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Synods on synods



At first sight the recent Vatican announcement that a forthcoming synod would be delayed was non-news. All synods are considered boring, and a synod on synodality sounds entirely self-referential. Yet the announcement was significant. The synod will take up much time and energy of Catholics at the local, diocesan, national and international level for almost three years, involving local congregations in considerations, dioceses in collating these results and sharing them with other dioceses, bishops in participating in the conversations, reviewing and reporting jointly to the Roman office to draw up the agenda for the synod.

Main image: Bishops, cardinals and patriarchs attend the Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Given the human investment required by synod it is worthwhile to reflect on the recent history of synods and why Pope Francis places such importance on them. As in so many of his actions, his endorsement of synods addresses challenges facing civil societies, too. This may be the subject of a later article.

In the Western Catholic world synods came out of the Second Vatican Council. In contrast to previous Councils Vatican II focused less on Church teaching than on pastoral renewal, freeing and energising Catholics to live out the gospel in their world. It paid particular attention to the relationship of bishops to the Pope, seeing them as a college with the Bishop of Rome as its head. Together they were responsible for the teaching and living of faith in the Church. The council also emphasised the active responsibility of lay Catholics who were equal members of the Church with priests and bishops though with different responsibilities.

Paul VI introduced the synod to express the unity between pope and bishops. The bishops who gathered with him would offer support, advice and symbolise their unity and share in international responsibility for the Church. Under his successors John Paul II and Benedict XVI who were much preoccupied with unity of faith in the face of dissent, the Pope and his administration tightly controlled the agenda, process and the outcomes of the synod. While calling for a vibrant church the two popes emphasised the distinctive dignity and descending teaching authority of pope, bishops and priests.

Upon his election Pope Francis has set out to encourage freedom and initiative among Catholics. In his own conduct he paid less attention to issues of authority and doctrine than to outreach to people at the margins of the church and beyond it. His gift for such symbolic actions as mixing freely with people, holding off the cuff press conferences, and visiting prisons and refugee camps, were as important as his words. He has made synods a crowning symbol of his vision. He has encouraged participants to speak their mind, to differ on issues, to consult their people, and to see themselves as shaping the understanding of faith. They model the proper shape of relationships within the church as a whole, which Pope Francis has described as synodality.

Synodality is above all an attitude of mind and heart that encapsulates Catholic tradition. At its heart is the conviction that the spirit is given to each member of the Church, so that each has the gift and responsibility to contribute to the lived understanding of faith and to share the gospel. The bishops with the Pope have a distinctive responsibility for teaching. But because lay people move at the edges of faith where the Gospel is shared, their insights are central in commending Christian faith. The centre of the Church is relocated at its periphery. 

This view of relationships in the Church is based in faith, and underlies the understanding of synodality as reciprocal process conversation in which the chief task of bishops, including the Pope, and of people is to listen for the promptings of the holy spirit. In their conversation all are variously teachers and learners.


'Because all conversations will be partial and will reflect the prejudices as well as the mature reflection of participants, Pope Francis places great weight on discernment.'


The conversational process is also one of conversion in which the participants move from a partial and often partisan vision of the gospel and what it entails for the Church to a deeper, fuller and more radical view. People who might come as spear bearers for particular proposals come to recognise the value in other points of view. This conversion requires inner freedom.

Because all conversations will be partial and will reflect the prejudices as well as the mature reflection of participants, Pope Francis places great weight on discernment. He sees this as the central contribution of bishops and pope. They are to listen carefully to the conversations of people and bishops respectively and to weigh their proposals for the spirit in which they are made and for their fit with the gospel. This judgment is not made simply by weighing arguments but by spiritual criteria. Pope Francis, for example, has said that he did not followed up some decisions that won majority support at recent synods because he thought the conversation polarised or not sufficiently mature.

Pope Francis’ emphasis on synodality has come under threat from two opposing directions. One insists on clear lines of separation with respect to dignity and authority between pope and bishops, bishops and priests, and priests and laity. It also insists on lines of separation between church and world, and between Catholic teaching and personal experience. It consequently sees conversation about faith as top down and segmented, not as a continuous flow. Pope Francis has criticised this vision of the church as clericalism. It makes for a self-preoccupied Church and prevents the flow between shared reflection, consultation and discernment that give energy to the spreading of the gospel.

The Pope’s understanding of synodality is also threatened by an approach that applauds him for freeing conversation and opening it to more participants, but judges the process by criteria drawn from contemporary democratic parliamentary processes. In governance of the church the participants should represent constituencies, press the positions they have taken in caucus, and take votes in which majority decisions would be binding. In Pope Francis’ understanding of synodality this view would fail to recognise the canopy of guidance by the spirit in which tradition and discernment have a central part.

Pope Francis would also argue that each of these rival approaches to governance have their counterparts in the contemporary world and each has manifestly run into dead ends that synodality might break through. The force of this reply, however, might hang on the energies that the synod, together with such similar enterprises as the Australian Plenary Council, release. 



Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: Bishops, cardinals and patriarchs attend the Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, synod, synodality, clericalism, Pope Francis



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Existing comments

The first thing that Pope Francis needs to do is to get rid of the trapping of power and difference by removing the mitres and robes and have bishops and cardinals look like human people rather than overstuffed dolls !

DAVID FIELD | 03 June 2021  

As Fr Andrew recognises, "tradition and discernment" play vital roles in synods. Twice recently, Pope Francis has had cause to reject several Amazonian an Germanic ecclesial demands for reform. The Australian Bishops Conference's three priorities - Formation, Becoming More Missionary, and Collegiality - all accord with Pope Francis's reiteration of his predecessors call for tradition and discernment, and the "new evangelisation" launched in Paul VI's "Evangelii Nuntiandi", as well as calls for the same in Australia's Plenary Council deliberations.

