Is there a wave of resistance rising in the plenary assembly of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI)? This is suggested, according to the newspaper Il Messaggero, by the visit of the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops on November 23, 2021, to the headquarters of the CEI.
It was the Sovereign Pontiff himself who allegedly asked Cardinal Mario Grech to calm the Italian prelates who are somewhat unsettled by the Synod on Synodality, the first stage of which began last October.
For several weeks, in fact, a major popular consultation has been launched in the Peninsula, on a whole series of catch-all subjects, ranging from homosexuality to priestly celibacy, including the role of women in the Church.
The secretary of the Synod of Bishops wished to reassure his confreres in the episcopate: no, there is no “aim to impose particular points of view,” the goal being only to “seek concerted solutions together in order to achieve the full realization of the synod on synodality.”
Aware of the discomfort caused by a consultation which could lead to the belief that opinion is law, the high prelate emphasized that the problem has already been – only in part – rectified: “as you have seen in the preparatory document, we have deleted the term 'questionnaire,' to avoid any misunderstanding about the consultation, which cannot and will never be a survey.”
“No”, he continues, “we have chosen not to multiply the questions, but to concentrate everything in a single fundamental question: how can a synodal Church, proclaiming the Gospel, walk together, and how is this path to be carried out in each diocese?” Not enough to dispel the fog ...
Cardinal Grech also tried to respond to the criticisms leveled at him: “the general secretariat of the synod has been accused of wanting to do too much: in reality, we have only translated into action the process described in various documents,” he said, defending himself.
It was still necessary to respond to the fears of the Italian episcopate, faced with a new process which no longer only involved the bishops, but all the baptized.
The high prelate was not more convincing, recognizing that “we are not yet able to measure the results and the consequences of such a step”: many are the Italian prelates who fear the risk of seeing the Italian version of the synod take the path of the German Synodal Path, a veritable impasse and a source of division between the different components of Catholicism across the Rhine.
Listening to the cardinal, the Coué (auto-persuasion) method is still the best solution to overcome the doubts which animate the CEI: “(the synod) is a harmonious project, animated with a great breath, which could also be an example for other churches,” he insists.
And if that were not enough, the verticality of the argument from authority - yet so contrary to the concept of journeying, dear to the Argentinian pontiff - is there to bring the recalcitrant into line: “everyone knows with what insistence the Holy Father has requested the holding of a synod of the Italian Church,” underlines Msgr. Grech.
In essence, this is the argument developed by another porporato at the beginning of November, Angelo Scola, Patriarch Emeritus of Milan.
Taking advantage of the publication in English of a series of interviews with the Italian journalist Luigi Geninazzzi, the man who was once papabile insists on the fact that “we must accompany the Pope, as we must always do - the follow, to obey him - because the Pope is the ultimate point of reference.”
Will Cardinal Grech succeed in convincing? Probably not, judging by the November 25 soothing closing speech by Cardinal Bassetti, who still heads the assembly of bishops for a few months.
Moreover, for the Italian prelates, the priority consists more in the election of the successor of the president of the CEI, rather than in a synodal path condemned to get lost in the mists of the Pontine Marshes, which, as Rome knows, are very thick.