The Vatican’s Synod on Synodality continues to stir the ecclesial pot. Some Catholics say it provides a platform for heresy. Others think it doesn’t go far enough.
The synod is set to conclude in October 2024, so it’s too early to make any definite judgments about it.
Rather, keep these basic principles in mind as you weather the synodal drama and the sometimes inaccurate reporting surrounding it.
The correct meaning of “listening.”
We keep hearing that this synod is about “listening,” especially to underrepresented groups. In a sense, this is a good thing, but we need to interpret this concept with the mind of Christ, not of the world.
The synod emphasizes that we should listen to the poor. This is clearly in line with Christian tradition, as Christ identified with the poor and commanded us to serve them. The synod also singles out victims of racism, abuse, and other groups who also deserve to be heard.
However, many are treating our need to listen in the neo-Marxist way, through the lens of violent dialectic (as many of our secular contemporaries do). To them, this means if you’re part of a group that was fortunate to have its voice heard in the past, no one cares for you now and you don’t have a right to speak because you’re a “violent oppressor.”
The problem with this idea is that it silences the voices of the many who are not at fault for the crimes of their forefathers. We should treat listening as a way to transcend this Marxist dialectic of violence, not reinforce it.
The basic hierarchical structure of the Church is permanent.
Although we all participate in the priesthood of Christ, our Lord established a special ministerial priesthood. He calls certain men to be instruments of His grace through the sacraments. He instituted bishops to have authority over their people and the successor of Peter over the entire Church.
This basic structure will never change. Certain aspects about how the parts function may, but there will always be bishops to oversee the Church, priests to bring us the sacraments, and lay men and women to bring the Gospel to their secular peers.
Inspiration comes from unexpected places.
The synod is trying to cultivate a communal consciousness of our responsibility for the life of the Church. Even though we’re obedient to the magisterium, this doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit won’t inspire a member of the laity in something that helps deepen our understanding of our faith. (This assumes, of course, that this inspiration doesn’t go against the legitimate authority of the Church.)
That’s another reason why listening is important. Yes, there are many voices in the synod who are not speaking with the mind of Christ. But others are and they are people we would otherwise overlook.
At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit will continue to guide the Church. Meetings like this synod are often messy affairs, but don’t let the drama weaken your faith. Christ is still steering this ship.