Bishops Synod on the Eucharist
Posted Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2005 at 11:00 a.m. CDT

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Coverage of Bishops Synod on the Eucharist

Report #15:
Draft propositions do not recommend changes in church discipline will post daily reports from the Bishops Synod on the Eucharist through Oct. 22. Bookmark this page or check back with to read more coverage of this international Catholic event.

John L. Allen Jr.


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By John L. Allen Jr.

Draft propositions presented to the Synod of Bishops Tuesday morning acknowledge priest shortages, divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, and relations with non-Catholics as important pastoral priorities, but do not recommend changes in existing church discipline, sources told NCR Oct. 18.

The draft propositions are being discussed tonight and tomorrow in 12 small groups organized by language, where amendments can be proposed. The final propositions, which will represent the synod’s recommendations for action to Pope Benedict XVI, will be put to a vote Saturday morning.

The draft propositions were not released to the public, but sources shared them with NCR on background.

The small groups submitted 287 draft propositions, which synod officials reduced to 50 for the draft presented Tuesday morning.

Proposition 11 deals with the question of the viri probati, the ordination of tested married men. It states that the issue was discussed among the small groups, and the general consensus is that this is not “a path to follow.”

Other propositions call for greater emphasis on vocations in parishes and families as a way of responding to the shortage of priests.

Read more NCR coverage of the synod on the Eucharist
  • Report #17: Final draft rebuffs Latin Mass; priest shortage, divorce squarely on church’s pastoral agenda Posted Oct. 20, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #16: Gregory: Little change expected but synod had honest talk of pastoral realities Posted Oct. 19, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #15: Draft propositions do not recommend changes in church discipline Posted Oct. 18, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #14: Women’s voices heard through interventions of 12 synod auditors Posted Oct. 17, 12:15 p.m.
  • Report #13: Statement on married priests likely in final list of proposals Posted Oct. 17, 12:00 p.m.
  • Report #12: Outreach to Latin Mass Catholics proposed for final message Posted Oct. 15, 9:32 a.m.
  • Report #11: Problems acknowledged, synod bishops seek middle ground solutions. Posted Oct. 13, 1:15 p.m.
  • Report #10: Despite frank talk, few breakthroughs expected from synod. Posted Oct. 12, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #9: Key synod themes seem clear, but consensus may be elusive. Posted Oct. 11, 11:00 a.m.
  • Report #8: Inculturation of liturgy sparks debate at this and past synods of bishops. Posted Oct. 10, 11:30 a.m.
  • Report #7: Bishops of Global South link Eucharist and justice, local cultures. Posted Oct. 8., 9:52 a.m.
  • Report #6: Discussion of celibacy and marriage clergy continue to hold center stage. Posted Oct. 7, 10:21 a.m.
  • Report #5: Environment, social justice emerge as eucharistic themes. Posted Oct. 6, 10:30 a.m.
  • Report #4: Divorced, remarried Catholics topics of frank synod discussions. Posted Oct. 5, 3:00 p.m
  • Report #3: Priest shortage continues to roil synod of bishops. Posted Oct. 4, 2:01 p.m.
  • Report #2: Movements appeal for changes to make Eucharist more accessible. Posted Oct. 4, 2:00 p.m.
  • Report #1: Priest shortage takes center stage on synod's first day. Posted Oct. 3, 3:04 p.m.
  • Read The Word From Rome columns
  • The final set of propositions; The case of viri probati; Some worry the synod lacked theological heft. Posted Oct. 21, 2:07 p.m.
  • Latin Mass a non-issue; Interview with Bishop Skylstad; Scola's 17 questions to guide the synod. Posted Oct. 14, 10:46 a.m.
  • The synod so far; How to report on a synod; A view from Moscow; Document on homosexuals in seminaries will not create an absolute ban; Catholic left and right square off. Posted Oct. 7, 11:55 a.m.
  • Preview of the synod on the Eucharist. Posted Sept. 30, 8:05 a.m.
  • Proposition 40 touches on the question of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. It states that while such Catholics cannot be admitted to the Eucharist, because their situation stands in “objective contrast to the Word of God,” nevertheless they should be the object of special pastoral attention, should be encouraged to participate in community life, and should be in dialogue with a priest or spiritual guide.

    Proposition 41 deals with the admission of non-Catholics to the Eucharist. In essence, it argues that for Catholics, eucharistic communion implies full communion with the church, and for this reason inter-communion is not generally possible, nor is ecumenical concelebration permitted.

    At the same time, it notes, in individual situations granting non-Catholics who desire it access to the sacraments of penance, anointing of the sick and the Eucharist is “possible and even encouraged.”

    Proposition 46 treats the question of pro-choice Catholic politicians. It says that Catholic politicians and legislators “ought to feel themselves challenged in conscience” about the “grave responsibility” of supporting “iniquitous laws.” It says that a distinction between one’s private opinion and public stance on such matters is not tenable, and that this situation “should be considered in relationship to eucharistic truth.” It goes on to cite 1 Corinthians 11, a warning from Paul about receiving the Eucharist falsely.

    In that sense, the proposition is largely a word-for-word reflection of a proposal made in one of the Spanish groups by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, as previously reported by NCR.

    A paragraph has been added to Lopez’s proposal, however, which injects a degree of nuance, with potentially important implications for American debates.

    “In applying this orientation,” it says, “bishops ought to practice the virtue of prudence, taking into account the concrete local situation.”

    With this addition, the proposition in effect does not call for a universal Communion ban on pro-choice Catholic politicians that would override the case-by-case judgment of individual bishops.

    On other matters, proposition nine deals with the Eucharist and polygamy, essentially affirming that Christian marriage is a permanent union between one man and one woman, and situations in which this is not the norm represent “a call to Christian conversion.”

    Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana told reporters during a Vatican briefing Oct. 18 that polygamy presents a complex challenge for African pastors.

    “You can’t just say to a man, let the others go and stay with the first wife,” he said, “There’s a question of justice. You can ask the man to provide for her on-going security, setting up a small business for her, for example. But then there’s still her need for a sexual partner. You can’t just say to everyone they should be celibate. … You don’t want to expose them to prostitution and so on.”

    Turkson emphasized that the propositions as they stand are just proposals, and still can be amended based on small group discussions.

    Several propositions deal with formation of priests for presiding and preaching at the Eucharistic liturgy. Proposition 19, for example, calls for practical assistance in the preparation of homilies, including the idea of a “manual” to be prepared by the Vatican with model homilies keyed to Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Proposition 23 suggests moving the Sign of Peace in the Mass to immediately after the Prayers of the Faithful, hence before the Eucharistic Prayer, and also affirms existing rules that the priest is not to leave the sanctuary during the Sign of Peace. Proposition 28 affirms the existing norms in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for the placement of the Tabernacle, which calls for location in a “prominent place.”

    Proposed amendments to the propositions will be submitted on Wednesday, with the final draft circulated on Friday ahead of Saturday’s vote.

    One synod participant told NCR on Tuesday morning that in his view, the propositions “faithfully reflect the discussion on the synod floor.”

    Another participant, however, expressed dissatisfaction.

    “I wonder why in the hell they brought us here and put us through all this,” he said Oct. 18, “to say absolutely nothing more than what has been painfully said for decades.”

    This participant expressed hope that since Benedict XVI listened to most of the discussions, he might come up with more innovative responses to some of the pastoral problems identified in the synod.

    John L. Allen Jr. is NCR’s Vatican correspondent. His e-mail address is

    October 18, 2005, National Catholic Reporter

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