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Pope Francis: Synodality is not a ‘search for majority consensus’

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Pope Francis addresses leaders of the French Catholic Action movement during an audience at the Vatican Jan. 13, 2022. The pope told the group that the synodal process is a path of engagement that makes room for the Holy Spirit, and not a "majority consensus like a parliament." (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Vatican City, Jan 13, 2022 / 06:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Thursday that synodality is not a “search for majority consensus,” but rather a “style” guided by the Holy Spirit.

The pope made the remark in an address to a delegation of French Catholic Action groups at the Vatican on Jan. 13.

“The Church as a whole is also engaged in a synodal process, and I count on your contribution,” he said.

“Let us remember, in this regard, that synodality is not a simple discussion. It is not an ‘adjective.’ Never ‘adjectivize’ the substantiality of life.”

“Synodality is not even the search for majority consensus, this is done by a parliament, as is done in politics. It is not a plan, a program to be implemented.”

“No. It is a style to be adopted, in which the main protagonist is the Holy Spirit, who expresses himself above all in the Word of God, read, meditated upon, and shared together.”

Pope Francis formally launched a two-year global consultation process, leading to the 2023 synod on synodality, last October.

Members of the French Catholic Action movement are taking part in a Jan. 11-16 pilgrimage to the Vatican to raise awareness of their work, accompanied by Archbishop François Fonlupt of Avignon.

France’s Catholic Action groups include bodies such as Action catholique des enfants, for children, Action catholique ouvrière, focused on workers, and the Mouvement rural de jeunesse chrétienne, for young people living in the countryside.

ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner, reported that the pilgrimage includes not only an audience with the pope, but also meetings with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, as well as other senior curial officials.

The pilgrimage’s theme is “Being apostles today,” the title of a 48-page document describing the groups’ activities.

In his address in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, Pope Francis spoke about “our call to be effective apostles today.”

He drew on the “See-Judge-Act” method formulated by the Belgian Cardinal Joseph Cardijn and incorporated into Catholic social teaching by Pope John XXIII in his 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra.

“This first stage is fundamental; it consists in stopping to observe the events that shape our lives, what constitutes our history, our family, cultural, and Christian roots,” Pope Francis said.

He went on: “The second stage is judging or, one might say, discerning. It is the moment in which we allow ourselves to be questioned and challenged. The key to this stage is the reference to Sacred Scripture.”

He urged Catholic Action groups to “always leave an important place to the Word of God in the life of your groups,” while giving “space to prayer, interiority, and adoration.”

The pope said that the third stage, acting, was concerned with “God’s initiative.”

“Our role, then, is to support and foster God’s action in our hearts, adapting to the ever-changing reality,” he said.

He noted that Europe had experienced significant cultural changes in recent years.

“The people your movements reach — I am thinking in particular of young people — are not the same as they were a few years ago,” he said.

“Today, especially in Europe, those who frequent Christian movements are more skeptical of institutions, they seek less demanding and more ephemeral relationships. They are more sensitive to affectivity, and therefore more vulnerable, more fragile than previous generations, less rooted in faith, but nevertheless in search of meaning and truth, and no less generous.”

“It is your mission, as Catholic Action, to reach out to them as they are, to make them grow in the love of Christ and their neighbor, and to lead them to a greater concrete commitment, so that they may be protagonists of their lives and the life of the Church, so that the world may change.”

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  1. That’s quite clear, in the Grech program of not voting encouraged, Magisterial decision bracketed as rare. A “style” to be adopted presumed led by the Holy Spirit. What?
    If there is no consensus or a Magisterial sanction how in the thinned air of the cosmos and beyond to limitless galaxies does anyone determine what indeed is the work of the One, Holy, third person ot the Trinity? It’s as clear as a sunny day that the logical intent, or is it a wild guess, is Darkness, a systemic deconstruction of the Catholic Church that will result in the opinion of one as good as another’s already circling the drain dragging the unwitting with it.
    If this is perceived as too harsh or exaggerated I suggest return to planet Earth.

  2. Friends, Roman Catholics, grant me a moment. I write not to praise Caesar but to question his agenda. Quite clear is the Grech program of voting discouraged, Magisterial decision bracketed as rare. A “style” to be adopted, presumed led by the Holy Spirit.
    If there is no consensus or a Magisterial sanction how in the thinned air of the cosmos and beyond to limitless galaxies does anyone determine what indeed is the work of the One, Holy, third person ot the Trinity? It’s as clear as a sunny day that the outcome will result in the opinion of one as good as another’s. A circling the drain dragging the unwitting with it.

