Friday, 30 October 2015

Synodality 2

I previously said that synodality as a concept was a little fraught as no one really knows what it is. I stand by that. And also I gave a brief, very brief, overview of what it could mean on a supra-ecclesial level (of how particular churches or groups of churches inter-react). The model which we can see working in the Anglican Communion, of Synodal/democratic governance has led to its inevitable conclusion: to all intents and purposes the destruction of unity, with just a fig leaf of respectability. This is described as the genius of Anglicanism. It is a new thing.

Now, I do not want to bash other Christian communities, so I will leave Anglicanism for a moment, though it can never be taken as a model for Catholicism.

I also had a bit of a swipe at Bishop’s conferences. This is for a specific purpose. If you wish to propose synodality as a vision of the correct interplay of the different groups of the Church, then you have to do it properly.

The image for synodality comes from Eucharistic or Communion Ecclesiology. This uses the picture of the Bishop celebrating Holy Mass, assisted by priests and deacons and the laity taking their place and role in the Eucharistic assembly. Each has their place, and each are needed for the image to be completed. This, I would say, is in accord with documents such as Lumen Gentium §7.

But this is diocesan based, and has nothing to do with Bishops' conferences. If we are to take seriously the idea that my Bishop is a successor of the Apostles, and that as such is a member of the Sacred College which is the continuation of the Apostolic College, and further that he, with me and the deacons, religious and laity make up the image and icon of the Church, then where exactly does a Bishops' Conference fit in? They are not the Apostolic College working together. They are bits of it, not the whole thing. And neither are they the full synodal image of the Church. In fact, they are nothing in Eucharistic or Communion Ecclesiology.

It may be that we want to use Bishop’s Conferences in this way or that, but they are not essential to the Church, either practically or theologically. It may be that they are a way sneaking in localism (heaven forfend!) with this bunch doing this, and that bunch doing that, but if their competency does not have theological roots, and I would strongly argue that they have no theological roots whatsoever, then they should not be left in charge of anything more important than which comics to buy, and whose turn it is to do the washing up.

I find it ironic then, that one of the things which is threatened from this exercise in ‘synodality’ is the strengthening of something which does not exist within it.

More anon…

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