Synod & the Holy-Spirit

A Crisis and the response which many don’t feel comfortable

arun simon
4 min readOct 1, 2021

The Church (and Catholic Church in particuliar) faces many crises. This is beyond the health crisis created by Covid-19. When the question of sexual abuse is the worst one, there are serious questions of power struggle, clericalism and other issues. This is not to claim that the churches everywhere do exhibit these struggles in same degree, but the church needs to deal with them honestly.

In one of the addresses in 2013, Pope Francis says “When the Chinese want to write the word crisis, they write it with two characters: the character for danger and the character for opportunity. When we speak of crises, we are speaking of dangers, but also of opportunities.” So what is the opportunity in a crisis? It is an opportunity to change, to be transformed, to undergo an institutional transformation. But all these will happen only if we accept that there is a crisis (or crises), which includes acknowleding with deep humility, the errors commited against many people (especially in the case of abuse).

Now each crises have (and need) its own response. And one of the deeper structural response to all these problems, as proposed by Pope Francis is the path of synodality. Synodality is not a path invented or discovered by Pope Francis, but a path which was there in the initial church, probably re-discovered in Vatican Council-II. What is synodality? But what is the problem with this path called synodality ?

Before giving a definition, let’s be clear of the two extremes. Synodality is not democracy (or opinion of the majority becoming the opinion or faith of the Church). And the other extreme is, not listening at all to people. So synodality moves in between these two options. I quote from the document on Synodality to get a proper understanding on the term.

First and foremost, synodality denotes the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. Synodality ought to be expressed in the Church’s ordinary way of living and working.

In this sense, synodality enables the entire People of God to walk forward together, listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, to participate in the mission of the Church in the communion that Christ establishes between us. Ultimately, this path of walking together is the most effective way of
manifesting and putting into practice the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God.

Two important aspects in this journey are 1. Holy Spirit and 2. Entire people of God. And the path of this synodality is emerging (or the path is not yet clear…. is that uncertainty troubling or normal?). To what extent Holy Spirit can inspire the church to change? Which dogmas or doctrines can be changed? There are people with all sorts of opinions. Most of the believers may accept that the Holy Spirit accompagnies (or guides) the Church. But there will be a variety of opinions on the manner in which this accompagniment happens in the Church. Yes, there are divergences and as one of my professor said, many in the church are used to having a clear path or knows clearly what is true faith and what is heretic faith…. and thus synodality (whose path is only emerging, where there is uncertainity) really upsets many. The tension is probably a greater chance to trust in the Holy Spirit who is accompanying the church.

We have a very interesting passage in the 10th and 11th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Here Peter goes to the house of Cornelius (a non-Jew) and later Cornelius is baptised. But the Christian community (who were ex-jews) were upset that baptism was given to a non-jew. Peter explained the entire event and how the Holy Spirit came on Cornelius, and told the Christian community “So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” And immediately all their objections of the Christian community were clarified.

When we read these chapters, we get a feel that there is a simple 3 step process. Confusion-Clarification-Conclusion. Definitely the purpose of the author is to give the factual matter; whether the entire process happens so simply or whether it includes more tensions, troubles, dialogues etc is a good question. I do think so. And possibly, the same thing happens in the synodal process. And this is tricky, and here is the need to follow and trust the Holy Spirit.

Response to a crises is always complicated. And any attempt to give an institutional response, which involves deep changes in the foundational power structures, can be more complicated. And it becomes further complicated when the blue-print of the process is not available. Possibly two questions are…

  1. Can we trust the Holy Spirit acting in various ways through all Christians (and all humans)?
  2. Can we trust the Holy Spirit to guide the entire process whose blue-print is not clear yet to any human-being, including the Pope?



arun simon

A Jesuit with all the crazyness… Loves Jesus…Loves church, but loves to challenge too… Loves post modern philosophy & Gilles Deleuze.. Loves deep conversations…