I am not opposed to a more “synodal” Church. In fact, I would welcome any move away from the cult of the modern hyper-papacy that views the pontiff as an Oracle of Delphi on the Tiber who must be in control of every aspect of the Church’s life. There is ample evidence of this hypertrophy of the papacy, but for a recent example one can look at Traditionis Custodes, which contained legislation regulating when and where the TLM can be advertised in parish bulletins.
I am all in favor of the Petrine ministry in the Church, but I highly doubt that Christ intended the rock of the papacy to act like a helicopter parent swooping in to regulate every last detail of parish life. More importantly, I do not think Christ intended for the rock of the Petrine ministry to wield power as Caesar does, and with the same claims of universal omnicompetence.
Nevertheless, I have serious reservations about the current bureaucratic gesticulations toward “synodality” in the Church. As far as I can tell they are rather empty gestures filled with the usual modern technocratic, therapeutic linguistics of faux egalitarian tyranny. Nothing is more quintessentially modern than the bureaucratic impulse to micromanage through mimicry of putatively “democratic” procedures; autocratic ends are achieved by first creating a “process” rooted in “structures”—followed by the infiltrating of those processes and structures in advance with the approved apparatchiks.
And once certain conclusions via “decision consensus” have been reached, the “democratic moment” ends, and all must now offer a pinch of incense to the Caesar of the “process” and its conclusions—conclusions that were reached long before the “process” even began, and which were the raison d’etre for the creation of the entire hamster wheel in the first place. And it is my fear that this process is exactly what we are seeing in the “synodal way,” which has been accompanied by all of the anodyne buzzwords and marketing banalities that one sees in similar secular operations.
Some might say that this is alarmist hyperbole, and that synodality is meant to increase the Church’s “accountability” precisely by devolving “power” to more local entities. I am all for that—in theory. Therefore, if that really is the aim then just do it and stop the charade about a “listening Church” with its thoroughly unsystematic and unscientific questionnaires that are designed to give back to their creators exactly what they wanted to hear in the first place.
Most of the respondents to these questionnaires are going to be self-selected Catholic activists of both the Right and the Left, and/or the usual five percent of parishioners who will dutifully show up for a parish meeting if that is what the pastor wants. And such folks are in no way going to be representative of the vast swaths of bored and desultory Catholics who couldn’t care less about such procedural, intramural affairs….
The above comes from an April 28 posting by Larry Chapp in the Catholic World Report.