The camera never lies; except that it does. A still photograph taken out of context can be wholly misleading. A video less so, since it provides context. The October Synod in Rome has produced two contradictory responses in observers.
Those who look at the still photograph have been saying “nothing has changed. The catastrophists were wrong. See, no women priests, no homosexual blessings, no change”.
But the opposite is the case. The video tells a different story. One might begin any assessment by asking, if there is no change, what was the Synod all about? Why the cost, the enormous expenditure of effort? Was it really all to enable a couple of hundred hand-picked people the opportunity to self-soothe and engage in ecclesiastical group therapy?
Clearly not. Instrumentum Laboris offered a clear indication that a new kind of theological language was being used, and for a purpose: to facilitate the evolution into a new kind of Church. Salvation was replaced by politics and therapy. The Catholic journalist Jeanne Smits argued that evolution was the wrong term.
She said: “It’s a revolution that’s fundamentally abandoning the definition of the Church as the mystical body of Christ, in order to see it as … a new Church.”
For observers who have watched other ecclesial bodies over the last 50 years, the strategies employed by the proponents of the new synodality look very familiar.
The Episcopalians in America trod this path in the 1980s, as did the Anglicans in England in the 1990s. When the Anglicans turned to the device of detaching theology from the tradition and moving it into encounter groups they chose the term “indaba”.
Indaba is a Zulu concept which describes a gathering for purposeful discussion. It was designed to facilitate “listening as well as speaking and the emergence of wisdom and a common mind”.
Does that sound a little familiar?
It does all the more so when you add the trope “listening to, or in, the ‘spirit’”.
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