    • Fr Peter, it is not for me to tell you that we need to truly trust the workings in mysterious ways of the Holy Spirit in our Lord’s Church. What if, in accordance with consensus, people want same-sex “marriages” to be blessed by the Church? Should the Pope go along with it? Or, to to allow abortion? Remember many Catholics do have these views.
      Mobocracy is not good in secular politics, and it will destroy the Church. Satan will take advantage.

      • Actually, I’m not implying that the Church should be ruled by consensus. That I would have assumed you must be aware of from reading my comments on Church doctrine. For example, communion for divorced and remarried outside the Church is a consensus opinion that some dioceses permit, others prohibit. Pope Francis appears to agree with the former. I follow the Apostolic tradition of the Church. This is a matter that the pontiff hasn’t responded to definitively when requested as with the Dubia.
        Rather, the point is that with a consensus on an issue from bishops et al the Roman Pontiff can give clear direction. Without consensus and that definitive response we have multiple opinions floating among the faithful leaving the impression that we can choose whatever position we wish. Homosexuality is another monumental issue injuring our Church due to mixed messaging from His Holiness. Pope Francis must assume his Magisterial authority.

        • MAL consistently displays an invincible resolve to believe that Francis is fundamentally orthodox, which he clearly is not. He is not only not orthodox but is a Pope who has clearly expressed disdain for immutable unchangeable truth, actual doctrines, as so many museum pieces.

          • Yes. He’s managed by craft to effectively maneuver canon 915 to the Vatican Museum as an object of historical curiosity, replacing it with 916 assured that the reprobate Catholic politician will continue presenting for communion. Clever that man.

        • Fr Peter, I am convinced by your posts that you faithfully follow the Apostolic tradition of the Church. I am convinced that our Pope is also a faithful follower. As a Bishop, working in the slum areas with people in very different and very difficult situations, Pope Francis would have seen first hand some of the problems these people face. So, is our Pope abandoning our teachings and doctrines? No, not at all.
          In Wherepeteris we read: “In chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis teaches that individuals in objective situations of sin (being divorced and remarried), but who are not subjectively culpable because of mitigating factors (insufficient knowledge and/or consent) may, in certain cases, receive Communion. (See paragraph 305 including footnote 351 in the appendix of this article.)
          This is entirely in line with the Church’s teaching concerning mortal sin. The Catechism says that mortal sin prevents one from legitimately receiving Holy Communion (CCC 1415). However, the Catechism also says that “Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice” (CCC 1859). Further, the Catechism states that, “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735)
          Obviously, each case needs to be looked at carefully and the best person to deal with it is the local Bishop – not a blanket ruling from the Vatican.
          Re homosexuality: Yes, his statement made in the plane was deliberately distorted, especially by some Catholic websites. BBC wrote, “Pope Francis reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s position that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not.”
          “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” he said. I fully agree with Pope Francis.

          • Mal, John Paul II also warned we cannot make mitigation a theological category, meaning that mitigating circumstances will remove responsibility for serious sin as we might interpret the Catechism. Pope Francis points to the canon on masturbation as an example of virtual complete absolution of sin insofar as it becomes habitual. That premise would logically follow with the conclusion that the more we commit a certain sin, the less we are responsible. And if the person dies they are received into paradise, whereas the poor soul who masturbates once [or the fornicator, thief, adulterer, embezzler] goes to hell.
            Any premise, be it canonical, catechetical, must be interpreted in context of the body of Catholic doctrine.
            Admittedly, there are exceptions. Although Francis has proposed a diagram of interrelated premises that eradicate doctrinal permanence. First is his interpretation of mitigation, next conscience as inviolable to the exclusion of responsibility to form conscience in accord with the deposit of the faith found in Apostolic tradition defined in the perennial Magisterium. For example, Francis says we must form conscience, not replace it implying exactly what it said here on responsibility to correctly form conscience.
            On the immutability of intrinsic evil. Adultery. Francis argues in Amoris 303 that Saint Thomas Aquinas in ST 1a2ae 94, 4 showed universal principles of the good will always be found to contain defects. That is clearly a perversion of the Summa text. The text admits to a defect in universal perception, that is, in reference to all men regarding a universal principle of justice, the good. Not in reference to each individual person.
            There always have been exceptions and priests for centuries have made them. What Pope Francis has devised by manipulation of moral, apprehensive principles is make it imperative that the priest give the benefit of the doubt to the penitent living in a manifest state of adultery based precisely on a false doctrine of inevitable mitigation and absolute inviolability of conscience in apposition to conscientious responsibility. That the Church is bound to accommodate the world, rather than call it to repentance.
            Evidence of this are the personal conscience policies of German dioceses, Malta, Buenos Aires, the Philippines, Sicily et al that persons may present for the Holy Eucharist without regard to the irregular state and requirement for penitence. That the Church is modeled after a field hospital to tend the wound with the Eucharist given indiscriminately as a remedy.
            What is evident is the growing unwillingness to reform our lives to imitate Christ’s, and the accommodation of sin rather than its healing by the sacrament of penance and reparation. An accommodating Church rather than a saving Church.

