by Rev. Nicholas L. Gregoris
Having covered both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Synods of the Bishops on the Family I (and many other journalists/observers, near and far) have the distinct impression that the Holy See"s Press Office deliberately shut out some of the more "conservative" Synod Fathers from making presentations and fielding questions at its daily press conference.
One can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a significant amount of "spin" at play in the Sala Stampa. One can’t help but wonder if the Vatican Press Office is fueled by a certain "ideology" that can’t stand to hear from opposing voices.
If we take a look at the list of presenters at the Sala Stampa, we note the conspicuous absence of several theological and pastoral "heavy-hitters," for lack of a better term.
Here is a very partial list of the Synod Fathers, many of whom I am sure would have liked to address the press in the Sala Stampa to make clear from their perspective exactly what was going on in the Synod Hall and what the Church could expect as a result of all their hard work.
(1) Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;
(2) Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments;
(3) Cardinal Marc Ouelett, P.S.S., Prefect of the Congregation for the Bishops;
(4) Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary;
(5) Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariate for the Economy;
(6) Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference;
(7) Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan (Italy);
(8) Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop Emeritus of Milan (Italy);
(9) Cardinal Carlo Caffara, Archbishop of Bologna (Italy);
(10) Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life;
(11) Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York (USA);
(12) Archbishop Roberto Octavio Gonzáles, O.F.M., Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico and President of the Episcopal Conference of Puerto Rico.
(13) Bishop George Murry, S.J., of Youngstown (USA);
(14) Archbishop José Palma of Cebu (Philippines);
(15) Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev and President of the Episcopal Conference of Bylorussia;
(16) Archbishop Zbignevs Stankevics of Riga (Estonia);
(17) Archbishop Sviastoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc and Head of the Synod of the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine;
(18) Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi (Kenya);
(19) Archbishop Matthew Ndagoso of Kaduna (Nigeria);
(20) Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, O.F.M. Cap., of Maputo ( Mozambique) and President of the Episcopal Commission for the Family;
(21) Archbishop Gregorio Nicanor Pe a Rodríguez of(Nuestra Se ora de la Altagracia en Higüey and President of the Episcopal Conference of the Dominican Republic.
None of these prelates ever appeared, while the vast majority of those invited to appear, almost to a man, advocated positions in favor of "change."
To give you an idea of how things are run in the Holy See’s Press Office, permit me to offer a personal anecdote.
A few days after the Synod began, I was present at a press conference at which a Canadian Archbishop said two very disturbing things in answer to a question posed him by a reporter of the "Tablet." First, he said rather nastily that anyone interested in doctrine should go consult a well-known theological manual by Denzinger. Secondly, he stated arrogantly that he and the other Synod Fathers would decide whether or not Holy Communion for the divorced/remarried was really a doctrinal question after all or just a matter of ecclesiastical discipline.
When the conference ended, I privately confronted the Archbishop (although others were in earshot) and told him essentially two things that were on mind and heart: (1) That I considered what he said to be very dangerous, indeed quasi-heretical; (2) that the Synod, following his methodology, would run the risk of falling into the heresy of "conciliarism," according to which individual bishops and councils assumed a greater teaching role than the Pope himself.
In response, the Archbishop simply said that I had misunderstood what he said (he spoke in plain English, by the way) and that he too had studied theology as had I. He proceeded to turn his back on me and walk away. So much for dialogue and openness.
The next day when I showed up at the Press Office, I was greeted by two Vatican guards who told me that my press credentials had been revoked. My response to them was that I thought this was an overreaction and unjust treatment – and that I didn’t realize that the Vatican had been transformed into a Communist state where freedom of expression was prohibited.
My point here is not to demonize anyone, or to engage in demagoguery, but merely to point out that from a social communications and public relations point of view, there is something amiss in the way that the Holy See Press Office is run. There is a lack of transparency, so that professional journalists who really want to know what particular Synod Fathers are saying on a given topic are deliberately kept in the dark. This was the "modus operandi" at the last Synod, and I had hoped that it would have changed in time for this year"s Synod, but it didn’t. It was business as usual!
Hence, "A Tale of Two Synods."