Carl Olson: The Synodal Sludge

Earlier this week, the Vatican issued the Instrumentum Laboris—the working document—for the October 2023 Synod. The 27,000 word document, which is divided in two basic parts: a section of dense descriptions and often repetitive directives, and a section of leading and sometimes skewed questions.

First, the good news: if you enjoy the adjective “synodal,” you’ll be thrilled to read about the “Synodal church” (116x), the “synodal process” (33x), the “synodal life,” the “synodal experience,” the “synodal way,” the “synodal path,” the “synodal perspective,” the “synodal dynamic,” the “synodal orientation,” the “synodal journey,” the “synodal style,” “synodal action,” “synodal key,” “synodal framework,” “synodal manner,” “synodal spirituality,” and, well, you get the synodal drift.

Furthermore, whether you knew it or not, you are a part of the synodal-fest. Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general for the Synod of Bishops, says the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) “is a text in which no one’s voice is missing” and that it “is not a document of the Holy See … but of the whole Church. It is not a document written on the desk. It is a document in which everyone is a co-author, each for the part he is called to play in the Church, in docility to the Spirit.”

The synod, Grech assured synodal listeners, does “not speak about the Church’s teaching — that is not our task and not our mission — we just welcome everybody who wants to walk with us.”

Consider me skeptical. In the spirit of things, let’s call it synodal skepticism.

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