The mechanisms of consultation that exist in the Church—from parish councils through diocesan pastoral councils to the Synod of Bishops—exist to strengthen the governance of the Church by its pastors: priests in their parishes, bishops in their dioceses, the Bishop of Rome in terms of the universal Church. The Synods of 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019, however, suggest that the committee model deplored by Cardinal George has morphed into something arguably even worse: the masquerade model, in which a “synodal process” of “walking together” provides cover for effecting serious changes in Catholic self-understanding and practice for which there is little or no doctrinal, theological, or pastoral warrant.
In the Final Report of the recent Amazonian Synod, this masquerade model was described in language sodden with clichés:
To walk together the Church today needs a conversion to the synodal experience. It is necessary to strengthen a culture of dialogue, reciprocal listening, spiritual discernment, consensus and communion to find spaces and modes of joint decision and respond to pastoral challenges. This will foster joint responsibility in the life of the Church in a spirit of service. It is urgent to work, propose, and assume the responsibilities to overcome clericalism and arbitrary impositions. Synodality is a constitutive dimension of the Church. You cannot be a Church without acknowledging an effective exercise of the sensus fidei of the entire People of God.
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