Essay raises important questions about Pope Francis’ synodal process

By Michael Sean Winters, 10 December 2023
A view of participants during the Synod of Bishops on Synodality assembly in Rome in October 2023. Image: Vatican Media


Theologian John Cavadini, director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, penned an important article about the synthesis document that summed up the deliberations at the recently concluded Synod of Bishops in Rome. Unlike some of the recent commentaries I have seen, Cavadini’s raises important questions about the document and does so in a respectful and thoughtful way.

He is not trying to undermine the synodal process nor is he hurling accusations against its organizers. As he notes, the document itself invites the church “to continue deepening our understanding pastorally, theologically, and canonically.”

Cavadini’s focus is on the ecclesiology of the document and, specifically, the way synodality constitutes an ongoing part of the reception of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council and its teaching, specifically in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. This is the thing that too many conservative critics of Pope Francis forget, that his efforts at reform are rooted in the reception of Vatican II and that in Latin America, the council was received differently to date from the way it has been received here in the U.S.

The synthesis document repeatedly focused on baptism as the source of synodal ecclesiology. “Synodality claims to develop a primary feature of Lumen Gentium‘s ecclesiology, namely, its recovery of the idea that all of the baptized, by virtue of their baptism, are called to contribute to the mission of the Church,” Cavadini writes. “It ‘values the contribution all the baptized make, according to their respective vocations.’ ”

Cavadini adds, “Synodality values the title ‘People of God’ for the Church, correctly associating this title with the idea that baptism calls all to contribute to the mission of the Church.”

To continue reading this article, click here.

With thanks to National Catholic Reporter and Michael Sean Winters, where this article originally appeared.


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