Synodality is Not New, But a Tradition That Has Drifted
~ Dan Stockman, Global Sisters Report
Synodality, where the church hierarchy listens to those in the pews, may seem like a new concept – but only because the Catholic Church has drifted away from this ancient tradition, a professor says.
Boston College School of Theology and Ministry professor Rafael Luciani told a webinar with 1200 registrants that synodality dates back to the first millennia of the church, and that through the Synod of Bishops on synodality, Pope Francis is simply reviving the practice in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
And synodality is especially important now because “the church is in the midst of a clericalist crisis,” Luciani said. “Synodality is rooted in the tradition of the church, Francis is rescuing this value of our tradition.”
The webinar, focused on how consecrated religious can engage in synodality was hosted on January 12 by the Center of the Study of Consecrated Life at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Luciani is an expert on the Theological Commission of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
Sacred Heart Sr. Maria Cimperman, Director of the Center for the Study of Consecrated Life and the moderator of the discussion, said Luciani has previously noted that “if you’re only listening, it’s a survey,” but that synodality calls us to much more.
“When I am being listened to , it is the Spirit speaking through my life,” he said. “We have to find a consensus, and this is new. To build a consensus means to discern together, to share time together – it’s a process.”
Luciani said synodality is much more than just the bishops of the church listening to the people – which they should be doing anyway. Rather, they should participate in dialogue “as just one more among the faithful,” noting that the roots of the word synod come from Greek words meaning “to journey together.”
“This changes the whole way we relate to each other as a church and as the people of God,” he said.
The church is not the hierarchy, the church is the people of God, Luciani said, and being people of God demands that everyone is part of the dialogue.
The synodal process is supposed to begin in the dioceses and parishes, but those on the panel said that is not happening in many areas.
Sr. Cimperman said that while men and women religious are often on the margins of the church, this is a chance for them to be the catalyst that makes the synodal process work.
Organizers said a recording of the webinar should be available in a few days on the Center for the Study of Consecrated Life’s media channel