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Pope approves new constitution for Synod of Bishops

Episcopalis Communio, promulgated by the pope on Sept. 15, establishes that the final document of a synod assembly, drafted and approved by a special commission, can to be considered part of the ordinary magisterium.

Vatican City, Sep 18, 2018 / 08:30 am (CNA).- In a new apostolic constitution, Pope Francis has reformed the Synod of Bishops, creating a mechanism for the assembly’s final document to be included in official Church teaching.

Episcopalis Communio, promulgated by the pope on Sept. 15, establishes that the final document of a synod assembly, drafted and approved by a special commission, can to be considered part of the ordinary magisterium – that is, the official teaching of the Church – if it receives a particular level of papal approval.

The constitution does not require the publication of a post-synodal papal document to make its conclusions authoritative, though these have traditionally followed synodal sessions.

The most recent synod, which was held on the theme of the family, was followed by the 2015 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, presented the new constitution on Sept. 18.

Baldisseri told journalists Tuesday that the pope may wish to publish a document of his own following October’s synod on young people, but that the new norms allow him to forego it in favor of adopting the synod’s final document as his own.

Should Francis decide to adopt the final synodal document, it would be published with his signature and those of the members of the synod.

The norms provide for a process similar to that followed during the 2015 synod on the family – by which a commission creates the final synodal document, before it is put before the members of the synod for a vote.

This commission is composed of the relator general and general secretary of the particular session of the synod, the secretary general of the synod’s permanent secretariat – currently Cardinal Baldisseri –  and other members elected by the synod itself. To these, the pope may also add his own personal appointees

Regarding how the final document is to be approved by the membership, Episcopalis Communio refers back to the current “particular law.” Accordingly, individual provisions to be adopted in the final document will still require the approval of two-thirds of the synod’s members, while a simple majority suffices to reject an item.

The new constitution does, however, urge the synod fathers to seek “moral unanimity” whenever possible.

Once the final document has been prepared and voted on, it is presented to the Holy Father for his approval and publication. At this point, the pope can choose to grant a particular kind of approval to the document, called “in forma specifica” in canon law, by which it would become an act of the pope and part of the ordinary papal magisterium.

Speaking at a press conference in Rome, Cardinal Baldisseri said that the process of receiving this specific papal approval does not require a strictly judicial standard, or depend upon a particular margin of approval by the synod fathers.

Quoting St. John Paul II, the new constitution says that while the synod “normally has a merely consultative function,” this “does not diminish its importance.” Rather, the vote of the synod fathers “if morally unanimous, has an ecclesial quality that overcomes the merely formal aspect of the consultative vote.” This, Baldisseri explained, is more important that a specific margin of voting.

Other sections of the constitution substantially affirm recent synodal processes and regulations, including on the synod’s composition and structure, which members have voting rights, and the three distinct synodal phases of preparation, assembly, and implementation.

In the preparatory phase, information on the announced theme of the synod is gathered through study commissions, local consultations conducted through the diocesan bishops, and a pre-synod meeting – if one is convoked. The new norms also provide the option for such pre-synodal meetings to be held at a regional level.

The second phase is the actual assembly of the synodal fathers and other members, while the third phase is the implementation of the synod’s conclusions in the particular Churches.

Episcopalis Communio underlines the importance of bishops listening to the voice of lay Catholics, saying that “the Synod of Bishops must increasingly become a privileged instrument for listening to the People of God.”

“Although in its composition [the Synod] appears as an essentially episcopal organism, the Synod does not therefore live separate from the rest of the faithful. On the contrary, it is a suitable instrument to give voice to the whole People of God precisely through the Bishops, constituted by God as ‘authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church,’” the document states.

This principle is recognized in the canonical norms of the constitution itself. Article 7 of Episcopalis Communio states that the right of the faithful to send their own contributions for the synod directly to the secretary general “remains integral” to the process.

The Synod of Bishops acts as a temporary and occasional advisory body to the pope on issues of pastoral importance to the Catholic Church. It was established by Bl. Pope Paul VI with the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo in 1965.

While the synod itself is a temporary body called into being by the pope, it has a permanent general secretariat in the Roman Curia.

There are three types of synod assemblies a pope can call: ordinary, extraordinary, and special. Next month’s meeting will be an extraordinary assembly, as was 2015’s synod on the family.

A special assembly is usually convoked to discuss an issue related to a particular geographical region, such as the upcoming special assembly on the Amazon, which will take place in October 2019.


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17 Comments

  1. My first reaction was, great, now the “thou shalt’s” are going to be determined at a lower level now, giving the Pope a way out when these Synods change Church teaching (oh, and they will). And then after thinking about it, with all the things that the Pope could (SHOULD) address, why did this come out? Because we needed to be prepared to accept, acceptance now mandated by the Pope, whatever comes out of the Youth Synod next month. There shall be no discussion, no opportunity for the laity to address any particular item in the final report, no recourse whatsoever (well, aside from prayer that is) for those of us who may have concerns about Synod declarations. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place; another pawn is moved in this game to change the earthly Church against God.

