Vatican issues text underpinning controversial Synod on Synodality October meetings
Vatican issues text underpinning controversial Synod on Synodality October meetings
While there are no explicit calls for female deacons, as there have been in other texts, the Vatican's new document seeks to cement synodality as the way forward for the Church.

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Bishops and cardinals at the opening Mass for the Synod’s October 2023 sessions

Tue Jul 9, 2024
VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews [slightly adapted - emphasis mine]) — The Vatican has issued the working document which will guide October’s Synod on Synodality meetings, containing key themes and calls to action for reorganizing Church governance and decision making to involve lay people in a more “synodal” style.

Published July 9, the lengthy Instrumentum laboris (IL) states that at the center of the multi-year Synod process “is a call to joy and to the renewal of the People of God in following the Lord and in their commitment to serving His mission,” adding that Catholics “renew our commitment to this mission today by practising synodality, which is an expression of the Church’s nature.”

The IL was compiled by a group of 20 Synod “experts” and theologians, and was – among other sources – born out of the synthesis report from last October’s Synod meetings, an international meeting of priests in Rome on synodality, and the various responses to a consultation document issued earlier this year received from local churches.

The work of the theologians was combined with that of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod, and then approved by Pope Francis before publishing today.

Its utility will be to underpin the entire month-long Synod meetings to be held in the Vatican this October, after which yet another document will be prepared and sent to pope Francis for approval as the concluding text of the Synod on Synodality. That final text, the 20 experts write, might be anticipated to have “a better focus on the practices of a synodal Church, and the proposal of some changes in canon law,” though further details are yet to emerge.

As to the IL’s purpose, and that of the October Synod meetings, the text states it is oriented to answer “how can the identity of the synodal People of God in mission take concrete form in the relationships, paths and places where the everyday life of the Church takes place?”

Meaning of synodality

The very term “synodality” has been roundly criticized by prominent prelates, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Joseph Zen, as being imprecise and without historical basis. But the IL states that since the Synod started in 2021 “the terms synodality and synodal, derived from the ancient and constant ecclesial practice of gathering in synod recent years.”

The 30-page text often referred to the “circularity” of the Synod process and the key aspect of “listening” in the Synod. While calling for synodality to be a normative manner of ecclesial life, the IL argued that it in “no way entails the devaluation of the particular authority and specific task that Christ entrusts to the pastors.”

“Throughout the synod process, the Church’s desire for unity has grown hand in hand with an awareness of its diversity,” the IL adds. “Appreciating contexts, cultures, and diversity is key to growing as a missionary synodal Church.”

The Synod has had listening and dialogue with Catholic and non-Catholics as a key aspect from the very beginning. When asked by this correspondent last October if Synod members had to make a commitment to adhere to Catholic teaching during their discussions, Cardinal Gerald Lacroix evaded the question saying it was a way “to learn to journey together and to listen, to discern together.”

‘Renew’ and highlights various charisms

According to the IL the Synod has highlighted awareness of the “variety of charisms and vocations that the Holy Spirit constantly awakens in the People of God.” Consequently there is, amongst the participating bodies of the Synod, a three-fold desire to “broaden the possibilities of participation and the exercise of co-responsibility by all the baptised, men and women, in the variety of their charisms, vocations and ministries.”

The three “directions” are as follows:
  • A “need to renew the proclamation and transmission of the faith in ways and means appropriate to the current context.”
  • The “renewal of liturgical and sacramental life, starting with liturgical celebrations that are beautiful, dignified, accessible, fully participative, well-inculturated and capable of nourishing the impulse towards mission.”
  • “To recognise and transform the sorrow evoked by the non-participation of so many members of the People of God in this journey of ecclesial renewal and the Church’s struggle to live well the relationships between men and women, between the generations, and between people and groups of different cultural identities and social conditions, especially those made poor and the excluded.”

Women’s role

A key aspect of the 2023 synthesis report was the push for a new role for women, the female diaconate or female governance being the most commonly voiced preferences by synodal activist or heterodox prelates. This has since been heavily promoted by certain key and vocal members of the Synod in the months following the October 2023 event.

Indeed the matter of female deacons is currently being examined by the study groups specifically formed by Pope Francis, and which are due to give their conclusions on the 10 study questions by summer 2025. As such, the female diaconate is not technically billed as being part of the October 2024 Synod meetings, as noted by the IL.

Nevertheless, the IL does echo the calls reportedly made by many for the female diaconate, also calling for women to be elevated to higher positions of governance and authority within the Church.

“There is also a call for adequately trained lay men and women to contribute to preaching the Word of God, including during the celebration of the Eucharist,” the IL notes.

LGBT issues

Last October’s synthesis report made mild waves by not using the term “LGBTQ” unlike in the 2023 Instrumentum Laboris which guided proceedings. It was a particularly notable absence, especially given the concentration of questions on the topic of homosexuality during the near-daily press briefings.