John RD | 04 June 2021  

I was sitting in the autumn sun recently, warmed and marvelling at the wonders of creation and of how powerless we human's were to replicate them. For a moment I thought I was listening to "the promptings of the Holy Spirit". The beauty and melody was, however, coming from a butcher bird. Perhaps some creatures other than the seriously flawed human being might be of value to the synod. While the butcher bird praises God the Creator in all he/she says, the majority of human beings including 80% of professed Catholics, unlike the butcher bird, have given up the beauty of the songs of praise and subservience to their Creator and replaced them with clamorous talk festivals.

john frawley | 04 June 2021  

Fr Andrew you say this: "Upon his election Pope Francis has set out to encourage freedom and initiative among Catholics. " How so? "In his own conduct he paid less attention to issues of authority and doctrine than to outreach to people at the margins of the church and beyond it." What by throwing a wreath into the sea when the refugees drowned off the Italian Coast? "His gift for such symbolic actions as mixing freely with people, holding off the cuff press conferences, and visiting prisons and refugee camps, were as important as his words." He has never visited Australia, nor a prison here, and doesn't show the slightest interest in this land down under. Again, like his predecessor, he cares far more about the reputation of the church than he does about the rotten apple clergy in our midst exposed by the RC. At the Grotto of Lourdes when Papa Francesco invited the homeless for meal he never even turned up but delegated the task to Betullo. And of course Rome has become a haven for displaced pedophile and homosexual clergy. I agree with David that the trappings of office represent status, power and authority - all the things that are the hallmarks of rampant clericalism. Just imagine how the church would have a true epiphany if they gave women equal rights which is their due. Long overdue!

Francis Armstrong | 04 June 2021  

A brilliant explanation from Andrew. Synods have been part of our language forever. But synodality is a new, dynamic term descibing the process of discerning what is best in given situations. Our Catholic tradition is essentialist - weighted towards the unchanging classic. That's why Aristotle and Plato are sainted. But it has taken an old Bergoglio to draw us back to seeing that Christianity is nothing if not dynamic and evolutionary. This article has made that much clearer for me.

Eric Hodgens | 04 June 2021  

The Church cannot be a democracy directed simply by popular opinion, not that even democratic leadership should be so simplistic. The Church must discern God's will and its leaders must include and listen to the people of God in that discernment. Francis understands the concept of leadership in his support for synodality. Regrettably, bishops of the Church have been formed to see themselves as autocrats and few have broken from this unaccountable approach which is clearly contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Autocratic bishops are understandably opposed to the thinking of Pope Francis - they prefer to be unaccountable.

Peter Johnstone | 04 June 2021  

I love the way Francis looks beyond the usual official church bodies for people to share ideas about how to promote and live the message of Jesus. However, with the current process of the Plenary Council in Australia lasting quite a while, and with many people either not involved at all or only participating in a minimal way, I wonder how energised people will feel to embark on yet another round of consultations and discernment? Preparing for the synod will need to be carefully thought through I would think.

Beth Gibson | 04 June 2021  

In addressing the issue of Church governance, the proposed model articulated in the "Fundamental Text" of the Synodaler Weg of the German Bishops Conference still in progress is radically secular. It is urged that the understanding and practice of a personal calling to discipleship and its expression in the spiritual fatherhood of priesthood and episcopacy be replaced by a liberal democratic model based on majority decision and the rule of law. Under this regimen the Church's modus operandi, and indeed her very modus vivendi, would not only be accountable to democratic process: in principle and effectively, her teachings and practices would be dictated by them. "Gender justice" will be determinative of Church leadership - not, it should be noted, a tested calling from God based on scriptural precedent in both the Old and New Testaments and manifest in the Apostolic tradition of the Church. In short, the governance ideology of the Synodaler Weg's "Fundamental Text" is a formula for a deadening bureaucratisation and radical secularisation of the People of God, who would be bereft of spiritual authority and identity derived from authentic faith response to God's self-revelation in Christ.

John RD | 05 June 2021  

Peter Johnstone. 'The Church [ie ,the people of God] must discern God's will [how?] and its leaders must [by what authority] include and listen to the people of God in that discernment. I recall that the people of God, chosen by Christ himself, screamed out 'Crucify him ! Crucify him! and took in a convicted felon in his place despite the supreme judge washing his hands of a contrived trial. It would be interesting to hear your detailed explanation of your claim that with few exceptions the hierarchy of the Catholic Church acts contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Which teachings specifically do you refer to? But even more intriguing, what is it that convinces you and your fellow protesters that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you lot and ignoring his own ordained priesthood. Crucifixion didn't give the people what they wanted and Christ came back bigger better and brighter. Hopefully, the synod and the highly touted Plenary Council will have the same effect for Christ and his Church without bending to self interested protest..

john frawley | 05 June 2021  

The writert has correctly stated: 'Synodality is above all an attitude of mind and heart that encapsulates Catholic tradition. At its heart is the conviction that the spirit is given to each member of the Church, so that each has the gift and responsibility to contribute to the lived understanding of faith and to share the gospel.' (My italics). This reiterates article 37 of Vatican II’s document Lumen Gentium in 1964: ‘[The Laity] are by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church. …[L]et this be done through the organs [synods, plenary councils etc.) erected by the Church for this purpose. …Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church. Let them willingly employ their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action. Further, let them encourage lay people so that they may undertake tasks on their own initiative. Attentively in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity. However, let the shepherds respectfully acknowledge that just freedom which belongs to everyone in this earthly city. A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders. The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill is mission for the life of the world.'

