So what is this synodality business about anyway?
The term has been used by some as a short hand for ‘the governance of the Church’, and this is, I think, incorrect. People have started to think that synodality can be equated with the way the church should be run. They are confusing synodal governance with synodality.
Synodal governance is exercising authority through synodal means, and rather like democracy, could take many forms. It could be that different constituents come together and vote and that if all of the ‘synods’ agree, then this becomes law. Or that a majority of them do. Synods here are shorthand for ‘groups of people’.
We could put this forward in the following manner that a synod should contain its own type of people – a synod of laity, of religious, of clerics, of Bishops etc. And that they could the generate ideas, correctives, advances, restraints, and that the whole would then function like a well oiled machine.
Or we could have an idea of synodal governance where each synod would comprise all of the elements mentioned above – a synod would have Bishops, clergy, religious, laity and would similarly function to propose certain elements of governance for the people of God.
Of course we would have to remove the bar from governance strictly being limited to the ordained, but that could be done.
We might run into problems of one geographic synod opposing another – what is forbidden in Poland is allowed in England and Wales for example. Or a synod of Bishops opposing a synod of laity.
But of course both of these, I submit, are flawed interpretations of synodality.
Synodality is not about governance. It is not about who rules what and who decides what. In founding the Church, Christ was clear that there were different gifts, different charisms given to different people, and types of people within His Body, which is the Church.
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (I Cor 12)
Governance is a gift of the spirit. It finds its place within synodality. Synodality does not exist to exercise authority any more than the National Health Service exists to have a chief executive, or the UK to have a monarch.
When synodality is deformed simply to talk about who makes decisions, then it is pointless, and rather at odds with our founder, who, let us remember happens to be God.
So are we any closer to knowing what synodality is? And what actually was the synod on the family doing?