In a letter sent to the pontiff on October 5, the opening day of a Church synod on the family, a group of cardinals described procedures for three weeks of discussions as “designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions.”
The ostensibly private (but quickly leaked) letter was delivered to the pope by Australian Cardinal George Pell and reportedly signed by peers including the archbishops of Toronto and New York, Thomas Collins and Timothy Dolan, and arch-Vatican conservative Carlo Caffarra, the archbishop of Bologna.
A day later, without making any reference to the letter, Francis made an unscheduled intervention in the synod discussions to warn participants not to be taken in by “spiritually unhelpful” conspiracy theories.
And in comments that now look like a slapdown of a challenge to his authority, he also pointedly stressed that he had personally approved the methodology for three weeks of talks intended to reshape Catholic teaching on a broad range of questions related to family life.
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