The term does not appear in the 2024 IL either, though a number of mentions are made of this who are on “the margins,” which was a term used in early Synod documents to refer to LGBT individuals:

“A need emerges in all continents concerning people who, for different reasons, are or feel excluded or on the margins of the ecclesial community or who struggle to find full recognition of their dignity and gifts within it.

Priests, laity and the hierarchy

A key and recurring demand has been to have more lay governance in the Church, moving away from a focus on the ordained clergy and ecclesial hierarchy. The new IL spoke of “fatigue” felt by clergy and a consequent need for “a reimagining of the ordained ministry within the horizon of the missionary synodal Church” as “not only a demand for coherence but also an opportunity for release from these burdens, provided it is accompanied by an effective conversion of practices, which makes the change and the benefits deriving from it evident to ordained ministers and the other faithful.”

The early calls have been solidified: the IL urges that a synodal Church needs “a renewed vision of ordained ministry, moving from a pyramidal way of exercising authority to a synodal way.”

In order to promote “baptismal charisms and ministries, a reallocation of tasks whose performance does not require the sacrament of Orders can be initiated,” the IL reads.

The Synod’s move away from the Traditional hierarchical structure of the Church continues, emphasizing aspects such as “communal discernment,” increased lay involvement on every aspect (apart from those areas which fundamentally require holy orders), communal involvement in matters of Church decision making.

The Papacy

As already highlighted by the recently promulgated study document – “The Bishop of Rome. Primacy and Synodality in the Ecumenical Dialogues and in the Responses to the Encyclical Ut unum sint,” – Pope Francis is keen for the papacy to be understood in light of synodality. In practice this would appear to mean a downgraded exercise of papal authority, although Francis own use of such power has been more monopolizing than his predecessors.

READ: Pope Francis approves new document elevating ecumenism and synodality above papal primacy

Shying away from using the word “papacy” and opting for “bishop of Rome” instead, the IL wrote that the Bishop of Rome “is the guarantor of synodality.”

Quoting directly from Evangelii Gaudium, the IL noted how “Reflection on the forms of exercise of the Petrine ministry should also be conducted from the perspective of ‘sound decentralisation’ (EG 16), as urged by Pope Francis and requested by many Episcopal Conferences.”

Ecumenism and a re-examined “synodal” style of understanding the role of the “Bishop of Rome” are intimately linked, as the IL attested that “among the most significant fruits of the 2021-2024 Synod is the intensity of the ecumenical impulse and the promise that marks it.”

‘The Churches’

A particularly interesting aspect is the use of the term “Church” or “Churches.” “Walking together as baptised persons in the diversity of charisms, vocations and ministries, as well as in the exchange of gifts between Churches, is an important sacramental sign for today’s world,” the IL writes.

It then proceeds to use “Church” and “Churches” to refer initially to the Catholic Church at national, diocesan or local level, demonstrating a Protestant-style terminology by appearing to place the local level of Church life on a par with the governance of the Church. Mention was made of specific regions, such as the Amazon, as “particularly promising areas in which to implement forms of exchange of gifts and coordinate efforts.” Such phraseology harkens back to the Amazon Synod and the calls for married clergy to be introduced throughout the Church, drawing from the Amazon region.

But then the IL moves seamlessly and without differentiation into using “Church” and “Churches” to refer to ecumenical bodies. Ecumenical aspects have long been at the heart of the Synod on Synodality, as the IL recalls: “dialogue between religions and with cultures is not external to the synodal journey but is part of its call to live closer relations.”

Continuing Synod

The Synod on Synodality has already been in process since 2021, and with the study groups working until June 2025, analysts are already anticipating the Synod will be effectively extended.

This is proving to be true. According to an accompanying FAQ note issued by the Synod’s General Secretariat the ending of the Synod this October “will not mean the conclusion of the synodal process.”

The Synod’s three phases “are not only to be understood in a chronological sense,” the note reads, thus setting the stage for a permanent Church modeled on synodality.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Archbishop Viganò replies on "X" to the above LSN article:

Quote:The Bergoglian sect proceeds in forced stages towards the definitive deconstruction of the Catholic Priesthood, making it superfluous in practice, even though it does not deny it in theory, flanking it with non-ordained ministries that can also be conferred on women, and allowing lay people to preach (a prerogative strictly reserved to ordained ministers even according to Montinian and post-conciliar norms).

He wants churches to empty out completely and that the Holy Sacrifice will no longer be celebrated there: those Novus Ordo churches are already deserted because of the horrid liturgies, while those full of the faithful - where the Apostolic Mass is celebrated as it has always been done - will be closed by ecclesiastical authority. This is the Protestantization of the Church taken to its extreme consequences.

Bergoglio wants to silence every voice of dissent, pushing true Catholics to abandon the Church, whose authority and name he usurps. He promotes heresy and schism with increasingly unprecedented provocations, because he does not tolerate confrontations in which he would be hopelessly defeated. He is an out-of-control tyrant, surrounded by accomplices and cowards.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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