ROME, June 15, 2015 – They were five cardinals and forty-five bishops from as many African countries who met in Accra, the capital of Ghana, from June 8-11. All in the clear light of day, not almost in secret like some of their colleagues from Germany, France, and Switzerland, who had gathered a few days before at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
But while at the Gregorian the objective was changing the Church’s stance on divorce and homosexuality, in Accra the push was in the other direction.
The marching route was indicated from the very first remarks by Guinean cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the congregation for divine worship:
– “not to be afraid of reiterating the teaching of Christ on marriage”;
– “to speak at the synod with clarity and with just one voice, in filial love of the Church.”
– “to protect the family from all the ideologies that want to destroy it, and therefore also from the national and international policies that impede the promotion of positive values.”
On this marching route there has been complete consensus. The only bishop of black Africa who has spoken out in recent months in favor of “openness” to divorce, Gabriel Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, although designated months ago as a delegate to the synod did not take part in this meeting because it was among presidents of episcopal conferences, and in Ghana the president is not he but the bishop of Konongo-Mampong, Joseph Osei-Bonsu.
In addition to Sarah, the other African cardinals present were Christian Tumi of Cameroon, John Njue of Kenya, Polycarp Pengo of Tanzania, and Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel of Ethiopia, this last created by Pope Francis at the last consistory.
Organized by the symposium of episcopal conferences of Africa and Madagascar, the title of the meeting was “The family in Africa. What experiences and what contributions for the 14th ordinary assembly of the synod of bishops?”
To respond to the question in the title, on the first day the participants held a discussion on the basis of four thematic introductions, splitting up afterward into working groups, and on the following day on the basis of five more outlines of discussion.
One of these, entitled “The expectations of the synod,” was read to those present by the theologian and anthropologist Edouard Ade, secretary general of the Catholic University of Western Africa, with campuses in Cotonou, Benin and Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
And it was characterized by a severe critical analysis of the influence that the Church of Germany has had and continues to have in the unfolding of the synod, on a worldwide level.
After describing “the unprecedented evaporation of the Christian faith” that has taken place in Germany in recent decades, accompanied by exaggerated expectations of changes in Church doctrine and practice fostered by the hierarchy itself, Professor Ade’s talk focused on what he called “the strategy of the Germans.”
Given that the maximum objectives of the blessing of second marriages and of homosexual couples appear to be out of reach, this “strategy” would consist of opening loopholes that could be expanded later, naturally while affirming in words that there is no intention to change anything about doctrine.
These loopholes would be, for example, the “particular cases” illustrated by Cardinal Walter Kasper in his talk at the consistory of February 2014, knowing very well that they would by no means remain isolated cases.
Another clever stratagem would be that of presenting the changes as a solution “of balance” between the impatience, on one side, of those who would like divorce and homosexual marriage right away, and on the other the “rigorism devoid of mercy” of the discipline fixed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, while pretending to be unaware that this discipline coincides with the perennial doctrine of the Catholic Church on marriage.
Yet another loophole would be that, already in use in many places, of giving communion to the divorced and remarried and to all couples outside of marriage, without even waiting for any decision on this matter on the part of the synod and the pope.
Moreover, Professor Ade warned against the “Trojan horses” adopted by the innovators, like that of always attributing a positive value to all relationships of life in common outside of marriage, or that of considering indissolubility as an “ideal” that cannot always be attained by everyone, or yet again of the use of new language – including that typical of the United Nations – that ends up changing the reality.
Ade’s talk was highly appreciated by the bishops and cardinals present. So much so that there are traces of it in the final statement, where it says that “we must begin from the faith, reaffirm it and live it for the sake of evangelizing cultures in depth,” taking care not to adopt or legitimize “the language of the movements that are fighting for the destruction of the family.”
In a major six-page interview released during these same days in France in the magazine “Famille Chrétienne,” Cardinal Sarah said among other things:
“At the synod next October we will address, I hope, the question of marriage in an entirely positive manner, seeking to promote the family and the values that it bears. The African bishops will act to support that which God asks of man concerning the family, and to receive that which the Church has always taught.”
“Why should we think that only the Western vision of man, of the world, of society is good, just, universal? The Church must fight to say no to this new colonization.”