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The “Synodal Process:” Talking a New Church into Being?

The notion that Catholicism is “ours” to refashion into something new has permeated the “synodal process” throughout the world Church.

Graphic from the Vatican's synodal document "Enlarge the space of your tent". (Image: Screenshot/

One of the worst of contemporary hymn-texts bids us to “Sing a new Church into being.” Not only does this injunction debase the noble hymn-tune “Nettleton;” it teaches a pseudo-Christian hubris that is contrary to the Gospel. I know of more than one bishop who has banned “Sing a New Church” in his diocese. That ban should be universally enforced.

In parishes that take their music program seriously, “Nettleton” is typically the tune to which the hymn “God We Praise You, God We Bless You,” is sung. That hymn-text is an adaptation of the ancient Te Deum, one of the Church’s most solemn anthems, and its third clause — “God we name you Sovereign Lord” — reminds us why the admonition to “sing a new Church into being” is pernicious nonsense. The Thrice-Holy God is sovereign lord of the Church; we are not lords of the Church, no matter what our position in a hierarchical communion of disciples. Christ gave the Church its constitutive form; the Holy Spirit inspired the Church’s scriptures and the development of its doctrine; Christ and the Spirit lead us to the Father. We don’t create our own road map for that journey, and when we do (as St. Paul spent 16 chapters explaining to the Romans) we are headed for serious trouble.

Yet the notion that Catholicism is “ours” to refashion into something new has permeated the “synodal process” throughout the world Church. It also dominated the German “Synodal Path,” which seems ever more like the world’s Synod’s döppelganger — or perhaps its stalking horse. That the Church has a “constitution” (in the British sense of the term) given it by Christ is not robustly affirmed in Synod-2023’s Instrumentum Laboris (its Working Document, or IL). Worse, the “Worksheets” appended to the IL — which pre-structure the Synod’s discussions in a way that seems incompatible with Pope Francis’s call for parrhesia (“speaking freely”) — muddy the ecclesial waters by putting questions on the synodal table that were once given definitive answers by the Church’s magisterium. Thus the “Synodal Assembly” is bidden by the IL and its Worksheets to talk a new Church into being — but only by speaking freely about those matters the Synod General Secretariat, which prepared the IL, deem urgent and appropriate.

This is not the official line, of course. In presenting the IL, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, Synod-2023’s relator general, said that the Synod’s purpose was not changing Catholic teaching but “listening.” To which one must ask, “listening to what end”? Was the Luxembourgian cardinal suggesting that certain issues dear to Catholic progressives —  women as ordained deacons; the ordination of married men (viri probati) as priests; Holy Communion for those married outside the Church; Catholic moral teaching, especially with regard to sexuality; the exercise of authority within parishes and dioceses; climate change and its implications for ecclesial life — haven’t been discussed and agitated ad infinitum (and in some cases ad nauseam) for decades? What is the purpose of airing all this again? If the suggestion is that settled matters are in fact unsettled, then the appeal to “listening” is either very bad theology or disingenuous (and bound to contribute to further anger among progressive Catholics when the unchangeable is not changed because it cannot be changed).

As the author of Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, I am wholly committed to a Church permanently in mission in which Catholics own the Great Commission they received on the day of their baptism: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). I am further convinced that one of the IL’s bugbears — “clericalism” — is indeed an obstacle to meeting the challenges of the New Evangelization: if clericalism is understood as autocratic leadership. Having written more than 1,500 of these Catholic press columns over the decades, I fully support a “listening” Church whose ordained leadership takes lay input seriously.

I also believe that when Catholics say, “it’s our Church and we have to take it back,” they’re making a grave mistake. For the Church is Christ’s Church — his Mystical Body (as Pius XII taught), called to bring his light to all the nations (as Vatican II taught in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), and to do so with “the joy of the Gospel” (as Pope Francis styled his first apostolic exhortation).