          • Francis simply embodies the trend of numerous moral theologians over the past half century adventurously more concerned with the attenuation of guilt feelings than the curbing of illicit vices.

            Relax, I’m not blaming VII. The liberal theological trend preceded VII and had more to do reading the “signs of the times” that accommodated secular post war liberal trends that refused to learn what the war proved about the human capacity for evil, namely that it is supported by systematic, cultural, and institutional denial of the willful evil of the individual soul. The more evil we do, the more powerful the denial systems we create. Post-war man was more forcefully defined as the product of complexes and inhibitions and sociological determinants in need of an elite class to tell him what should be defined as evil and how to obey the elite class in their ever changing and reprioritizing plans to manage it out of existence.

            Moral relativists like Josef Fuchs, Bernhard Haring, Hans Kung, Richard McCormick, Walter Kasper, numerous others, and Cardinal Martini, who tearfully begged for the Church’s embrace of the sex revolution, with depraved indifference to its instrumental connection to abortion, for which he approved, all wrecked havoc on the Church’s public moral witness, and the Church’s failure to disown their idiocies, thereby validating their idiocies to a large degree, compounded the murderous damage. Francis admired them all. The thought of thousands of other clerics became distorted to accept the possibility of moral relativism, believing we can foresee the complete consequences of transgressing moral absolutes better than God and judge whether or not to apply the precepts He gave us for our own good. Our vanities no longer damn us. Theologians like to be admired as much as anyone, and what provides an easier path than contriving ways to tell sinners their sins are not sins? And Amoris Laetitia makes it clear, no consideration to the damages of the victims of sin are necessary for the practice of the “new mercy.” First wives and abandoned children just need to accept that their husbands and fathers running off with their mistresses are pursuing a “noble comforting” to a new family, “irregular” or whatever stupid adjective applies.

            Relativism has trickled into the thought of Francis, who, to convince himself, has created systematic multiphase euphemistic processes of corrupt spinning what honest minds used to call rationalizing. Discernment, a distortion of the traditional meaning of choosing between two goods becomes a trivialized acceptance of a moral wrong, accompaniment, coddling and condoning the wrong as an exercise in “charity” while actually helping to pave the way of sinners to hell, a “God of surprises”, where references to God are subordinated and abused to endorse whatever reversals of the negative precepts of the natural law contemporary appetites now find convenient. The same dismal view Niebuhr famously believed of liberal Protestantism is rapidly consuming similar Catholic surrender: “A God with-out wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” And the young are leaving a Church that doesn’t seem to have a purpose, except for those Francis is trying to purge because they prefer Latin and God worship to guitars and self-worship.

  3. Readers may think I’m purposely flooding the internet with Synod criticisms, when actually I thought the Firewall refused the harsher top comment. Then I thought this gave an opportunity to submit a milder critique of the great synodal journey, a sort of 40 year trek [though Francis predicts unending] in and around the Sinai led by Moses. He Left Egypt shepherding Israel at 80 died at 120 on an unknown hill overlooking the Promised Land.
    What might we gather from this? Men in those days had exceptional longevity. Francis is quite able for 85. Might he perform a prodigy or two. Perhaps part the Tiber leading Vatican escapees from hordes of adulating Egyptian migrants. Perhaps strike a cache of Frascati and change it into water for thirsting Southern Baptist pilgrims…Okay, I’ll stop.

  4. Nobody knows for sure what this is but that it is a huge waste of pewsitter money.
    Smoke and mirrors. Fancy words. Lost souls.
    Dear Lord, please send us a true shepherd to lead us.

    • Mark, I am reminded about something I read many decades ago. A man fell down into a well and began calling out for help. He then started praying to God to help him. Immediately he saw a long straw coming down towards him, and a voice asking him to grab it. The man did not follow the advice. “You asked for my help, don’t you trust me?” said the voice. “Yes, I trust you Lord, but please send down a rope instead.”

      • Mail, I am reminded of the serpent in the garden encouraging Eve that God was trying to keep her from being “free” and all she could be by telling them not to eat of the tree. Or maybe I am reminded of the Tower of Babel. That seems to fit as well. Do we keep trying to build a modernist human replacement for God from within the Church? The silliness in Chicago from the Holy Father’s best American buddy and all the drivel coming out of the USCCB points to some kind of deep hole being involved here. Not thinking it is a well myself but agree a deep hole in the ground.

      • Mal. You’re assuredly the Catholic commentator’s premier self appointed conscience [as a matter of interest do you have a life supply of extended straws?].

        • You are on FIRE today, Father!

