Of Catholic Synods & Councils
By Brenda Ann Eckels, aMGC (c)2016
Not all Synods are Catholic, and dictionary.com has one of the most clear definitions of the word in general:
1. an assembly of ecclesiastics or other church delegates, convoked pursuant to the law of the church, for the discussion and decision of ecclesiastical affairs; ecclesiastical council.
2. any council.
Of course, in Catholicism it get a big more complex than that. This is a very bullet point summary of basic facts about Synods, a bit about Authority, and a peek at what a Whole Catholic Church Council would need in order to happen. It’s long, but each page is worth it for Catholics looking at headline about (Vaticanite Roman Catholic) Archbishop Charles Chaput, saying “What? What’s a Synod?”
Feel free to post your comments about what you agree or do not agree with, however be respectful of each other. Yes, there are Catholic denominations who hold a dogma that they are the only “true” Catholic Church. While they have the right to that belief, they do not have the right to force that belief on other Catholics. Emperor Constantine was not Jesus. If we humans screw it up, Jesus will lead us to the right direction.
Like I built into the mission of TodaysCatholics.com: We have to be like the Marines, and leave no one behind. We don’t all have to be Privates who trained at Paris Island and love c-rations. We just have to be human, love, forgive, and let each of our families and denominations be led by God, not us on other rosebushes.
Brenda the half-nun in the scraggly lay Franciscan garb, hanging out with all the lost sheep homeless, lonely, disabled, despairing, elderly, searching, poor, and frustrated, raising her hand and asking too many questions after the homily….
Within the Catholic World, a Synod Is Of and For different Groups, such as:
- a Local Community or parish,
- a Diocese made up of multiple communities and ministries,
- an entire church (denomination),
- a family of denominations,
- several denominations from more than one Catholic denominational family
- The Entire One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (TOHCAC)
It is an Assembly of different People (Humans) such as:
- Generally these are the bishops, clergy, and religious.
- This can be all the members of those three categories in the particular groups,
- or it can be only for certain “higher” Ecclesiastics (such as only for bishops, or only for the various denomination’s Popes, Archbishops, Presiding Bishops, and Patriarchs)
Theologians and Others,
- Including Historians, Professors, Scientists such as Linguistics Specialists, Archeologists, Anthropologists
otherwise knows as those members who are not clergy. Laity is defined for each Synod they are included in. Some definitions are:
- All Adult Active Members With A Signed Membership or Registration in one of the denominations in the group(s).
- All Catholic Adults in the group(s) who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation.
- All Children who have received the Sacrament of Holy Communion up to age 21.
- All Active Adult Members AND All Children of those members who have received the Sacrament of Communion.
- All Baptized Catholics, regardless of age, who profess to belong to at least one of the group(s).
Members of Governance,
- such as Parish Council, Diocese Board, Colleges of Cardinals, Houses of Bishops, or church Committee members, wether they are laity, clergy, or religious.
- of a Community, Diocese, Family of denominations.
- humans who have been appointed or elected to represent a particular type of human (for example: Sue Jones, Delegate representing all of the laity at St. Agnes Old Catholic Church in Somewhere, Ohio)
- generally a member of a particular subset of humans within a group. (example: Fr. John Jones, M.Div is the Proxy Holder for 1,100 members of the New Evangelical Catholic Church of London, England.)
A Synod is an assembly of a group or groups of people (Humans) of a particular type, AND that is itself defined a particular type:
A Whole Participatory Synod
- This means that All laity, all clergy, all religious, all employees, all Theologians and Others, all Governance Persons, and all Proxy Holders, of every local community, Diocese, Church Denomination, and Family of Multiple Denominations that is part of the Synod are invited to participate fully.
- In essence a Whole Participatory Synod means that everyone gets one vote and at least one chance to speak, as those who are invited but who can not attend can be “heard” and vote via the Proxy Statement they give to someone who IS going to be there.
- In the case of Fr. John Jones, above, he would be able to speak and vote once on his own behalf, and then speak or vote 1,100 more times on each proxies behalf.
- In practice (both in the corporate and church world), generally one gives a proxie statement to a human that has a substantially similar position, so that the Proxy Holder can get up and speak once for both himself and for the humans who have trusted him with their proxy.
A Representational Synod
- This means that All laity, all clergy, all religious, all employees, all Theologians and Others, and all Governance Persons, of every local community, Diocese, Church Denomination, and Family of Multiple Denominations that is part of the Synod are represented at the Synod by Delegates, who can either appointed or elected.
- A Representational Synod is similar to the concept of the US House of Representatives. Delegates get one vote and at least one chance to speak, and they must do so not solely on their own views but on the views that best represent the people that appointed or elected them.
An Empire Model Synod
- This type Synod only occurs within groups that comprised solely of families of denominations, or only denominations from multiple families, that have adopted an Empire Model form of governance. In an Empire Form of Governance, there is either only one human (Leader) or a small amount of humans (Oligarchy), who are at the top of the governance structure of the family or denomination.
- All the clergy, all the religious, all the laity, all the Theologians and Others, all the Governance Persons, and All the Employees are subjects of the Leader/Oligarchy, and all of them are subject to the Leader/Oligarchy.