Thomas Amory | 05 June 2021  

Eric Hodgens, in pronouncing the "Catholic tradition" "essentialist", and lacking in development ignores the the Catholic faith's historical engagement with every major philosophy and ideology for two millennia. Nothing static about that enterprise. Moreover, the human intellect of its nature is oriented to understanding what is true, and of apprehending things as they are; for instance, the "essence" of a human being as distinct from a motor vehicle or a rabbit. The process of defining essences is, in fact, quite dynamic - especially when it comes to discerning the essential characteristics of schools of thought, or ideologies that influence praxis. So what should the Church 'saint', Eric: Marxist materialism, and the postmodernist relativism of Horkheimer, Adorno, Foucault, Derrida . . . ?

John RD | 06 June 2021  

Thomas Amory: "Attentively in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires of the laity." (L.G., 37).The Council's "them" here refers to "the spiritual shepherds" of the Church's hierarchy - pope, bishops and priests. The Amazonian and Germanic synods display an attitude of dismissal for what they regard as outdated paternalism and hierarchical governance, demanding instead a radically feminist rejection of any expression of fatherhood and assuming, based on clerical abuse, that priests are incapable of celibacy. Nor, can misandry be ruled out from this outlook that presents itself under the demand for 'equality'. I should think that together with paedophiles the last candidates to be considered for the Catholic priesthood and its responsibilities are those who conceive it as an entitlement, and its realisation to be the prize of a power contest between males, females and any other constructed gender. This would be the height of clericalism. In saying this, I am not rejecting the roles of "synods" and "plenary councils" as such; however, I am registering scepticism as to their necessary consistency with what Vatican II envisages as their role in the life, tradition and unity of the Church in the light of the Amazonian and Germanic experience of them.

John RD | 06 June 2021  

If the recent synod session held in my diocese is anything to go by, I don't hold much hope for "freedom and initiative". Attendance was by invitation only. The 56 page document issued just prior to the day grouped those attending as Those having a voice and a vote Those having a voice but no vote Those having no voice and no vote In order to have both voice and vote one had to sign a 'profession of faith and an oath of fidelity'. Though sufficient time has elapsed, the only report of proceedings I can find is both sketchy and abstract. It seems that the Chancery is intent on keeping laity at arms length and not properly informed.

John Casey | 08 June 2021  

Thomas Amory is both right and judicious in reminding us that Andy's words on synodality emerge from much earlier on than Bergoglio's and stem from 'Lumen Gentium'. If Tom had been less availing and more 'critical' he'd have suggested that the Australian Bishops - so far as we can see - have their own carefully controlled synod and send its results to the Vatican as a means of showing how the universal synod should NOT be managed. That, at least, would, at the time of this discussion, reflect a wry hope, at least for the longer term, on the part of those reformist Australian Catholics who, so far, have been palpably side-lined from participation. That the hopes of such reformers lie in the hands of the very few, like John Warhurst, who happens to be a Diocesan nominee, also highlights the value of the German Bishops' advice that democracy, for all its flaws, provides a superior vehicle for debate and discussion than dictatorship. After all, who should know better about such things than post-War Germans Catholics, whose bishops were manifestly silent during the War and whose Nuncio, Cardinal Pacelli, decided to act 'diplomatically' to protect the interests of the Vatican?

Michael Furtado | 09 June 2021  

PS. If John RD knew anything about the Frankfurt School he would save himself a great many blushes in his condemnation of Horkheimer, Adorno, Foucault, Derrida and Habermas, all of whom employ a praxis process in regard to their theoretical work that offers the impetus for engagement by Christians in the Modern World. John's repetitive and tiresome references to both the German and Amazonian Synods as well as to the above political philosophers demonstrates a closure of mind that astounds in the contemporary global intellectual context, in which leading Catholics, both lay and religious, employ various applications of their knowledge of the Frankfurt School that is to a high degree the gift of the Catholic Church in a variety of fields, such as education, development and social inclusion, to name but a few. John's persistent and unscrupulous wedging of Catholics - between Bishops and laity, priests and people, women and men - far from constituting a defense of the magisterium - reflects an anti-intellectualism on an equivalent scale to the publications of writers considered to be second-rate in their scope and method of addressing the existential crises facing humanity. That John should think he defends the Church is a parody.

Michael Furtado | 09 June 2021  

John Casey, invitation only to the PC (based on status and allegiance to the Chancery) "a voice and no vote" is typical of the Bishops who only want sheep in their pews. Most recommendations made by the Royal Commission have been blatantly ignored by the Australian hierarchy. Especially the one that says the Bishops should be elected by the laity. I mean who the hell do the RC think they are? making sensible suggestions like that? Despite Pope Francis lamenting erosion to the rights prescripted in the UDOHR at its 70 year anniversary in 2018, he has done little to advance equality of women in the Catholic church. Other than pay lip service by forming a committee. In fact he has done more to advance the LGBTQ cause than women's rights. Getting back to David Field's comment, one cannot help but think the only useful addition to the pointy hats and robes would be hoods with eye holes so that the resemblance to the KKK would be complete. And just imagine the likely fate of some black African woman who might have the temerity to suggest she could do a better job as "Papa" than Francesco to this benighted organization.