          That said, I fear your nuance floats above the heads of the drowning. They grasp at an imagined papal lifeboat when all that exists is polluted air. Nevertheless, we continue to hear the disembodied voice of self-righteous, disingenuous, naked snark of ridiculous rationale. Who can tell the gal that death is in the straw?

        • HOHOHOHOHO! Where on earth have you detected hell fire?

          To the contrary: Acts 2:3 tells that ‘tongues like flames’ appeared over the disciples. John the Baptist at Matthee 3:16 says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Finally, Jesus, at Luke 12:49, informs: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!”

          So, as Scripture tells, hell fire rages in hell. Seeing hell fire on earth reveals eyes in need of spectacles.

  5. This Synod will eb a monumental waste of money when the Church is already in the red, and will simply serve as a talkshop for the Pachamama worshippers, Rainbow brigade and, of course, ze Germans to spread their errors.

  6. Here in the UK I order my groceries from Waitrose on-line and they frequently ask me to fill in a survey – questions like “How likely are you to recommend this product to a friend?” or “Was this good value for money?” all with multiple choice answers. My diocese -Arundel & Brighton – has issued a document for the synod which is remarkably similar to the Waitrose survey. Again multiple choice answers required to fatuous questions. At least Waitrose offers to reward me with a chance in a raffle. Perhaps the Diocese should do the same – 1st prize Eternal Life, 2nd prize all-paid Weekend at Casa Marta including breakfast with his Holines, 3rd prize 10 days off purgatory. I might be tempted then to respond.

  7. “Synodality” seems to be another word for “community organizing” in the style of Saul Alinsky, the Jewish atheist and Marxist and famous community organizer. Community organizing has the appearance of consensus or majority rule but in reality is is all a manipulation by to organizers for an organization to follow their unstated agenda. It makes up the central modus operandi of the Democrat Party today. Its followers have extracted millions of dollars from the Catholic Church. I am not sure this is the way the Holy Spirit moves human behavior.

  8. Everyone knows that the intent of The Sham-Synods are to impose the Marxist agenda of sex liberation, especially for consenting adult active homosexuals and their co-travelers living as parasites inside the Church, such as those promoted by and surrounding The Pontiff Francis, like “Rev.” plagiariast Tom Rosica and “Rev. James Martin and “His Eminence” Tobin of Newark and “His Eminence” Cupich of Chicago.

    And add to that their Marxist agenda serving Chairman Xi of the Communist Party of China, who persecuted the Body of Christ while sunning himself in the adulation given by the spokespersons of the Pontiff, including “His Excellency” Sorondo who declares for The Pontiff that the best examples of Catholic social justice are the CCPs, and their “SK Reverences” at Amerika Magazine, who market the anti-Christ of Marxist totalitarianism.

    That’s openness in the “Counterfeit-Cult-of Buenos-Aries-on-Tiber.”

    • Let’s not forget the USCCB promotion of ‘Communion, Participation, Mission’ (Slogan Translated: ‘Communal Mass of the Marxist-Catholic-Party’).

  9. “Never ‘adjectivize’ the substantiality of life.”

    The meaninglessness that comes out of the Vatican these days … Lord, save us!

  10. I wonder if the Pope understands the things he says. It is highly unlikely that anyone else does!Perhaps he needs treatment, counseling or a revision course in language.

  11. Each of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are revealed in scripture. They are gifts to the baptized. Humility requires that all of us acknowledge that the Gifts are mysteries. At minimum they are presented to us as desirable goals: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. But it is also clear from Scripture that these Gifts are not just goals but have actually been given. It is also clear that Scripture does not indicate how a person with the Gifts can know that their thoughts and actions can be said to derive from possession of the Gifts. So, no one can presume to announce that the Holy Spirit wants this or that here now or in the future. Claims of calls to action by a ‘spirit’ is only found in pagan movements including Hegelian-isms, Marxism, Nazism, Progressive-isms, Science- isms, and all other presumed to be future-conscious fairy tales. Literature coming from the Synodality organizers calls for an action movement and appears to claim Holy Spirit involvement. Regardless whether the movement be reduced to just a ‘style’, it can only pray to the Holy Spirit and not set terms either for His involvement or that of others.

    • Spot on. The Spirit may move us; we can only hope and pray that He deigns to endow us (when we are docile, holy, and blessed enough to allow and accept His guidance) to move us. Thomas Dubay’s book Discernment: A Biblical Theology of Discernment (Ignatius Press) reviews the problems and possibilities of discernment. It offers guidelines. One of the most basic is the immutability of God, His Given Revelation, and Church dogma which has been bound and irreformable for millennia. God does not efface His revelation. Nor renege on promises. The Spirit effects peace and unity. His other fruits hint at His presence or movement but humanity does best to test, authenticate, and verify. Worth a glance.

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