The African Synod

Its time for another African Synod, meeting in the Vatican from Oct 4 – 25. As noted by John Allen writing for the National Catholic Reporter, this should be important, but probably won’t be.  Allen writes:

As I typically say when a synod rolls around, there are two views of their value, which we might call the “glass half full” and “glass half empty” perspectives.
The latter is far easier to state: That a synod is an expensive talk shop that typically accomplishes very little. …Given the expectation that any actual proposals should enjoy a broad consensus, synods typically end up affirming existing practice and then calling for further study about most everything else.
On the other hand, the “glass half full” view holds that a synod is of greatest value for the ideas and energy it unleashes. It’s a chance to start conversations and to put ideas on the table, not just in a local setting but for a cross-section of the universal church…… It’s also a month-long seminar in the diversity of global Catholicism. …Even those paying attention from afar can benefit.

My faulty memory recalls a lot of excitement in South Africa on the eve of the last synod, followed by a strong sense of disappointment that these expectations were not matched by results. But perhaps Allen’s analysis is right, that the expectations were misplaced in the first place, and we should not have been looking for clear, demonstrable outcomes. In that case, he is right to point us to the themes which made the rounds in pre-synod reflections circulating in Africa and among Africans. Some of these are uniquely African, some of general importance for all regions. Read the rest of this entry »