Synod on synodality must learn to let laity decide too


A lay Venezuelan theologian says bishops at the upcoming synod on synodality need to realise lay people aren’t just called to implement but also to make Church decisions.

Rafael Luciani is one of three Latin American theologians chosen as consultants on “synodality” for the Synod. He hopes he will be able to offer the synod a non-clerical vision.

“If there is no co-governance, there is no understanding of the Church that involves all the baptized,” Luciani says.

“Co-governance does not mean that one person makes the final decision … It means that a discernment has to be done together and decisions have to be made together, not explained from the top down.”

Luciani sees the synod on synodality as an opportunity to contribute “from a non-clerical vision and from a vision of communities that see the Church and the experience of Christianity in a different way than, say, a bishop.”

This involves examining the Church structures that which decide who participates, who makes the decisions, how decisions are made and evaluated and their subsequent accountability.

“The bishops have an economic council because it is mandated by the Code of Canon Law,” Luciani explains.

“But a diocesan ministry council, which is where laity, religious and priests can be together making a discernment of that diocese, most bishops haven’t installed it.

“I believe there are structures that have to be taken advantage of in a synodal way, and, on the other hand, to create new synodal structures.

These structures need co-governance: without this, there is no understanding of the Church that involves all the baptized, he says.

“The difficult thing is that it [synodality] assumes that if structures are reconfigured, it’s necessary to change seminaries and parishes and models of church governance and functioning.

“For me, it is a reconfiguration of the whole Church in its relationships, in its work dynamics, in its structures of participation, and that is why there is resistance.”

Today, there are synodal paths or processes in several countries. “Some see all this as a threat, a looming schism,” Luciani says.

“These processes must happen at the local level because there are different problems between one Church and the other at the social, political and theological spheres. Forming consensus means that when a decision was made at the local Church level through synodal processes, that local Church must continue in communion with the other churches and that’s where the opportunity of a universal synod comes in.”

This can help achieve a universal consensus, Luciani says. Rather than Rome imposing one line, Rome will reach consensus with the participation of the local Churches.

Consensus ensures this decision does not imply a rupture with the Church of Rome, Luciani says.

The fact that the local Church has authority is something new for the bishops, and it’s what Francis seeks for when he speaks of decentralization, where the local Church has doctrinal authority and authority for the creation of ministries, always within the framework of the communion of the Church.



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