Concerning “Synodality”, by Russell Shaw

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*Image: Pope Francis meets with German bishops during their ad limina visit Nov. 20, 2015. [Photo: Vatican Media]

By Russell Shaw, The Catholic Thing, Feb. 10, 2021

Russell Shaw is former Secretary for Public Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity (forthcoming from Ignatius Press).


Russell ShawIn October next year an assembly of the Synod of Bishops will convene at the Vatican to discuss the whys and hows of a “synodal” Church. Although a synod on synods may at first sound excruciatingly dull, the bishops will be weighing a matter with huge implications for the future of Catholicism.

Before proceeding too far down what German Catholic leaders have recently been touting as the “synodal path,” therefore, we would be wise to pause and consider whether synodality, as Pope Francis believes, is just what the doctor ordered for the Church or a poison pill in the making. For now, at least, the truthful answer is: It all depends.

The word “synod” comes from two Greek words, “sun” (with) and “hodos” (path). A synodal church is one that conducts its affairs in a participatory manner grounded in an appreciation for its own nature as a communion of believers. The International Theological Commission traces synodality all the way back to the so-called Council of Jerusalem, described in the Acts of the Apostles, at which “apostles and elders” of the Jerusalem church discussed what to require of non-Jewish converts.  …

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