The Catacombs

Full Version: The Synodal Process ——Is A—— Pandora’s Box 100 Questions & Answers José Antonio Ureta and Julio Lore
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
The Synodal
——Is A——
Pandora’s Box
100 Questions & Answers
José Antonio Ureta
Julio Loredo de Izcue
With a Foreword by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.

I - The Synod of Bishops

1. What Is the Synod of Bishops?
The Synod of Bishops is a permanent body of the Catholic Church,
external to the Roman Curia, which represents the episcopate. It was
created by Pope Paul VI on September 15, 1965, with the motu proprio
Apostolica sollicitudo.
The Synod is convened by the pope, who sets the topic. It can meet in
three forms: Ordinary General Assembly for matters concerning the good
of the universal Church, Extraordinary General Assembly for urgent
issues, and Special Assembly for matters regarding one or more regions. It
has a merely consultative character but can exercise a decision-making
function when the pope grants it.
So far, there have been fifteen Ordinary General Assemblies of the Synod
of Bishops. This year, 2023, will see the sixteenth.

2. Are a Synod’s Conclusions Binding?
No. In the past, a Synod of Bishops’ Final Document had no magisterial
value since its role was to give suggestions to the supreme pontiff. The
pope collected the Synod’s ideas and published a post-synodal apostolic
exhortation, which proposed the conclusions of the Synod to the whole
Church, sometimes with significant modifications. This papal document
constituted magisterium. After the reforms introduced by Pope Francis in
2015, the Final Document becomes directly part of the ordinary
magisterium if expressly approved by the Roman pontiff. And if the pope
previously grants the Synod decision-making power, its Final Document
becomes part of the ordinary magisterium once ratified and promulgated
by the pope.

3. Can a Pope or Synod of Bishops Change the Catholic
Church’s Doctrine or Structures?
No. Neither the pope, the Synod of Bishops, nor any other ecclesiastical
or secular body has the authority to change the doctrine or structures of the
Church, set and entrusted in deposit by her divine Founder. The First
Vatican Council teaches:

13. For the doctrine of the faith which God has revealed is put forward • not as some philosophical discovery capable of being perfected by human intelligence, • but as a divine deposit committed to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully protected and infallibly promulgated. 14. Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained, which has once been declared by Holy Mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding.1 The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states: “Like all faithful, the Roman pontiff is under the Word of God, the Catholic faith … . He does not decide according to his own will but gives voice to the will of the Lord, who speaks to man in the Scripture lived and interpreted by Tradition; in other words, the Primate’s episkopè has the limits set by divine law and the Church’s inviolable divine constitution contained in Revelation.” 2 

4. What Changes Did Pope Francis Introduce at the Synod of Bishops? In 2015, Pope Francis announced profound changes to the Synod of Bishops on the fiftieth anniversary of its institution. Expressing his desire that the entire People of God be consulted in the preparation of the synodal assemblies, the pope proposed a plan to create a new “Synodal Church” based on this premise: Given their supernatural sense of faith (sensus fidei), the entire People of God cannot err (it is infallible in credendo) and has a “flair” to find the ways the Lord opens to His Church. The Synodal Church would be one of reciprocal listening between the faithful people, the episcopal college, and the bishop of Rome to know what the Holy Spirit “saith to the churches” (Apoc. 2:7). To this end, all ecclesial bodies—in parishes, dioceses, and the Roman Curia— should remain connected to the base and always start “from people and their daily problems.” 3 Getting to work, Pope Francis altered the Synod of Bishops with the apostolic constitution Episcopalis communio (Sept. 15, 2018) to involve the faithful. The Synod is now divided into three stages: the preparatory phase of consultation with the People of God; the celebratory phase, that is,
the bishops’ meeting in assembly; and the implementation phase, in which
the Assembly’s conclusions, approved by the pope, are to be accepted by
the whole Church.

5. How Does Pope Francis Justify This Radical Change in the
Synod of Bishops?
According to Pope Francis, bishops are both teachers and disciples. They
are teachers when they proclaim “the word of truth in the name of Christ,
head and shepherd.” But they are also disciples, when “knowing that the
Spirit has been bestowed upon every baptized person, he listens to the
voice of Christ speaking through the entire People of God.”
4 The Synod
thus becomes an instrument for giving voice to the whole People of God
through the bishops.

