A day after signaling a warmer embrace of gays
and lesbians and divorced Catholics, conservative cardinals hit back strongly on
October 14, with one insisting that an abrupt about-face on church teaching is
“not what we are saying at all.”
After the October 13 release of a document with a
softer tone on issues such as “welcoming homosexuals,” American Cardinal
Raymond Burke and German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller complained the media was
getting a biased view of the bishops’ debate.
“It seems to me that information is being
manipulated in a way that gives comment to only one theory instead of
faithfully reporting the various positions expressed,” Burke said in a
full-page interview published in Italian by the conservative daily Il Foglio.
“This worries me very much because a significant
number of bishops do not accept the ideas of an opening, but few (people) know
In a separate interview published Tuesday, Burke
told the conservative U.S. outlet Catholic World Report that the bishops
“cannot accept” any changes because they are not based in Scripture or
Monday’s midpoint report was released as the
nearly 200 bishops and lay delegates to the Synod on the Family called by Pope
Francis broke into discussion groups.
The summary document, presented to the media by
Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, immediately provoked the fury of conservatives
about how he and his colleagues were interpreting the spectrum of views aired
on the synod floor.
In what looked like strenuous damage control, the
Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, told a packed media
conference that this was a “working document, not a final document.”
South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier told
journalists the document had been misunderstood and that’s why it had caused
“such an upset” among participants because the synod had not yet ended.
“The message has gone out, it is not what we are
saying at all, ” Napier said of the media coverage. “Once it is out there
there’s no way of retrieving it. It is not a true position. Whatever goes out
after looks like damage control.”
Media reports claimed that the controversial
summary document provoked 41 responses inside the synod from bishops, including
staunch conservatives like Burke, who heads the Vatican’s highest court;
Mueller, the Vatican’s doctrine czar; and Australian Cardinal George Pell,
the powerful finance minister.
“The phrasing may lead people to believe that the
document reflects the views of the synod,” Napier said. “We couldn’t have
possibly agreed on it.”
Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, widely seen as
a moderate and one of the cardinals charged with writing the synod’s final
report to be released Saturday, declined to comment on the complaints but
insisted the document was a “big step forward” in addressing issues concerning
marriage and the family.
“What we saw in the document … was the first
effort of this synod to present the issues in a way that expressed that we
understand what the concerns are, what the issues are,” he said outside
the Paul VI hall Tuesday.