12 October 2015, The Tablet

Wuerl disputes claims of synod manipulation

A prominent cardinal has challenged claims that the synod is being manipulated describing the process as “the most open” he has attended. 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington and a member of the synod’s governing council, was responding to the leaking of a letter sent to the Pope, signed by a number of cardinals, which claimed the synod processes were designed to “facilitate predetermined outcomes.” 

Speaking to The Tablet today the cardinal said: “I’m not seeing this manipulation they are talking about. I’ve been at synods since 1990 and this is the most open synod I’ve ever been at.”

He went on: “I don’t know how you manipulate 13 language groups and 13 moderators and 13 relators and 250 people talking. How do you manipulate that so it comes out with what you want it to say? I just cant make sense of that. But if you begin with that lens, and you see everything through that lens then you can see manipulation, intrigue, conspiracy anywhere. I just don’t see it.”

A report by Italian Vatican journalist Sandro Magister said 13 cardinals signed the letter which was presented to Francis by Cardinal George Pell. However four signatories have denied they signed it and Cardinal Pell later issued a statement saying there were errors in the letter reported and the signatories. He stressed, however, that “there is no possibility” to change the doctrine preventing the divorced and remarried from receiving communion.


Cardinal Wuerl, who is also a member of the drafting committed for the final synod document, stressed that while Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage could not be changed the question of who receives communion is a different question.

“The issue of the indissolubility of marriage is one thing, the sacramental relationship with a person to that teaching, in other words the state of their conscience, is another,” he said. “And how do we continually teach the correct teaching and help people to live in the condition they’re in and bring them into a fuller relationship with Christ.” 

He added: “There is no given answer. There are some who say there is. But there really is no given answer otherwise we wouldn’t be having a synod. 

The cardinal explained it was wrong to say that “we don't need a synod because we already have all the answers.” He asked: “How can I say I know all the answers when I’m not even certain what all the questions are of the people I’m trying to minister to?”

Along with Cardinal Pell those who alleged to have signed a letter expressing concerns include: Cardinal Caffarra, the Archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban and member of the synod council, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto and Cardinal Willem Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht.  



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