6. What Is the Coming Synod’s Topic and Program?
On April 24, 2021, in an audience with Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-
general of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis approved the theme and
program of the Synod of Bishops’ Sixteenth Ordinary General Assembly.
Thus began the local/national consultation phase with the People of God,
which ended in 2022. The continental phase then began, culminating in
February-March 2023 with the Continental Assemblies, which presented to
the Vatican their conclusions, called a Continental Synthesis. From there,
the Synod moves on to the universal phase, for which two general
assemblies are convened in Rome: the first in October 2023 and the second
in October 2024. A spiritual retreat for all participants will precede the
2023 assembly.
The theme chosen is: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation,
and Mission.” According to the pope, it is a matter of “Journeying together
—laity, pastors, the bishop of Rome.”
1 The greatest difficulty to overcome
“is the clericalism that detaches priests and bishops from people” because
“there is a certain resistance to moving beyond the image of a Church
rigidly divided into leaders and followers, those who teach and those who
are taught; we forget that God likes to overturn things: as Mary said, ‘he
has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly’
(Luke 1:52). Journeying together tends to be more horizontal than
The next Synod, therefore, will not discuss a specific pastoral theme, as
is usually the case in these assemblies, but the very structure of the Church.
For this reason, it is also known as the Synod on Synodality.

7. Is This Synod Aimed at Reaching Specific Conclusions or
Opening a Process?
Unlike other general Synods, this Synod on Synodality is not held to
discuss doctrinal or pastoral questions and reach specific conclusions but to
open a way, to undertake a process to reform the Church. Its Preparatory
Document proposes to launch “a participative and inclusive ecclesial
process.”3 Rather than a Synod, we should speak of a synodal journey. In the Preparatory Document for the Synod, which we analyze below, the
term process is used no less than twenty-three times, along with synonyms
such as path, itinerary, route, and so forth.
This fluid approach must be seen in the broader perspective of the current
pontificate, which privileges becoming and not being, change and not
stability, search and not a certainty: “We need to initiate processes and not
just occupy spaces.”
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator general of the Synod, stated,
“Sitting and talking only make a synod when the talking is about the
journey. Otherwise, it becomes a war of concepts.”

8. Why Did Pope Francis Decide to Hold Two Assemblies?
According to the initial plan, the Synodal Assembly would occur in
Rome in October 2023. However, at the end of the Angelus on Sunday,
October 16, 2022, Pope Francis announced that the Assembly would hold
two sessions, one year apart.
The reason given was that “the theme of the synodal Church, because of
its breadth and importance, might be the subject of prolonged discernment
not only by the members of the Synodal Assembly but by the whole
7 A new phase of listening to the People of God on what the
delegates discussed in Rome will follow the first Assembly.

9. What Would Happen if a Significant Number of the Faithful
Disagreed With and Rejected the Decisions of the Synod or the
There seems to be an internal contradiction in the apostolic constitution
Episcopalis communio, in which Pope Francis altered the Synod of
Bishops. Number 5 declares that every bishop is a disciple “when,
knowing that the Spirit has been bestowed upon every baptized person, he
listens to the voice of Christ speaking through the entire People of God,
making it ‘infallible in credendo.’” This idea is reinforced in number 7,
which insists that “the synodal process not only has its point of departure
but also its point of arrival in the People of God.” It would seem, then, that
the implementation of synodal decisions depends on their good reception
by the faithful, as the Synod Secretariat’s website suggests: “The
conclusions of the Synod, once approved by the Roman Pontiff, are
accepted by the local churches.”

However, section IV of Episcopalis communio, which deals precisely
with the Synod’s implementation phase, provides that diocesan bishops
“see to the reception and implementation of the conclusions of the Synod
Assembly, once they have been accepted by the Roman pontiff” (Art. 19 §
1) and that episcopal conferences “coordinate the implementation of the
aforementioned conclusions in their territory” (Art. 19 § 2).
It says nothing about what would happen if a disagreement arose
between the People of God and the pastors regarding concrete applications
of synodal orientations. If the pastors’ will prevailed, the whole listening
process would appear vain, and the rhetoric of synodality could appear
largely insincere. If the will of the People of God prevailed, the Church
would have been transformed into a de facto democracy.

10. What Is “Synodality”? According to the International Theological Commission, the noun synodality was coined recently and constituted “novel language” not appearing in the Second Vatican Council documents or the Code of Canon Law. In the context of a new model of the Church, according to the Commission, “synodality is the specific modus vivendi et operandi of the Church, the People of God, which reveals and gives substance to her being as communion when all her members journey together, gather in assembly and take an active part in her evangelizing mission.”1 According to Pope Francis, “Synodality is an expression of the Church’s nature, her form, style and mission.”2 And thus, synodality is “a constitutive element of the Church.”3 

11. What Does Synodality Seek? Synod promoters claim that it would be proper for synodality to increase the participation and co-responsibility of all the faithful in the life of the Church. As the Vademecum for the Synod on Synodality prepared by the Synod Secretariat states, “The path of synodality seeks to make pastoral decisions that reflect the will of God as closely as possible, grounding them in the living voice of the People of God… . In articulating the voice of the People of God expressing the reality of the faith on the basis of lived experience.”4 “Synodality calls upon pastors to listen attentively to the flock entrusted to their care.

