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…

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Synodality 1

It has been bothering me for quite a while now, that no one actually knows what synodality means. In this VERY interesting interview with Cardinal Pell, here, he says:

Catholicos, a Greek word, means universal, it doesn’t mean continental or regional. Synodality – I’m not quite sure what it means when it’s applied to the whole of Church life as distinct from the existence of a synod like this. But these things are to be the activities that are to continue to flow along.

I find this worrying, because Cardinal Pell is an informed intelligent man. Some of the others who graced the scene of the Synod, I fear, are neither so well informed nor intelligent. So if Pell didn’t know what synodality is, who exactly did?

This is important as this was what was supposedly going on. Just because they met in a thing called a ‘synod’ does not mean that they were participating in synodality. And just because they said ‘we’re acting synodically’ similarly does not mean that they are. Me and a few mates can turn up to a parliament and say that we’re acting democratically, but we could just be having a game of Poker, a few beers and a packet of crisps. The meeting and the words do not indicate what was actually going on.

So what is synodality. Well, as a callow youth, I wrote a thesis on it. Although you can buy a copy, here, I do not really recommend you do, it is extremely dull (get the one on confession instead, here). The only reasonable definition of it I came across was from ARCIC The Gift of Authority, 1999

In each local church all the faithful are called to walk together in Christ. The term synodality (derived from syn-hodos meaning “common way”) indicates the manner in which believers and churches are held together in communion as they do this. It expresses their vocation as people on the Way (cf. Acts 9.2) to live, work and journey together in Christ who is the Way (cf. Jn 14.6)

So synodality is the way in which the people of God journey along the Way to Him who is the Way. It is the interplay between the different people/roles/elements in the church and between local churches. You can easily see how this definition comes from the Protestant Anglican worldview. And you can see how it can easily be dangerous to a Catholic sensibility. 

Here, the danger is in the local/universal church relationship. For Anglicans there is neither need nor, in some cases desire, for close unity, except in name. Thus you can have all being in an “Anglican Communion” looking to Canterbury as a See that once held the whole thing together. But let’s be honest, when you have the position of one bit of the Anglican Communion rejecting the ministry of another bit, and that being accepted, you have to ask in what meaningful sense there is unity. Is it simply a shared history?

I would say that this ‘supra-national’ use of synodality cannot have any meaning if the local churches are equal in authority, and here we see the age old danger of Kaspar’s priority of the local church, wonderfully squashed by Ratzinger/Benedict, but rather like Japanese Knotweed, with deep pernicious roots. It’s evil daughter is Bishop’s Conferences with doctrinal power.

By the way, why should it be Bishop’s conferences? In the image of synodality, which I’ll look at later, the overriding icon is the Bishop celebrating Holy Mass, surrounded by Priests, Deacons, and the Laity. Synodality explicitly takes its image from the diocesan church. Nothing at all to do with Bishop’s Conferences. Indeed I would go so far as to say that they are alien and poisonous to the very idea of synodality.

But we cannot have a bunch of churches with no authority structure, as this would make 'synodality' not work. Imagine a parliament without a speaker, image a family where everyone has an equal voice, and the three children decide to spend the mortgage money on sweets and comics. This is the reason why the Anglicans are currently drifting further and further apart. Synodality on this level demands that something holds it together.

If synodality is the correct interplay within visible elements making up the Church, then the role of the Pope is essential.

So, is this what the Synod was doing? In a word, no. And in a word, it was getting there. 

To be continued...

Monday, 26 October 2015

A visit to Ryhope


In my role as 'random priest always willing to cover a Latin Mass at the drop of a biretta' I found myself in Ryhope in Sunderland to sing Mass last week. The Mass has been going there for twenty years and is a good and holy thing.

The Church is pretty spiffy also.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Plural Problem

This afternoon, reading the Latin text of Nostra Ætate, the Vatican II document on non-Christian religions, (it was a slow day in Great Swinburne) I came across the following quotation from St Paul’s letter to the Romans 9.4-5. The Revised Standard Version (the one I invariable use) has it thus

They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ.

So far so good. I know this bit, and can go on about it for AGES… blaa, blaa, blaa.

But, you see, (and you will remember if you have kept up thus far) I was reading it in Latin. Now my Latin is enough to order a newspaper and say how I want my eggs in the morning, and there is no way on this planet that I would say I’m even proficient in the language, but I, even I, can spot an erroneous plural when I see one. (Also remember that my PhD thesis is on covenants so I have a head start).

This translation says ‘covenants’. The text of Nostra Ætate says ‘testamentum’ – one covenant, singular.

“Yikes and Yowzers” I cried!!! A mistake!!!

So I checked the Vulgate (the official Bible in Latin) and it said ‘testamenta’ – covenants, plural.

You can image that by this point I am in a tizz, all a-shock and a-shiver. But then my old memory came cranking into play.

“Wait a minute” I said to myself “which version of the Latin Bible are we dealing with here?” And therein is the solution… and the problem.

The Council Fathers were using the Clementine Vulgate (no, not the citrus based fruit… keep up!) used from 1592-1979. It says ‘testamentum’ – covenant. But the New Vulgate, 1979- , says ‘testamenta’ – covenants. New Bible plural, Old Bible singular.

Ahh, I hear you sigh, problem solved.

But just you wait a minute! This is not solved at all. The official Bible of the Church says something different to a text in an Ecumenical Council of the Church. So which do we follow?

Should Vatican II be updated with the New Vulgate (thus riding a coach and horses through any idea of trying to critically engage with the ‘text’ of the conciliar documents – after all their very words can now be changed by subsequent documents. Let me at them... there's a few changes I'd like to make)?

Or should we mistranslate Vatican II in line with the New Vulgate (dodgy on so many levels)?

Or should we keep the primacy of an Ecumenical Council over subsequent Papal acts (a hoot and a riot since most stuff that a Catholic comes into contact with post Vatican II bears little relation to the Church as the Council Fathers knew and experienced it)?

It all so difficult!

All over a plural!

Friday, 9 October 2015

Library View

I'm sitting in my college, supposedly working, but actually looking at the view. This is ridiculously beautiful. It is very difficult at times to work...

You can see the website for the college here. When I came to Durham, I had to choose a college. They of course then decide whether or not you will be accepted. I had to give a reason for choosing University College (commonly called Castle). I claimed that it would be ideal for me as it would be close to the Theology Faculty.

I ACTUALLY chose it because it is beautiful.

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