Two minutes into the press briefing at the Vatican press office today, Fr. Lombardi announced that Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said he did not state that the Relatio was “shameful” as has been reported widely. He said the newspaper report was in error, because he does not “speak in that style.” We await more clarification as to how such an error happened.
The second major development: Fr. Lombardi reported that “the Pope decided to act” by adding two new members to the writing committee that will synthesize the reports from the small circles of language-based discussions meeting this week. There have been loud grumbles about the makeup of the original group appointed by Pope Francis for its lack of geographic range. The two new appointments are Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa and Abp. Denis J. Hart of Melbourne.
And the third development: the new translation of paragraph #50 of the Relatio now reads, “are we capable of providing” space for homosexuals, while the first translation into English read, “welcome and accompany.” This change touched off a flurry of challenges from members of the press, because the verbs remain the same in Italian, which is the official language of the Synod. Earlier reports indicated that the translation was inaccurate and misleading.
This new translation on the section about homosexuality in the midterm report is being met with mild scorn by some journalists who viewed the change as an attempt to calm the English protests that doctrine had been abandoned.
It has been widely reported that a Cardinal Kasper of Germany dismissed much of the African interventions as concerns that are “impossible to resolve.” The German prelate has also said, according to a Zenit interview on Wednesday, that “they (Africans) should not tell us too much what we have to do.” The rumor floating about the press office is that Kasper’s comment touched off a small vortex within the synod. The subtext is that Cdl. Kasper worries that the Africans are opposed to his themes of communion for divorced and civilly married. African and Asian bishops also want a more doctrinally faithful pastoral approach for homosexuals.
Perhaps this morning’s addition of Cdl. Napier of South Africa to the writing committee is coincidental. Some, however, speculate that it was engineered by prelates who believe that the perspective of the non-Western bishops is a critical contribution to the synod deliberations. The challenge to remain Catholic makes the heroic witness of the Africans all the more significant—they have not been persecuted by social pressure to conform, rather they have maintained their faith in the face of violence, beheadings, and burned villages; their bishops, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, have “mopped up the blood of their people”.
Cardinal Dolan also reports that during the synod he has been inspired by the African bishops. “We in the west” are tempted to dilute the teachings, to worry about our popularity. However, said Cdl. Dolan, the Africans know they are not called to be popular but “to propose the truth”. The American cardinal declared the African testimonies as “prophetic.” It is worth three minutes to view Cardinal Dolan’s remarks in a brief video on his blog.
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