Pope Confirms New Delegates to Synod

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 18, 2015   

The diverse group of 65 members includes bishops from both sides of the theological spectrum

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VATICAN CITY, June 18, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Pope has confirmed a new group of delegates to the Synod on the Family. The list, published Tuesday by the Vatican, includes 65 new members consisting of bishops and religious elected from their respective conferences or institutes.

Among them are Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, who gained international notoriety last year for his open advocacy of same-sex unions and his questioning of Church teaching on contraception. In a lengthy open letter published last September titled "Synod on the Family: Expectations of a Diocesan Bishop," Bonny complained about the lack of collegiality between the bishops and Peter, urging a greater role among the bishops in decisions with regard to the direction of the Church. This lack of collegiality, he claimed, was most evident after the publication of Humanae Vitae, the papal encyclical that reaffirmed longstanding dogma that the use of contraception to prevent birth is intrinsically evil. Bonny regretted that the "doctrinal line" was "enforced with a firm hand."

He went on to praise the Belgian Bishops' response to Humanae Vitae after it was published, a response characterized by disobedience and which promoted the notion of "personal conscience" in the decision whether or not to use birth control. In later segments he went on to denigrate the notion of fixed doctrine, claiming "Christian ethics needs more space" to allow for different opinions.

He then offered a series of hypothetical cases showcasing irregular unions, including invalid second marriages, same-sex unions and cohabiting couples. On the last, Bonny asked, "[M]ight we not encourage them in the choice they have made for one another in the hope that their relationship might evolve towards civil marriage and sacramental marriage?"

The orthodox response is, of course, no. But Bonny continued his critique of Church dogma, writing that such irregular unions "deserve more respect and a more nuanced evaluation than the language of certain Church documents appears to prescribe." 

In a later interview, Bonny openly advocated Church recognition of gay "marriage," claiming, "I find that in the Church more space must be given to acknowledge the actual quality of gay and lesbian couples; and such a form of shared life should meet the same criteria as found in an ecclesiastical marriage."

On the other side of the theological spectrum is Polish archbishop Henryk Hoser, also appointed delegate at the Synod. Hoser has condemned the novel theories proposed at the Synod by left-leaning clerics. "I'll say it brutally. The Church has betrayed John Paul II." He rejected the Kasper proposal (which would open up Communion to those in adulterous civil unions) as based on a "false premise," one that "calls for God's mercy without justice." 

A number of new African prelates have been appointed as well, with a total of 40 among all the delegates, more than at last year's Synod. The African bishops generally have a reputation for being orthodox, and it was the African contingent at last year's Synod on the Family that criticized the pro-gay, anti-marriage agenda being foisted on the proceedings.

The heads of 45 African bishops' conferences met last week and agreed to protect Church doctrine on marriage and the family. Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, urged the Synod Fathers "to speak with clarity and with just one voice, in filial love of the Church." He went on to urge the Father to "protect the family from all the ideologies that want to destroy it, and therefore also from the national and international policies that impede the promotion of positive values."


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