Getting Serious about the Synod

Brad Miner | April 17, 2023

In the heyday of Liberation Theology, the movement’s theorists often argued that it wasn’t enough for the Church to care for those wounded by political and economic injustice – roughly what Pope Francis has called a “field hospital.” Liberation demanded inquiries into why bodies are floating downstream and forays upstream to find, and deal with, causes. Liberation Theologians weren’t very good at this. (Most Church figures aren’t, because their training is not in political philosophy, economics, or security matters.) They often applied what were already clearly simplistic, discredited Marxist categories to situations in Latin America, and elsewhere in the developing world, where Marx’s “scientific” socialism didn’t really fit.

Pope Francis pets a tiger during an audience with circus members in Paul VI hall at the Vatican June 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-CIRCUS June 16, 2016.

All this came back to mind as I was thinking about the Instrumentum Laboris, the “Working Plan,” for the October Synod on Synodality, which is being written over the next several days in Rome. (I’ll be in Rome later this week and hope to report on the process and the results, which will be presented at a press conference on Thursday). It reminds me of Liberation Theology because the overall approach to the Synod, so far, seems to be trying to address current challenges to “walking together,” without much inquiring into how and why it is that, at this juncture, we face such radical questions. Whatever its shortcomings, Liberation Theology would never have settled for such superficial  treatment.

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