Saturday 5 November 2022

A measured comment on the Synodal pathway

 I have previously posted on the Synodal pathway: Synodality - without discernment? and   Synodality: Initial reflections of the Bishops' Conference . My key thought from these posts is that, as it is developing to date, the Synodal process lacks that dimension of discernment that I believe is a key component of the idea of synodality.

I recently came across a more complete assessment of the Synodal process. Unfortunately it has been posted on a blog with a strong antipathy towards Pope Francis, but I have not been able to find an original text elsewhere. I link to it in this location, therefore, with considerable reluctance:  Fr. Jon Bielawski on the Synod. I think Fr Bielawski offers accurate and sensible comment on the reality of the Synodal process. 

I observed in one of my posts that perhaps we should never have expected large numbers of the faithful to take part in parish and diocesan based meetings to reflect on the Synod themes. Fr Bielawski makes a comparable point early in his comments with regard to the ability of most faithful to grasp the purpose of the synodal gatherings:

What was at first very vague, gained a bit more clarity as Pope Francis clearly stated that this synod and synodal process was to be clearly based on the principles of, “communion, participation and mission”. He also stated that it was not to be a platform for personal opinions and agendas but a prayerful exercise invoking the Holy Spirit for discernment. This latter point, I regard as a spiritually high level request which the majority of the faithful would struggle to comprehend or carry out. (In this country, at least, good efforts were made to educate people on these points but it is something that cannot be accomplished in one good talk or exhortation).

Fr Bielawski continued:

Despite these good intentions, in practice, the synodal process was carried out in random
manner and method across the country with varying levels of competency and neutrality. Also, it was carried out in the absence of many priests, who perceived their presence would restrict the process. (In my own parish, 20 took part – each person was allowed to speak on the 4 points but there was no discussion. Notes on the points were recorded. For each point we had some quiet prayer time before the Blessed Sacrament).
Due to this reality, the National Synthesis Document (NSD) was, to a great extent, a compilation of opinions and agendas which is exactly what it was not meant to be. 

After observing that many of the opinions expressed in the Synthesis Documents reflect currents of thought from the wider secular world rather than the inspiration of Catholic faith, Fr Bielawski observes:

It is of vital importance that we do not fudge the damaging impact of these opinions by imprecise language or ambiguous general statements that try to have a superficial conciliatory tone that says everything and nothing at the same time. For example, a ”welcoming church” can simply be that; where a church is, for example, open all day for anyone to enter and has a good “welcoming team” for masses and services. This is quite different to another understanding of “welcoming”, which is wanting to be open and inclusive to LGBT ideology and practice which abandons Catholic morality and attacks our very humanity and reason, causing havoc amongst the youth. 

Father ends his observations by suggesting that we focus on the third of the three Synod principles, that of mission. 

Synod/Synodality has to be at the service of mission and evangelisation and as a means to initiate it. Otherwise it becomes a displacement of, and distraction from the essential mission of the Church. Likewise, it must not provide a platform for a voice which contradicts and undermines the teachings of Christ which are integral with that mission/evangelisation. 

It is worth reading the whole of Fr Bielawski's observations and not just my extracts, so follow the link, though with my word of caution about the blog on which they have been posted. I think he has achieved a realism of comment without that element of antagonism towards the institution of the Church that marrs much other comment.

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