15 October 2015, The Tablet

Pell, Dolan launch cardinals’ letter of concern to Francis

Discussions during the second week of the Synod on the Family were overshadowed by clashes over the leaking of a “letter of concern” sent by a group of cardinals to Pope Francis about the process adopted for the gathering.

The group who sent the letter were led by Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy. Signatories included Cardinal Francis Napier, a member of the synod council; Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.  

The letter was leaked to Vatican journalist Sandro Magister, a critic of Pope Francis, and is alleged to have suggested the synod process was designed to “facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions”. It also claimed the synod procedures lacked “openness and genuine collegiality”, said the working document, the Instrumentum Laboris, should be reworked and that the committee drafting the final report should be expanded. 

Finally it stressed that the Church should not change its position on barring the divorced and remarried from communion.

Cardinal Pell said there were “errors” in the letter that was published and four of the 13 named  signatories denied signing. Another report said 13 had signed and produced four names not already mentioned.

But while some disputed the contents it has been confirmed that a letter was sent to Pope Francis. Cardinal Dolan told SiriusXM radio: “When I got here [to Rome] there were a number of bishops, one of whom was Cardinal George Pell, whom I respect very much, and we were chatting about a couple of concerns that we had. He said ‘why don’t we get together – we love the Holy Father, we trust him, he’s urged us to be as honest as possible – why don’t we write to him that we are worried?’” He went on: “The Instrumentum Laboris ... has a lot of good things [but] we’re kind of worried if that’s the only document that we are going to be talking about at the synod. Two, we are a little worried about the process, there appears to be some confusion and we are a little worried if we could have a say in the people who are going to be on the final drafting committee.”

Speaking to The Tablet Cardinal Donald Wuerl 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.

 “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 can’t make sense of that.”

In an interview Cardinal Napier told Crux that he signed a letter that was more focused on the composition of the drafting committee for the final document, challenging Pope Francis’ right to choose them. He later corrected what he said in the interview and affirmed the Pope’s right to choose that committee.

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99