Should historians in the future rummage through the final documents of Vatican synods, they will find tepid accounts, blandly written and largely cleansed of the motivating tensions and contentious discussions of the moment.
We expect the same of documents that ultimately will be compiled and then stashed as a result of the recently completed Synod on Africa. The sad consequence, if past experience is any indication, is that the life in evidence at the synod, the energy bubbling up from this somewhat newly minted and wildly growing version of an old, old church, will be ignored. Much of that life issues from the questions being raised about the future, about the empowerment of women, about a larger role for laity. It is the result of the kind of back-and-forth that disturbs the Vatican’s meta-narrative, a vision of calm continuum that needs only to be reinforced.