There has been a lot of talk in the Catholic world over the past year on the concept of synodality—the idea of coming together and agreeing on a path forward by consensus rather than by diktat.
The bishops in Germany have been particularly vocal about this as the pathway forward for the Church. And Pope Francis seems to be a fan, as does the USCCB. In fact, the USCCB has developed an approach to this:
Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme that is decisive for its life and mission: “It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.” This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s “renewal” proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task: by journeying together and reflecting together on the journey that has been made, the Church will be able to learn through Her experience which processes can help Her to live communion, to achieve participation, to open Herself to mission.
In my own diocese, our bishop duly passed along the exhortation for individual parishes to weigh in on how they might make synodality a reality. I don’t know of a single Catholic who has taken this seriously (maybe we’ve finally learned the art of salutary neglect?), but I’m going to step out in faith and accept the challenge. You want renewal, communion, active participation, and mission? You claim that “it is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium”?
OK, then, I got it right here: I’m calling for a Lay Synod. A national meeting of prominent lay Catholic leaders (and only laity) who will convene to tackle the challenges facing our Church in the modern world: Our collective failure to evangelize and live out our Gospel commission. Our beleaguered families. Our struggles with sin and the difficulties we face in how to respond properly to sin in a modern world that condemns judgment. And yes, we’ll also discuss the elephants in the room—heterodox teaching from our pulpits, the thunderous silence from too many of our bishops on too many issues, the covering up of predatory priests and the active support for leftist causes.
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