Synodality: A Social Contract for the Church? by Michael R. Gonzalez

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*Image: Ecce Homo by the Master of the Brunswick Monogram, c. 1525-1535 [Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands]

A note from Robert Royal: We’re a few days and a few dollars away from our goal in the funding drive. Many of you continue to respond and others I’m sure will. But you don’t want me to have to beg, do you?

By Michael R. Gonzalez, The Catholic Thing, May 26, 2023

Michael R. Gonzalez is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He received his doctorate in political science from Baylor University after undergraduate studies at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

When the General Secretariat for the Synod announced that laypeople will have full voting rights at this October’s assembly, it self-consciously added that this does not reduce synodality to representative government. In January, Cardinals Grech and Hollerich felt compelled to reassure the bishops that synodality does not replace episcopal authority with popular sovereignty. Their insistence itself raises serious doubts. We might suspect, as Hamlet’s mother shrewdly noted, that something lies behind this protesting too much.

The General Secretariat contends that including lay voters is not a shift towards democracy because elections will not take place. The pope will choose these laymen and women, and representation will not be proportional. But all this is beside the point. The mechanisms governing the synod may not mirror standards of modern representation, but the Synodal Process is built upon the legitimizing principle of representative democracy, namely that authority requires participation. …