  2. I’m thinking that this might not be consequential.

    If anything that is recently approved to be of the ordinary magisterium which can’t be reconciled with organic development and the development of doctrine, history will reject the new teaching.

  3. “the Synod of Bishops must increasingly become a privileged instrument for listening to the People of God.” It would be so much more comforting if this statement was followed by the words “with all due consideration and reverence to the doctrine of the Church”

  4. Nero plays his fiddle, Rome burns, and mums the word!
    The people who cared a few weeks ago no longer give credence to this crew, and the people who didn’t care a few weeks ago are unlikely to hear of this absurd “Episcopalis Communio.”
    Utterly ludicrous.
    But on second thought, might it infer that a Synod of Bishops can demand the resignation of the bishop of Rome? That would give it some bite.

  5. Perhaps the members of the Synod of Bishops should be purified before this takes effect. There seems to be a fair number of them who are protecting, committing, or advocating evil.

  6. So, the same crowd of cowardly, lying, corrupt, vulpine bishops who have been protecting homosexual rapists and homosexual networks for decades are now going to be given power to determine “magisterial teaching” for the helpless faithful in their dioceses and nations. With every year that passes, especially in this catastrophic pontificate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, it becomes more and more certain that the Vatican II Catholic Church is a new religion

    • Paul,
      Conflating Vatican II with Francis is an egregious error with consequences. If the tremendous influence of evil that occurred in Western civilization in the 1960s had never happened, the effects of Vatican II possibly could have devoured Protestantism.

      • Your comment is in error as a matter of secular and sacred history. Catholicism was born in a pagan Roman Empire the perversions and crimes of which dwarfed the 1960’s. Catholicism not only thrives in such inauspicious conditions, it even conquered and supplanted the universal cultural paganism. Catholicism has collapsed since Vatican II, as even a cursory view of the articles on this site and others demonstrate on a daily basis. In fact, one could argue, as many in the Church have, that Vatican II was a powerful catalyst for the evil of the 1960’s by “opening the windows” to what Paul VI famously declared was the “smoke of Satan” that had entered the Church.

      • Insofar as “conflating Vatican II with with Francis” is concerned, the claim and the “egregious error” are entirely yours, not mine since my comment above makes no such claim. The claim in my comment is that the clerical homosexual moral crisis now mushrooming throughout the Church never would have reached such depths had the doctrinal crisis inaugurated at Vatican II not happened first.

  7. Only the creepiest of Popes needs to redefine how something enters the magisterium and only if he is up to no good. So now of they can manipulate a synod to say that Jesus is not divine he isn’t?

  8. Ah, listening!

    Will Bishops learn to listen the way Archbishop Bergoglio listened in Argentina to victims of sexual abuse? Will they learn how to listen selectively to victims (ex. but not Fr. Grassi’s victims) the way Bergoglio now does or does not as Pope, Bishop of Rome?

    Will Bishops learn how to commission private reports defending their abuser ideological friends?

    Will they learn how to deny (blatantly lie in public when questioned in their native language with perfect clarity) that they sponsored such a report when asked on video camera, recorded in a public place, in front of many witnesses?

    Will the Bishops learn how to brusquely respond like Pope Francis did to that insistent, questioning woman from Argentina in that video available on the Internet , and say “No, I never did that” though his sponsorship of that commissioned report to defend the innocence of Fr. Grassi is a matter of public record and in fact Archbishop Bergoglio did sponsor that commission? Will there be a Synod about this and how Bishops should be like this?

    Is this the “listening” that will be core of the new Synodal Church? Suddenly free of “disordered passions?”

  9. “Is this the “listening” that will be core of the new Synodal Church? Suddenly free of “disordered passions?”

    A Synodal Church that serves to tolerate “disordered passions”, and thus disordered desires/inclinations, rather than transform them through Salvational Love, God’s Gift of Grace and Mercy, would expose itself to be a counterfeit church, due to its denial of The Unity of The Holy Ghost. We can know through both Faith and reason, “it is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”, thus Christ assures us that this counterfeit church will be “vomited out”.

  10. Why is it that the majority of bishops do nothing to stop this Pope from destroying the church? They certainly do not draw us to the Lord Jesus.
    So many corrupt Jesuits are in power now and no doubt applaud the first Jesuit Pope as he distorts truth.

  11. I am not convinced this is a change the Church actually needs at this moment in time. We need to be focused on cleaning out moral and financial corruption, and renewing efforts at evangelization, not new novelties.

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