Fr. Hunwicke’s most interesting observations on the synod

He writes:

What puzzles me most is the fact that it is secret. I had always rather liked the idea (cf S Irenaeus) that Bishops in Synod are not clever individuals pooling their bright ideas, but Bishops with the charisma certum Veritatis bearing public witness to the authentic Teaching handed down by the succession of Bishops in their own Particular Church as part of the convergent witness of all the Churches; and that this is to be contrasted with the twaddle cooked up privately in Smoke Filled Rooms by Gnostic teachers with their alleged secret paradoseis. I don’t mean that there’s anything wrong with Bishops getting together privately and informally to share, off the record, their ideas about how to handle some crisis: but that, surely, is not a Synodus. Or is it?

Being myself theologically untrained, I am puzzled by the accounts of the micromanaging which seems to be happening: everybody having to submit their contributions in advance. This was not, I think, considered necessary in former pontificates. Should bureaucracy be thus enabled to inhibit the freedom of bishops? They are, in Council, as judges of the Faith, entitled to speak exactly as they judge proper (I recall the respectful comments along these lines of Leo XIII about a bishop who, at Vatican I, had boldly spoken against the proposed definitions). Because what such a regulation does is to deny to a bishop the right to change what he had intended to say in order to rebut or nuance what another participant has just said. Moreover, careful manipulation of the order in which interventions occur could slant the integrity of a process or dialogue.

Nor do I like the power that this secrecy gives to the Press and to the Vaticanologists. Because, whether the micromanagers like it or not, reports and spinning will happen. And not least when some bishop feels that the official report is, from the point of view of his contribution or opinion, unbalanced. Spilling the beans to the Press in such circumstances is, I believe, called ‘briefing’.

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