VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican spokesman on Tuesday denounced the leak of a private letter to Pope Francis by conservative cardinals complaining about the way his big family meeting is being run. But he reminded those responsible that the meeting procedures are set and they're duty-bound to stick with them.
Spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi sought to end discussion about the latest controversy to roil Francis' synod on the family after an Italian journalist published the letter Monday and named 13 cardinals who purportedly signed it.
Four of those said they never signed it. But the Vatican's finance manager, Cardinal George Pell, confirmed he was behind the initiative by conservatives to bring complaints straight to the pope about a perceived lack of openness in the synod that they felt would create "predetermined results."
While other signatories refused to say whether they joined in, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, confirmed he had signed it.
The letter said the working document for the meeting was problematic and so was the drafting committee for the final document, since its members were appointed by the pope, not elected by the synod's 270 members.
And the letter warned if the synod muddied church teaching about marriage, the Catholic Church risked going the way of "liberal" Protestant churches which, according to the letter, had collapsed because they had abandoned "key elements of Christian belief and practice in the name of pastoral adaptation."
Pell has been at the forefront of conservative resistance to attempts by liberals to find wiggle room in the church's ban on giving Communion to Catholics remarried outside the church. Catholic teaching holds that without an annulment, these Catholics are committing adultery and cannot receive the sacraments.
Lombardi said Tuesday that Francis had already responded to the complaints and that it wasn't unusual for there to be "observations" about new procedures for a synod.
"But once they have been established, the (synod fathers) should commit themselves to putting them into practice in the best possible way," Lombardi said.
He said the synod process was going along smoothly and even some of the purported signatories of the letter were moderators for their discussion groups, a sign they were committed to the process.
Dolan said the cardinals felt emboldened to bring their concerns to Francis because he had urged them to be honest with him. In an interview with SiriusXM's The Catholic Channel satellite radio, Dolan said he appreciated that Francis responded the day after he received the letter.
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