Sunday, 6 December 2015

Concerns about the Post-Synodal Exhortation

Rorate Caeli carries a piece by a pseudonymous priest claiming that the the post-Synodal exhortation has been ready since September. I tweeted that if true, I thought this very grave indeed.

Ttony, of the excellent Muniment Room blog, disagreed. He tweeted: 'I've done MANY international conferences and the most successful were those where the sherpas had written the conclusions in advance so that the final communique would only need to be tweaked according to the final decisions. This isn't bad.'

I replied that I thought this a different case.  He replied:

'I don't. People are going to discuss preparatory texts and reach a conclusion so 90% of the conclusion should be predictable.'

It was getting late, so I said enigmatically: There are three reasons I think this a different case: will tweet in the morning if I can still remember them then....

In the morning, I was somewhat preoccupied: we couldn't get to Mass as the roads out of the valley are all flooded (it looks as though we should be able to get to Mass this evening, so that's OK). Then there was a walk to be walked...  so I have finally got around to thinking about this, and realised that my thoughts would not easily fit into Tweets. Hence this post. 

The first reason I think this is a different case is that a Synod is not the same as the kind of international conference to which, I think, Ttony refers. In such conferences, much of the real work is done behind the scenes by diplomats, so that everyone knows in advance pretty much where everyone stands. Historically, Synods may have been a bit like this, but Pope Francis declared that his Synod would be different. It would be about genuine openness, dialogue, listening to each other etc. So if the outcome were largely determined in advance, there is a large fissure opening between the Holy Father's rhetoric and his policy. That I would call grave.

The second reason is that I think there is a difference between a final communiqué and a Post-Synodal Exhortation.  The Post-Synodal Exhortation is the Supreme Pontiff's reflections on and reactions to the Synod, and consequent exhortation to the Faithful. It is a different type and status of document. It is not simply a summary of what was discussed and agreed. Again, if that were drafted in advance of the Synod, that would seem to run contrary to the Holy Father's chosen and declared modus operandi.

The third reason I think this is a different case is that the Holy Father is a supreme authority, in a way most convenors of international conferences are not. He is able to legislate on his own authority for all those who attended the conference, and all those whom they represent. His Exhortation, therefore, is a much more serious affair for the whole Church than a post-conference communiqué.

There's something else, too. If the content of the proposed Post-Synodal Exhortation is as the pseudonymous priest supposes, that is a radical departure from the past teaching and practice of the Church, and that conclusion was reached before the Synod, one can't help calling into question the integrity of the process. It is one thing to write in advance a Post-Synodal Exhortation that reiterates what we all know to be the Faith: one should reasonably be able to assume that the Synod will indeed reach such conclusions. But not in the other case; unless one were to stack the Synod with those known to agree, exclude some of the more potent voices against change, and manage the process in such a way as to ensure (as nearly as possible) that the Synod gave the pre-determined right (new) answer. 

We live in puzzling and troublesome times: do not forget to pray for our Holy Father daily.

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, 
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. 
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: 
tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, 
Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, 
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, 
divina virtute, in infernum detrude. 


Ttony said...

On a point of order: I was not agreeing with what will almost certainly be the text; simply pointing out that this is the way the world works. We saw it first in the 2014 pre-Synod Synod, when the Sherpas presented the conclusions before the debates had taken place; they were defeated then; but the 2015 Synod was packed so as to reach the conclusions it was supposed to read. You have read enough of Bugnini to know how this set of techniques was used during Vatican II. This is part of the Church's life, composes, as it is, of sinners.

My point is that it is efficient and means that Synods and Councils only last weeks instead of months or years, even though they still reach the preordained conclusions of the person who manages the process. (The manager is not necessarily the person who thinks he is, or who is thought to be, in charge: I don't think either JXXIII or PVI were in charge of Vatican II.

What's interesting, and what might take this discussion forward, is that the pre-prepared text still hasn't been issued: that it would not lend itself to a few tweaks here and there to make it resemble something that had issued from the Synod. That means that the Marxian spinners have concluded that their spin wasn't successful, and that they're having to rethink the way in which they inject their poison into the body of the Church.

If I were still writing a pre-Pius X Ordo I would be telling you to wait until Wednesday to be able to celebrate the feast of St Nicholas (today being the Second Sunday of Advent, tomorrow being St Ambrose, and Tuesday being the Immaculate Conception) but I would think that St Nicholas's treatment of Arius was what was needed to make sure that whoever wrote the Exhortation not only was decked, but stayed decked.

Ben Trovato said...

Thanks Ttony. I realise you know more about the process than I do, given your particular experience and expertise. However, I don't see you dispute any of my points: and I certainly don't dispute much of what you say here, except perhaps the implication that it has to be this way. I have run large academic (and therefore certainly including robust and contentious debate) shindigs which were genuine explorations, and from which accurate notes were circulated efficiently within days.