We are not going to sing, talk or otherwise dragoon “a new Church into being.” That must be the premise guiding the world “synodal process” that is scheduled to culminate in Rome in October 2023 and October 2024, if these exercises are going to bear evangelical and spiritual fruit.

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About George Weigel 459 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021), and To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books, 2022).


  1. For all his railing against “semi-Pelagianism,” it’s actually the kinds of thinkers Jorge Bergoglio seems to support that are the real Pelagians.

  2. As the author of the upcoming book Synodaling for Dummies (Paulist Press 2025), I propose we begin our new synodalling Church by replacing all present active indicative verbs in the New Testament with “synodal.” For instance, Know, Teach, Say, Raise Up, Receive, Send, Bear, Carry, Bring, Believe, etc.
    [N.B., it is best to render these as third person plural so as not to offend.]

    • Your name “God’s Fool” and your coining the term “synodaling” invites a touch of needed levity into the otherwise demoralizing (literally!) ecclesial discourse of the moment.

      Synodaling sounds a bit like yodeling….So what if there were a synodal yodeling contest this October? Who would be the top guttural and joyful contestants and the winner?

      As with St. Thomas More: “Grant me, O Lord, a good sense of humor. Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke and to discover in life a bit of joy, and to be able to share it with others.” And, Pope Francis: “Hard times may come when the cross casts its shadow, yet nothing can destroy the supernatural joy that adapts and changes, but always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.”

      So, the dream team?

      KING KUNG is the gorilla in the closet, but a bit dated and only an echo from the “backward” past.
      Archbishop PAGLIA whose portrait is lovingly included in the homoerotic mural graffitied inside the cathedral of Terni-Narni-Amelia? Or, is it an outhouse mural? Too ambiguous. No prize.
      What about Cardinal GRECH who says he would like to modify the purity of white noise by “stretching the gray area”? No?
      Then there’s Cardinal MCELROY who spills the beans in a published interview, that the tribe wants to change everything! Butt, would he change into a kilt and inflate some bagpipes? A Fearsome noise, but not a yodel!
      How about BATZING and the whole German “non-synod” that’s still invited to the synodaling party, anyway? Party crasher. Get thee to a nunnery!
      So, then, Cardinal HOLLERICH who gathers the most votes by appealing to secularism’s “sociological and scientific foundation” for cancelling and rewriting God’s script on binary human sexuality. Stuffing the ballot box. The sinner! I mean, winner!

      Oh, wait, I’m now awake, not a wake. The synodaling yodeling contest….just a bad dream.

      • Peter, your synodalling contest needs a conga line. As for me, syodalling is more serious. I dreamt a musical called A Syondal Tale. It had a guy named Dr. Jiggle (who looked like Cardinal Marx); he liked to dance in a big mansion. He kept yelling: “Eat! That’s all Rome has left us.” And there was a guy named Mr. Butterbun (who looked like Cardinal Roche). Butterbun kept singing to Dr. Jiggle: “When you know God made you special, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, you can just be yourself!” I admit it was weird. But there you have it.

      • You are kind the say I “coined” the term “synodaling.” But the synodaling planned for October began in the Garden, when our first parents began to talk to a snake. Later, it was perfected during the time of Arius. After it was defeated, some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth, and for one and half thousand years synodaling passed out of all knowledge. Until when chance came, it ensnared a new champion in Milan called The Unnamed. He taught synodaling to his friends deep in the mountains of Switzerland. Now, it is to be practiced in Rome, the Eternal City. It was no fool who asked: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

  3. Unfortunately, the Catholic establishment (i.e. the sitting Pontiff Francis, and it seems most of our Bishops and Cardinals, have a culture that recognizes primarily their duty and obeisance to their own cult of human ecclesial authority, and seems generally to ignore the prior authorities of scripture and tradition, in pursuit of “another gospel.”

