Opinion: Seven signs of serious synodality – Catholic World Report

Social media is, rightly, roasting the release by the USCCB of “Seven Attitudes for Walking the Synodal Path,” which, as I commented on Twitter, embody Christopher Lasch’s ever-memorable phrase about the “banality of pseudo-self-awareness.” 

Opinion: Seven signs of serious synodality – Catholic World Report
Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton, N.J., officially begins the local process for his diocese’s participation in preparations for the 2023 meeting of the world Synod of Bishops on synodality during Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Trenton Oct. 17, 2021. (CNS photo/Hal Brown, The Monitor)

Social media is, rightly, roasting the release by the USCCB of “Seven Attitudes for Walking the Synodal Path,” which, as I commented on Twitter, embody Christopher Lasch’s ever-memorable phrase about the “banality of pseudo-self-awareness.” 

These slogans convey nothing theological. Worse, they sound like they were workshopped at some mandatory retreat corporate HQ, where with forced bonhomie you had to “brainstorm” vacuous sentiments on white boards (since crayons, as Karen from HR sadly informed you, were one of the victims of the supply chain crisis we keep hearing about):

Screenshot of Jan. 10, 2022 @USCCB tweet.

But more insulting still is what these sentiments so obviously go out of their way to avoid doing: manifesting the slightest acquaintance with the real and concrete desires that the long-suffering people of God in this country have for their synods and bishops. I have tried to lay those out in scores of articles over the last decade (e.g., hereherehereherehere; see also here for others appropriating my work). 

So let me offer a septinarium of my own that should make these desires pellucid. I will keep the list suitably brief, referring readers who want the full theological, historical, and ecumenical justifications, as well as practical details on how these proposals work in the real world, to my 2019 book Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power

Bishops! The people of God in this country want, and will be satisfied with nothing less than:

(1) Synods in every diocese where clerics and laics are on equal footing with voice and vote to meet annually in full session, and as often as necessary between sessions in a standing or permanent synod.

(2) Synods in every diocese that vote annually on the bishop’s proposed budget, priorities, and policies, including those governing liturgical rites.

(3) Synods in every diocese which, during their annual meeting, have a right to pass a motion of censure or non-confidence in their bishop for egregious abuses of money, power, and sex.

(4) Synods in every diocese that meet to elect a new bishop when the old one dies or retires.

(5) Synods in every ecclesiastical province that elect the metropolitan archbishop and function under his presidency as disciplinary tribunals for diocesan bishops charged with various forms of malfeasance, including covering up sexual abuse. These synods can depose bishops if found guilty, but bishops can appeal to #6, below, and ultimately to Rome if necessary.

(6) Synods in every region or country that meet to elect a patriarch or catholicos under whose presidency the synod will function as a court to try archbishops, and as an appellate court to hear appeals from metropolitan synods.

(7) Synods in every country that elect a slate of electors to be sent to the next papal conclave. After all, as Pope Celestine I (422–432) said, “the one who is to be head over all should be elected by all.”

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