From our permanent special correspondent
What will we be able to learn from the discussions initiated during the Plenary Assembly of the Synod on the future of the Church, which is due to open in Rome on October 4? Even if the text of the internal regulations of the Synod has not yet been published, the Vatican is seriously studying the hypothesis according to which all debates would be covered by pontifical secrecy. This provision appears in the draft internal regulations currently under study, La Croix learned. According to this project, secrecy could thus concern not only the opinions expressed by each person within the assembly, as well as the votes, but also the themes addressed during the discussions.
The document, which must still be approved by the pope, usually sets the rules for the operation of a synodal assembly, setting out in particular the roles of the general secretary, the rapporteur, or the working commissions. In 2018, during the last Synod, Francis decided to submit to pontifical secrecy “the opinions and votes” of the participants, as we could read in article 26 of the then regulations. According to the code of canon law, the violation of pontifical secrecy can be punished with penalties up to the ban on a priest from exercising his ministry.
But for this Synod on synodality, launched in October 2021 with the aim of reflecting on how the Catholic Church can announce its message to the contemporary world, several other hypotheses were under study. Among them: the possibility of opening all or part of the discussions of the 363 participants in the Synod – including 45 lay people –, after a phase of consultations with Catholics from around the world, for eighteen months.
According to our information, in recent months, the general secretariat of the Synod had considered allowing a few journalists to attend part of the debates, or setting up a system to follow these discussions live. Some in the Vatican supported the idea that it was necessary to open part of the debates, while reserving the possibility, for those participants who wished, to express themselves behind closed doors, like the representatives of Catholics coming from countries where The Church is persecuted. This choice would have represented a break in method compared to previous synodal Assemblies.
By choosing the secrecy of the debates himself, Francis wants to guarantee serenity. “There is one thing we must preserve, and that is the synodal atmosphere. This is not a television show where we talk about everything. No. There is a religious moment, a moment of religious exchange,” he explained on the plane bringing him back from Mongolia on September 4.
“As far as secrecy is concerned, there is a department headed by Paolo Ruffini, who is here and who will make press releases on the progress of the Synod,” he continued, designating the prefect of the dicastery for the communication. It is this commission, he further underlined, which will “give news every day” of the discussions: “The commission has the difficult task of saying: today, the reflection is going in this or that direction, and to transmit the ecclesial spirit, and not the political spirit.”
This decision makes some participants of the Synod fear that the debate will be reduced to extreme positions. “The only ones who dare to speak outside risk being those who have a political agenda,” laments a Vatican source. Furthermore, this can also complicate the reception of the works by the people of God, while this Synod is the fruit of wide consultation. »“Confidentiality of exchanges is at the service of freedom of speech”, judges on the contrary, on peers to participate in the work. “What will be retained, in the final analysis, will be the fruit of community spiritual discernment. The time for communication will follow.”
A position shared, on the same network, by Mgr Alexandre Joly, the Bishop of Troyes, also a future participant in the Roman work: “This is not a political but a spiritual event, in the Spirit. Silence is conducive to listening and discernment in the Spirit, far from polemics, while addressing the questions that were expressed by the faithful throughout the synodal process. »