Certain levels of the Catholic Church are all abuzz with the workings of “synodality”. This top-down congregation of committees purports to be a “work of the Spirit” by which all God’s people get a voice. However, it seems to me that it is simply another clericalist gimmick. I’ve been a Christian all my life and a member of national or globalist churches (first the Church of England and now the Catholic Church) for nearly 50 yrs and every five or ten years or so the leadership of these churches look around and realize that their numbers are plummeting (and with that the finances) and they come up with some idea to try to staunch the hemorrhage. Maybe it is “The Decade of Evangelism” or a Jubilee Year or perhaps it is a re-shuffling of the hierarchy or some trendy video course every parish should undertake. Usually the “big idea” comes complete with an expensive media package put together by a well funded PR company.

All these efforts are akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They all have minimal results and are usually remembered for their sappy media efforts (badly produced videos- tacky brochures with stock photos of smiling Christians doing good things–ill conceived “youth events” etc) and their inept attempts to be cool, relevant, up to date and simply irresistible.

However they are all highly resistible. Ordinary people smell a committee and simply ignore it or run the other way. The only people who get involved are the earnest activists who use the gimmick to promote their own agenda and ideology.

The present “synod” is the same thing on Catholic steroids. It is all artificially pumped up in a lame attempt to convince people that the Catholic Church really does care about the ordinary people and wants to give the ordinary people a voice and a choice.

In the meantime vast numbers of ordinary Catholics are simply going about their business of living the historic faith and getting the job done.

One of the precious Catholic principles is that of subsidiarity which teaches that “solutions should be found and initiatives taken at the lowest local level possible.” In other words, “Live local. Do what you can with what you have where you are.” The clergy, the bishops, the Diocesan hierarchy and the Vatican are all there to serve, direct and guide these local efforts. The synodical process made a show of consulting at the local level, but it was the ordinary clergy and people at the local level who were expected to serve the synodical process by filling in a form of carefully worded “Questions”–questions devised by the synod people in order to facilitate their pre arranged agenda.

In any business of even moderate level of success the leadership will watch what is going on, see what is working well, support those efforts and seek to replicate them throughout the business. If you ran a chain of hamburger restaurants and you had one branch that had sales greater than everyone else’s you would study what was working well and motivate the other branch managers to imitate that success.

But in the Catholic Church there does not seem to be any awareness of such a tactic. We have reports of parishes and schools closing, dioceses amalgamating parishes, Catholic colleges languishing, religious orders closing down and dying out while at the same time we have reports of parishes packed with young families, schools with waiting lists, religious orders thriving with many young novices and colleges and universities with record enrollment.

If subsidiarity instead of synodality were the guiding principle the Catholic leadership would look again at the parishes, schools, colleges and religious orders that are thriving and ask why they are bucking the depressing trends and how their example might renew the church. This strategy might just inspire and motivate the clergy and faithful. More top-down mandated committees steered by failed ideologues will not.