  4. It all gets back to “what the meaning of is, is”!…

    And what the meaning of the Eucharistic Church is—and whether the Mass is something that “we” do, or whether the Real Presence is something that the Holy Spirit already (!) does through and in concurrence with the actions of the ordained priests, as commissioned by the historical Jesus Christ…So, as for the horizontal and “endless journey” of synodality, how about this: “His is a single, uninterrupted utterance, because it is continuous and unending” (Sermon by St. Bernard, Liturgy of the Hours, the upcoming 23rd week of Ordinary Time).

    The Word of God versus the words of pygmies in red hats.

  5. We are caught in what seems to be a death-loop of cognitive dissonance: “I am wholly committed to a Church permanently in mission in which Catholics own the Great Commission they received on the day of their baptism: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)”.
    It is very clear that some within the church did NOT get that message at their baptism or do not share the passion. What would account for why Cardinal-Designate Americo Aguiar has decided that the very last thing he would consider for World Youth Day is “conversion?” Note his comment: “We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all. … We want it to be normal for a young Catholic Christian to say and bear witness to who [sic] he is or for a young Muslim, Jew, or of another religion to also have no problem saying who he is and bearing witness to it, and for a young person who has no religion to feel welcome and to perhaps not feel strange for thinking in a different way”.
    Meanwhile, the world’s grotesque are busy actively engaged in recruiting our youth to deviance, perversion, perdition: “We’re here, we’re queer and we’re coming for your children.”
    Didn’t the church receive the word directly from Christ Himself: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). How is it that the only institution with a divine commission to direct “the little children” to Christ is the one now with a completely “hands off” policy? Cognitive dissonance now abounds in the church on almost every level.
    One of the more salient “favorites” from our time attending the Novus Ordo Mass was the ditty: “Let us Build the City of God”. We cringe at the thought, however, Rome seems hell-bent on erecting that city, in mans image according to his likings.

  6. Make no mistake, despite the childish blather put out by the Vatican, this is the “Synod on homosexuality”. The ONLY real purpose behind this synod is to give the Pope backup and support for when he defies the bible and begins to advocate in favor of homosexuality. Blessings of homosexual relations? Just the start.
    This is EXACTLY the same path used by homosexuals to take over all Protestant mainline religions. Their goal was to take them over, then gut them. And they did. Most of those churches are projected to be nonexistent in 30 years or so.
    First, they get “women priests”. Almost all of the “women priests” will be lesbians. Once they reach places of power, the women priests insist that homosexuality is the next big issue.
    We have seen this before. In the Protestant realm, they all cried “The Holy Spirit is speaking to us, and demanding women priests and homosexuality!” This is precisely what the Synod goers say. I checked on a few of the announced attendees. A lot of them are OBVIOUSLY lesbians or homosexuals. Of the new cardinals, most are openly in favor of one issue: homosexuality.
    The homosexual cabal has been eliminating Christianity from the world now for 20 years. Their pattern is always the same. It is being played out before us now, at this Synod.
    If Catholics do not act NOW, and act with great force and vehemence, we will not have a church in ten years.

  7. It’s driving me crazy. What’s the word that describes the phenomenon when members of the hierarchy abuse their God-given office to shove lies about the Deposit of Faith down the throats of helpless, faithful believers? (Am I the only one who feels guilty for asking questions?). It’s not synodalism.

    Anyway, no worries. I’ll go back to the stock market. Didn’t St. Francis say: Another day, another dollar..?

    • Many years ago, I had a dream where I went to my local saloon to watch a ball game and encountered an ignorant drunk who ranted that he was a former altar boy but now hated the Church because the Church made up all these “rules” for no other reason than to keep people from having fun. Trying to point out such things that moral precepts against doing evil were gifts from God that enabled people to live better lives than they would otherwise lead was fruitless. Part of the dream was dreaming that I woke up to the ridiculous fantasy that the barstool drunk became a cardinal. Then I woke up for real, relieved. Convinced, I said to myself, wow, at least something this ridiculous can’t happen in real life.