Francis Armstrong | 09 June 2021  

Not all German bishops were "manifestly silent" in the face of Nazism, Michael Furtado: the Bishop of Munster, Clement von Galen, was publicly denouncing that perverse ideology and its practices as early as 1934, and continued his attacks on the Nazis' abominable policies and regime throughout the war. His episcopal confrere in Cologne, Josef Frings, in 1943 and 1944, condemned from the pulpit Nazi persecution of the Jews as "an injustice that cries to the heavens." Further, from his direct assistance to saving Jews -acknowledged by the Jewish community in Rome after the war - I'd say your description of Cardinal Pacelli's motives as protecting "the interests of the Vatican" also merits revision.

John RD | 09 June 2021  

Despite decades of dramatically declining Church membership, declining priestly vocations and a dark period of sexual abuse, reformists have ‘been sidelined from participation’. Catholics, like the GOP and Democrats in the US, or Republicans and Monarchists in Australia, hold irreconcilable narratives about future directions. Genuine Catholic interaction and dialogue have receded. Forum discussions in ‘The National Catholic Reporter’ and more recently in ‘Pearls and Irritations’ fall in the too-hard box. The traditional Catholic Church, grounded in patriarchal male privilege, hierarchy, doctrine, Canon Law, clericalism and institutionalism, has lost its nexus with the inner life of the gospel, focused on Christ in every person but there are many vibrant parish communities. As a teacher in Catholic High Schools, I found it a great sadness to see young people, along with their parents, walk sadly out the Church door. Your comments about reform groups, Michael, and indeed John Warhurst, support Andrew Hamilton’s view about the process of how“participants move from a partial and often partisan vision of the gospel and what it entails for the Church to a deeper, fuller and more radical view.” Reformist groups in Australia present a rich vision for the future Church that deserves significant support.

Peter Donnan | 09 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘After all, who should know better about such things than post-War German Catholics, whose bishops were manifestly silent during the War….’ It doesn’t require a doctorate in the philosophy of language to be aware that while their bishops were silent during the War, the post-War German Catholics were intra-war German Catholics, like their intra-war bishops, Space-Time being like a train you can’t get off. If they were silent too, then one would think it precious of them to be too hard on their bishops. This intriguing hypothesis that the reckless embrace of institutional suicide is the highest value an institution can adopt can be put to practice right now by the Catholic bishops of the People’s Republic over, say, Xinjiang. Or perhaps it’s for Christians outside the purview of extinction to speak for Christians who cannot speak? And Space-Time being like a train you can’t get off, the reason why some Christians can speak out while others can’t is because God has kindly sheltered them in carriages under the civilian control of something you’ve disparaged elsewhere called the Western Canon.

roy chen yee | 09 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: Christians in their Gospel-inspired and tradition-informed practice have no need of the "praxis" indoctrination of Horkeimer, Adorno and others of the Frankfurt School who reject time-tested epistemology that places truth and its attainability where it belongs - centrally - in the universal human quest for knowledge, understanding and meaning: even as far in scope and depth as affirming the existence of God. The Frankfurt School and its disciples encourage subjective constructions of reality sundered from objective foundations; their intent is linguistic disruption of authoritative discourse and society's mainstay institutions, especially those of religion and family - traditionally, Marxist prime targets. A method and style not at all unlike that employed often by yourself in Eureka Street ripostes. And, oh, why bother with an "anti-intellectualism" of such little consequence as deemed by you and your claimed "Catholic leaders"? Could it be that increasing criticism of English and Humanities courses in schools and universities by students, parents, teachers and academics for the neo-Marxist and postmodernist bias in curriculum is making the tenured Gramscian apparatchiks of the '60s and '70s a tad nervous? I'd hope so - devoutly!

John RD | 10 June 2021  

The public record will show that Galen's stand, while exceptional for the German episcopate, was tame by today's universal standards of justice and morality: it cannot in fact be said that his opposition to the Nazi persecution of the Jews was unequivocal, nor even the invasion of Poland. Galen also opposed the Catholic Zenterpartei, triggering the collapse of Weimar. Indeed, history records that he was more of a nationalist defender of the rights and privileges of the German Church than of the objective and universal rights of all people that Pius XII later - by which I mean AFTER the war - came to lend his support to when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became the central plank of the United Nations Charter. Granted that the UN was a post-war creation, this contretemps between Roy and me goes to illustrate just how far the Catholic Church and its magisterium has slowly but progressively altered over the years since the somewhat restricted, narrow, introspective and self-referential view it had of morality and its dominion at the time. Only an apologist like Roy would care these days to defend the official behavioural record of the Church during World War II. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clemens_August_Graf_von_Galen

Michael Furtado | 12 June 2021  

" . . . today's universal standards of justice and morality", MF? Just where do these originate, and might they be found? The UN today enjoys nowhere near its early respect and credibility for the protection of human rights and dignity. This isn't a facetious question: I've stated often enough my source for recognising the universal standards you identify - the magisterium of the Catholic Church, human failings notwithstanding - hardly a merely theoretical or narrow source, I believe; nor one necessarily synonymous with unspecified "Catholic leaders".

