What If St. Vincent Had Called a Synod

by | Oct 25, 2019 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

There is a Synod going on in Rome that is looking at our climate and the needs of the people in the Amazon region. For the past few weeks Pope Francis is hosting a Synod of Bishops devoted to the issues faced in the Amazon region, sometimes called the lungs of our earth.

A tale of two Synods

But there may actually be two synods going on depending upon which popular website one follows.

Crux reports,

“Bishop McElroy said that much of the discussion outside of the hall hasn’t captured the heart of the question, which he says is a pastoral consideration of “how can the Church in the Amazon have a ministry of presence within the community and not a ministry of visiting.”

LifeSite looks at it differently.

“The real reason the Amazon Synod is taking place is so liberal clergy in various parts of the developed world (Germany especially) can point to the exceptions that will likely be made for married priests and female “deacons” in the Amazonian region. Liberal bishops will then introduce these “pastoral reforms” in their own countries, citing the need for the Church to stay relevant in the modern world.”

Pope Paul VI tale of two Synods

Pope Benedict in 2013 quoted Pope Paul VI, observations about the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI pointed to the difference between “the Council of the Fathers – ‘the real Council’ and ‘the Council of the media.'”

“while all the Council, as I said, moved within the faith, as fides quaerens intellectum [faith seeking understanding], the Council of the journalists, naturally, was not conducted within the faith, but within the categories of today’s media, namely apart from faith, with a different hermeneutic. It was a political hermeneutic: for the media, the Council was a political struggle, a power struggle between different trends in the Church.”

Much the same can be said today of the Synod that began in Rome on October 6.

What Would Vincent Say if he umpired the two Synods

I have no way of knowing. I would not dare put words in his mouth. The answer to the question is further complicated by the fact that Vincent lived in a different world and at a different time.

But I do know a few things about Saint Vincent…

1. He was a loyal son of the church. Even though a friend Abbe St. Cyran was involved he staunchly stood by the Pope in the battle against Jansenism

2. He was not afraid to lobby the Pope (or kings).

3. He clearly broke new ground in his day. Especially with regard to the role of women.

Early on his ministry, it became clear that his pastoral plan in any place he served involved organizing the Ladies of Charity. The successors to these “Confraternities” serve today as the oldest still functioning group of lay women in the church. With the foundation of the Daughters of Charity he pushed the envelope in making possible, for the first time, women dedicating their lives to serving the poor outside the confines of a monastery.

4. He learned to collaborate with St. Louise who went from troubled penitent to trusted collaborator.

5. He spoke the truth to power to Cardinal Mazarin and King Louis XIII… and paid the price for it.

Food for thought

  • Can I see beyond my personal needs to recognize that my brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are hurting badly?
  • Can I see beyond my present concern about whether it is raining to see what is happening to the people and region of the rain forests?
  • Which do I think is more important for these people– Access to the Eucharist or the discipline of a celibate clergy?


1 Comment

  1. Ross

    Thanks, John, for this very timely piece.

    And I appreciate the question you pose (What would Vincent say if he umpired the two synods?) and the five points about things we know about St. Vincent. than can help formulate a personal answer.

    Your pointers confirm me in my belief that St. Vincent largely remained above the fray by doing the very thing he was eager to do, namely, being effectively mindful of the poor (see Gal 2, 10). I suspect he also would approve of the those bishops who renewed the “Pact of the Catacombs” (see https://cruxnow.com/news-analysis/2019/10/21/ironic-collision-of-two-sunday-stories-raises-question-of-what-a-poor-church-means/; https://www.religiondigital.org/luis_miguel_modino-_misionero_en_brasil/Pacto-Catacumbas-Casa-Comun-Iglesia-sinodo-amazonia-liberacion-mujeres-diaconisas-ministerios-ambiente-ecologia_7_2169153076.html).