#Synod2018 underway but there are no rules. Making it up as they go?

At the UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald – soon to have a US version! – comes this alarming report about the workings of the Synod (“walking together”).

My emphases:

Analysis: Will bishops push for clarity on the synod’s procedural rules?

Two weeks in, decisions about the synod’s rules have still not been announced

Recent changes to canon law have left some bishops attending the 2018 Synod of Bishops uncertain about the meeting’s procedural rules. Unanswered questions about the synod’s norms could have significant effect on how the meeting’s final documents are regarded in the Church, and by the synod fathers themselves.

The synod’s undersecretary, Bishop Fabio Fabene, told reporters in early October that because of changes Pope Francis made to synod policies Sept. 15, the Vatican had not yet decided on the exact rules for this month’s synod.

Asked whether synod participants would be able to vote on individual provisions of the document as they have in prior meetings, Fabene said it would depend on what emerged from the synod, adding that “as we move along, we will decide.”  [I see.  If we have this result, we’ll do this.  If we get that result, we’ll do that.  So lons as we get the result we desire.]

But two weeks into the gathering, decisions about the synod’s procedural and voting rules have not yet been announced. Several synod fathers have told CNA they are confused about the rules, or uncertain about how the synod’s voting process will actually work.

In the absence of clear norms, some observers have begun to ask whether the 2018 synod will prove to be an authentic consultation of the world’s bishops, or an exercise only in the appearance of “synodality.”  [Could it be that there was a predetermined outcome?]


But the 2006 rescript Ordo synodi episcoporum established the most detailed procedural rules for every aspect of a synod of bishops, among them the election of members; the appointment, work, and authority of the general secretariat and general relator; and the voting on proposals (modi) and documents, including the points to be included in the final report.

Ordo synodi episcoporum required that modi and documents be voted on according to a procedure allowing bishops to make additional amendments, and delineating specific cases when a 2/3 majority of voting bishops would be required, and others cases that would require only an absolute majority (50 percent+1) of bishops.

According to those procedural rules, synod fathers were able to vote on proposals made for amendments or additions to the document, and eventually to vote on their approval of the document as a whole; those votes would require 2/3s majorities.

Though these procedural norms were tweaked in recent years, they remained largely intact. [BUT!…] But on Sept. 15, they were abrogated- revoked– when Pope Francis promulgated a new document governing synods, the apostolic constitution Episcopalis communio.

Episcopalis communio eliminates nearly all specific procedural norms pertaining to the synod, including the established procedures for proposing amendments and for voting, and sets no specific approval thresholds for documents generated by the synod.

Instead of establishing specific rules, the September document calls on the General Secretary for Synod of Bishops, now Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, to issue instructions on those matters, and “regulations for each Synod Assembly.”

No such instructions or regulations seem to have been issued for the current synod, at least not publicly.


Can you imagine a business or the military or even a family going forward like this?

How many ways are there to rig a Synod, again?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    There’s little question about the entree to be served, rather, will any of the chefs walk out?

  2. TonyO says:

    Episcopalis communio eliminates nearly all specific procedural norms… Instead of establishing specific rules, the September document calls on the General Secretary for Synod of Bishops, now Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, to issue instructions … No such instructions or regulations seem to have been issued for the current synod…

    oooookaaaaayyyy. So, we get to stack the deck how we want it before hand, but we ALSO rule that after we deal the cards, we get to re-align the placement of the cards if we don’t like what we are seeing. Then after we are all done moving the cards where we want, you can play.

    This isn’t mere cheating, it’s throwing out the rule-book altogether and playing a round of “I win, you lose, pay up”.

    The Vatican didn’t HAVE to issue Episcopalis communio right before this Synod, they could have done it last year, or next year. They didn’t HAVE to issue it without preparing specific rules for this Synod, they could have issued it alongside of specific rules for this go-round. It’s not like there was some mandate that the new synodal rule-book HAD to come out in September whether they were ready for it or not. So, effectively, the Vatican is telling us that they wanted a Synod without rules. Because, of course, that’s how to get the results you want. Just like cheating at cards, you know.

    This is modernism. The modernist cleric finds rules repellent, disgusting, awful. But here’s how others look at rules:

    Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or set foot on the path of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.


    I long for Your salvation, O LORD, and Your law is my delight.

  3. ThePapalCount says:

    Pure Peronist tactics. A sham. Archbishop Chaput was wise in suggesting this farce-synod be delayed given the current chaos in the Church that swirls around so many of the bishops and cardinals.
    God does not choose popes. He allows for them. The Holy Spirit doesn’t pick popes either. Men do. The Holy Spirit is willing to move and influence the minds and hearts of the electors IF they are open to Him. Only if the synod leadership is open to the movement of the Holy Spirit can He be effective no matter how many times we sing Veni Creator Spiritus.
    I pray earnestly for a change of heart and mind among all those involved in this synod whose hearts and minds are closed and fixed.
    Mary, Mother of the Church pray with and for us.

  4. richiedel says:

    To carry on without rules and parameters is itself a way of doing things, but if the synod fathers don’t actually decide on doing things this way, yet this state of affairs continues nonetheless, such would be further evidence of the workings of the synod being surreptitiously decided by a few, and of the exploitation of the vast majority of the synod fathers as pawns in a sham display of collegiality.

  5. Kerry says:

    ‘Yute’ synod, nah. A Calvinball Synod: http://calvinandhobb.es/strip/1995/09/12/

    [Calvin and Hobbes. Yes.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  6. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    All Episcopal participants of good will need to call this sham of lack of process out, out loud. Formally.

    There is no “walking together” when the path itself hasnt been delineated, nor those who will be walking, nor the language to speak in during the walk.

    Clericalism is using clerical power over people under your authority.

    Having a synod without rules where the power brokers are free to wreck the train is clericalism.

    Nonsense by any other name still smells like excreta.

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