Both Kath.net and Edward Pentin are reporting that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of secretariat of the synod of bishops, ordered the interception of over a hundred copies of the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ, which had been mailed to participants in last October’s Extraordinary Synod.
The book, which consists of essays by five Cardinals—including Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller—and four other scholars, was written in response to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s book The Gospel of the Family, and defends the Church’s teaching that Catholics who have been divorced and civilly remarried cannot receive Holy Communion. It was edited by Fr. Robert Dodaro, OSA, who was interviewed about it by CWR last September.
Reliable and high level sources allege the head of secretariat of the synod of bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, ordered they be intercepted because they would “interfere with the synod.”
A source told me that Baldisseri was “furious” the book had been mailed to the participants and ordered staff at the Vatican post office to ensure they did not reach the Paul VI Hall.
Kath.net reports that around 200 copies of the book were mailed, but only a few apparently made it into the hands of the proper recipients, a report that has also been confirmed by Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, of Ignatius Press. Pentin states that the books were mailed through “the proper channels within the Italian and Vatican postal systems”, but that Baldisseri claimed they were mailed “irregularly,” and so the interception of the books was legitimate.
In other words, Baldisseri has apparently admitted that the books were taken; the dispute is over why they were taken. Pentin further reports that the books were apparently destroyed after being taken.
Three months ago, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said he knew nothing about allegations regarding the stolen/intercepted/confiscated books, and dismissed the sources for the allegations as not being “serious and objective.” Pentin, a veteran and respected Vatican reporter who recorded a controversial interview with Kasper during the Synod, concludes his report by stating that since December, “the allegations have become more widely known and have been corroborated at the highest levels of the church.”
What to make of this? First, as Fr. Z notes, these allegations involve a serious crime:
When the organizers of the Synod realized what had been sent to the members of the Synod, someone removed all the envelopes from the members’ mail boxes!
That’s called theft. That’s called illegal. They stole people’s mail. Please correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t that a crime in, I think, every country? The Vatican City State… that’s a country… isn’t it.
Secondly, it adds to the already much-debated and controversial nature of the Synod, which was marked by discord, accusations of manipulation, and a mid-Synod report that sparked anger and accusations that there was a concerted effort being made to push through statements that were pro-homosexual and contrary to established Church teaching. (See CWR’s compilation of some four dozen articles, reports, and interviews about the Synod.)
Third, it raises serious questions about the motives and leadership of Cardinal Baldisseri, who has already gone on record with some contentious statements apparently aimed at those defending Church teaching on marriage, divorce, remarriage, and Communion. A month ago, he made the following remarks to Aleteia:
“Therefore, there’s no reason to be scandalized that there is a cardinal or a theologian saying something that’s different than the so-called ‘common doctrine.’ This doesn’t imply a going against. It means reflecting. Because dogma has its own evolution; that is a development, not a change.”
The cardinal added that it is “right that there is a reaction” and that “this is exactly what we want today. We want to discuss things, but not in order to call things into doubt, but rather to view it in a new context, and with a new awareness. Otherwise, what’s theology doing but repeating what was said in the last century, or 20 centuries ago?”
He further stated that “discussions are welcome,” although one has to wonder how such a welcoming approach can be squared with the decision to intercept and perhaps destroy copies of a book that is a part of those discussions.
Fourth, it raises questions about the transparency and openness that supposedly mark the current pontificate. If these allegations are true, will they be properly addressed? If not, it may well raise further questions about the reforms that Francis is pursuing in the Curia. Put simply, are these the sort of actions that a pope wishes to be taking place, especially after having renounced “the sickness of rivalry and vainglory” during his Christmas address to the Curia?
Finally, what does this indicate about the motives and judgment of those who are apparently intent on not only shutting down real discussion and open debate—at both last year’s Synod and the approaching Synod of Bishops—but who will engage in such heavy-handed tactics in order to get their way? Remaining in the Truth of Christ is both a work of scholarship and of pastoral engagement; it is not an angry, polemical screed or the result of a bullying strategy. It takes seriously Pope Francis’ call for open discussion, a call that some, apparently, at least in this instance, seem uninterested in following.
UPDATE (Feb. 27, 2015): Canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters weighs in: “It was worse than a crime—it was a blunder”