The truth has won, but the struggle continues


Contrary to all media speculations that the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops would create a “seismic shift” in Church teaching on human sexuality and marriage, 191 Catholic bishops from all over the world recently ended their two-week discussions at the Vatican without agreeing to any such change. This did not come without a fight, nor has the world heard the last word on it. But for now orthodoxy has prevailed.

Pope Francis convened the Synod on the first week of October to take a fresh look into the Church’s evangelizing mission concerning the family. The family is “the vital building –block of society and the ecclesial community.” The Synod has two stages: the Extraordinary General Assembly of Bishops in 2014, which would “define the ‘statusquestionis’ and collect the bishops’ experiences and proposals in proclaiming and living the Gospel of the family in a credible manner;” and the Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops in 2015, which would “seek working guidelines in the pastoral care of the person and the family.”

At the outset, a document entitled Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization spelled out the task of the Synod. This was read by the Relator General, Cardinal Peter Erdo, Archbishop of Esztergom, Budapest, before the assembly began its debates. It saw the family as “the last welcoming human reality in a world determined almost exclusively by finance and technology,” and hoped that “a new culture of the family can be the starting point of a renewed human civilization.”

The Pope encouraged everyone “to speak clearly;” “no one must say, ‘this can’t be said’,” he said. And some bishops responded by saying the most unorthodox things about homosexuals and marriage. Most notable among them was German Cardinal Walter Kasper, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and author of a book on Mercy, which, according to Pope Francis, has helped him a lot.

Kasper has proposed that the Church revisit her teaching, which denies holy communion to Catholics living in an “invalid” marital union. In interviews with America magazine and the Catholic News Service in the US, La Nacion in Argentina, Salt and Light TV in Canada, and British journalist Edward Pentin, Kasper pressed on this proposal. Despite his unorthodox views, he was reported to claim the support of the Pope. His position drew sharp reactions from other bishops, including members of the Curia (the equivalent of the President’s Cabinet).

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, who came to be known as the “standard-bearer of orthodoxy” at the Synod, was reported to have called Kasper’s views “scandalous and shameful.” And Nigerian Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama engaged Kasper frontally. “We get international organizations, countries and groups which would like to entice us to deviate from our cultural practices, traditions and even our religious beliefs. And this is because of their belief that their views should be our view, their opinions and their concept of life should be ours too,” the Archbishop said.

Kasper responded by saying, “The Africans should not tell us too much what we have to do. Africa is totally different from the West. Also Asia and Muslims countries, they’re very different, especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo.”

When opinion within the Synod ratcheted sharply against him, Kasper tried to deny ever having made his statement about Africa. Whereupon British journalist Pentin played a tape recording of his interview, prompting the cardinal to issue an apology. The truth, however, is that Kasper had long advocated changes in Church teaching on marriage.

In 1993, as a bishop in Germany, he issued a pastoral letter advocating communion for the divorced and the civilly remarried. However, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), as prefect of the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith, rejected the pastoral letter in no uncertain terms.

This did not affect the theologian’s rise within the Church though. In 1999, Saint Pope John Paul II named Kasper secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity; then cardinal and prefect of the same dicastery one year later. Upon the death of St. John Paul II, he lost his position by law together with all the other members of the Curia; but Pope (now Emeritus) Benedict XVI reconfirmed him in the same position later.

The real shock at the Synod came when the interim report (the relatio post disceptationem) appeared, with the following paragraphs:

“45. Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life. The local community and pastors ought to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when children are involved or when in serious financial difficulty.”

“50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing […] them […] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?…

“52. Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons. Furthermore the Church pays special attention to […] children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.”

The inclusion of these paragraphs was a great surprise to a good number of bishops. Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, said the document was “undignified and shameful.” Cardinal-Archbishop Wilfred Napier of Durban, South Africa said, “The message is out, but it is not a true message.” Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council for Cor Unum, said, “The Church has never judged homosexual persons, but homosexual behavior and homosexual unions are grave deviations of sexuality.” Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the economic secretariat, said, “We are not giving in to the secular agenda; we’re not collapsing in a heap.”

But it took some sharp questioning by journalists in a news conference to reveal that the language on homosexuals emanated solely from the secretariat rather than from any of the 191 bishops. The press conference was presided over by Cardinal-Archbishop Peter Erdo, the relator general, who spoke in Italian; Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, the archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who spoke in Spanish; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, who spoke in English; and Archbishop Bruno Forte, of Chieti-Vasto, central Italy, the Synod’s special secretary, who also spoke in Italian. Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., Director of the Vatican Press Office, assisted.

