The Vatican announced recently that the next synod of bishops will now extend over a two-year period of various “phases.” According to Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, the hope is to turn the synod from “being an event into a process.” This worries me. 

The idea of a sort of “permanent synod” of bishops achieved prominence from the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (which by itself should make us reach for our Catechism). Martini’s vision, apparently shared by Pope Francis, is that this type of “on-going synod” would allow for a less-centralized Church and a “wider participation of the people of God.” 

A less-centralized Church? Well, that depends. If by “less-centralized” you mean that matters of faith, morals, and liturgy are left for “local churches” to decide, then a less-centralized Church means a more divided Church; and, in the end, not really one Church at all. The “synodal path” has led the Church in Germany into de-facto schism. Pope Francis’s last synod, resulting in Amoris Laetitia, raised more questions than it answered. I suspect that a “synodal path” will allow the same “decentralization” of practice into other areas as well. To many, these synods make one view the Catholic Faith as a New Englander views the weather—if you don’t like it, just wait a while; it will change. 

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