The two camps

On this page I try to summarize what caused stress and communication problems between me and the sinoditiim during the diocesan phase in Estonia.

Differing choices

The sinoditiim and I had intuitively different choices regarding

  • which approach to use for the project as a whole. I am a convinced adept of the “Agile” approach, while the sinoditiim consisted of experienced experts of the “Waterfall” approach (see Agile versus Waterfall).

  • how to invite non-Catholic people. I was convinced that we must invite other people more insistingly than through our website if we want them to participate.

Differing principles

I would formulate the differing principles that led to these different choices as follows (in parentheses a label for each opinion).

Major points of discord

We should not cultivate distrust or doubt in the church. (“obedient”)

Expressing criticism is an important part of the learning process. (“co-responsible”)

We gave other confessions and non-religious people the possibility to participate, but they showed little interest. (“self-assured”)

We actively invited other confessions and even non-religious people to participate. (“open-minded”)

The general public is not interested in our internal discussions and struggles. External persons have no right to see our final synthesis. Transparency causes administrative costs and anyway is never fully possible. (“solid”)

Every detail of our work, and especially our synthesis, except for privacy-sensitive information, should be publicly visible. (“transparent”)

We must summarize only what has been said by others. (“safe”)

We must look out for new ideas that have not been written before. (“inspired”)

The church should bring Christ to the world and not give humanistic answers (“mystical”)

The church should give clear directions in all questions of daily life, including political, economic and cultural opinions (“political”)

Differing methods

Reactions to the questionnaire

Reactions to the questionnaire of the Synod . On the left side I collected attitudes I heard from others, on the right side I formulate my reaction.

1. Companions on the journeyIn the Church and in society we are side by side on the same road.

We must hold together because we are a small community in a dangerous world. Those who do not live according to the traditional Church teachings are not on our side, we need to protect ourselves against them.

We must clarify our definition of faithful and “baptized”. There are “baptized” people who don’t understand the Gospel and who follow something else. And there are people who follow the Gospel but refuse to get “baptized” because they have seen too much of the harm caused by the Church.

We must keep a clear distance from those who want to make us believe something other than the truth.

We will be especially attentive for those who did not yet decide to follow Jesus.

2. ListeningListening is the first step, but it requires an open mind and heart, without prejudice.

We must be careful because listening to lies causes you to believe them in the end.

We will be careful because we tend to listen only in order to find arguments against “their” opinion and to explain once more “our” opinion.

Listening to a wrong opinion without clearly replying can encourage the other to remain in their mistake.

We will learn to not fear other humans as our “enemies”.

3. Speaking out – All are invited to speak with courage and parrhesia, that is, in freedom, truth, and charity.

We must not speak out everything without worrying about how the enemy might use our words against us. Diplomacy is the art of saying the truth without offending the enemy.

We will learn the art of speaking boldly where needed. When our brother sins, we will explain him what disturbs us even if he might feel offended. Hurting can be the opposite of harming. Of course every unpleasant message needs careful consideration.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Mt 7:6)

We will respect that not every faithful is ready to understand every teaching.

4. Celebration – “Walking together” is only possible if it is based on communal listening to the Word and the celebration of the Eucharist.

The Holy Mass fosters our identity and grows our faith. We must not let modernistic tendencies or other people tell us how to celebrate.

The traditional Roman Catholic rites are venerable and valid ways for celebrating the Gospel, but they are not the only way. We will embrace and document a wide set of rites.

Inspired (among others) by Vatican’s top liturgy official confirms restrictions on Latin Mass

Inspired (among others) by The Discalced Carmelite Sisters of Fairfield and Vatican document Cor Orans,

5. Sharing responsibility for our common mission – Synodality is at the service of the mission of the Church, in which all members are called to participate.

A lay person must not instruct other people regarding faith questions; teaching should be done by a priest.

The Gospel propagates mostly through our lives, through what we say and do to other people.

Beware of the “stench effect”: constantly living in a “stinking environment” makes you indifferent to the stench. You can loose your faith when you are constantly surrounded by people who don’t believe.

Nothing can ever come between us and the love of God revealed to us in Christ Jesus.

6. Dialogue in Church and society – Dialogue requires perseverance and patience, but it also enables mutual understanding.

We must not waste our energy trying to understand people who refuse to accept the truth.

We will learn that we cannot announce the Gospel to somebody if we fail –or refuse– to understand their problem.

7. Ecumenism – The dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey.

The purpose of ecumenism is to open a door to other confessions so that lost faithful can turn back to the Roman Catholic church.

We will learn from each other and share what we have learned during our different history.

During Holy Mass we welcome non-Catholic visitors as long as they behave adequately and follow the rules.

Every rite is open for visitors and we help them to understand what is going on.

8. Authority and participation – A synodal church is a participatory and co-responsible Church.

The Church needs a clear hierarchy. Whenever humans do something together, it must be clear who is the boss. The boss is responsible in the end. If you are not the boss, then you must rather obey than feel co-responsible. That’s called discipline. We don’t believe in co-responsibility.

While a well-regulated democratic government is probably the best management system in a world where faithful co-operate with faithless people, synodal government has several strategic advantages over a pure democracy.

Participation means communism. History shows that communism has failed. It is not a sustainable way for living together.

Inspired (among others) by Debatte um Synodalen Weg: Was eine Kirchenrechtlerin antwortet

9. Discerning and deciding – In a synodal style we make decisions through discernment of what the Holy Spirit is saying through our whole community.

Common decisions must be the result of a well-organized democratic process. We cannot allow corrupt leaders who do what they want, even if they call it discernment.

10. Forming ourselves in synodality – Synodality entails receptivity to change, formation, and on-going learning.

The Church must align to Jesus Christ alone, not to a multicultural mix of ideologies. The mission of the Church is to teach others, not to learn from others.

Teaching requires learning. While the Church –of course– teaches what she has learned so far, we must never forget that her learning continues. The Church must not claim to teach the only valid teaching about God.

Bible-based versus Gospel-based faith

I also observed the following more general points of discord between other people and me.

Bible-based versus Gospel-based faith

The Bible is our infallible and authoritative guide in all questions about God.

The Bible requires interpretation, our job is to ex­plain it anew in each situation.

The Bible is the Word of God.

The Bible speaks about the Word of God.

Women can’t get accepted as priests because Christ consciously selected only men as apostles. (

The laws of the church are human-made and need constant maintenance. Every rule should be based on evidence; no rule should be based solely on some interpretation of the Bible.

Formulating controversial convictions

Formulating controversial convictions is itself controversial because the attitude behind a statement always depends on the context. And of course I have no right to judge. One friend reacted “Your table reads as if the good people who didn’t understand anything were on the left side, and the enlightened genius who understands everything was on the right side.”

Such dichotomies remain human-made “labels” that connect to diverse meanings and can trigger diverse emotions. Formulating controversial opinions is difficult because nobody likes being pinned down under some label.

But such comparisons are indicators that where we need to advance on our journey. They can give a grasp on certain aspects of reality. Refusing to differentiate, for example, between a “safe church” and an “inspired church” is like refusing to differentiate between “cold” and “hot”.