The Curious Case of the Intercepted Book | Edward Pentin | CWR
Copies of a controversial book were mailed to participants in last year’s synod, yet only a fraction of them were received. Was this due to a simple error or was something else going on?
[Editor’s note: The following is an exclusive excerpt from Edward Pentin’s new book The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation of Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, available now from Ignatius Press as an e-book. To find out what really went on before, during, and after last year’s controversial Synod of Bishops, Pentin spent months speaking to many of those who were there and piecing together what happened behind the closed doors of the Vatican’s Synod Hall.
This excerpt is about the controversy surrounding the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ, copies of which were mailed to the synod participants. Only a fraction of those copies made it to their intended recipients, however, as Pentin reports.]
The Intercepted Book
… Alarmed by the platform Kasper had been given for such a potentially drastic change in pastoral practice, one that critics believed would seriously undermine the Church’s teaching on marriage, a group of Church experts, including five cardinals, would write a riposte in the form of a book.
Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, published by Ignatius Press, was written by five cardinals from Italy, Germany, and the United States, one archbishop, two religious, and one layman (the contributors were Walter Cardinal Brandmüller; Raymond Cardinal Burke; Carlo Cardinal Caffarra; Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S.; Robert Dodaro, O.S.A.; Paul Mankowski, S.J.; Gerhard Cardinal Müller; John M. Rist; and Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J.). They felt obliged to write in response to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal, which Kasper had published following the February 2014 consistory and which they saw as implicitly inviting a public response.
Among other things, the book contends that Christ in the New Testament unambiguously prohibits divorce and remarriage on the basis of God’s original plan for marriage set out at Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. This is part of the Gospel of the Family, and it goes back to Christ, not simply to the Church’s rules. From this starting point, the contributors carefully and unpolemically outline the theological, moral, and pastoral case for the Church’s pastoral practice.
The book was devised in absolute confidentiality. Although Pope Francis had never publicly endorsed the Kasper proposal, he was widely believed to be sympathetic to it, since he had given Kasper such a prominent platform at the consistory and because of his public support for the cardinal’s other writings and because of Kasper’s claim that the pope fully supported him and rumors that the pope privately thinks it admissible to distribute Holy Communion to civilly remarried divorced Catholics in certain circumstances and did so when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.
That the pope actually did favor Kasper’s position was unclear, but the editors and writers decided it was not worth the risk for the project to become public. Perhaps if the pope found out it was in the works, he would stop it. And he would be free to do so: as pope, he would be at liberty to tell any of the cardinals involved to halt its publication, and they would be duty bound to carry out his wish in obedience to him. But even if the pope did not intervene, others might work to block the work or try to discredit it before it was published.
It is not clear, even today, who originally had the idea for the work. Cardinal Burke took the lead in compiling the contributions, but he may have received direction from someone else, possibly from someone in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which certainly supported the position of the book, as an essay by Cardinal Müller formed one of its chapters.
Burke, in turn, worked with Augustinian Father Robert Dodaro, the American president of the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum in Rome, who served as editor. The cardinal called him a day or two before the Easter Triduum in 2014 and asked if he would write a chapter on patristics. Father Dodaro had fortuitously just written a long text for the CDF on the patristic arguments of Cardinal Kasper’s talk to the extraordinary consistory.
Having found Kasper’s position defective, Dodaro was happy to oblige, but, because marriage and divorce in late antiquity was not his particular field, he recommended Professor John Rist. A classical philosophy professor emeritus of the University of Toronto, Rist is known to be a “top grade” philosopher and one of the world’s foremost experts on the ancient Church. Dodaro thought few would be willing to dispute his analysis. When Rist agreed to participate, Burke invited Dodaro to edit the book.
The book was duly compiled in record time.