Apologia pro Marcel Lefebvre
Volume 3, Chapter XLI

The Bishops’ Synod – 1980

The Remnant – 17 October 1980

The following report indicates very clearly the extent to which Catholic teaching on marriage has been repudiated by a large proportion of the faithful throughout the report. It is even more alarming to note the extent to which national hierarchies endorsed this repudiation, rather than teaching those entrusted to their pastoral care that it is the duty of a Catholic to adhere to the teaching of the Magisterium. It was evidently hoped that the Pope might capitulate to such extensive pressure, but to his credit he did not. This will be made clear in a subsequent report dated 17 November 1980.

The Bishops’ Synod – Challenge to the Pope

The first serious challenge to Pope John Paul II’s pontificate since his election two years ago may be facing him now, at the Synod of Bishops meeting in the Vatican. More than 200 cardinals and bishops, representing the world’s Catholic hierarchies, have joined there with the Pope and senior prelates of the papal government in a month-long discussion of marriage and the family in today’s runaway world.

The challenge to the Pope, which has been more or less low key thus far, is apparently a result – at least in part – of the Vatican document prepared as an agenda for discussion. The document has been criticized as backward by the usual neo-Modernist theologians and has been challenged by some as misunderstanding the “realities” of present-day family life.

Ironically, the most severe criticism of the Synod agenda came from Africa, where the Pope spoke frequently last year on the ideals of Christian marriage, during his 10-day visit. A pastoral consultation in the diocese of Arusha in Kenya called the Vatican document "flawed," saying it gave its attention exclusively to the European concept of monogamous marriage. This marital structure does not represent the "reality" of the Universal Church, the Africans say.

Pastoral consultations in other sectors of the Church, while less extreme, also have criticized the Vatican document. They fault its alleged failure to confront the “actualities” of married love, divorce, the sexual revolution, homosexuality, and the population problem in a “realistic” fashion.

The French bishops coming to the Synod have also been prepared by a "consultation" with their priests and people to demand “an honest debate” on the papal encyclical Humanæ Vitæ the 1968 ban on artificial birth prevention.

In a national pastoral consultation last fall, the bishops of England and Wales were reportedly asked to call for a "fundamental re-examination" of Church teachings on marriage, sexuality and contraception.

A Belgian opinion poll reflected almost identical statistics, with U. S. surveys among practicing Catholics who use artificial contraceptives and challenge papal, directives on marriage.

As was to be expected, the Canadian and U.S. bishops are apparently taking the lead trying to soften Vatican strictures that deny divorced and re-married Catholics the right to receive the sacraments.

Representing the United States at the Synod are four elected delegates – Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco, Archbishop Joseph Bemardin of Cincinnati, Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, N.M., and Auxiliary Bishop J. Francis Stafford of Baltimore. Cardinal Cooke of New York is one of approximately twenty synodal members directly appointed by the Pope.

The Synod result, if and when it materializes, will be a “thorough examination” of modern sexual mores and the breakdown of family structures that have led to the current epidemic of pre-marital and extra-marital sex, teenage pregnancies, and casual and frequent divorce among Catholics. It will, then, presumably, produce a document that will project a “realistic” approach to Christian marriage. And while the Synod’s deliberations are merely consultative and not ultimately binding, they can hardly be ignored by the Pope in this post-conciliar era of “shared responsibility” and collegiality.”

Chapter 40

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