The Hypocrisy of ‘Synodality’

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  November 26, 2018   

Archbishop Scicluna: Synodality means empowering the laity

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According to Abp. Charles Scicluna, synodality is about lay involvement with local hierarchies in addressing regional issues. This leaves faithful Catholics wondering why the Vatican scrapped the synodal process being applied by U.S. bishops in Baltimore.

In an interview on Friday, Malta's archbishop explained the concept of synodality to America Magazine.

"[S]ynodality," said Scicluna, "means that we appreciate the different charisms and gifts of the laity, their expertise and that we empower them to join bishops in the role of stewardship."

Laity across the United States would agree with the archbishop's statement, as would many of the younger bishops who spoke up earlier this month at the U.S. bishops' general assembly. Both groups, however, are having a hard time understanding how Rome isn't undermining the very empowerment it has heralded of late. Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri summed up the necessity of lay involvement in a letter on November 16.

"The laity are the only ones who can keep the hierarchy accountable and get us out of the mess we bishops got ourselves into," emphasized McKnight. "My singular focus throughout the Baltimore meeting was to advocate and push for greater public involvement of the laity at all levels of the Church."

The goal of Catholics participating in the Silence Stops Now rally was to urge Church leaders in Baltimore to support independent and transparent investigations of those Church officials who enabled now-disgraced Abp. Theodore McCarrick to continue his homosexual predation of seminarians and priests.
Church Militant broke the story of how this synodality was first undermined by Pope Francis in September when he told a delegation of U.S. bishops led by Cdl. Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops, that he's rejecting their proposals to do the following:
  • condunct a full investigation of how bishops allowed McCarrick to be promoted
  • investigate Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò's claims of a homosexual network within the hierarchy
  • open confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops

This "synodal process" of enacting meaningful sex abuse reform in the United States did involve the laity. This whole process of so-called synodality, however, was again abruptly stopped by Rome on the first day of Baltimore's general assembly. The "healthy decentralization" unleashed after the 2015 Synod on the Family and highlighted during October's Youth Synod was disallowed by Rome when U.S. bishops were using it to address their own crisis of homosexual predation of vulnerable adults.

The laity are the only ones who can keep the hierarchy accountable and get us out of the mess we bishops got ourselves into.

Archbishop Scicluna, the adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and president of its tribunal for appeals, is also one of four members Pope Francis has appointed to the steering committee tasked with organizing the upcoming synod on sex abuse. In his Friday interview, the archbishop promised that February's synod on sex abuse would involve the laity.

"It is the hierarchy empowering and facilitating the sharing of charisms which the Spirit also gives to the laity," he noted, "because there are gifts there that will help issues of prevention and safeguarding that we need to bring on board, and we need to facilitate as bishops."

The Vatican doesn't seem to be listening to the laity, however, as the whole #CatholicMeToo movement that has so outraged laity in the wake of the McCarrick scandal is focused on homosexual abuse of adults. In his remarks on Friday, Scicluna failed to mention this issue, but spoke nine times of the sexual abuse of children as being the issue that would be addressed at the synod this February in Rome.

Watch the panel discuss the hypocrisy of synodality in The Download—The February Synod.

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