You may have heard that the “Working Document for the Continental Stage” of the “Synod on Synodality” was released today. (You may not have heard, in which case, I apologise for this article!) Numerous Catholic news outlets (of varying quality) have already commented on this document, but I thought I would provide a few of my own “highlights” for readers.
1. The document claims that “Globally, participation exceeded all expectations” (n. 5). Given that the participation of even those Catholics who attend Mass has been exceptionally low – something even cardinals have recognised! – this is either a lie, or the expectations were very, very low to begin with!
2. One of the few positives is that the document explicitly says that “it is not a document of the Church’s Magisterium” (n. 8). Thus, when the time inevitably comes, we can just chuck it in the bin and concentrate on more important things in the life of the Church. Deo gratias!
3. The document claims that it “will be understandable and useful only if it is read with the eyes of the disciple, who recognizes it as a testimony to the path of conversion toward a synodal Church” (n. 13). So, if you’re sceptical, or not on board the synodal train, then that’s your problem. In fact, as the hyperüberultramontanists would say, you’re probably a schismatic. Submit!
4. If n. 24 is anything to go by, these ‘synodalists’ really do think they are singing a new church into being, bestowing on us some sort of revolutionary, paradigm-changing idea: “one could say that the synodal journey marked the first steps of the return from an experience of collective exile”…!
5. “In the embrace of an enriching diversity, we can find our deeper unity and the opportunity to cooperate with God’s grace… The community […] must take greater account of diversity, aspirations, needs and ways of living the faith. The universal Church must remain the guarantor of unity, but Dioceses can inculturate the faith locally: decentralization is necessary (Archdiocese of Luxembourg)” (n. 54). Given that the Cardinal Archbishop of Luxembourg (who also, coincidentally, happens to be the Synod’s relator general) is on record as saying that Church teaching on homosexuality is “no longer correct”, I think we can all figure out what is meant by “decentralisation” of the faith here. Shades of Cardinal Kasper’s 2014 comments on Africans, perhaps?
6. All the mentions of LGBTQ, civilly-divorced-and-remarried, polygamists etc. (nn. 38-40) are to be expected at this stage. Of course, we are to listen to them and “accompany” them, which in practice means affirmation of sin and nothing more.
8. There is an interesting ‘solution’ to the vocations crisis in the document, courtesy of the Italian bishops’ conference synthesis: “This desire for co-responsibility becomes grounded first of all in the key of service to the common mission, that is, with the language of ministeriality. As the Italian report says, ‘The experience made […] has helped to rediscover the co-responsibility that comes from baptismal dignity and has let emerge the possibility of overcoming a vision of Church built around ordained ministry in order to move toward a Church that is ‘all ministerial,’ which is a communion of different charisms and ministries.'” Well, whatever else this is, it is not Catholic. As we all know, and as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us, “the function of the clergy is essential and irreplaceable in announcing the Word and celebrating the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist”.
9. And finally, of course, what “synod on synodality” document would be complete without some tasty word salad?
In terms of global-local tension – which in ecclesial language refers to the relationships of local Churches among themselves and with the universal Church – the dynamic of the synodal process places before us a novelty that is constituted precisely by the Continental Stage that we are currently living. Apart from a few regions characterized by a particular historical dynamic, so far the Church lacks established synodal practices at the continental level. The introduction of a specific Continental Stage in the process of the Synod does not constitute a mere organizational ploy, but corresponds to the dynamics of the incarnation of the Gospel which, taking root in areas characterised by a certain cultural cohesion and homogeneity, produces ecclesial communities with particular features, linked to the traits of each culture. In the context of a world that is both globalised and fragmented, each continent, because of its common historical roots, its tendency towards socio-cultural commonality and the fact that it presents the same challenges for the mission of evangelisation, constitutes a privileged sphere for stirring up a synodal dynamic that strengthens links between the Churches, encourages the sharing of experiences and the exchange of gifts, and helps to imagine new pastoral options. (n. 73)
If your eyes have not glazed over while reading that, or, indeed, while reading any of the complete waste of time and resources that is this “Working Document”: well, congratulations, I suppose, but do seek help!