The Synodal Way’s Great Expectations
The bishops of Europe – together with dozens of clerical and lay participants – met in Prague last week as part of the “continental phase” of the Synod on Synodality. A final report is expected shortly (for some preliminary indications of tone and substance, click here). Synodality is a concept that many continue to find fuzzy – and worrying. Some Synodal leaders have – paradoxically – tried to reassure the worried that we’ll find out what Synodality means in the process of holding the Synod. About that, we shall see. But by then, understanding may come too late. Because the process, in some quarters, has aroused great expectations. And great expectations, if disappointed, have often led, historically, to great upheavals. Even revolutions. Even schisms.
I’m in Rome this week researching a new book about modern Christian persecution and martyrdom, but it’s difficult not to notice various voices – some quite unexpected – here in Europe itself, that are not convinced that the synodal game, as played thus far, is worth the candle.
One thing has always been clear: the Synod on Synodality comes with sharply contradictory expectations.
On one side, which seems to be Pope Francis’s (at least on the surface), the goal is to learn to “walk together,” humbly, in a new way, consistent with tradition, but adapted to the present time, in order better to preach the Good News. That’s been a dream in the Church since John XXIII announced Vatican II over sixty years ago, with – to say the least – rather mixed results.