The first explosive question on the homosexuality issue came from American Catholic Michael Voris of Church Militant TV who asked: “Are the Synod fathers proposing that there is something innate in the ‘gifts and qualities’ flowing from the sexual orientation of homosexuality? Is the Synod proposing that there is something innate in the sexual orientation that transcends and uplifts the Catholic Church, the Christian community and if so, what would those particular gifts be?”

Forte, the Synod special secretary, answered, but it did not seem to convince the journalists: “I guess what I want to express is that we must respect the dignity of every person and the fact that to be homosexual does not mean that this dignity must not be recognized and promoted. I think this is the most important point, and also the attitude of the Church to welcome persons who have homosexual orientation is based on the dignity of the person they are.”

No one asked who originally introduced the language on homosexuals into the document. But one hour, six minutes and 15 seconds into the press conference, as one Vatican insider records it, the panel of four archbishops was asked: “Does paragraph 52 (as quoted above) signify a shift in the Church’s attitude toward homosexuals and their acceptance in society?”

Father Lombardi gestured to Cardinal Erdo to answer the question. But the relator general declined. And smiling, he instead gestured toward Forte with an audible aside in Italian, “Quello che ha redatto il brano deve sapere cosa significa”—“He who drafted the passage ought to know what it means.” Ultimately, Forte went back to his point on “the dignity of the human person,” but failed to explain why the secretariat inserted such language. Whatever his answer, the cat was already out of the bag, and could no longer be recalled: it was not majority of the Synod fathers who wanted to change the Church teaching on homosexuals but some flaming liberals within the Church.

The Synod rejected the language on homosexuals by a resounding majority vote, and in the final report replaced it with the language of the Catechism, which is that the Church regards homosexuals with respect and sensitivity, but finds no basis whatsoever in comparing same-sex unions and marriage between man and woman. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and one of the “papabile” during the last conclave, said the Church welcomes homosexuals without approving them. “Like Christ with the adulteress, his response is to welcome her and then he tells her not to sin again.”

Still, despite the rejection of the proposal on homosexuals, Kasper claimed in a subsequent interview with the German newspaper Die Welt that majority are in favor of his ideas. What the “gifted” theologian seems to forget is that his proposal lost not only because the numbers were against it but above all because the proposal contradicts the truth of the Faith. What he advocates is wrong not because the Church says it is wrong; rather the Church is against it because it is wrong.

The Catholic faithful have one year until October next year to manifest renewed support for Catholic doctrine as the Church teaches it, or to shift support in favor of the new orthodoxy being proposed by Kasper and his kind. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has so clearly put it, certain things are either always right or always wrong, and this is what every majority must always respect. As a predominantly Catholic Christian nation, the Philippines can only pray that while the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod may not be able to turn stones into bread, to borrow the Pope’s mellifluous language, it will not turn bread into stone.



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  1. Para huwag malito, ginawang simple ng Panginoong Hesus ang utos ng Diyos – ito ay PAG-IBIG.

    Pag-ibig sa Dios at sa kapwa.

    Dahil ang pag-ibig ng Dios ang pinanggagalingan ng lahat wala mang isang tawo na hiwalay sa pag-ibig na ito. Ang tao, sapagkat sa loob siya ng pag-ibig ng Diyos, dapat lamang na pagsilbihan niya ang Diyos at pagsilbihan niya ang kanyang kapwa na nilikha kawangis ng Diyos.

    Hindi mahiwalay ng tao ang kanyang sarili sa utos ng Diyos napaloob siya sa pag-ibig ng Dios. Hindi ba ang Diyos ay pag-ibig?

    Kung sumpungin ng tao ang utos ng Diyos – ang pag-ibig – sisirain lamang niya ang kanyang sarili, hindi ang kautusan.

    Kaya nga, hindi pwedeng baguhin ng tao ang utos ng Diyos – ang pag-ibig.

    Ang pagsunod ng tao sa kautusan ng Diyos ay pagkakaisa, ang ginagampanan ng Holy Spirit hanggang sa kasulukuyan.

    Ang pag-ibang landas, ay paghihiwalay sa pag-ibig ng Diyos, ang pagsunod sa sariling kapalaluan at kapahamakan.

    Ngunit, it is given: the love which is God’s law contains us all. The contrary to this is only seeking the life of sin, leading to separation from God.

    Sa pagkakaalam natin, ang kasalanan ay pagsuway at paglapastangan sa pag-ibig ng Diyos. Ang suffering sa impiyerno ay kagagawan ng tao – the absence of God sa kanyang sarili which will torment him even in the afterlife.

