Q: The organization of the Special Assembly for the Synod of the Americas has required time and effort. What have been the major obstacles found in its preparation?
Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte: The initiative of the Holy Father in convoking a Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops has been received positively by the entire Church of the continent. At first, many thought that a continental gathering would try to unite too many different realities in the hopes of establishing a fruitful dialogue upon common bases. In fact, when there is a discussion about continental America, frequently, the cultural, social, and economic differences among Central and South America, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada are the principal themes mentioned.
However, experience has shown that the Pope's general intuition was right. The process of preparation affirms with constantly increasing amounts of evidence that beyond the apparent differences, there are many points of interest in common. This makes up what we could call "the religious identity of America," a concept that includes three fundamental elements: the common Christian roots with their different shadings, the vitality of a young Church extended throughout the Western Hemisphere, and the multiplicity of cultural expressions.
Q: By the first of April, the general secretary of the Synod was to have received the responses from the Episcopal conferences of the different countries to the questionnaire. How has the response been?
Schotte: Twenty-three of the twenty-four episcopal conferences of the Americas responded before the text of the working document was printed-- that is 96 percent. Today we can affirm the response to be 100 percent, because the responses that the conference lacked arrived soon after the publication of the working document (the "Instrumentum Laboris"). In this way we have attained a higher level of response than at any of the preceding Synod assemblies. The interest that the local churches have manifested is evident, not only by the high percentage of responses, but also for the quality of the responses themselves, which reveal, with a balanced realism, the lights and shadows of the reality of the Church and of society in the Americas. Also, the Secretariat has received various commentaries and reflections from different institutions and other persons involved in the Special Assembly. These reactions, although they do not hold an official character, have been of great use to the redaction of the "working document".
Q: What are the themes to be discussed?
Schotte: The themes to be debated in the assembly are listed in the working document. They are summarized in the theme of the assembly: "Encounter with the living Jesus Christ, the way of conversion, communion, and solidarity" in the Americas. It's important to keep in mind that the Synod is an ecclesial reality and in particular an experience of faith and of the collegiality of the bishops under the guidance of the successor of Peter. For this reason, the central theme of discussion cannot be other than Christ, and all the other themes which occupy the Church in America will be seen and analyzed in light of the faith in the Son of God and in the mission of the Church, which consists in being the sign and instrument of salvation.
Certainly there are many other problems which preoccupy contemporary man in America and which therefore constitute a challenge and goal for the Church in these continents: for example, the problems of justice and international economic relations, the social question, and in particular the theme of poverty, the political tensions among the more developed sectors and those who are in the path of development. But we can't forget that for the Church, all these situations are challenges for the New Evangelization and will be dealt with always from a pastoral dimension, and not merely from a human or social one.
Q: Are you in agreement with those who consider that a general indifference exists towards this special assembly?
Schotte: The most decisive proof of the interest created by this assembly of the synod has been the active local participation in the preparatory process. In many episcopal conferences special activities have been organized (study seminars, conferences, task forces), which ensure that the responses to the questionnaire for the redaction of the working document would be a faithful reflection of the realities of the local churches. If in fact this local participation, as is natural, has been more active in some cases than in others, still we can agree without doubt that in these last three years of preparation the whole Church of the Americas has been "in Synod", praying in common, reflecting, and meditating in the light of the Word of God on the priorities for the new evangelization now on the threshold of the third millennium.
Q: The Synod of Africa has already raised hopes and expectations. Don't you think that this multiplication of synodal assemblies could provoke a loss of interest for this class of events?
Schotte: The results of the Special Assembly for Africa, faithfully reflected in the apostolic exhortation "Ecclesiae in Africa," have met and gone beyond all our expectations for the hope which the people of God in this continent have placed in the Synod. The synodal document has been received favorably and is producing excellent fruits on different levels. All this invites us to hold other synodal assemblies on a continental level, as the Pope proposed in preparation for the Jubilee in the Apostolic Letter "Tertio millennio adveniente." The results gained so far confirm with ever greater strength the validity of this pastoral method which passes through the synodal collegiality.
Q: At the close of this century, will there be a re-strengthened cooperation among the episcopates of the Americas?
Schotte: The method of work followed in the organization of all synodal assemblies is based on the notion of collegiality, which characterizes the synod's process in all its stages. The Synodal Assembly for America is being developed according to this methodology, and is already producing really positive results. The climate of communion and dialogue will certainly always remain a key element to the developing synodal sessions. So it would seem logical to think that the communion and solidarity among the pastors of the People of God in America will be reinforced and grow through this experience of collegiality.
I would like to finish by recalling that the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops will be a privileged occasion not only to reinforce the links of communion and cooperation among the bishops, but also with the successor of Peter.
