The Future of Catholicism After the ‘Synod of Synodality’

Only after Pope Francis’ Pontificate will we be truly able to evaluate the results of his reforming mission.

Newsroom (19/11/2023 09:00, Gaudium Press) The first Assembly of the Synod on Synodality, which concluded on 29 October, has raised questions about the impact of the Synod’s proposals on the lives of Catholics. To what extent will these deliberations influence Catholic practice?

Despite some controversial topics, the Assembly focused mainly on the participation of the laity in making decisions that affect Church life, from the Roman Curia to dioceses and parishes around the world. This proposal reconfigures the hierarchical structure of the Church, aiming to make it more participatory. However, it is not yet clear how this will take place.

It is reasonable to assume that in the second part of the Assembly, in October 2024, the participants will look for a way to put the Synod’s proposals into practice. The realisation of Pope Francis’ goal depends considerably on this second session.

In essence, the results of this assembly seem to be aimed at creating a new Catholic pneumatology, where the Sacraments of Baptism and Priestly Orders are equated, justifying the participation of the laity in the governance of the Church, and attributed to the hierarchy.

The synthesis document deals in particular with the presence of the Holy Spirit in the mission of Catholics. The method of dialogue in the Spirit was applied during the assembly, but would be valid for decision-making in local churches, religious orders and ecclesial movements.

The Synod devoted little space to the controversies that dominated the news, such as the possibility of women’s ordination to the diaconate, polygamy and greater openness to homosexual persons. Analysing the document, one can see a marked focus on issues related to the co-responsibility of the faithful in defining the direction of the Church. Supporters of controversial issues, such as Jesuit Fr. James Martin, a fervent defender of the LGBT agenda in the Church, have expressed disappointment.

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Nevertheless, it would not be wrong to say that the Synod on Synodality was the most important event in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council. At least so far, it is the initiative that has most sought to bring the changes of the Council to the heart of the Church. We can only wait and watch to see if these aspirations will be realised, because what we have so far are abstract concepts and considerable ambiguity.

Ultimately, synodality as the participation of the laity in the governance of the Church is an experiment whose outcome remains uncertain, and its implementation will take years, if not decades. Only after Francis’ pontificate will we be able to evaluate the outcome of his reforming mission. So far, we can be sure that any failed implementation of this experiment would have catastrophic repercussions for Catholics at all levels of Church life.

By Rafael Silva

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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