28. What Does the Working Document for the Continental
Stage Say About Women’s Ordination?
For Synod promoters, women would be among the “excluded
minorities.” The Working Document for the Continental Stage says that a
new culture must be established in the Church, with new practices,
structures, and habits (see no. 60) for full and equal participation of women
in the governing structures of ecclesiastical bodies (see no. 64). It affirms
that many women feel sad that their contributions and charisms are not
always appreciated (see no. 61). Finally, it says that many demand the
female diaconate and the possibility to preach. Some propose the
ordination of women to the priesthood (see no. 64).
Pope Francis himself took a significant step. In April, for the first time in
history, he granted women the power to vote in the Synod. The Roman
pontiff determined that up to 25% of Synod participants would be
laypeople, men and women, all with equal voting rights with the bishops. 30.

31. What Is Behind the “Inclusion” Proposal?
Gavin Ashenden—former Anglican bishop and chaplain to Queen
Elizabeth II, a convert to Catholicism, and now vice-director of the well-
known Catholic Herald daily—denounced the Synod’s Working Document
for the Continental Stage as a Trojan horse. It seeks to manipulate people’s
minds by playing with “talismanic words”36 such as diversity, inclusion,
and equality. He writes: “The trick is very simple. It sets out to use a word
that looks very attractive at first sight but contains a hidden twist, so that it
ends up meaning something different, perhaps even the opposite.”
With great insight, Ashenden continues:
The document is called Enlarge the space of your tent (from
Isaiah 54:2). The controlling idea it sets out to implement is that
of “radical inclusion.” The tent is presented as a place of radical
inclusion from which no one is excluded, and this idea serves as
a hermeneutical key to interpreting the whole document.
The words trick is easily explained. The association
with being excluded is being unloved. Since God is love,
he obviously doesn’t want anyone to experience being
unloved and therefore excluded; ergo God, who is Love,
must be in favor of radical inclusion. Consequently, the
language of hell and judgment in the New Testament must
be some form of aberrational hyperbole which must not be
taken seriously, because the idea of God as inclusive love
takes precedence. And since these two concepts are
mutually contradictory, one of them has to go. Inclusion
stays, judgment and hell go. Which is another way of
saying, “Jesus goes, and Marx stays.”
This is then applied to overturn all the Church’s
dogmatic and ethical teaching.
Women are no longer to be excluded from ordination,
LGBT relationships are to be recognized as marriage; and
then the real extension of the progressive ambition breaks
the surface as there is the suggestion that polygamists are
reached out to and drawn “within the tent of the Church.”
It would be a serious mistake not to realize that the
progressive liberal mindset wants to change the ethics of
the faith. So it replaces the categories of “holiness and
sin” with “inclusion and alienation.” The roots of this
usage of the term alienation are of course found in Marx. 37.

33. Will This “Radical Inclusion” Change Church Structures
and Doctrines?
Yes. According to Synod promoters, the path towards greater inclusion
“begins with listening and requires a broader and deeper conversion of
attitudes and structures.”39 “This conversion”—the Working Document
continues—“translates into an equally continuous reform of the Church, its
structures and style.”40 One of the synodal process’ main goals is “to
renew our mentalities and our ecclesial structures,”41 which “will naturally
call for a renewal of structures at various levels of the Church.”42
The well-known American canonist and religious analyst Fr. Gerald E.
Murray rightly observes that the “inclusion” of these “marginalized
minorities” would have the immediate consequence of
discarding teachings that contradict the beliefs and desires of:
- those living in adulterous second “marriages,”
- men who have two or three or more wives,
- homosexuals and bisexuals,
- people who believe they are not the sex they were born as.
- women who want to be ordained deacons and priests, - lay people who want the authority given by God to bishops and priests. . . . [And he concludes,] there is plainly an open revolution going on in the Church today, an attempt to convince us that an embrace of heresy and immorality is not sinful, but rather a response to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through people who feel marginalized by a Church that has, up to now, been unfaithful to its mission.43 

34. Is “Inclusion” Implementing Liberation Theology’s “Church of the Poor”? Yes. For decades, the so-called liberation theologians had begun to broaden the Marxist concept of the “poor”—that is, the materially dispossessed—to include any category that supposedly feels “oppressed,” such as women, indigenous peoples, blacks, homosexuals, and so forth. In light of the synodal journey, the Synthesis of the Continental Stage of the Synod for Latin America and the Caribbean, strongly influenced by liberation theology, again proposes the old idea of the “Church of the poor” or “people’s Church.” Speaking of a “Church that is ‘a refuge for the wounded and the broken’” (one would say the “oppressed”), the Latin American Document affirms: It is important that in the synodal process, we dare to bring up and discern great themes that are often forgotten or pushed aside and to meet the other and all those who are part of the human family and are often marginalized, even in our Church. Several appeals remind us that, in the spirit of Jesus, we must “include the poor, LGTBIQ+ communities, couples in a second union, priests who want to return to the Church in their new situation, women who have abortions out of fear, prisoners, the sick” (Southern Cone). It is about “walking together in a synodal Church that listens to all kinds of exiles, so that they feel at home,” a Church that is “a refuge for the wounded and the broken.”44 F - The Working Document for the Continental Stage