John RD | 13 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘unequivocal….official behavioural record of the Church during World War II.’ The Vatican was neutral during the War. Unless you think that the highest aim of an institution is to render itself extinct, a belief which even atheists, as believers in Evolution and its twin principles of self-preservation and propagation, would regard as absurd, the declaration of neutrality was an act both prudential and moral. The maintenance of the legal appearances of neutrality is an activity within the domain of prudence, subject to armchair second-guessing seventy-six years after real decisions had had to be made. One could ‘unequivocally’ call it a blessing that unlike the Orthodox and Coptic churches which are under the temporal rule of authoritarian regimes, and Protestant denominations which are in the nature of civilian clubs and associations, the Vatican, as befits a vicariate of Christ, is an independent state, and a further blessing that it is located within the democratic sturdiness of Western Europe and not somewhere in the Middle East under risk of predation by predatory Islamists. But, nothing is perfect and existing in the democratic sturdiness of Italy means being surrounded by the ‘progressivism’ of the lurid and the louche.

roy chen yee | 13 June 2021  

Roy, you'll find that there's plenty that's lurid and louche within the Vatican, as indeed history records there has always been from time immemorial. And, as for neutrality, it may well be a prudent virtue, but prudence itself isn't a Gospel value.

Michael Furtado | 14 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘history records there has always been from time immemorial.’ Because The Fall occurred in time immemorial and where does the resulting smoke of Satan come from but the world. ‘prudence itself isn't a Gospel value.’ So? Isn’t there something called Tradition, to which Aquinas was a contributor? https://iep.utm.edu/aq-moral/

roy chen yee | 15 June 2021  

So, if the Vatican itself is also implicated in the Fall, as you say, surely the case you make is for partial reform and not a sole return to a tradition that has in part contributed to the problems we face? Its like bleating for 'Peace; peace at all costs!' from the safety of the barricades, as the hapless and vulnerable are being summarily gored to death outside. Or will you now play your tedious 'Magisterium' card yet again? Fall/Magisterium/Fall/Magisterium/Fall/Magisterium. Ad infinitum,...reductio ad absurdum? (Gi's a rest, Jimmy, pleeze).

Michael Furtado | 16 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘as you say….’ Here we go again, the ‘Did God really say….?’ No, God didn’t say the First Couple could not eat of any fruit in the Garden and I did not say, ‘the Vatican itself is also implicated in the Fall’ because that would be as nonsensical as saying that 910 Australians were implicated in COVID and died. ‘‘Or will you now play your tedious 'Magisterium' card yet again? Fall/Magisterium/Fall/Magisterium/Fall/Magisterium. Ad infinitum,...reductio ad absurdum? (Gi's a rest, Jimmy, pleeze).’ If it’s important enough, it’s worth repeating. You do the same. Who was it that said that homosexuality used to be the love (sic – should be ‘love’) that dared not utter its name but now is the love (sic) that can’t shut up about itself?

roy chen yee | 16 June 2021  

Emphasis on the Church's magisterium is necessitated by the egregious ignorance of and disrespect for the developed and reasoned account of faith's demands evident in Catholic moral and social teaching, and their practical implications for relationships and living. It's not only faith that is a casualty of the 'byte' mentality and exclusively secular and consumerist attitudes and values displayed in much media presentation, but also respect for reality and truth, evident in the increasing inability of many to examine the assumptions and linguistic deceits of an expanding death industry that would contain and define human life from beginning to end.

John RD | 17 June 2021  

Roy, your 'tu quoque' exposes the vapidity of your argument. I have never advanced or made exaggerated claims on behalf of homosexuals, among whom I am one, except to contest the Church's definition that differentiates between being one and engaging in homosexual acts, whatever that may mean. Indeed I reviewed a sensational book in these columns, which made salacious claims about the Vatican being a hotbed of closeted homosexuality. Other than that I have simply responded to articles by ES's former Editor, Neve Mahoney, and by Frank Brennan making a very sound case for Catholic support for secular same-sex marriage. On the other hand, I have been able to cite hundreds of entries from you and John RD on this topic, many of which are plainly homophobic and beyond the capacity to engage, beyond posting cryptic and otherwise insultingly ignorant and abusive remarks, about the purported lifestyles and claims of homosexual persons. More recently you have 'upped the anti' by posting comments about the children same-sex married couples have adopted, again without any evidence to support your excoriation of such practices, while exalting the living conditions and upbringing of ALL children born of heterosexual marriage. Your prejudice and ignorance dumbfounds!

Michael Furtado | 17 June 2021  

Well said Michael. One of the reasons that I visit and occasional contribute to ES is that it ‘supports respectful conversations in a time of division… a conversation marked by respect for the dignity of ALL human beings’. (See green box above), a standard to which most contributors here adhere. Debate and discussion can be robust but it doesn't have to get nasty.

Ginger Meggs | 18 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: You say I've presented many comments in these pages which are "plainly homophobic, and beyond the capacity to engage." Please instance one.

John RD | 18 June 2021  

With deft strokes, Andrew has provided context and content for Pope Francis' upcoming Synod. Responses to his article point to the possibilities and perils of treading the synodotal path. What's waiting to be unpacked is Francis' canny eye for seeing strategies which will keep the course he is charting for St Peter's barque on tack: not to mention the plot parallels with that other master of movement in the face of seemingly insurmountable inertia, Angelo Roncalli, aka St John XXIII.

