In an effort to explain Pope Francis’ vision for the Synod on Synodality, Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s offers us seven “non-negotiables” that Jesus intends for the Church.The Synod on Synodality, initiated by Pope Francis last year, is a two-year, worldwide undertaking during which Catholics are encouraged to submit feedback to their local dioceses.
Synodality is a process of discernment, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, involving bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the unique gifts and charisms of their vocation. A Synod is a meeting of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope. Cardinal Dolan shares with us these words of encouragement and challenge:
Pope Francis wants us to join him in praying, listening, discerning, examining ourselves personally, and the Church communally, to see if we’re truly on the path Jesus has set for His beloved bride, His mystical body, the Church. Pope Francis has asked us all to commence an examination of conscience on how we as a Church are living up to the model of the Church given us by Jesus.
Cardinal Dolan sees certain guidelines, intended by Jesus, that have been constant during the Church’s history. He articulates them as seven non-negotiables:
- The energy and direction driving the Church comes from the Holy Spirit, not ourselves.
- While in the world, we are not of the world, and thus our guiding principles come from the Gospel, revelation, and the Church’s teaching.
- The principles of the innate dignity of every human person and the inherent sacredness of all human life are the towering moral lighthouses on our path.
- Our journey through this life back to heaven, our true and eternal home, is accomplished best when we walk together, shoulder to shoulder, with Jesus as our guide. Mary and all the saints joyfully accompany us as friends and intercessors.
- On this journey we pay special attention to those at the side of the road, especially those who are sick, weak, poor, or unable to keep up with us.
- Our wealth only comes from faith, trust, prayer, the sacraments, and God’s grace.
- Mercy, love, invitation, humility, joy, selfless generous service, and good example are our only tools – never harshness, condemnation, or pride.
Cardinal Dolan adds that “We are loyal Catholics. The Holy Father has asked us to help him keep the Church always under the direction Jesus, our good shepherd, intends.”