The conversations about the synodal process are telling. In discussions with friends on the Catholic left, it appears that some are approaching the synod with a clear agenda. Advocacy groups like the Women's Ordination Conference and New Ways Ministry are providing materials for their members to get involved and, to be clear, there is nothing wrong about that. In fact, the Vatican has encouraged such involvement.
I am even told that some pundits and columnists are voicing strong opinions on what the synod can or should accomplish! Heaven forbid!
Still, I have a warning: Agendas misunderstand what synodality is about. They are so thoroughly American, we take them for granted, but the phenomenon warrants some attention.
We Americans are planners and doers, and we conceive of grand projects with definite objectives. Our history is marked by the completion of such projects: the Erie Canal, the transcontinental railroad, Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic in a solo flight, sending astronauts to the moon.
It is one of the essential, problematic facts of American history, and one I confess I shall never completely understand, that the dominant intellectual and moral force in early British America, Calvinism, was so keen to defend the omnipotent sovereignty of God, yet gave birth to a culture that would prove such fertile soil for the myth of the self-made and the cult of libertarian patriotism.
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