Cardinal Tobin will not attend Oct. Vatican synod


Newark, N.J., Sep 21, 2018 / 09:21 am (CNA).- The Archbishop of Newark has announced that he will not attend an October gathering of bishops slated to discuss young adults and vocational discernment. The archbishop cited his pastoral obligations in the archdiocese amid the U.S. Church’s ongoing sexual abuse crisis.

“This Synod is a uniquely important moment in the life of the Church, and I was honored to have been named by the Holy Father as a member of this special gathering whose topic, Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment, is of vital concern to the Church today and in the future,” Cardinal Joseph Tobin wrote in a Sept. 21 letter to Newark’s Catholics.

“However, as you are aware, the Archdiocese of Newark suffers greatly as a result of the crisis that continues to unfold. After the revelations of the past summer, I could not see myself absent for a month from our archdiocese and from you, the people entrusted to my care. After prayer and consultation, I wrote to Pope Francis, asking that he dispense me from attending, but assuring him that I strongly support the objectives of the Synod and that I would obey whatever he decided.”

“The Holy Father responded the next day with a beautiful pastoral and compassionate message. He told me that he understands why I need to stay close to home, and he released me from the obligation to attend the Synod next month,” Tobin added.

Tobin was a personal appointment of Pope Francis for attendance at the synod of bishops, which will take place Oct. 3-28 in Rome.

Other U.S. bishops who will attend are Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who was also appointed by Pope Francis to attend, along with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, and Bishop Robert E. Barron, who were elected as delegates by the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Archbishop William Skurla, leader of the Ruthenian Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, will participate as an ex officio member of the synod.

On Sept. 19, Dutch Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, elected by his country's episcopal conference, also announced that he would not attend the synod.

According to a statement from the Dutch bishops' conference, Mutsaerts "informed Pope Francis that he does not find the right time to keep a synod about young people, in view of the investigations and the news about sexual abuse that has been brought out in America, among others. He therefore chooses not to participate."

Tobin’s Archdiocese of Newark has been the subject of controversy in recent months. In June, retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, formerly of Newark, was revealed to have been credibly accused of serially sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1970s. McCarrick was subsequently accused of serially sexually abusing another teenage boy, and of sexually coercing and assaulting numerous priests and seminarians for decades.

Tobin told a journalist in late August that he had heard rumors shortly after his 2017 arrival in the Archdiocese of Newark about McCarrick's sexual misconduct. He said he did not investigate those rumors because he found them unbelievable.

In August, after reports emerged about homosexual behavior among some Newark priests, and allegations were made public regarding the conduct of a former seminary administrator, Tobin told Newark priests that no priest had “ever spoken to me about a gay subculture in the Archdiocese of Newark.”

Later that month, Seton Hall University announced an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct at Newark’s Immaculate Conception Seminary, which is connected to the university.

In his Sept. 21 letter, Tobin said that during a Sept. 14 prayer service at Newark’s cathedral, “I promised that we will act decisively to address the sins and injustices that have been committed against our most vulnerable sisters and brothers and to ensure that victims receive justice. I also acknowledged that rebuilding trust in the leadership of our Church at all levels will require authentic and measurable change.”

“I am keenly aware that words alone are not enough. We must show by our actions that justice will be done. Never again will we permit the horrific abuses that occurred here and in too many other places in our Church. Never again will we return to ‘business as usual,’ allowing human wickedness, sin or hypocrisy to blind us from the truth or prevent us from doing God’s work.”

Tobin asked that Newark’s Catholics pray for Pope Francis and the synod, saying that “during the month of October, and throughout the months and years ahead, I will do everything in my power to lead this Archdiocese through processes of renewal and change that break down structures and systems that permit or foster abuse in any form.”

“I will work for justice, healing and compassion for all.”

 

Ed. note: This story is developing and has been updated.

 


It's our duty to fight racism, Pope tells international conference


Vatican City, Sep 20, 2018 / 05:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- All people have a responsibility to fight new forms of racism in the modern world, Pope Francis told more than 200 participants at a Rome-based conference this week.

“We are living in times in which feelings that many thought had passed are taking new life and spreading,” the pope said Sept. 20.

The international conference on “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration” concluded Thursday. It had been promoted by the Vatican's Dicastery for Integral Human Development, the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Addressing those present, Pope Francis warned that the modern world appears to be seeing an increase in “feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity.”

These individuals are “considered not sufficiently worthy of being fully part of society's life,” and such sentiments “all too often inspire real acts of intolerance, discrimination or exclusion,” he said.

Exclusion of foreigners can also become enshrined in political policy, as some lawmakers exploit fears and misgivings for political gain, he said.

Faced with these social changes, “we are all called, in our respective roles, to cultivate and promote respect for the intrinsic dignity of every human person,” the pope said.

He emphasized the role of religious leaders, educators, and media in this endeavor to promote a culture that respects human life and dignity.

Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of the World Council of Churches, told Vatican News that the conference was intended to show a strong ecumenical commitment to addressing the global issues of racism and xenophobia, to hear from voices across the globe about the issue, and to create common text that can be used as the basis of further efforts.

He stressed the importance of supporting politicians who are standing up for the human rights of migrants, and emphasized the role of religious leaders in upholding human dignity in public discussions surrounding migration.

“There is no easy political answer to all of this: it is a very complex political situation, but we believe that the churches, with our values but also with our networks, our communities, as human beings and as people of faith, can contribute a lot,” he said.


Pope Francis approves new constitution for Synod of Bishops


Vatican City, Sep 18, 2018 / 08:30 am (CNA).- In a new apostolic constitution, Pope Francis has reformed the Synod of Bishops, creating a mechanism for the assembly’s final document to be included in official Church teaching.

Episcopalis Communio, promulgated by the pope on Sept. 15, establishes that the final document of a synod assembly, drafted and approved by a special commission, can be considered part of the ordinary magisterium – that is, the official teaching of the Church – if it receives a particular level of papal approval.

The constitution does not require the publication of a post-synodal papal document to make its conclusions authoritative, though these have traditionally followed synodal sessions.

The most recent synod, which was held on the theme of the family, was followed by the 2015 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, presented the new constitution on Sept. 18.

Baldisseri told journalists Tuesday that the pope may wish to publish a document of his own following October’s synod on young people, but that the new norms allow him to forego it in favor of adopting the synod’s final document as his own.

Should Francis decide to adopt the final synodal document, it would be published with his signature and those of the members of the synod.

The norms provide for a process similar to that followed during the 2015 synod on the family – by which a commission creates the final synodal document, before it is put before the members of the synod for a vote.

This commission is composed of the relator general and general secretary of the particular session of the synod, the secretary general of the synod’s permanent secretariat - currently Cardinal Baldisseri -  and other members elected by the synod itself. To these, the pope may also add his own personal appointees

Regarding how the final document is to be approved by the membership, Episcopalis Communio refers back to the current “particular law.” Accordingly, individual provisions to be adopted in the final document will still require the approval of two-thirds of the synod’s members, while a simple majority suffices to reject an item.

The new constitution does, however, urge the synod fathers to seek “moral unanimity” whenever possible.

Once the final document has been prepared and voted on, it is presented to the Holy Father for his approval and publication. At this point, the pope can choose to grant a particular kind of approval to the document, called “in forma specifica” in canon law, by which it would become an act of the pope and part of the ordinary papal magisterium.

Speaking at a press conference in Rome, Cardinal Baldisseri said that the process of receiving this specific papal approval does not require a strictly judicial standard, or depend upon a particular margin of approval by the synod fathers. 

Quoting St. John Paul II, the new constitution says that while the synod “normally has a merely consultative function,” this “does not diminish its importance.” Rather, the vote of the synod fathers "if morally unanimous, has an ecclesial quality that overcomes the merely formal aspect of the consultative vote.” This, Baldisseri explained, is more important that a specific margin of voting.

Other sections of the constitution substantially affirm recent synodal processes and regulations, including on the synod’s composition and structure, which members have voting rights, and the three distinct synodal phases of preparation, assembly, and implementation.

In the preparatory phase, information on the announced theme of the synod is gathered through study commissions, local consultations conducted through the diocesan bishops, and a pre-synod meeting - if one is convoked. The new norms also provide the option for such pre-synodal meetings to be held at a regional level.

The second phase is the actual assembly of the synodal fathers and other members, while the third phase is the implementation of the synod’s conclusions in the particular Churches.

Episcopalis Communio underlines the importance of bishops listening to the voice of lay Catholics, saying that “the Synod of Bishops must increasingly become a privileged instrument for listening to the People of God.”

“Although in its composition [the Synod] appears as an essentially episcopal organism, the Synod does not therefore live separate from the rest of the faithful. On the contrary, it is a suitable instrument to give voice to the whole People of God precisely through the Bishops, constituted by God as ‘authentic guardians, interpreters and witnesses of the faith of the whole Church,’” the document states.

This principle is recognized in the canonical norms of the constitution itself. Article 7 of Episcopalis Communio states that the right of the faithful to send their own contributions for the synod directly to the secretary general “remains integral” to the process.

The Synod of Bishops acts as a temporary and occasional advisory body to the pope on issues of pastoral importance to the Catholic Church. It was established by Bl. Pope Paul VI with the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo in 1965.

While the synod itself is a temporary body called into being by the pope, it has a permanent general secretariat in the Roman Curia.

There are three types of synod assemblies a pope can call: ordinary, extraordinary, and special. Next month’s meeting will be an extraordinary assembly, as was 2014’s synod on the family.

A special assembly is usually convoked to discuss an issue related to a particular geographical region, such as the upcoming special assembly on the Amazon, which will take place in October 2019.