The synodal journey continues, but course corrections are needed / Commonweal

This Synod doesn’t just differ institutionally. It’s also expressive of a concept of synodality that differs from earlier phases (especially in the post-1985 communio ecclesiology), when synodality was seen as a dimension of the life of local churches and the relations among them.

By Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal

“The first assembly of the Synod on Synodality in October left us with some important certainties as well as a few uncertainties. One of the certainties is that synodality is not an experiment (even if the form of the recent assembly is somewhat experimental). Indeed, synodality is a long-forgotten way for the Church to gather, listen, and make decisions in the service of the Gospel. It is a moment of ressourcement in the tradition of the Church—a reconnection with an important and very real part of its past.

“Another certainty is that this assembly differed fundamentally from the twenty-nine that the Bishops’ Synod have celebrated since 1967, after the creation of the new institution by Paul VI during the last session of Vatican II in September 1965. Not just because it’s part of the long ‘synodal process’ begun in 2021 and set to conclude with the second assembly in October 2024; it’s different as well because of the position the Synod occupies among the turning points in Catholic history in the last two centuries.

“In the nineteenth century, Vatican I (1869–1870) pushed back against liberal modernity and declared papal primacy and infallibility. In the twentieth century, Vatican II (1962–1965) balanced the ‘new’ papacy with episcopal collegiality, and did so in plainly parliamentary fashion: with debates (theological disputationes both in aula and in the commissions) leading to majorities and minorities and eventually converging on a quasi-unanimity in the votes on the final documents. The current synod is not like Vatican I or Vatican II; for one thing, it doesn’t have the same authority. But it’s the closest thing to those councils, and it is expressive of the global dimension of the Church with all its diversity and contrasts—the real challenge of the twenty-first century. Though bishops and superiors of religious orders were represented, so were other members of the Church; thus, global Catholicism supplemented the papal primacy of the nineteenth century and episcopal collegiality of the twentieth with ecclesial synodality. Instead of using the method of disputatio, it adopted “spiritual conversation” as a way to grasp the consensus fidelium. But whoever makes the decision on some of the issues at hand—the Synod or the pope—there will never be a 100 percent consensus. There will be a majority and a minority, as when Vatican II decided to reject anti-Semitism and to restore the permanent diaconate.”

By Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal — Read more …