By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tAnyone who has ever endured the first week of a Vatican-sponsored Synod of Bishops, reading mountains of paperwork and listening to a seemingly endless cycle of speeches, will appreciate this metaphor: Whatever else it may be, a Synod of Bishops is like a particle accelerator for words.
A synod concentrates tremendous energy in a confined space, producing a collision that releases a vast amount of verbiage. Consider that the average speech given in the synod hall is perhaps 1,000 words long; with roughly 200 speeches during the first week and a half, that’s 200,000 words in speech-making alone, to say nothing of the two lengthy preparatory documents, the two weighty speeches given by the relator, and so on. Conservatively, one could estimate that each synod generates at least a million words.
Truth to be told, at least some of that language – though typically full of passion and good will – is forgotten as soon as it’s pronounced.