- In a Catholic denomination, or family of denominations with Empire Model Governance, who is or is not invited to a Synod, who is allowed to vote, who is allowed to speak, is completely at the discretion and by permission of the Leader/Oligarchy.
The Question Of Authority
A Whole Participatory or Representational Synod has absolutely no authority on any Catholic who is not part of a least one of the groups involved. It only has authority on the humans who granted it authority either be attending, providing a Proxy, or who have been represented by a Delegate.
An Empire Model Synod, on the other hand does have the ability to require any human who belong to the denomination or family of denominations that called (or stated and ran) the Synod to follow whatever policies, procedures, dogmas, doctrines, canons, or guidelines such a Synod produces, even though they were not present, did not have right of Proxy,and did not have Representation.
In an Empire Model Synod, the Leader/Oligarcy also has the right to impose whatever restrictions, penances, punishment it chooses to, if a human within that denomination or family of denominations is not following something an Empire Model Synod produces.
However, the Leader/Oligarchy of an Empire Model Denomination or Family of Denominations does NOT have any right to impose ANYTHING that an Empire Model Synod produces on other Catholics in other denominations or denominational families.
NO Synod, regardless of type,
Can produce ANYTHING
That is required of ALL Catholics.
The only assembly that can do that is an Ecumenical Council of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
An Ecumenical Council
One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
- There has never been one, but the 1st Council of Jerusalem was probably the closest, as it appears most of the early Apostles (the only form of clergy at the time) were there.
- However since it is believed that by the time Paul appeared there to discuss the differences of what he was teaching with what the original Apostles were taught, Thomas was already well toward, if not already in India, so at least ONE Apostle was not there.
At the very least, An Ecumenical Council of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church would need to have:
- Every single Catholic Bishop from every single Catholic family.
- Since a Bishop is not valid if he or she has no flock, TodaysCatholics.com holds the position that following the words of our Savior, any future Ecumenical TOHCAC Council would need to have each Bishop appear with Proof of Position and Authority.
- at least two unrelated members of the laity to vouch for the fact that they, at least, are his “flock”.(“I’m with this bishop” T-shirts optional.)
- At least one document that states the date he/she was consecrated a Bishop with the names and denominations of the bishops who performed the FIRST consecration.
- At least one document that states the name of the denomination, its legal address, and the names of at least 3 humans (yes, the bishop and the two unrelated humans would be considered a denomination.
- That said, Catholic Bishops will be treated more seriously at an Ecumenical Council if they also have the following documents:
- Canons,which are the religious rules by which the denomination operates. This is where a denomination explains nit’s doctrines, dogmas, theology, liturgy, and other matters of religious importance. Cannons are also where denominations define who is and who is not a member, an associate member, or any other type of human in the denomination.
- Sexual Abuse and Child Protection Policy, What the denomination does to protect all humans from sexual abuse and children from abuse of any kind.
- Sexual Abuse and Child Protection Procedure, How exactly the denomination carries out the policy to protect all humans from sexual abuse and children from abuse of any kind.
- Financial Management Procedure, How exactly the denomination carries out the processing of money that comes in and money that goes out.
- Leadership Succession Policy, What the denomination is going to do if the Bishop dies or can’t continue being a leader, what the denomination is going to do if key persons – like the member who is the signer for the checking account – dies or is no longer able to do that task, etc)
The Fine Print….
Ideally, the Canons should make reference not just to the Sexual Abuse and Child Protection Policy and Procedure along with the others named above, but also to a Membership Policy and Procedure, which covers the mundane items like what a membership form looks like, how often a member has to verify that they are indeed still members, and what if any documents are required to be a member.
Why, When, and How you define Catholic Life (including the religious reasons for membership in your church) in Your Denomination is part of Canons.
Why. When, and How you check to see if that person who got married at your parish in Long Beach California in 1996 is still a member is a policy and procedure.
Canons do not have to cover every single real world situation a church may encounter. They do have to define what the church is, why it is Catholic, where it has been and where it is trying to go in religious meaning.
There is nothing wrong with taking the nuts and bolts and putting them in policy and procedure documents that can be changed easily as needs change. No one at an Ecumenical Council cares about where in the office you keep the checkbook. Everyone at an Ecumenical Council will care about wether your check for lunch is going to bounce, and who they call if your bishop dies suddenly.
Because of a serious lack of these two simple documents regarding membership in denominations large and small, it is almost impossible to determine the size of many of them. It would make a Representational Whole Church Council impossible until every denomination had these Membership Policy and Procedures, because that is the only way any statistics company will be able to actually figure out how many Catholics are over here and how many Catholics are over there.
The definition of what kind of Council would perhaps produce something binding on all Catholics used by TodaysCatholics.com is not an accepted definition of what would constitute a valid Ecumenical entire Catholic Church Council by many.
TodaysCatholics.com and I feel it is the best definition because it is not Empire Model and is at least attempting to be somewhat Representational. Thus, it is a decent enough place to start. Because it is based on the Bible, substituting bishops for Apostles and setting the same minimum number of humans per denomination as Jesus did, it also is a perfectly acceptable way to rise above the many and conflicting canons of the various families and denominations. Last, It is a powerful equalizer, as each bishop would only have one vote, so no one large denomination could steamroll the rest of the Church into a decision that was contrary to God.