Bill Burke | 18 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: 1. ‘Tu quoque’: But you do mention this quirky mentality a lot. 2. ‘I have never advanced or made exaggerated claims on behalf of homosexuals.’ No, because there are no exaggerated claims to be made, unlike 50 years ago when a homosexual told me that homosexuals were very clean, just before they started dropping like flies during AIDS. (But the little takeaway where I worked after hours was an ideas throughfare, a homosexual one day and a Mormon dropping off free books on Ayn Rand the next.) 3. ‘beyond posting cryptic and otherwise insultingly ignorant and abusive remarks, about the purported lifestyles and claims of homosexual persons.’ I think John and I just remind you that the Magisterium says ‘no’ to certain things. 4. ‘without any evidence to support your excoriation of such practices, while exalting the living conditions and upbringing of ALL children born of heterosexual marriage.’ All I’ve said is that kids should live in the same home as their two biological parents. 5. ‘differentiates between being one and engaging…whatever that may mean’: same thing probably as perceiving with an aesthetic eye that your neighbour Uriah the Hittite has a comely wife but not coveting her.

roy chen yee | 18 June 2021  

MF: You're quite mistaken if you think our differences are confined to the issue of homosexuality, a topic you seem intent in making the sole focus of our recent exchanges, with your frequent recourse to distasteful 'humour' and allegations of homophobia, the latter label I regard merely as a now-standard ploy to deter criticism. Were what you adjudge my attitude and basis of argument so, shouldn't we be surprised that a magazine for which you often express fulsome regard should permit publication of "homophobic" postings? Be that as it may, of more concern to me is your programmatic elevation in "Eureka Street" of secular and theological opinion over the Church's magisterium on the issues where we differ, your Erastian-leaning views on hierarchical governance in Catholic ecclesiology, and your stereotyping of any reference to original sin as "Hobbesian", ignoring entirely the graced "felix" side of Catholic soteriology and the Exultet's "happy fault" in Roy's and my use of that term. Your scoffing attitude to piety, devotion and reference to the liturgical calendar in matters of doctrine do nothing to impress on me either your sincerity or Catholic sensibility and affinity. Accordingly, if I choose to refrain from direct comment on any of your postings, I trust you'll understand why - but advise that silence on my part should not be taken as agreement with what you say.

John RD | 19 June 2021  

Sad to see ('Sadducee'?;) that John RD has taken himself off in a huff rather than stayed and given us the benefit of a more varied repertoire. For the record, I have posted and/or published on school funding; sacramentology; social justice; literary theory and poetry; history and historiography; humour; pastoral and praxis theology and canon law; ecclesiology; anti-abortion policy; religious musicology; patristics, hermeneutics and Christology; diverse ethnicities and social policy, including identity valorisation; cultural studies; and cultural theory. We are left then with Roy, who can continue to beat the bejasus out of us with allusions so fantastical as to sometimes require the unearthing of a new Rosetta Stone. Indeed, my sense is that he uses the ES archive to manufacture one of his own making. Burial would appear to be the preferred archival term. The time will come, I believe, when he will curate his own discoveries, en route to inventing a new theology called The Magisteria. In this opus magnus he will cover the entire history of the Universe ensuring that even the syntheses wrought by enterprising Catholic apologists are overhauled to re-victimise those whom the Church has wronged. I'm happy to be the first of his 'Fallen'.

Michael Furtado | 22 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘allusions so fantastical’; ‘enterprising Catholic apologists’; ‘re-victimise those whom the Church has wronged’; ‘I'm happy to be the first of his 'Fallen'. The purpose of a post is not to fill up a word allotment or, as in the case of expounding at a parliamentary despatch box, a time-allotment, for the sake of filling up a word or time allotment, but to answer serious questions. Does your 200 word prolixity answer the questions: Should a child live in any other circumstance but the same house as his or her two biological parents? Is the allusion to such a circumstance fantastical? How will enterprising apologia for LG parenting not wrong the child by making of it a fallen victim? Does not this 200 word prolixity deflect from those questions?

roy chen yee | 23 June 2021  

Roy, need I remind you that you have described any child ‘liv[ing] in any other circumstance but the same house as his or her two biological parents’ as a ‘second-class child’.?

Ginger Meggs | 25 June 2021  

And the answer - head on and on all available evidence that convinces not just me but the overwhelming majority of the polity in every democratic jurisdiction - is that the child is in far safer hands were it to be placed within the care of loving, caring, appropriately vetted and responsible same-sex parents than, say, in the hands of Catholic care-agencies managed by our Church and, on the most brutal of evidence, responsible for the exploitation, abuse, murder and race-extinction of thousands of children in the name of our Loving Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and, invariably, his Blessed Mother, whose reputations have been co-opted and sullied in order to satisfy the prejudices of people like Roy. Sure; it doesn't take my prolix to prove this. Just tune into this morning's news from Canada about the thousands of illegal graves now identified in British Columbia, and where lie buried the remains of untold numbers of children supposedly looked after and educated by our One, True, Holy and Catholic Church. And that's the point, Roy: I wouldn't need the editorially-recommended 200-word limit to confront this tragedy (to the children and our Church!) if your mockery and bigotry didn't require it.

Michael Furtado | 25 June 2021  

That's a definitive list MF and accusing John RD of being a Saducee as well? Heavens above what will you tell us next? That you are a religious celibate? Or that political correctness is a justification for licentiousness and a valid reason to adroitly evade scripture and teaching?

