If you wanted two words to describe the Synod on Synodality, the event that begins today in Rome, it would have to be deep confusion. Unless you wanted to add a third, deliberate. Because it’s been clear from a series of concrete measures that what’s been said is not what’s going to happen. And what’s going to happen has not been said. Yet there’s a method, of a sort, to this madness.
To begin with, the very format of this Synod is already a kind of deliberate confusion – and for a reason.
On the one hand, we have been told by the very highest synodal authorities – from the pope on down – that synodality is a recovery of an ancient dimension of the Church that was preserved in the East but had been lost in the West. This is to assume, as really cannot be assumed, that this is a truthful statement of intention. Because. . .
On the other hand, we have the words of the exarch (leader) of the Greek Catholic Church – part of that very Eastern tradition (though in communion with Rome) – warning:
If the West understands synodality as a place or as a moment where everyone, laity and clergy, act together in order to arrive at some ecclesiastical, doctrinal, canonical, disciplinary decision, whatever it may be, it becomes clear that such synodality does not exist in the East.
Historically, this is correct beyond question. That’s why when synods began to be held after Vatican II, they were synods of bishops, in conversation with the pope, which is to say of those with the apostolic authority to govern, teach, and sanctify. That’s the Eastern tradition that we’re being told was lost in the West.
The new configuration, which has been conjured out of thin air by people shaped by some unfortunate cultural currents in recent decades, suggests that the further claim by the Roman organizers – that the synod is not a democratizing of the Church – is not merely a historical mistake about tradition. That much is obvious. The only question is why?
The synod will not exactly be a parliament – as Francis has said. But it’s going to function like one except that, at the end of the day, the non-hereditary monarch that we call the “pope,” can use or ignore the deliberations, however he wishes. And we already have some hints of what that will mean, in several concrete ways, though we’ve been told not much important will be decided this month. (October next year may be a different matter.)
There have already been pre-emptive pronouncements (confused or ambiguous to be sure) about crucial changes. Five Cardinals – now six with the concurrence of Cardinal Müller, and seven because the late, great Cardinal Pell was in agreement before he passed away – Cardinals from every continent, put questions (dubia) to the pope that were answered by the new head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, with surprising swiftness. (Cardinal Burke revealed at a public lecture in Rome last night that there are other Cardinals who silently support their questions.)
We will be digging into the specifics in coming days and weeks, but it’s worth noting at the beginning some clear facts.
Most flagrantly, it now seems that “blessing” same-sex “unions” will be at the discretion of local bishops and priests, meaning that it will be mandatory once those figures begin to come under pressure from local activists and the secular media.
Continue reading at The Catholic Thing