other new saints.

“He gives all and he asks all: he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart,” the pope told the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Oct. 14.

Christ “gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange?” the pope asked.

Francis officially recognized Pope Paul VI, Oscar Romero, Vincent Romano, Francesco Spinelli, Nunzio Sulprizio, Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, and Maria Katharina Kasper as saints at the Mass.

“All these saints, in different contexts, put today’s word into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind. May the Lord help us to imitate their example,” Pope Francis said at their canonization.

Oscar Romero, who was beatified by Pope Francis in El Salvador in 2015, was the archbishop of the nation's capital city of San Salvador. He was shot while celebrating Mass March 24, 1980, during the birth of a civil war between leftist guerrilla forces and the dictatorial government of the right.

An outspoken critic of the violence and injustices being committed at the time, Romero was declared a martyr who was killed in hatred of the faith for his vocal defense of human rights.

Saint Oscar Romero “left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said in his homily Sunday.

“Let us ask ourselves where we are in our story of love with God. Do we content ourselves with a few commandments or do we follow Jesus as lovers, really prepared to leave behind something for him?” the pope asked.

Pope Saint Paul VI, like St. Paul, his namesake, “spent his life for Christ’s Gospel, crossing new boundaries and becoming its witness in proclamation and in dialogue, a prophet of a Church turned outwards, looking to those far away and taking care of the poor,” Francis said.

As pope, Paul VI oversaw much of the Second Vatican Council, which had been opened by Pope St. John XXIII, and in 1969 promulgated a new Roman Missal. He died in 1978, and was beatified by Pope Francis Oct. 19, 2014.

Apart from his role in the council, Paul VI is most widely known for his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was published in 1968 and reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception in wake of the sexual revolution. This year marks the 50th anniversary the encyclical.

“Pope Saint Paul VI wrote: ‘It is indeed in the midst of their distress that our fellow men need to know joy, to hear its song,’” Pope Francis said.

“Today Jesus invites us to return to the source of joy, which is the encounter with him, the courageous choice to risk everything to follow him, the satisfaction of leaving something behind in order to embrace his way. The saints have travelled this path,” he continued.

The pope encouraged Catholics to imitate the saints’ detachment,  “Is Jesus enough for us or do we look for many worldly securities?”

“Let us ask for the grace always to leave things behind for love of the Lord: to leave behind wealth, the yearning for status and power, structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world,” he said.

“Without a leap forward in love, our life and our Church become sick from ‘complacency and self-indulgence,’” he continued.

“The problem is on our part: our having too much, our wanting too much suffocates our hearts and makes us incapable of loving,” the pope said.

At the Sunday Angelus following the Mass, Pope Francis greeted Queen Sofia of Spain and the presidents of Chile, El Salvador, Panama, and Italy, who attended the canonization Mass.

The canonizations took place midway through the 2018 Synod of Bishops on the topic of young people, the faith and vocational discernment from Oct. 3-28.

Analysis: Will bishops push for clarity on the synod’s procedural rules?

Vatican City, Oct 13, 2018 / 06:13 pm (CNA).- Recent changes to canon law have left some bishops attending the 2018 Synod of Bishops uncertain about the meeting’s procedural rules. Unanswered questions about the synod’s norms could have significant effect on how the meeting’s final documents are regarded in the Church, and by the synod fathers themselves.

The synod’s undersecretary, Bishop Fabio Fabene, told reporters in early October that because of changes Pope Francis made to synod policies Sept. 15, the Vatican had not yet decided on the exact rules for this month’s synod.

Asked whether synod participants would be able to vote on individual provisions of the document as they have in prior meetings, Fabene said it would depend on what emerged from the synod, adding that “as we move along, we will decide.”

But two weeks into the gathering, decisions about the synod’s procedural and voting rules have not yet been announced. Several synod fathers have told CNA they are confused about the rules, or uncertain about how the synod’s voting process will actually work.

In the absence of clear norms, some observers have begun to ask whether the 2018 synod will prove to be an authentic consultation of the world’s bishops, or an exercise only in the appearance of “synodality.”

Synods are meetings of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope. The discussion at a synod is framed around an instrumentum laboris- a working document- developed before the meeting by a small working committee of Vatican officials and diocesan bishops.

During a synod, bishops make comments and observations on the working document, and meet in small discussion groups to propose changes to the text, or to suggest new texts and additional areas for consideration.

The 2018 synod, a meeting of 267 bishops and other Church leaders, is tasked with developing a document on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.  

The modern form of synods in the Latin Catholic Church began with the 1965 promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s Apostolica sollicitudo. That document established some processes and procedures governing the work of a synod, as did revisions made in 1969 and 1971. The 1983 Code of Canon Law gave additional clarity.  

But the 2006 rescript Ordo synodi episcoporum established the most detailed procedural rules for every aspect of a synod of bishops, among them the election of members; the appointment, work, and authority of the general secretariat and general relator; and the voting on proposals (modi) and documents, including the points to be included in the final report.

Ordo synodi episcoporum required that modi and documents be voted on according to a procedure allowing bishops to make additional amendments, and delineating specific cases when a 2/3 majority of voting bishops would be required, and others cases that would require only an absolute majority (50 percent+1) of bishops.

According to those procedural rules, synod fathers were able to vote on proposals made for amendments or additions to the document, and eventually to vote on their approval of the document as a whole; those votes would require 2/3s majorities.

Though these procedural norms were tweaked in recent years, they remained largely intact. But on Sept. 15, they were abrogated- revoked- when Pope Francis promulgated a new document governing synods, the apostolic constitution Episcopalis communio.

Episcopalis communio eliminates nearly all specific procedural norms pertaining to the synod, including the established procedures for proposing amendments and for voting, and sets no specific approval thresholds for documents generated by the synod.

