11 October 2014

UPDATED: Cardinal Muller thinks the interventions of the Bishops at Synod 14 should be published - and so do I

Before the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops began, His Eminence Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, announced that the interventions of the Bishops and Cardinals made during the Synod would not be released each day, as had been customary with preceding Synods. We were told that daily press briefings would be help and summaries of each days' proceedings would instead be published, and that a web site (which is not tremendously helpful because it does not sort updates by language group) and a special Twitter handle (#Synod14) would be used throughout the Synod.

This was obviously unsatisfactory and sparked questions about the transparency of the proceedings of the Synod which was being hailed for the novelty of having married couple offer testimonies before the Bishops began their deliberations.

This was further compounded when the texts of the testimonies of the couples began to be published on Tuesday. To make matters even more confusing, yesterday the texts of the homilies preached at the daily Masses were published.

I've been asking people here in Rome, both those present in the Synod hall and those not present, to help me understand the logic of this. It strikes me as something thought up by an Italian (many things in this country do not make logical sense, as even the Italians will themselves admit). The best suggestion so far is that the Bishops feel more free to speak openly and have a real debate if their words will not be published. Though it is the best suggestion I have received, it remains tremendously unsatisfactory because it means that the married couples have more courage than the Bishops (which may true, but is not encouraging).

Today we learn that even some within the Synod think the interventions of the Bishops should be published, like His Eminence Gerhard Cardinal Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Cardinal Muller said he thinks the interventions of the Bishops should be published, because, in his words, "I think all Christians have the right to be informed about the intervention of their bishops":

I, for one, hope his call will be heeded.

UPDATE 1: Part of the reason, we were told, the interventions of the Bishops would not be published was because the interventions would not be prepared before and so there would be no text to publish, as the Catholic News Agency reported. But texts must have been prepared because Father Thomas Rosica read parts of several interventions at today's press briefing.

UPDATE 2: This photo of His Excellency the Most Reverend Dennis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne, shared by Vatican Radio, delivering his intervention to the Synod shows that the Bishops (at least some of them) have prepared texts:

UPDATE 3: Phil Lawler argues that this Synod "has been far less transparent than previous sessions" (emphasis his). Lawler also points out several good reasons why the interventions of the Bishops should be published:
These summaries ensure that the world’s understanding of the Synod is filtered through the perceptions of the press office. If the Vatican officials who prepare these summaries miss the point of a bishop’s presentation, we will miss it, too; if they do not find an argument worthy of mention, we never hear about it. Rather than being instructed by the Synod fathers themselves, we are being instructed by the press office.
Apparently Vatican officials believe that this awkward system is the best way to manage the stories that emerge the Synod. But when public figures attempt to manage stories, by doling out information in carefully limited quantities, their efforts nearly always backfire. (Remember the “modified limited hangout” of the Nixon White House during the Watergate crisis?) There are always leaks. There are always enterprising reporters looking for inside information, and willing sources ready to supply it [more]. 

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