Synodality, new wine in old wineskins?


(from the Alphonsian Academy blog)

Undoubtedly, it is more than commendable that the Church, inspired by the decisions and imprints of Pope Francis, launches with more or less convictions into synodal processes. Surely in many communities, all this work may allow the necessary fruits of new life to flourish. But nevertheless, there remains a double doubt, if it will ultimately be so for the whole Church, in all communities, and if, in truth, we want “a Church always in transformation”, a Church truly “going forth”, always in search of the “encounter” with “the others”, the distant, the lost, the discarded, the peripheral situations,  epochal challenges, or only certain tendencies are refloated to strengthen inwards or better defend themselves from the “snares” and “attacks” “of the world”, without assuming the real changes to which the signs of the times and the same Spirit impel the Church of today as always.

In line with Vatican II, the Church continues to be called to configure her identity in and from her imprint of service to humanity. A Church that assumes that its historical configuration is no longer – and perhaps never should have been – that of a “Christianity  “, but rather that of a “Christianity” leaven of new humanity, in open and critical, sapiential and prophetic dialogue, with all human beings.  A synodal process that only laments everything that was lost or is being lost in life and in ecclesial praxis, is not only not enough but is not authentically evangelical. It should be a process aimed at transforming the Christian spirit and way of life, its inspirations and ecclesial structures, at all levels of the life of the Churches. There are too many pastoral and liturgical lifestyles, too many ecclesial regulations and structures, which for a long time no longer convey the depth of the Christian faith, there are too many places that have not yet been revised and transformed even truly following the inspirations of Vatican II. 

The resistances and inertia are not few, the desires for the new continue to push with labor pains. If the process of synodality really seeks to draw out the most genuine evangelical energies, from an outgoing Church proclaiming the Gospel at the service of the realization of the kingdom, it cannot only use the old mechanisms and structures, like old wineskins, it requires a real novelty, a leap of personal, structural and systemic attitudes and configurations. You can not continue accumulating disappointments and recycling, which are still a mere “varnish”,  a mere “makeup”, always suspected of proselytizing seduction to try to survive whatever it may be to the vicissitudes of history.  Certainly, in life, as in its different configurations and structures, there is much to maintain, by that human law of stability and continuity that gives meaning to the basic harmony of all growth, but it is no less true that authentic humanity grows and develops, as such, by daring leaps of novelty,  For the sake of venturing behind unpublished alternatives ()¨

University studies in the Church need this type of synodal process that leads them not only to continue renewing their offerings but to rethink their life and mission. Francis undoubtedly pointed to some of this in Veritatis Gaudium (2017). In our case, a moral theology that continues to listen and attend with solicitude to the concerns and questions of our time, with a sapiential and prophetic spirit. A moral theology that encourages inter- and transdisciplinary configurations, cultivating the art of constant discernment, at the service of maturity and the liberation of consciences. A moral theology that is conceived from the existential peripheries, more from the elements than from false securities. A moral theology that knows how to face the setbacks, complexities and negativities of the proposals that come from other human sectors, with humility and evangelical audacity, avoiding easy and outdated apologetic attitudes, such as unwary naivety, always awakening the profoundly evangelical sense inherited from St. Alphonsus, that is, to follow, in everything and above all, the implacable logic of the Via Caritatis,  of “abundant redemption.”

Fr. Antonio Gerardo Fidalgo, CSsR

¨ Although, in another context, these words of Pope Francis can give a timely illumination to what we have been saying: “It is not a question of looking back with nostalgia, staying stuck in the things of the past and letting ourselves be paralyzed in immobility: this is the temptation of regression (“Indietrism”). The Christian gaze, when it turns back to remember, wants to open us to amazement before the mystery of God, to fill our hearts with praise and gratitude for what the Lord has done. A grateful heart, overflowing with praise, which does not harbour longing, but welcomes the present that lives as grace; and he wants to set out, to go forward, to communicate Jesus, like the women and disciples of Emmaus on Easter Day. Without memory, there is no wonder. If we lose living memory, then faith, devotions, and pastoral activities run the risk of weakening, of being like flares, which ignite quickly but go out quickly. When we misplace our memory, joy is exhausted. The memory of the past does not close us in on ourselves but opens us to the promise of the Gospel” (Meeting with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers in the Cathedral Mother of God of Perpetual Help of Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan;