Synod Briefs

Those affected by abuse need extra special care – expert

Catholics who are too angry, disillusioned or afraid to return to the Church because of clerical sexual abuse need very special care, according to an observer attending the Synod of Bishops.

Maria Harries, a member of Australia’s Truth, Justice, Healing Council said in an interview that abuse by clergy has led to a crisis of faith and a loss of trust in the Church’s moral authority.

Explaining that many people no longer go to Mass, “because of the abuse and we have to work out ways to deal with that,” she said that the shockwaves of abuse and its mishandling can be felt across multiple generations and among extended families and friends.

Asking “how do you address now a community of pain, a community of agony and a community of trauma?” she also pointed out that those hurt by abuse include members of religious congregations who have been accused of doing little or nothing to stop abuse. Such religious who have “always lived good lives and who feel terribly tainted and embarrassed and traumatised by what their brothers have done” are also shattered or disoriented, making them “another set of victims” that needs recognition and a pastoral response, she said.


It takes two to annul a marriage, says canonist

A leading Vatican canonist has confirmed that the planned use of fast-track annulments will only take place with the explicit consent of both parties.

Cardinal Francisco Coccopalmeria, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, has clarified the issue in a letter to a US priest, coinciding with a conference of the Canon Law Society of America.

“The brief process cannot be used if the respondent remains silent, does not sign the petition or declare his consent,” the cardinal said, explaining that, “this explicit consent is foremost necessary because the brief process is an exception to the general norm.”

As annulment processes often must take place without the full participation of both partners, this suggests that the new process, announced by the Pope in September, will not be common. 

Dolan explains letter

One of the cardinals who signed a controversial letter to Pope Francis has explained how he came to do so.

New York’s Timothy Dolan has said at a meeting before the synod he and Cardinal George Pell had shared concerns about the synod’s foundational document, confused processes and the composition of the synod’s final drafting committee. “And George said, ‘You know what? Why don’t we get together and – we love the Holy Father, we trust him, he’s urged us to be as honest with him as possible – why don’t we write him that we’re worried?” Cardinal Dolan said, explaining that he agreed to sign a letter drafted by Cardinal Pell expressing their worries.

A version of the letter was leaked a week later by veteran Vatican journalist Sandro Magister, linking it with 13 high-profile cardinals.


Cardinals agree synod fathers are moving forward together

Westminster’s Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said he hopes the Pope will issue an Apostolic Exhortation when the Synod of Bishops is over.

Speaking at a Vatican press conference, the English cardinal said: “My hope is that that Pope will issue an exhortation,” continuing, “my hope is that he will complete this process because it seems to me that it will need bringing to a conclusion, and there’s only one person who can do that.”

Although the cardinal said the synod fathers were very tired as the synod reached its mid-way point, he insisted that “there is no sense of stalemate”.

The synod group chaired by Australia’s Cardinal George Pell has said the Church has gained from some exhortations, and the cardinal has said that the synod is making progress, telling Vatican Radio that there was “a visible consensus” at the synod.