The Synod on the Amazon ended on October 27, 2019, and handed over its final document to Pope Francis, who will be draw inspiration from it to write his post-synodal exhortation. In his closing address, Francis indicated that he would like to publish this exhortation before the end of the year, while announcing that the next synod would probably be devoted to synodality.
On October 30, the Vaticanist Sandro Magister, carefully analyzing the elements contained in the Pope’s final speech, indicated the points that are likely to be in the post-synodal exhortation.
First, the question of which ministries women would have access. The commission of experts that Francis had created in 2016 did not reach any agreement, that is why the pope told the synod fathers that he would bring the commission back to life with new members appointed by him, under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. He made the promise, concluding with these words: “I take up the gauntlet that they (the women consulted at the synod) have thrown: ‘And we want to be heard.’ I take up the gauntlet.” This promise that sparked applause from the audience, according to the daily news bulletin from the Vatican.
In reality, the synod did not have much to say about the question of women’s ministries. No. 103 of the final document, “limited itself to saying that ‘in the multiple consultations undertaken in the Amazonian area the permanent diaconate for women was urged’ and that ‘for this reason the issue was also very much present at the synod,’ to conclude with this wish: ‘We would therefore like to share our experiences and reflections with the commission and we await its results.’”
Despite this prudent composition, No. 103 obtained 30 votes against and 14 abstentions, a quarter of the voters. But, as Sandro Magister so rightly remarks, “the proponents of the diaconate - and ultimately the priesthood - for women have nevertheless claimed it as a success. It was enough for them, for the moment, that a ‘process’ be set in motion. And this is just what they got, with the immediate and explicit support of Pope Francis.”
The “Amazonian Rite”
Concerning the call for an “Amazonian rite”—the scandalous example of which was the idolatrous worship given to the Pachamama during the synod— No. 119 of the final document wanted a local commission appointed by the bishops of the Amazon to be responsible for “enriching (the liturgy) with the way in which the [Amazonian] peoples take care of their territory and relate to their waters.”
But the pope said he would entrust this reform to the Congregation for Divine Worship, assuring that its members will “make the necessary proposals required by inculturation.” In Rome, behind the pope’s back, some conservatives wish the same fate for this “Amazonian rite” as that of the Pachamama statuettes, and they make their wish known in a low voice by a brief onomatopoeia: “splash!”
Regarding the proposal of new leadership and coordination bodies of the Church in the Amazon, Francis spoke favorably of them in his final speech, adding even the desire to create an Amazon section in the Vatican, “a contribution also with respect to the organization of the Roman curia. It seems to me that there is a need to do this, and I will talk about how to do it with Cardinal Turkson. To open an Amazonian section within the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development,” (of which Mgr. Turkson is the prefect, since its creation by Francis in 2016).
The Ordination of Married Men
On the burning issue of the ordination of married men, the Pope did not make a direct statement in his final speech, contenting himself with two very strong innuendos. On the one hand, to the journalists he warned that “the danger could be that they may dwell…on the little disciplinary things that have their transcendence, but that would not do the good that this synod must do”; on the other hand, to the “elite Catholics” whom he castigates as usual: “these selective groups that from the synod want only to see what has been decided on this intra-ecclesiastical point or on that other, and reject the body of the synod, which are the diagnoses that we have made in the four dimensions.”
Sandro Magister comments: “The “smattering,” the ‘intra-ecclesiastical point’ to which Pope Francis alludes is none other than the ordination to the priesthood of what are called ‘viri probati,’ proposed in these words in point 111 of the final document: ‘We propose to establish criteria and dispositions on the part of the competent authority, in the framework of ‘Lumen Gentium’ 26, to ordain as priests men who are suitable and recognized by the community, who have a fruitful permanent diaconate and would receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, being able to have a legitimately constituted and stable family, in order to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments in the remotest areas of the Amazonian region.”
Again, despite convoluted and restrictive wording, No. 111 of the final document almost failed getting the necessary two-thirds majority. Out of 181 voters, with a quorum of 121 votes, it obtained 128 placet, 51 non-placet and 11 abstentions.
