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Gerard O’ConnellOctober 14, 2015
Cardinals Dolan, Kasper and DiNardo leave opening session of Synod of Bishops on the family at Vatican

Cardinal Timothy Dolan has provided some important background information on the letter that he and 12 other cardinals sent to Pope Francis on Oct. 5, the opening day of the synod. He revealed that the idea of the letter came from Cardinal George Pell, in a conversation with other bishops as they shared “some worries” about the synod before it started. During that conversation, he said Pell summarized the concerns of the group in three points: the synod’s working document ("Instrumentum Laboris"), the process and the composition of the 10-person special commission set up by the pope to draft the synod’s final document. Dolan said the letter with these concerns was subsequently written in Italian, and he signed it.

The New York cardinal revealed all this information in a radio interview with Mary Shovlain, host of ‘The Vatican Report,’ on the Catholic Channel of Sirius XM News and Issues, Oct 13. (Link below)

He told her that when he arrived in Rome for the synod, “there were a number of bishops, one of whom was Cardinal George Pell, whom I respect very much, and we were chatting about a couple of concerns that we had.” And, he added, “George said...why don’t we get together –  we love the Holy Father, we trust him, he’s urged us to be honest with him as possible – why don’t we write [to] him that we’re worried. We’re worried, first of all about the "Instrumentum Laboris" [Note: the synod’s working document] which has a lot of good things, but we’re kind of worried if that’s the only document that we’re going to be talking about at the synod. Secondly, we’re a little worried about the process: there seems to be some confusion. And, thirdly, we’re a little worried if we could have a say in the people who are going to be on the final drafting committee.”  

Then, Dolan added, “Cardinal Pell, in his good shrewd way, said: 'Am I correct in summing up some of the concerns?’ And some of us, myself included, said ‘that seems good enough to me, if you have a letter to the pope count me in.' And sure enough I signed it.”

“The letter wasn’t in English, it was in Italian,” and it was written “even before the synod began,” Dolan stated. He made clear that on “the day after it went in, the Holy Father, very sensibly, at the beginning of the next day [Oct. 6], he didn’t refer to the letter but he said, hey everybody, I’ve heard from some of you that you’ve got some concerns.” And then “he (the Holy Father) listed the exact concerns that I’ve just mentioned... and he said, ‘let me try to respond to that.’”

Dolan confided to the interviewer that at this point, “I said, here you go, Holy Father, you told us to be honest and we were. You’ve answered right to these [concerns]. I’m grateful you paid attention. So let’s get on with the work.”

The cardinal told the interviewer: “I’d forgotten about it, and I didn’t think it was controversial at all,” but then he heard that “somebody’s leaked it, and there are various versions who signed it.” He confessed, “I don’t know all about that stuff!”

Link to the Cardinal Dolan interview: https://soundcloud.com/siriusxm-news-issues/cardinal-dolan-on-famous-letter-from-the-13-cardinals-to-pope-francis?in=siriusxm-news-issues/sets/catholic-channel-on-siriusxm

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Phil Tanny
7 years 11 months ago
This reader could use a basic article explaining why this Synod merits such attention. I just don't get it, yet. What I see so far is... A bunch of nice old fellas who've never had families have a big meeting about the family. They produce some documents by some method or another, and conclude the meeting. A billion Catholics then continue as always to manage their own family situation in whatever manner seems right to them. What am I not getting? Thanks.
Brian Pinter
7 years 11 months ago
Phil Tanny is, I think, right in his observations. The fact that RCC leadership needs to have an extended debate over whether or not we should be more merciful and accommodating to the divorced and remarried, or whether or not we should acknowledge that there are redeeming aspects of same sex relationships, demonstrates how the church is 200 years behind the times (in the words of Carlo Martini). Most of us don't - and shouldn't -need the Holy Father or the "Synod Fathers" (never any mention of synod mothers) to tell us how to think on these matters. I too am left with the question - What am I not getting?
Phil Tanny
7 years 11 months ago
Hi Brian, thanks for the reply. Perhaps this can be divided in to two questions: 1) Do the members of the Synod have the qualifications to advise Catholics on family issues? Obviously, people will differ on this question, and there's probably not a way to resolve such differences. 2) If were to assume the clergy does have such qualifications, and the Synod does come to new conclusions on some set of issues, is anybody listening? That is, if a policy is changed from A to B, are there a significant number of Catholics who have been doing do A, but will now do B as a result of the Synod? What I might be missing is that I live in America, a land of independent type folks. As example, half of American Catholics don't even agree with the Church on an issue as significant as abortion. But what's happening in the rest of the world? That's what I'm not clear on, being um, an ignorant American who thinks everything in the world revolves around us. Are there large numbers of people around the world who will pay attention to this Synod and change their behavior based on it's conclusions? I don't claim to know. I think I am often guilty of forgetting that most Catholics are not from the only country I have personal knowledge of, and that may warp my view of these kinds of things. What say you readers?
Brian Pinter
7 years 11 months ago
Phil Tanny: It would appear to me that the rest of the world also isn't interested in what the teaching voice of the church has to say on the matter. For example, the people of Ireland finally grew up and realized they can think for themselves, rejecting the teaching of the hierarchy on same sex marriage. Like most Catholics in the modern world, the Irish just weren't convinced that gay marriage would wreck families and bring on the end of civilization. What I find most perplexing -and annoying -is that in the 21st century we still tell people that it is the will of the deity that only this group of celibate men should have decision making authority; that they have special graces and gifts for that end. Such a notion is debased, medieval, superstitious nonsense.
Michael Malak
7 years 11 months ago
Cardinals Pell and Dolan are not very far away from one another on the theological spectrum with Pell, famously, in conjunction with the Synod on the Family, declaring that he's "Sticking with Jesus," as if there's a movement within its sanctuary to de-Christianize the Church to make it more palpable to the world. This view is dangerously uninformed and threatens unity. If the Synod is a mere political exercise that, allegedly, endangers orthodoxy, then Pell and Dolan, who faintly defends his opposition, via letter, to the drafting committee and rules of the assembly, should go home and write pastoral exhortations, as should all the Synod Fathers, too, if they intend to do nothing except repeat the same old tired formulas about the need for "better education" and more "understanding" for the troubled. The purpose of the Synod ought to be the illumination of more roads to salvation and fewer to hell. That should mean entering the heart of Christ to find his people as they are, not as some prelates wish them to be. As for communion for the divorced and remarried, it is not really an earthshattering issue. Many divorced and remarried Catholics already approach the Lord in the Eucharist with a clear conscience knowing they are communing with God, directly, despite their ostensible leaders upholding a harsh law of exclusion. To hinder Catholics in difficult situations from seeking the Lord, intimately, is not "sticking with Jesus" who welcomed all men and women to His banquet. That is His heart and it needs no report or vote to be validated.
Bill Mazzella
7 years 11 months ago
We do need leaders in the Church/Community/Gathering. (I write thus to state first of all that the Church is the community of believers). Unfortunately, too often in the history of the Church, the leaders have been poor models who are more into power than service. It is true that somewhere along the way the leaders got obsessed with sex. Especially among those who chose celibacy. (St. Paul had no such obsession.) The objection is a solid one; protesting that those in the synod have no lived experience in marriage. Yet these are the only leaders we have. Progress has been made since Vatican II showing that discipleship comes with baptism first of all. So the synod is positive since it purports to bring the whole church together. Those in the Synod are men who like the notion of power more than service despite their words exclaiming they are servants. There were questionnaires that came out before the synod asking for input from the whole church. It takes time to change something that has been around for 1600 years. This is the only game in town and we have to work at it to help our church grow.

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