I have a confession to make.
It’s embarrassing to admit. I feel like less of a man because of it, if I can even call myself a man. I blame society. I blame my parents. I blame anything pre-Vatican II. Most of all, I blame being brainwashed with a non-innovative outlook.
Out I come with it: I still have no idea what a synod on synodality is.
This is a serious moral issue, I am told. No less than a Prince of the Church, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, has remarked that I may, in fact, be a heretic because of it. “My favorite definition of heresy is a refusal to deal with complexity,” says the least popular episcopal Tobin. “If you look at the heresies of the church, the great heresies, they couldn’t accept one thing or the other, and they didn’t want to live with the tension.” Nighty-night Arius, there’s a new heresy in town.
Now what Tobin says sounds complicated. Of course, according to his favorite definition of heresy, this means he is not a heretic. For him, heretics are those who refuse to deal with the complexity of the synod on synodality. The path of synodality is not straight and narrow we are told, and we must embrace this convoluted reality. Straight and narrow paths are only for less important places, like heaven.
In my defense, I imagine there are many other Catholics who do not understand what a synod on synodality is. Not the old lady in her pew reciting rosaries with heroic rigidity. Not the mother of seven who is busy homeschooling, feeding, and occasionally hiding in a bathroom away from her children. Maybe not even Cardinal Dolan of New York, who has preached: “I don’t know if I completely understand it; and the Holy Father is honest in admitting that neither does he have the full comprehension.” In fact, I suspect no one – not a single soul – who is responsible for living a real life, in the real world, understands the idea of a synod on synodality. Hence, I suspect most people roll their eyes and ignore all this synod-talk.
However, ignoring it will no longer be possible for the average Catholic. The local bishops have come calling. That is, many bishops, in the spirit of synodality, are currently hosting their own diocesan synods. The purpose is to force discussion on Pope Francis’ synod on synodality. In other words, these bishops are hosting synods on the synod on synodality. Sound complicated? Good. This, I am told, means that there is no heresy.
What is involved with these local synods? Many things. Synodal prayers are said at Mass, with a banquet of vague, inoffensive, and meaningless phrases. Flashy posters, graphically designed by second grade students, are placed throughout the narthex.
Homilies are preached on the synodal process – though I forget in which Gospel Jesus dialogued about synodality. Diocesan Zoom calls are scheduled to discuss what it means to discuss. More meetings and guided conversations follow, usually during work hours so only retired church-goers – devoted to singing a new Church into being – can attend. Then, a precious document, never to be read, is created and passed on to the next level of Church bureaucrats. With that, a Mass is said by the bishop to declare the local synodal process complete. The synodal game has been played to perfection. All that is left is for the bishop to beg for money. These synods can’t be cheap.
Inane complexity is not a strength of mine. While I have offered a reasonable synopsis of the local synodal process, I still maintain I have no idea what any of this means. Regardless, there is one vital question still to be asked: What are Catholics to do with these diocesan synods? I ask this question with sincerity.
A hint of an answer, I believe, is found in something not yet mentioned: the diocesan survey. Assuming you do not use the fire escape when leaving Mass – it is tempting – many dioceses are distributing synodal surveys to the faithful as they head out the church doors. These surveys provide an excellent clue for understanding what one must do with the synodal process.
I will demonstrate with my own completed diocesan survey, answers and all:
Within your faith community, how would you rate your sense of belonging from not at all to totally belonging? [Scale of 1-100]
Rock solid 7 out of 100.
I get the most spiritually affirmed by…
Dude. Definitely by synods.
Think of a time that you felt you really belonged to a faith community.
“Felt” gives away the answer. Whenever there are felt banners, I feel like I belong. Especially when there is fire on them. I like fire on felt banners. They should all be on fire.
Think of a time that you felt you did not belong to a faith community.
That time when the Holy Father called me rigid, insecure, a proud proselytizer, lazy, a rosary counter, ideological, a modern Gnostic, self-absorbed, a restorationist, Pelagian…
Are you staying connected to your Church or faith community?
Yes to the Church. No to the faith community.
What are you willing to do to increase your spiritual relationship and who will you get to help you do this?
I am willing to drive 2.5 hours at 5:00am to attend the nearest traditional Latin Mass. My young children will help me do this. They always insist we take them there instead of the usual Mass in town.
Pope Francis wants to hear from you, what would you like to tell him?
Trust me, he doesn’t want to hear from me. However, I would like to tell him that my favorite definition of heresy is, “a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas” (Aquinas, II-II, 11-1).
In other words, as seen with the survey, the only way to respond to a synod on the synod on synodality is to mock it. It is to deride, scorn, laugh at, and sabotage its every move, for that is what these synods are attempting to do to Holy Mother Church. Let this charade be given the ridicule it deserves. And then, in charity, may we pray for those who promote such foolishness. For one thing I do understand is this: “How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!” (Mt. 7:14).
Now those are simple words to follow.
Dan Millette is a husband and father of five. He teaches in Saskatchewan, Canada. Millette is a graduate from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Ontario and has a Master of Arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in Connecticut. His personal blog is www.bravestthing.com.