Despite media expectations for the upcoming synod of bishops, Pope Francis will make his final decisions in his legitimate role as Pope, and will certainly carry forward a line of renewal in continuity, an archbishop and historian has said. Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, said to CNA Oct. 1 that “Pope Francis cannot be a revolutionary; he cannot walk that path.” “Pope Francis' line cannot be other than that of reform within continuity,” he added. Archbishop Marchetto underscored that because of the necessity of reform within continuity, “the Italian writer Antonio Socci is wrong in thinking that Pope Francis has been elected for some revolutionary purpose,” and he is even “more wrong in supposing that Pope Francis' election was not valid.” In his book “Non è Francesco” (“He is not Francis”), which is to be released Oct. 3 in Italian, Socci suggested that Bergoglio's election as Bishop of Rome is invalid because he “would have been elected at the fifth ballot after a series of procedures that would invalid the election.” Socci refers to the reports of Elisabeta Piqué, an Argentine journalist who wrote that on March 13, 2013, an error led to the fourth vote of the day — the fifth of the conclave — being cancelled. Archbishop Marchetto responded, however, noting that “article 68 of Universi Dominici Gregis, the apostolic constitution regulating conclaves, says that 'if the number of ballots does not correspond to the number of electors, the ballots must all be burned and a second vote taken at once,' and this had been done.” “Pope Francis is the Pope, and this is beyond any doubt.” The claim “(t)hat Pope Francis is going to revolutionize doctrine has yet to be demonstrated,” Archbishop Marchetto emphasized. Socci's book has renewed debate about the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family, taking place Oct. 5-19, as has an Oct. 1 article by historian Roberto de Mattei appearing in the Italian daily Il Foglio. In the article, de Mattei wrote that “the subject of communion for the divorced (and remarried) is only the vector of a discussion that focuses on rather complex doctrinal concepts, such as human nature and the natural law,” according to a translation by Francesca Romana at Rorate Caeli. According to Archbishop Marchetto, “the debate over the synod echoes the debate over the Vatican Council, so we should rely on what happened at the Second Vatican Council to understand the synodal debate.” “It is not that changes will not take place,” he emphasized. “I say, though, that changes will be in continuity with the Church’s tradition, as happened at the Second Vatican Council.” Archbishop Marchetto, who retired five years early from his curial position so that he could pursue his passion for the history of Vatican II, has written several books championing what Benedict XVI referred to, in his 2005 Christmas address to the Roman curia, as “the 'hermeneutic of reform', of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us.” Archbishop Marchetto's approach to Vatican II critiques the so-called “Bologna school” of interpretation, led by Giuseppe Alberigo, which the archbishop has said views the council as a “Copernican revolution” which led to “another Catholicism,” and which is a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture. Pope Francis has personally praised Archbishop Marchetto's approach to Vatican II, calling him “the best interpreter of the Second Vatican Council” in a letter sent to the archbishop for the presentation of his collection of papers on the topic. “The issue at stake (at the synod) is that of the pastorality of doctrine, and so of the opportunity to have a 'pastoral translation' of doctrine,” Archbishop Marchetto commented. “But there is no authentic and true pastoral care against doctrine,” he added. Regarding the debate over the admission of the divorced and remarried to Communion, Archbishop Marchetto said, “the focus will not be on the indissolubility of marriage, but on whether a marriage is valid or null.” “It seems to me that the Holy Father himself has introduced the debate on these criteria, creating, very recently, a commission on the matter, to speed up the procedure,” Archbishop Marchetto said. In his article, de Mattei wrote that “according to Kasper’s program, the spirit of the Gospel whose values need to be communicated ‘in a comprehensible way to the man of today’ contrasts the natural law.” de Mattei also noted that Cardinal Kasper wrote that “the Catholic Church is 'where there is no selective Gospel', but everything is expanded in an all-encompassing manner, in time and space,” and that “the mission of the Church is to ‘step out of Herself’ to regain a dimension that renders her truly universal.” de Mattei emphasized that the “inevitable consequences of this new idea of morality which the Synod Fathers will have to discuss” will be the overturning of the concept of natural law, and an eventual renewal in matters of sexual ethics — which would in turn lead to a yes to contraception, premarital relations, and the recognition of homosexual couples, as is claimed by the Italian theologian Vito Mancuso. Archbishop Marchetto does not describe the situation in such terms. He maintains, rather, that “we are facing the pastoral desire to give responses that are not against doctrine, but at the same time would permit us to face brand new peculiarities.” On the other hand, Archbishop Marchetto is well aware of influence of media on the synod of bishops. “Stretching back to 19th century, the First Vatican Council had already experienced the influence of the media. The impact of the media exploded during the Second Vatican Council and it is continually increasing, since it is part of today’s world, a fundamental tool to nurture public opinion and to influence, in a just or unjust way, the discussion to come.” He concluded, saying, “I hope that the synod will not lead to a rebound like that against Humanae vitae.” Paul VI's 1968 encyclical was widely expected to be open to artificial means of contraception, but the Pope, having heard all sides, reiterated the Church's teaching on the regulation of birth, based on natural law. “Pope Francis, regarding certain aspects of the 'theme' of the family, could find himself also in a difficult position, but I hope and pray that he will not face the same critiques and attacks that followed the release of Humanae vitae,” Archbishop Marchetto concluded.
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