Pope Francis’ announcement of an upcoming synod dedicated to synodality cannot but worry. Despite earlier proclamations, these last synods have been a bad example of synodality. Above all, there can be no synodality without fidelity to tradition and a conscious adhesion to doctrine, as the Church has always taught.
Synodality is the problem, not the solution. Many probably trembled when Pope Francis, in his speech at the end of the Amazon Synod, mentioned the possibility of holding a forthcoming synod on synodality. If one holds a synod about synodality, it means there is uncertainty about synodality. But then the future synod that will address synodality will have a weak foundation because synodality is precisely what gives it foundation and legitimacy.
Apart from this curious play on words, a possible future synod on synodality is a great cause of concern. One fears that it could validate the current version of synodality and consecrate the way it has been used, which, we must recognize, is hardly synodal. Synodality is today a passe-partout word that would supposedly open every door and lead to the solution of every problem. Instead, it is the origin of many problems.
Synodality is proclaimed and declaimed, but in reality it is not applied. It is a cover word, a screen word, a leaf-fig word. Synodality should resolve the very serious question of sexual abuse and even that of the divorced and remarried. Ditto of a pure, integral ecology, and the reform of the Church. They claim there will be no pastoral conversion or ecological conversion without synodal conversion. Synodal conversion seems to precede even conversion to Christ.
However, despite these declamations, neither the synod on the family nor that on the youth or the Amazon has been set up and conducted in a truly synodal way. The highly contested Instrumentum laboris was written by a handful of people from REPAM, the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, and the much-trumpeted consultation of 80,000 natives does not seem to have actually taken place. The appointments of Synod Fathers have been strongly oriented in one direction. Does anyone have doubts about how Father Spadaro or Cardinal Marx would vote? The fundamental indications on where they wanted to arrive were given in advance to the point that now, once the final document has come out, they are discussing the same widely anticipated problems discussed before the synod, namely priesthood for married people, women deacons, Amazonian rites.
The conduction of the synod was prepared and accompanied by strictly controlled communications. No word at all was said to television broadcasts, Catholic newspapers or magazines known to have vented any question marks or perplexity about the synod. All you had was a unanimous and enthusiastic choir. Because of this, many think that both the final document (at least its draft) and the future apostolic exhortation (at least its draft) had already been written even before the work began.
By virtue of the principle of coherence, this non-synodal way of implementing synodality would also affect the possible future synod on synodality and further delegitimize both synodality and the synod. Synods conducted in this way undermine the believers’ adhesion to the faith and weaken synodality itself, which concerns not only those who actively participate in a synod but also the whole ecclesial body which, though not having participated, prayed and believed.
But there is more. In addition to defects of application and contradictions in the exercise of synodality, the conception of synodality we see today is rather dangerous. There can be no synodality without fidelity to tradition and a conscious adhesion to doctrine as the Church has always taught. Synodality is not an assembly relationship or a method of discussion; it is a convinced insertion into the very life of the Church in communion with the whole Church of all times all the way to the apostles, including the Church which is no longer on pilgrimage on earth under the reigning pope and the tradition of no longer reigning popes.
There is no synodality without absolute fidelity to doctrine because only one Spirit inspired Revelation and animates the union between the members of the Church. The Synod Fathers do not ‘synodize’ (if this word exists) as they please: It is Christ who ‘synodizes’ them by calling them together in unity. If synodality looks only ahead and not back, it risks becoming an assembly at the mercy of changes decided upon outside synodality.
If synodality starts from man, people or situations and not from God, it risks becoming functionally dependent on a human project. Pharisees are not those who remind Synod Fathers that there is a doctrine not born in the Amazon to which Amazonians are entitled to receive intact. Pharisees are those who put synodality at the service of a doctrine said to have been born in the Amazon. Synodality is not a convention from which truth is born; it is truth at the service of which people come together. Synodality is not a ‘how’ without content; it is not a container to be filled with mutual sharing but behind it is a truth that must be served together. That is why, speaking strictly, there is no need for synods to have synodality. And if we hold them, we must always keep in mind that it synodality is what makes the synods, and not the synods that make synodality. Let us have fewer synods and more synodality.
Source: La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana
Translated by the staff of Pan-Amazon Synod Watch.
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