Francis Armstrong | 25 June 2021  

Ginger Meggs: ‘Roy, need I remind you...a ‘second-class child’.? A trophy child is deliberately manufactured to be separated from one of its biological parents and to live under the control of an adult who has no natural obligation, an obligation imposed by a genetic connection, towards it. Should the gay couple separate or divorce, the family court will likely prefer to put the child in the custody of its genetic parent, showing that the genetic connection, in spite of political correctness, has a cultural meaning and value. If so, then why the separation from the other genetic parent? Where a child loses both of its parents, nature has imposed that misfortune upon it and any responsible couple who is able to rescue it will be blessed for their generosity. Even in that circumstance, the natural process will be to start with the closest living relatives, showing again that genetic connection imposes a natural obligation. It is always preferable for a child to live under the love of its two biological parents in the same house as them. If that is to travel first class through childhood, call it as such.

roy chen yee | 26 June 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘And the answer….’ Grasping at straws made available by coincidence. A residential home is not a natural home for a child. Neither, for that matter, is a boarding school, even a posh one. No home is a natural one for a child separated from its natural parents, not even a well-run orphanage even though, in such a case, it was Nature that deprived the child of good fortune. However, homosexual parenthood deliberately manufactures a child to be raised crippled by being severed from the daily cultural value of half of its genetic provenance. The cruelty is subtle, not as clumsy and obvious as in the residential school cases.

roy chen yee | 26 June 2021  

Knowing your propensity to challenge, dear Francois, I'm uncertain if its your ironic or your questing tongue that is too firmly planted between unfathomed cheeks ;) Since you press the point, so to speak, I am a single person, and while often failing, on the side of being both religious and celibate. And, finally, since you inquire as to my view: political correctness is most assuredly NOT a justification for licentiousness as well as is an invalid reason to adroitly evade scripture and teaching. I sincerely hope - somehow against hope! - that this satisfies, if not at least satiates.

Michael Furtado | 26 June 2021  

I apologise, Frankie-panky, for the seeming flippancy of my last post. Given our differences, especially over my Martel review, which was only saying 'So What?', I now see that your question forces me into taking a position that I have avoided doing for quite some time. My homosexual nature, assailed as it is by opportunity and occasional inclination, pales into insignificance when compared with the far greater and more pressing weight of the world's injustices, e.g. prisoners of conscience, those condemned to the death-cell (including unborn children facing termination as a family-planning choice) and, in today's ES, the shocking expose by Frank Brennan of the High Court decision against Syrian refugee, AJL20, in the latter's lifelong quest for a visa to prevent his refoulement to war-torn Syria. My own preoccupations, petty in comparison to the likes of AJL20, pale into an insignificance that any moral philosopher and theologian would find laughable, alongside those of some who insist upon female ordination and blessings for gay couples engaged in secular marriage. Indeed, I'm sure that the women I know who extend their hands during Consecration believe in their participation in it, as do the clergy I know who instinctively bless same-sex couples.

Michael Furtado | 27 June 2021  

Thank you Roy for dropping the use of the term ‘second class child’. There may be second-class environments, or second class educations, etc, but there are no second-class children. Now to the ‘trophy child’ who, the Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English defines as ‘a child whose birth or achievements are paraded to enhance the parents' status’. There certainly are parents who would make such a trophy of one or more of their children, but I can assure you Roy that they are not limited to same-sex parents nor are they a consequence of their inability to procreate in a way that you might call ‘natural’. You will find any number of them on the side lines at children’s sport, or at school speech nights, or at children’s performing arts contests. So let’s drop the idea that all the children of same-sex parents are necessarily or more likely to be treated as trophies as the children of heterosexual couples. And finally, can we also drop the use of the pronoun 'it' to refer to a child of any sort?

Ginger Meggs | 28 June 2021  

God Love You, Ginge, for reminding us all about the obligation to treat everything that's Human with dignity!

Michael Furtado | 29 June 2021  

Hello Ginger Meggs, if there’s a first class, there must be a second class. There might even be a z-th class. Manufactured children are intrinsically trophy children because it takes a bit of work to assemble an egg from someone outside your male homosexual relationship or a sperm from outside your female homosexual relationship, and maybe a uterus from a third party if the egg donor doesn’t want to be an incubator. ‘It’ is what happens when, in 2021, restricting pronouns to ‘he’ and ‘she’ is appropriation and entitlement. ‘They’ is still a plural; if it becomes a singular, it’ll mean that its meaning was changed by word-warriors terrified about being seen to be ‘binary’.

roy chen yee | 01 July 2021  

Roy, if the omniscient God ensouls every fertilised embryo without regard to the route to fertilisation, by what authority do you deign, nay dare, to classify some as first class and others as second class ?

Ginger Meggs | 02 July 2021  

Ginger Meggs: ‘if the omniscient God ensouls every fertilised embryo without regard to the route to fertilisation, by what authority do you deign, nay dare, to classify some as first class and others as second class?’ You’re on the same one-track mind-track as Brett in the Prince Phil thread. God ensouls an embryo fertilised by rape, incest, a slaveowner, you name it. People tarnish the heritage of the child by the way they produce it. They show by their choice of production the class of respect they have for the child. The child itself is innocent. God does not stipulate that only sex in honourable circumstances will produce zygotes. If he did that, he would have to abandon the principle that he created in the Garden of Eden that sex when the woman is fertile produces children. Why should he abandon his design because humans abuse it? The same logic, by the way, is used by women to defend their freedom to dress in the style they wish. Why should they change how they dress if the men choose to misuse the visual effect it has on them? On another tack, if God changes his principle, it shows humans can push him around, in the same way that if the Eucharist is not so-called ‘weaponised’, it shows that Laodiceans like Joe Biden, or worse, can push the Truth around. For those who are squeamish about attributing the word ‘weapon’ to the Eucharist, a weapon is for defence as well as offence and Scripture is a shield as well as a sword. As an instrument born of Scripture, can the Eucharist be different from it?

roy chen yee | 03 July 2021  

Roy, if that's the image of God you want to impose on me, I don't want bar of it. To each his own, I suppose. By the way, I note that even John RD hasn't supported you in this discussion.

