Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Synodality 4

Back to synodality.

What was the Synod on the family doing? I think it might have been one of two things. First it might have been an exercise in bringing to a public forum the thoughts of the Church was a whole: laity, religious, clergy and the Holy Father. I suppose this is why there was a consultation from each Bishop to His diocese. These were brought together by the representatives of the Bishops’ Conferences to the Synod.

Or second perhaps it was a synod of Bishops, who in order to take the temperature of their dioceses, consulted the clergy, religious and laity, and then got together to talk about it.

And the purpose of both of these was to let the Pope know what was going on, so that he could either (i) be informed or (ii) issue a statement. We have seen in the past how this helped Saint John Paul II know what was going on in parts of the world that he didn’t have too much knowledge of, like Asia for example.

If the synod thought it was doing the first of these things (bringing the thoughts of the Church together in the public forum), then there are some practical problems. The most obvious is the question of whether Cardinal Nichols and Bishop Peter Doyle represented the views of the Church in England and Wales. And how did they know our views, and how do we know what they actually said. 

This is the place for wonderful paranoia – however I know that some voices are listened to more than others. If someone is agreeing with you, you rate it much more highly than a voice which is diametrically opposed. That is human nature. Where was I at the synod? Where was my voice? Or yours? Or anyone’s?

It is, I’m afraid the problem of representative democracy. The synod could not possibly be that, and I do not think that it was.

So we are left with the second view – a meeting of Bishops, who, in order to be informed, consulted their clergy, religious and laity. They chose how it was going to be done, and collated the information and used it in whatever manner they wished. It does not matter if they represent anyone’s views. And they do not have to reference either their own people, nor, importantly, their fellow Bishops, who were not chosen for this august honour.

In my opinion, the synod on the Family was essentially a group of Bishops who had been chosen by the Pope to advise/inform him. This was done either through direct Papal choice or by ‘allowing’ Bishops’ Conference to elect from among themselves who was to go to Rome.

We now have to ask if this is synodality…

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