    In the process of transgressing or destroying the law, man only succeeds in destroying himself. We must remember, only God declares I Am, Who Am. Ako ay si Ako, ang no other else.

    So can we bend the words of God for our own wishes and interpretation? What power on earth could change that? Will you blame the hierarchy of the church? Even they in the hierarchy need to conform to the law and help us understand the wisdom of God, bringing us all His children to Himself, to His Love – more powerful than the magnetic attraction or gravitational force we have known.

    God is Love, and it is His law of Love that leads us in obedience and holiness.

  2. Anima A. Agrava on

    That’s also what the secularists and liberals who infiltrated the Roman Catholic Church and want to turn it into a non-Christian association did in the deliberations of Vatican II. They were aided by their friends in the secular mass media, includng the most popular in the Western World, and here too in the Philippines.

  3. Cardinal Ratzinger in an exclusive interview with Vittorio Messori in the book The Ratzinger Report emphasized that the Catholic Church has a deposit of teachings and faith which cannot be adulterated because they came from Christ himself. The Church is His. It is not our Church that we can dispose of as we please. To Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Church has to be guided according to the blue print of the master, not man’s.

    “Hence, the ‘reforms’, the ‘renewals’ – necessary as they may be – cannot exhaust themselves in a zealous activity on our part to erect new sophisticated structures. The most that can come from a work of this kind is a Church that is ‘ours’ , to our measure, which might indeed be interesting, but which, by itself, is nevertheless not the true Church, that which sustains us with the faith, and gives us life with the sacrament….Real ‘reform’ is to strive to let what is ours disappear as much as possible so what belongs to Christ may become more visible…..What the Church needs in order to respond to the needs of man in every age, is holiness, not management.” (from The Ratzinger Report, p.53, At the Root of the Crisis: The Idea of Church)

    • i agree with your view. the church’s doctrine stood the test of time and said to be directly from the Christ himself. why some people want to change or amend them is beyond me. if they do not want to follow the doctrine of the church, they are free to get out and join the other so called ‘religious orders’. these people say that the church’s doctrine are outdated thus many catholics are joining other liberal ‘religious orders’ and proof is that many catholic churches especially in europe are almost deserted. that is not enough reason to amend the church’s doctrine. as i said, if these people does not agree with them, they are free to abandon the catholic church.

  4. Your report, Mr. Tatad has clearly impressed upon us the truth and validity of what Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI said once during his pontificate and that is that the Church is Christ’s and He will always guide His Church through the ages even amidst the folly of popes and bishops.

  5. Hindi ata ganuon ang nangyari. May mga mali sa transcriptions, nag dagdag ng kuru-kuro at wishful interpretations.

  6. fly on the wall on

    In this whole article, I did not see any mention of how or what the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, the Body of Christ. It is as if this Synod all depends on the wisdom of men.

    If we look back, it is by the Holy Spirit that the physical Body of Christ developed in the womb of Mary, It is by the Holy Spirit Mystical Body of Christ come into existence at Pentecost, and it is by the power of the Holy Spirit the Eucharistic Body of Christ becomes a sacramental reality.

    There is no doubt about the inseparability of the Holy Spirit from the Church, but even in the Holy Trinity there is distinction of works of the Persons of the Trinity. Therefore Church should not arrogate what is of the Holy Spirit. For the Church to act apart from, not give recognition, or not depend on the Holy Spirit is not to abide in Christ. The Church needs the Holy Spirit for her existence, health, and vitality. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no Church.

    Sorry, if in case I am misreading this article but that is the impression I am getting.

  7. The Roman Catholic Church must not bow down to temporal pressures like homosexuality, divorce and same sex marriages, etc., with their self-serving agenda. Long live the Church and her leaders.

  8. Para walang pagtatalo! Dapat sundin nila kung ano ang kautusan ng diyos!na may takot at paggalang!upang pagharian sila ng kapangyarihan niya!
    Ang problema ano nga ba ang utos o batas niya na dapat sundin ng bawat Tao na naniniwala sa dios!
    Ang malaking tanong? Alam ba nila at may takot ba sila?
    Mukhang kung ano -ano na lamang ang opinion ng bawat priests at kung sino ang marami tumatanggap ay siya ang magiging batas at nakalimutan na ang totoong sinasamba nilang dios!
    Hindi na nakapagtataka kung tuluyan ng magkawatak-watak ang Catholic,kawawa ang mga taga-sunod nila at hindi alam kung ano na talaga ang paniniwalaan!
    Ito na ang simula ng katapusan ng paghahari ng mga katoliko!
    Tanggapin man ito o hindi nangyayari na!