Ginger Meggs | 04 July 2021  

Ginger Meggs: ‘I don't want bar of it. To each his own.’ Strong opinion. Can I have some strong reasons too? It’s always easier to mouth an opinion than to detail the reasons for it. ‘By the way, I note that even John RD hasn't supported you in this discussion.’ I almost never support John RD in any discussion. He does his stuff in his own style and I do mine in mine. The next time I see you critiquing something I say, should I expect to see Brett jumping in the fray too? With reasons for an opinion?

roy chen yee | 05 July 2021  

Get off your Bactrian camel, Roy pet! There's more than one way of skinning a platypus. What Ginge alludes to is your canny ability to drive a wedge between conservative and liberal Catholics, the Right and the Left, and any other scenario in which mischief (or is it the oft-misquoted and abused magisterium) drives you towards dividing and conquering. That's why I stalk you: as much for my daily entertainment as to keep a check on your excess. And, as if to fulfill your perennial prophecy, you cannae help it. Let's face it, and as you never cease to remind, its 'the Fall what's to blame'! And leave poor Bretty alone or he'll take the pooch for another walk.

Michael Furtado | 06 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘the Fall what's to blame' Not totally. The Fall is to blame for things going awry, like the evolutionary anomaly of homosexuality and gender dissonance. What if there are no ‘things’? In a world of spirit, there is only thought and it is beyond human ability to guess at what spirits ‘do’ to keep engaged. Presumably their thinking just gets deeper and deeper but even so, there needs to be an object of thought and what, in a world when nobody needs to eat, sleep, drink or face scarcity of any kind, could be an object of thought? Nevertheless…. The Luciferian rebellion is nothing except one thought of ‘No’ to God. That’s all it was and that was enough to break the integrity or wholeness or connectedness of the spirit environment. Without thought going awry in Lucifer, there would be no Fall. Approving homosexuality while remaining celibate is as ‘No’ as Lucifer’s because it is the same breaking of the principle of connection. Approval of an action without acting it out is what Saul did, approving of the stoning without throwing a stone. Approval, even without acting, indicts.

roy chen yee | 07 July 2021  

Interesting logic, Roy, but none of it Euclidian. Who's approving the homosexual condition? Certainly not moi! After all, the condition or state of being homosexual is an existential and ontological fact. whether one approves of it or not is beside the point. One is either born with it or one isn't. If one is born with it, it is part of God's Creation and while one may not marry, one is also gifted in various ways in being homosexual. I absolutely accept the magisterium which draws a distinction between being and doing. However, its clear that you don't and in blaming the Fall for homosexuality - Lucifer's creation, you call it - you actually step beyond the magisterium to pronounce a dogma, justified in terms of your curious explanation, of your own.

Michael Furtado | 08 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘it is part of God's Creation’ But, God does not tempt. It appears in his Creation, like the assumed, not natural, nature of the Luciferian Serpent, against what God would want but consents to in order to respect free will. ‘one is also gifted in various ways in being homosexual’: people born with spinal bifida are ‘gifted’ with being able to perceive the reality of the world differently from those who lead conventionally healthy lives. That doesn’t mean spinal bifida is a gift. ‘I absolutely accept the magisterium which draws a distinction between being and doing. However, it’s clear that you don't’: people can read the posts. ‘Who's approving the homosexual condition? Certainly not moi!’: people can read the posts. ‘condition or state of being homosexual is an existential and ontological fact’: so is having ten fingers and toes. ‘whether one approves of it or not is beside the point’: opposable thumbs are very much to be approved. ‘Euclidian’: Yes.

roy chen yee | 09 July 2021  

Let people read my posts and your's and then decide. Unless you've done a straw poll, your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, 'Lucifer'! Roy, the only Lucifer who lurks around is in you and me. Everybody carries a bit of the devil around with them, otherwise St Thomas Aquinas wouldn't have observed (as Aristotle did before him and Christ!): 'Man (sic) although good is prone to evil.' So there, Roy; I don't wish to disavow you of your worldview but it is pre-Christian and palpably Greco-Roman, including the paraphernalia of original sin that you base your tottering magisterial structure upon. As it happens, there are several pastoral theologies upon which the magisterium is based. I'd start by reading the Psalms and also look at the first three Gospel commentaries. Your apocalyptic views consistently privilege a one-sided view of Catholicism, that while cleverly argumentative, are bereft of a vision. What good would there accordingly be in defending to the death a model of church that is plainly dying? All that would be left would be for the last man standing to switch the lights off. That, I'm afraid, is the sixty-four thousand dollar question and also your personal hell.

Michael Furtado | 11 July 2021  

Koalas have twice as many opposable thumbs Roy. I guess that makes them 'very very much to be approved'. But so what? 'The Fall' is a story, and Lucifer and the others are characters in that story. It was created for a reason. It's not a 'true' story but it contains some 'truths' but before it can be of value to us in 2021 we have to ask by whom, in what circumstances, and for what reason, it was created, and then what of value can we learn from it.

Ginger Meggs | 11 July 2021  

Michael Furtado: ‘the only Lucifer who lurks around is in you and me’. It’s necessary to believe that Lucifer is an actual person. Your ability to explain sin is hampered without it --- not to mention that without Lucifer, the temptations in the desert become three hallucinations in sequence, perhaps because Christ is hungry, in which he believes he is talking to someone who does not exist. What’s your take on the temptations in the desert? It was all in His head? He was that delirious?

roy chen yee | 12 July 2021  

Ginger Meggs: ‘Koalas have twice as many opposable thumbs Roy. I guess that makes them 'very very much to be approved'. But so what?’ So what is that if it’s wet, your paw is less likely to slip if you have a branch in between each thumb, given that you don't have the money to live inside a house.

roy chen yee | 12 July 2021  

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