Instead of establishing specific rules, the September document calls on the General Secretary for Synod of Bishops, now Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, to issue instructions on those matters, and “regulations for each Synod Assembly."

No such instructions or regulations seem to have been issued for the current synod, at least not publicly.

The general rules promulgated in September do explain that the synod should seek “moral unanimity insofar as this is possible” on a final document written by the drafting committee, and that “approval of the members” should be obtained before that document is presented to the pope, who is newly able to promulgate it directly as an expression of his ordinary magisterium.

Neither “moral unanimity” nor “approval by the members” are defined in the document, nor are they technical terms in canon law. At the moment, the General Secretary is able to interpret them according to his own judgment, and is bound to seek “moral unanimity,” whatever he decides that to mean, only insofar as he judges it to be possible. While the document says that particular law can determine how approval is to be sought, that particular law is precisely what has not yet been issued.

Nevertheless, Baldisseri has given some indication of how he understands the idea of “moral unanimity.”

“It is a matter of achieving a consensus that clearly goes beyond 50 percent. However, there is no legal definition. Moral unanimity is not defined by numbers,” he said Sept. 17, according to La Croix International.

Baldisseri and other Vatican officials have declined to indicate how much more than 50 percent would indicate “moral unanimity” among the bishops.

In the absence of particular regulations, the General Secretary is no longer obliged to hold votes on modi proposed to the drafting committee, as he was under the policies of the 2006 norms.  He must now only hear from the discussion groups before deciding how to proceed, with a considerable amount of latitude.

Absent regulations to the contrary, the General Secretary is at liberty to conduct, for example, only one yea or nay vote on a final synod document prepared by the drafting committee, without opening the floor for debate, or holding votes on particular sections or proposals offered by the bishops.

Furthermore, because of the September document’s caveat that moral unanimity might be unobtainable, the General Secretary may consider the document to be approved with anything more than 50 percent of votes, regardless of whether the bishops are obviously divided on controversial questions. Subsequent to such a vote, he may present a document to the Holy Father for approval as a part of the Church’s ordinary magisterium.

The procedures used at the 2018 synod are likely to be used again at the 2019 Special Synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region, and in synods subsequent to that as well.

Cardinal Wifrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, told CNA Oct. 13 that in his estimation, the synod is proceeding along the same course as the previous eight synods he has attended. He added that while he has trust in the synod process and in organizers, he is uncertain about how voting will work in the later stages of the meeting. Napier mentioned that the process used in past synods, the one governed by the 2006 norms, “worked quite well.”   

Although Pope Francis has technically abrogated them, it still seems reasonable that the pope might intend for the procedural norms established by prior law to largely govern the proceedings of this synod, even if Baldisseri’s remarks are decidedly more circumspect. Certainly, the meeting has proceeded to this point according to the ordinary way of doing things. But the synod fathers have good reason to seek clarity.

As Napier told CNA Saturday: “It’s when we get into the hall [for final deliberations] that I think that process still has to be explained to us more clearly.”

It seems unlikely that many synod fathers will be content with the ambiguous answers offered thus far by synod organizers. Few are likely to consider it fair if they are asked to continue working, getting closer to final deliberations, with no real understanding of the meeting’s rules. And observers, especially the pope’s critics, are likely to begin questioning the legitimacy of the synod’s proceedings if it is not governed by a clearly defined process.

It could also become a detriment to the credibility of the synod, and even the communion of the synod fathers, if voting rules were to become a point of division and rancor at the last minute. For those reasons, synod fathers may judge it better that norms be discussed and promulgated as soon as possible, so that the final deliberations are not clouded by discontment or confusion about the rules.

To some observers, the most critical issue is not just that the rules be clarified, but that those rules reflect a genuinely “synodal” approach to the assessment of recommendations to the pope.

Questions have been raised frequently during this synod about whether the final texts are already a fait accompli, devised mostly by curial officials before the meeting began, and likely to be passed with only very few modifications from the synod fathers. If the synod fathers are not permitted to vote on sections of the documents in isolation, or to meaningfully propose amendments, there will be an ongoing debate about whether the final texts reflect the authentic consensus of the synod fathers themselves. Pope Francis is likely eager to avoid such a debate.

Of course, doctrine isn’t determined democratically, and the function of this synod is only to advise. But some observers say that if the pope has convened the synod to hear the views of the participating bishops, taking a real measure of consensus should matter. It seems clear that if the pope wants to ensure he is getting advice from the synod hall, instead of from the permanent secretariat, he may decide to insist that Baldisseri take a meaningful measure of episcopal reactions to each aspect of the proposed synodal documents.

The bishops most in support of the pope’s efforts to reform the synod are likely to begin advocating for clarity, and for the regulations called for by the September document, as soon as possible. The promulgation of those regulations, along with open debate and the possibility for synod fathers to amend procedure by majority vote, would likely quell the critics who argue that the September norms make the synod a less democratic affair.

There is no norm in Episcopalis communio allowing for democratic objections to procedural law, unlike the 2006 synod norms that allowed for bishops to raise objections to procedures, and to resolve “questions of procedure” through the vote of an absolute majority. Still, it is reasonable to expect Pope Francis, who has been widely praised for active and collaborative engagement with the synod, to communicate the synod’s voting rules with enough time to allow for open and free discussion about them among the synod fathers.

When he established the synod of bishops, Pope Paul VI told bishops that his ministry depended upon the “consolation of their presence, the help of their wisdom and experience, the support of their counsel, and the voice of their authority.” In the week ahead, the wisdom and experience of the 2018 Synod of Bishops seems likely to be deployed to help the pope fairly and transparently govern the synod process itself.