    • “What’s the word that describes the phenomenon when members of the hierarchy abuse their God-given office to shove lies about the Deposit of Faith down the throats of helpless, faithful believers?”

      Good question. I would call it malevolent apostasy.

  8. As a simple man, I have to look at everything in simple ways. I don’t have the time or energy to try and swim out of this spiritually demonic riptide. In order to survive a riptide, all one need focus on is staying afloat without exerting any effort to swim against the riptide. Doing so will eventually bring one safely back to shore, albeit perhaps many miles from where he entered the water. What I am tryjng to say is, believing and trusting firmly in God and His providence, that when all of this turmoil is behind us, the Bergoglio papacy will have been wiped clean from the face of the earth and Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church will be fully and completely restored, in a more beautiful form than ever before.
    Then the children of those future times won’t even have to ask,”What’s a bergoglio?”

  9. I think that we should all agree that the concept of a ‘Synodal’ Church goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, and existed in the Church at the time of the Great Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Nineveh, and all places on earth where a belief in God has existed.

    Genesis 3:1 Expulsion from Eden.
    Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’” But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know* good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

    Here are quotes from ‘Luisa Piccarretta and the Divine Will- Teachings of Jesus” by Susanne James, published 2020. Wow! What a book! Quotes below.

    “The principal spiritual gift, which Adam and Eve had enjoyed, but lost, was the Divine Will. God had shared his own intimate life with them. God who is a Trinity (3 persons) operates with his Divine Will. The Three Persons have this Will in common, and so they exist in perfect harmony, and share perfect Love.”

    “However, only four people have ever lived in the Divine Will: that is Adam, Eve, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ”

    “Now the Lord’s Prayer was heading for fulfillment: God’s Will done on earth as it is in Heaven.” “Jesus explained. These three Fiats will reflect the Sacrosanct Trinity on earth, and then I will have the Fiat voluntas tua (Thy Will be done) on earth as it is in Heaven. These three Fiats will be inseparable. One shall be the life of the other, they shall be One and Three, yet different from each other. My Love so desires it, and my glory demands it. Having sent forth from the bosom of my Creative Power the first two Fiats, I wish to emit the Third Fiat, since I cannot contain my Love any longer. This will complete the work that poured forth from Me. Otherwise the work of Creation as well as Redemption would remain incomplete”

    “Jesus told Luisa: “That is why I want to purify the earth, because as it is now – the earth is unworthy of such a wonder of sanctity.

    Jesus to Luisa, “There will be no end to the generations, until man returns to my Bosom in the state of beauty and sovereignty, just as he emerged from my hands at the Creation! I am not satisfied only with man’s Redemption, so even at the cost of having to wait, I am patient. By virtue of my Will, man must return to Me in the same state in which I originally created him…” (November 11th 1922)

    (end quotes from Susanne James book)

    Acts of the Apostles 3:19
    Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.

  10. The problem covered in this article goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. God planted and established the Garden of Eden and made the trees bear their fruit. God’s garden, God’s rules. Adam and Eve didn’t have any valid claim to the forbidden fruit. They took the things that are God’s without His permission. They acted like the garden was their own personal private property that they could do with as they pleased.
    The modernists appear to have a diet that is inclusive of the forbidden fruit.

    • Nor did Adam and Eve have any intrinsic right over their very own lives. All of our lives belong to God. The whole notion of “My body; my choice” is laughable. Its basic premise is in error and leads to illogical conclusions. At best, we are merely the custodians of our lives. God never said, “I give you life; now, go, and do exactly as you please.” No cleric dare ever give this permission.

  11. Does Samton have any specific actions in mind that decent Catholics can do to halt this tide of evil in our Church? Withholding money doesn’t seem to make a difference since their plan is destruction.

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  1. The “Synodal Process:” Talking a New Church into Being? – Via Nova
  2. Processus synodal : L'instauration d'une nouvelle Église ?
  4. The “Synodal Process:” Talking a New Church into Being? - Catholic World Report - SATB KiNG

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