Adding fuel to the fire were disenchanted priests and nuns, who, either thinking the Church had changed too much or had not changed enough to their liking, left. But they did not leave quietly. Rather than seeking a dispensation and a lay vocation that would complement their calling and work in unison with the mission of Holy Mother Church, they became angry rebels. Lacking the guidance of the Holy Spirit they began to lash out at all that was holy, not only affecting the youth, already in a rebellious state from the Vietnam conflict, but older parishioners as well who were drifting in a sea of confusion and lukewarmness. Many priests and nuns, not receiving the proper guidance and instruction on the true changes wrought by Vatican II from their bishops, were susceptible to the wiles of satan and he maneuvered his disenchanted ones to cry foul from the rooftops through the new voice: the media, which ate up every gripe and accusation. The worse the news, the better the ratings and like ravenous wolves the fifth estate tracked down these rebellious religious, who in turn, goaded by ego and pride as well as anger, ate up the publicity and continued spewing at the mouth spouting lies and calumny. The sad part is too many believed the lies. Even devout Catholics began to doubt what was going on. Bishops remained silent and this only added to the fuel. In South America a new theology was formed - "liberal theology" that would cause grave damage in the southern hemisphere and slither into the northern hemisphere as well. Many of these disenchanted and disenfranchised religious were well-educated, adding to the idiom - a little knowledge can be dangerous. They articulated well and the media feasted on their half-truths. Satan was having a field day. Vocations, once a flowing river to seminaries all over America, dried up. Younger nuns, "in the spirit of Vatican II," modernized; disposed of the sacred and meaningful habits that had been the garments of obedience, chastity, and poverty. As the older nuns died off convents became empty chambers of the glories of yesteryear. The younger nuns, no longer confined to the strictness of the convent, began to seek freedoms that would have Saint Claire and Saint Teresa of Avila turning over in their graves. Soon entire orders were going the way of the dinosaur - orders who relaxed their rule, relaxed the dress code. Skirts were shortened, blouses were donned, and hairdos were the rage as no one could tell a nun from any other woman except for maybe a small cross hung around their neck. Children, who had been nurtured by the good holy nuns who had fostered so many vocations, no longer had this wise and disciplined teaching in parochial schools. Lay teachers were hired much the same way as public school teachers. The once tuition-free parish schools were forced to institute tuition which escalated as the years passed because of faculty costs and increasing maintenance. The corp of financial income in each parish - older, established and faithful parishioners - still confused over the changes that had been wrought, slowly but surely began cutting their donations; not always sure where the Church they had been weaned on was heading with all these drastic changes and very little leadership from their bishops and pastors who many felt were walling themselves up in an "ivory tower," thus losing touch with the common Catholic. This, too, played right into the hands of the progressives who, without any opposition, became bolder in their reforms and their criticism of the Magisterium and all the Church stood for. Young, naive and impressionable minds were molded to believe that ecumenism meant all faiths were equal and so they didn't hesitate to search out the religions that catered to their needs and wants. The charismatic renewal, a good and holy liturgical movement intended to emphasize the Holy Spirit and the gifts inherent through the Sanctifier, was abused to no end. Evangelical sects lured the youth with their promise of social interaction if they would accept the only source of God: the Bible. Many left the Church in droves, claiming they had never read the Bible before. Parents were ready to tear their hair out at such blasphemy for the Word was part and parcel of their family life through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Yet the new generation was completely oblivious to its meaning. The Baltimore Catechism, the staple of Catholic education for nearly a century, was shelved. Why? To this day that remains a mystery. The teachings, doctrines and dogmas of Holy Mother Church had not changed so why the banishment of such a simple, practical and solid teaching tool? Many believe this, too, was the underground work of modernists who had long planned this attack on Christ's One True Church.
Next week we will continue with the latter part of the seventies and how the media played right into the radical left's hands as well as Hollywood's portrayal of the Catholic Church in "Persecution and Prejudice Pile up on Holy Mother Church" as we continue to expose the false prophets in American Church in this on-going megaseries.
&bnsp; However, the document does not claim to be exhaustive nor can it address every possible variation which might present itself. It is limited to consideration of the best known of these as there is great variety of particular circumstance possible which can give rise to these situations.
&bnsp; This text was drawn up based on the solid foundation of the ordinary and extraordinary magisterium of the Church and is entrusted for its faithful application, first of all to the Bishops most affected by the issues raised. It is also brought to the attention of the Prelates of those ecclesiastical jurisdictions where, even though the practices described are not found in those territories at this time, given their rapid diffusion, such situation could change quickly.
&bnsp; Before addressing the concrete situations which were presented to us, it is necessary to look briefly at the essential theological elements underlying the significance of Holy Orders in the organic make-up of the Church. This is so that the ecclesiastical discipline will be understood better in light of the truth and of ecclesial communion which are concerned with promoting the rights and obligations of all, and for which in the Church "the salvation of souls must always be the supreme law".(18)
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