At the end of this No. 111, it is necessary to point out the following sentence, as an indication in passing: “With regard to this (the ordination of married men), some wished that the topic be addressed in a universal way”—universal, that is to say not strictly Amazonian. It was easy for Sandro Magister to remember that “this synod was conceived and organized precisely with this primary objective: ‘to open’ to ordination the ‘viri probati’ in the Amazon in order to then extend the innovation to the whole Church. Exactly as had happened with the double synod on the family, aimed at giving the go-ahead to communion for the divorced and remarried.
Back then as well, Francis hurled bolts at those who were stuck on that ‘smattering’ instead of looking at the magnificence of the whole. And meanwhile, with a little footnote in the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia, he demolished the greatness of two millennia of ‘what God has joined, let no man put asunder’” (Mt 19:6).
On the October 27th, in the monthly letter Res Novæ, Fr. Claude Barthe speaks of the “skylight of permanent deacons”: “a very clever skylight through which the ordination of married priests can be passed, without seeming to...So, from now on, we can ordain as priests these almost-priests who are married deacons. And to gain access to the priesthood, married candidates may first be ordained ‘permanent’ deacons. The diaconate stage remains a rigorous disciplinary obligation. So, the ‘liberating’ measure will have no trouble becoming universal. One can guess that the bishops of our regions, as lacking in priests as the Amazon, in Langres, Rodez, and Auch, will not wait to demand the power to ordain their permanent deacons as priests.”
In this way, they will affirm the admirable Catholic doctrine on priestly celibacy, and at the same time they will be “mercifully” attentive to the pastoral needs of all those who cannot attend Mass for want of priests. This has already been done to obtain the admission to communion of divorced and remarried persons or Protestant spouses. This is the “pastoral care of the cat door,” the doctrinal door is closed, but they arrange a small pastoral opening, at the bottom (of the page), to let the cat pass. As was written in DICI, in June 2018, “No doubt that Cardinal Marx, Raminagrobis crossed and mitered, ‘expert referee on all cases,’ does not go through the pastoral cat door, in letting the doctrinal door close.”
From the Amazon to Germany
The claims of the vicars-general of ten dioceses of Germany are already showing up, where a “synodal path” is beginning in the straight line of the synod which has just ended. These ten dioceses are those of Berlin, Essen, Hamburg, Hildesheim, Limburg, Magdeburg, Münster, Osnabrück, Speyer, and Trier. Their vicars general issued an open letter on November 5 calling for a Church “in which plurality and diversity are desired and authorized,” because only an open and diverse Church has the opportunity to “remain effectively present” in society.
During the two years of the “synodal path” which begins on December 1st, the German Episcopal Conference will work closely with the ZdK (Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken) movement which openly supports the end of priestly celibacy, the ordination of women, and the blessing of same-sex couples in churches.
Noting that such changes can be painful, the vicars general expressed hope that the “synodal path” will engender “an honest and open dialogue, characterized by mutual trust and respect as well as the desire for mutual understanding.” That is why they do not hesitate to ask the Bishops Conference and the ZdK to “refrain from insinuations and even accusations of lack of orthodoxy.” They claim that confidence in the “spirit of God” would help participants take “reasonable steps” to renew the Church,—a plural and diverse Church in their image and likeness. One can understand the fear expressed at the end of the summer by Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne —well isolated in heart of the episcopal conference— about a “schism within the Church in Germany” and the birth of a “German National Church.”
An online petition was launched on November 4, gathering over 2,000 signatures in four days. Entitled “Amazonian auch bei un!” (The Amazon also at home!), authored by an Austrian priest, a former professor of pastoral theology at the University of Vienna, Paul Zulehner, who calls for the ordination of married men and a female diaconate. This is why he does not use the term “viri probati” but that of “personæ probatæ,” to include men and women.
This petition is addressed to the pope and the ecclesiastical leaders of the German-speaking world, inspired by the suggestions made at the Amazon Synod, which Paul Zulehner considers a historical event for the Church: “it will give impetus to our local churches, if this kairos (favorable moment) is used now,” according to him. The Rhine has polluted the Amazon. Will the Tiber be protected from this pollution?