ASK FATHER: Why were non-bishops voting at Synod of BISHOPS?

I received this from a priest reader.


I am confused.

I thought that a Synod of Bishops was a group of Bishops. That is also what Canon 342 says.

But according to Fr. Thomas Reese the recent Synod also included nine priests and one brother as voting members.

I can understand the Synod inviting people who are not Bishops to provide input – but I cannot understand how a Synod of Bishops can be a Synod of Bishops if any people who are not bishops have voting rights.  HERE

So was it really a Synod of Bishops?

Perhaps next time a female Muslim will have voting rights.

Dear “confused” reader,

In your simplicity you don’t see the bigger picture.

This is easily explained.

Perhaps if you were a highly trained professional like me, you would understand.

You see… it’s like this….

… like this…

… ummmm…

I’ve got nothing.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. dans0622 says:

    That’s the way it has been since “the beginning” back in 1965. Maybe they should rename it the “synod of ordinaries.” … Maybe not….

  2. TWF says:

    There’s ancient precedent for Abbots to participate in synods. I believe the voting priests were major superiors…so there’s kinda a connection ?

  3. Phil_NL says:

    Yes, it’s inconsistent.

    But really, does it matter one bit? All votes are in a sense for naught. Even if 100% of the votes in a synod were cast one way, it won’t happen unless the Holy Father agrees to it and implement it. Likewise, he can do things with 0 votes.

    It’s not as if these votes decide anything. They can act as an excuse for various things, seemly and unseemly, but I very much doubt that on these topics, people needed more excuses. They tend to have a very long line of bad ones lined up already.

    In fact, it never ceases to amuse (though rarely amaze) me how much store progressives set by formal regulations when they smell a chance to change them in their favor, and how little when it comes to actually heeding them.

  4. Imrahil says:

    The one brother is an odd exception, even if superior general. As are priestly delegations.

    However, priests with the dignity of abbots, or of superiors-general of fairly important (read: Papal) orders have long been treated as somewhat on par with bishops – jurisdiction-wise, not ordination-wise, of course – and were thus, e. g., also members of an Ecumenical Council according to the Old Code (the new one is less specific, can. 339).

    However, apart from the abbots that only ever included superiors-general – i. e. the actual leaders, not a delegation of a couple of persons. And as far as I know, in practice at least were all priests (though I cannot find a restriction to priests in can. 223/old).

  5. It’s because one brother voted at people like Fr. James Martin, SJ are calling the Synod sexist for not allowing lay females to vote on the Synod.

  6. anilwang says:

    Well from my reading, Canon 342 might appear to limit the Synod to Bishops but Canon 346 indicates that some religious may also be invited to the process. Nowhere in canons do I see anything about process or voting, so it appears that it may be allowed.

    My guess is that ambiguity is intentional, both because we haven’t yet refined the best approach for holding a synod and since synods don’t necessarily have anything to do with the care of souls. [O my prophetic soul!] They may be called for everything from new challenges from science and bioethics to the place of biblical/patristic studies in the Catholic life to relations with the Eastern Orthodox. Some experts may have valuable insight on some topics than the average bishop does not, and because it doesn’t directly address doctrine or pastoral practice, their voice is valuable. However, the synod on the family is clearly one place where no-one but bishops *should* be the only ones to vote.

  7. TWF says:

    Yes, the Synod isn’t binding without papal action, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Synods of bishops have been central to the Church throughout her long history. It is an ancient tradition, and much of what we now take for granted is thanks to various local synods (which in ancient times, as in the Eastern Churches today, did have binding authority). Take the canon of scripture for example…

    [Who knows what your point is. So… is it: Synods in the ancient Church helped define the Canon of Scripture, therefore this Synod… what exactly?>]

  8. My answer to “confused” is that many in the Vatican operate like the American democrat party. When you don’t get the result you want from a legitimate law abiding election, bus in the illegals, register illegitimate voters, and illegally vote multiple times to satiate the thirst of “progressive” god of the zeitgeist.

    [It does seem like that, doesn’t it. I think I mentioned Delphi Technique elsewhere.]

  9. JamesM says:

    Surely this is an ontological question?

  10. TWF says:

    Father: above I just meant that a lot of well meaning people seem to want to downplay the importance of the synodal process in general, just because some have tried to abuse this synod. Any institution including the papacy itself can be abused by those who wish to destroy the Church. Synods with real teeth is the ancient tradition of the Church and I wouldn’t want to see this tradition downplayed or dismissed simply on account of liberal abuses. Eastern Catholic synods have canonical binding autbority and they are free of liberal influence. Liberals will cause problems regardless- synods or not.

  11. chantgirl says:

    (I understand that the Church is not a democracy.)

    So, if liberals think that the Church is a democracy, how can any synod in which only a small portion of bishops are included, be taken seriously at all? Clearly, we have lot of disenfranchised bishops who did not get to vote in the synod.

  12. The Code of Canon Law gives some general law for the Synod of Bishops, but most of the special law is contained in the Ordo Synodi Episcoporum. Most of the members named are bishops, but Article 5.1.e lists among the other members the following:

    “Ten Men-Religious, representatives of Clerical Religious Institutes, elected by the Union of Superiors General, according to Article 6, § 2;”

    These would not necessarily be bishops. Likewise Article 1.1.3 lists among the authorities of the Holy Father:

    “to ratify the election of its Members, who are to be elected according to the norms of Article 6, § 1, § 2, and also to appoint the other Members;”

    There doesn’t seem to be any limit to who could constitute these “other members.” All the participants are there to advise the Holy Father, so it makes some sense that, ultimately, he can invite whomever he wants.

  13. dans0622 says:

    Fr. Tunink,
    According to “Apostolica sollicitudo” n. X, the pope can appoint, at most, 15% of the total members (see, for a reference to this, the Ordo, art. 5, paragraph 4). I didn’t run the numbers on this Synod and the percentage. He can go beyond the 15%, of course, but the number is there for a reason (I would think).

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