Bishops Synod on the Eucharist
Posted Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005 at 11:00 a.m. CDT

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Coverage of Bishops Synod on the Eucharist

Report #17:
Final draft rebuffs Latin Mass; priest shortage,
divorce squarely on church’s pastoral agenda

John L. Allen Jr.


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By John L. Allen Jr.

In a rebuff to the lone appeal in the Synod of Bishops in favor of the pre-Vatican II rite of Mass, the synod’s final message, set for approval tomorrow, contains no language on the subject.

Instead, the message affirms that the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) “provided the necessary basis for a progressive and adequate liturgical reform.”

The message has not yet been released to the public, but an advance copy of its final draft was obtained Oct. 20 by NCR. Its primary author is Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Canada.

In response to concerns from some bishops that a section from the first draft of the message concerning divorced and civilly remarried Catholics was potentially ambiguous on the church’s teaching on marriage, the language has been revised in several places.

Where the first draft, circulated on Oct. 15, referred to “irregular” family situations, the final text mentions situations that “do not conform to the commandment of the Lord.” In stating that nobody wishes to exclude such Catholics from the church, the new text adds that the bishops “do not share choices they have made.” A line that the suffering of divorced and remarried Catholics “can be transformed into a precious involvement in the Christian community” has been removed, and the new text invites the divorced and remarried to listen to the Word of God for their life of faith “and their conversion.”

The lack of any reference to the old Mass appears to be a setback for Colombian Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the “Ecclesia Dei Commission” set up to promote reconciliation with traditionalist Catholics, who had proposed during floor debate Oct. 15 that the final message contain a gesture of outreach to Catholics attached to the old Mass.

The NCR story on Castrillón Hoyos’ proposal can be found here: Outreach to Latin Mass Catholics proposed for final message.

Castrillón Hoyos was the only participant to bring up the old Mass, which was defined as “not a priority” for the synod by Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in an Oct. 13 press conference.

A senior Vatican official taking part in the synod told NCR Oct. 20 that the lack of reference in the final message to the old Mass does not mean the bishops are opposed to it, merely that they didn’t think it was as important as other subjects. There was general pressure, this official said, to make the message shorter, so many suggestions for specific points were not adopted.

In general, the official said, there is a desire for reconciliation with Catholics attached to the old Mass, but at the same time strong support for the liturgical reforms introduced by Vatican II.

Propositions will be public

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 took 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.
  • The Synod of Bishops will produce two documents before its Oct. 23 close: a final message on behalf of the participants, addressed to the church and the world; and a set of propositions for the pope. In a break with past synod practice, Archbishop Roland Minnerath told the news agency I Media on Wednesday that the propositions will also be made public.

    In past synods, the propositions were considered confidential recommendations to the pope, though they were generally published in full by media outlets shortly after the synods closed.

    One of the more anticipated sections of the message concerns divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

    “We know the suffering of those not granted access to sacramental communion because of their family situations that do not conform to the commandment of the Lord (Matt 19:3-9),” the message reads.

    At one stage, the draft referred to “sincere” suffering, but some on the editing team argued that Catholics in this situation are not uniformly sincere, citing the case of English monarch Henry VIII.

    “Some divorced and remarried people accept the sacrifice of not being able to receive sacramental communion and they offer themselves to God,” the message says. “Others are not able to understand this restriction, and live with great internal frustration. We reaffirm that, while we do not share choices they have made, nobody wishes to exclude them from the life of the Church.”

    “We ask that they participate in Sunday Mass and to give themselves assiduously to a listening to the Word of God so that it might nourish their life of faith and their conversion. We also invite them to devote particular attention to the sick, the poor and those in need so that in this way their charity might contribute more effectively to the life of the community. We want to tell you again how close we are to you in our prayer and in our pastoral concern: your suffering is also our suffering. Together, let us ask the Lord to help us faithfully obey his commandment.”

    Priest shortage clearly acknowledged

    On other matters, the bishops clearly acknowledge the impact of the priest shortage.

    “The lack of priests to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist worries us a great deal and invites us to pray and more actively promote priestly vocations,” the message says.

    The final message deletes two lines from the first draft, however, which read, “Some priests are obliged to multiply celebrations and to move from place to place in order to respond as well as they can to the needs of the faithful. This activity generates great fatigue.”

    The bishops also say that over the course of these three weeks they have heard the suffering of the world.

    “We have been made aware of extreme suffering generated by wars, hunger, different forms of terrorism and injustice, which touch the daily life of hundreds of millions of human beings. The explosive violence in Africa and in the Middle East has reminded us that these continents have been forgotten by the public opinion of the world,” the message says.

    “Natural disasters, which seem to have multiplied, force us to look upon the natural order with greater respect and to strengthen our solidarity with suffering peoples. We have recalled and denounced the situations of injustice and extreme poverty that are in evidence everywhere, but especially in Latin America, in Africa and in Asia. All this suffering cries out to God, and challenges the conscience of humankind. It challenges us all.”

    “Our thoughts also go to those who govern the nations that they will diligently guarantee the common good for all people,” the message says. “We ask that they may be promoters of the dignity of every human being, from conception till natural death. We ask them to generate lasting conditions for a genuine progress of the whole human family, where no one is lacking his or her daily bread.”

    Fidelity to rules

    The bishops also call for fidelity to liturgical rules.

    “We are convinced that respect for the sacred character of the Liturgy is transmitted by means of fidelity to liturgical norms and to legitimate authority,” the message says. “No one should consider himself lord of the Church’s Liturgy.”

    The bishops express concern about “the loss of the sense of sin and the persistent crisis of the Sacrament of Penance,” while at the same time noting “that more and more young people, suitably catechized young, are adopting the practice of confessing their personal sins and revealing a sensitivity to the reconciliation required for the right reception of Holy Communion.”

    The bishops express a desire for closer relations with other Christians, but draw the line at inter-communion.

    “We wish to intensify the prayer for unity within communities, the mutual exchange of gifts between the Churches and Ecclesial communities, as well as the respectful and fraternal contact among everyone, so that we may come to know and love one another, respecting and appreciating our differences and our shared values,” the message says.

    “The norms of the church determine the attitude to be taken concerning shared Eucharistic communion with brothers and sisters who are not yet in full communion with us. A healthy discipline prevents confusion and unprepared gestures that might only do further damage to true communion.”

    The editing team for the message continued its work Thursday, and sources said that small changes in wording or sequence were still possible ahead of tomorrow’s vote.

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

    October 20, 2005, National Catholic Reporter

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