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The Synod on Synodality at the halfway point

Synod on Synodality delegates in small groups listen to Pope Francis’ guidance for the upcoming weeks on Oct. 4, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

The Synod on Synodality meeting this month is the first of a two-part synodal assembly; the second session is scheduled to meet a year from now, in October 2024. No one is sure what will happen between now and then in terms of agenda-setting and process, but some important questions have been raised, and some serious concerns surfaced, during the first half of this synodal double-header.

What is this? The Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris [Working Document] referred to “the Synod…in which the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place.” Is this a synodal sandwich, in which what was once known as the Synod of Bishops happens within “the Synod”? What kind of authority does a synodal sandwich have? What, exactly, is “the Synod,” and the role and authority of bishops within it?

Recovery of what? Invention of what? Since its inception in 2021, it has been said, not least by the Pope, that this “synodal process” is recovering an ancient Christian practice that was never lost in the Christian East, but which had lain fallow in the Christian West for centuries. It is worth noting, however, that not a single churchman from the Christian East, Catholic or Orthodox, recognizes in Synod-2023 what is meant in their Churches by a “Synod.”

Nothing has been recovered in this process; but something is being invented. What is it?

Theology, please. The conversations “in the Spirit” during the closely-controlled small-group discussions at Synod-2023 have too often been dominated by sociological clichés, not serious theology.

This is particularly true of the discussion of Holy Orders and who the Church can ordain, in which theological considerations – Christ’s spousal relationship to the Church, for example – were rarely encountered.  Yet it was precisely secularized cliché-mongering that led to the implosion in the 1980s of the once-promising Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue, as the Archbishop of Canterbury explained to John Paul II that the Church of England’s decision to ordain women to its priesthood was heavily influenced by social change (e.g., if Margaret Thatcher can be prime minister of the U.K., why shouldn’t the Church of England ordain women?). Similarly lame thinking, devoid of serious theology, has been evident in the small groups’ discussions of evangelization, often framed by secular notions of inclusivity that have little to do with conversion to Christ.

And where, over the past two millennia, has the Catholic Church described and categorized people by their sexual desires (i.e., as “LGBTQ+ Catholics”)? Isn’t there a serious theological problem here?

Read more at Catholic World Report 

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