10 October 2014

Can a Synod change doctrine or discipline?

Not all of the Bishops seem terribly interested in the proceedings.
With regard to the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops presently underway in Rome, there is much anticipation that the Synod Fathers will change certain disciplines in the Church or even certain doctrines. What is often forgotten - or simply ignored - is that this Synod has no authority to do either.

This is where a basic knowledge of canon knowledge is not helpful, but absolutely essential. With regard to the Synod of Bishops, the Code of Canon Law states (with my emphases):
It is for the synod of bishops to discuss the questions for consideration and express its wishes but not to resolve them or issue decrees about them unless in certain cases the Roman Pontiff has endowed it with deliberative power, in which case he ratifies the decisions of the synod (canon 343).
The Roman Pontiff, now Pope Francis, has not granted such authority to this extraordinary Synod, which he called in preparation for the ordinary Synod to be held in 2015; as such, this Synod cannot change anything. Most media reports - both secular and Catholic - ignore both of these two points.

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