Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney published a seven-page pastoral letter on the Synod on Synodality on Nov. 20, one day before Barron’s reflection.
“Love and truth, we know, find their perfection not in abstract philosophies or empirical studies but in the concrete person of Jesus Christ. In him, love and truth meet. We know what it is to love when we know the One who is truth,” Fisher said.
“Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus was always open to the other. He encountered every kind of person and invited them into the fullness of life (Jn 10:10). But this ever-more inclusive community of faith is also called to an ever-deeper conversion (Mt 4:17). … Being included in his family, the Church requires a response from us. Go, he says, you are forgiven. Your dignity is restored. You are loved from all eternity to all eternity. So go — and sin no more (Jn 8:11).”
The Australian archbishop also noted some of the limits to the Synod on Synodality’s communal discernment method, known as “conversation in the Spirit.”
“Deep listening to each other, expressing feelings, resonating in table groups, will not always help us find what is true and right,” Fisher said.
“As one eminent theologian said to me: Of the many synods he had attended, this one was the humanly best but theologically thinnest.”
He also cited Jesuit Father Anthony Lusvardi’s observation that while the conversation method is great at helping people understand one another better, “it is not well-suited for careful or complex theological or practical reasoning.”
“Doing that requires thinking that is critical, that weighs the pros and cons of what people say. It also requires a degree of objectivity that this method is not well-suited to provide. Sound theology needs to always ask the question, ‘That may sound good, but is it true?’”
Fisher said that “more work needs to be done to ensure a genuinely Catholic understanding of synodality, inclusion, and discernment.”
He called it providential that the nearly monthlong synod assembly coincided with the feast days of so many great saints in the Latin rite’s liturgical calendar, including St. Luke, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John Paul II, and St. Faustina Kowalska.
“We were accompanied by a great cloud of witnesses at the synod, reminding us what the Church is for: to call sinners to salvation and all to healing and holiness in Christ, to support each one in living their personal vocations, and to unite us with and as the communion of saints,” Fisher said.
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“So one useful criterion for judging every synod proposal is: Is it likely, by God’s grace, to generate more apostles and pastors, evangelists and missionaries, religious and teachers, martyrs and mystics, holy men and women, such as our Church and world so sorely need?”