A surprisingly synodal process

This report is the result of a surprisingly synodal process. Many people have contributed to it directly or indirectly, with their prayer and their feedback, which includes both approval and critics.

It started for me in September 2021: How I got appointed.

In October 2021, the core team (sinoditiim) was appointed during a public mass celebration and the official consultation phase started. This team developed the official website http://sinod.katoliku.ee and a questionnaire in three languages. It was a lot of work and we are satisfied with the result.

While being thankful for the sinoditiim and their work, I was far from being satisfied. I had the feeling that we hadn’t done enough. I wanted to also consult people from other confessions and even people who have no contact with the Roman Catholic church. It took me some time to realize that the official sinoditiim was unable to help me with this idea. So I stopped bothering them. In November we switched to “waiting mode” because there was nothing to do for us before the end of the consultation. I can understand their reaction because just two months earlier I had myself a similar experience in another team where an overzealous team member was blocking the urgent teamwork with his idealistic dreams.

At this point, I could have switched to a simple work-to-rule mode: let them do as they want, I will put my signature under their document. And then I would probably stop believing in the Church. So what. Nothing new. I am not the first one to leave the Church like this.

But then I had this vision, which encouraged me to continue. I started to run my private consultation project without the help of the sinoditiim. I informed the Bishop about it, and he is a wise man: he did not forbid me to act on my own, he even encouraged me. We both knew that he wouldn’t act like this, but why would he ask me to stop doing more than I need to do? I continue to report him about what I do, he listens attentively and finds encouraging words, but deliberately avoids to dive too deeply into my private things. I am still fully under his authority and he has the right to unappoint me at any moment. That’s how apostolic governance works: you delegate some task to another person and then give her much independence because you trust her.

In the end of December 2021 I wrote a version 1 of a “fictive report” where I “imagined what my synthesis would look like if I had to write it already now.”

This fictive report was the synthesis of what I had heard from people of diverse back­grounds, ranging from consecrated faith teachers to people who refuse the idea of an institutionalized Church, ranging from people with less than standard education to people who received high school education,… I sent the first version to some friends and asked them to read it and give their feedback. I “digested” their feedback and then published version 2, which started a next iteration. With each iteration I asked more friends to contribute.

I use this iterative approach also in my daily work as a soft­ware developer. My software projects start with an “interview” where the customer tries to describe their requirements, my next step is to write a quick prototype for them (“rapid prototyping”) so that they can give feedback. Each feedback phase leads to a new version, which the customer must evaluate and comment. The main differences are that now the result is a readable document instead of a computer program and that my “customer” is no less than the Pope.

In January 2022 I started to realize that it is difficult to comment on a “draft” of a 10 pages report (Sunday, January 16, 2022 (03:48)). I realized that I have to find people who agree to participate in work sessions where we focus together on the text during some hours. This is where the idea of the sinoditalgutiim was born. I started to call a handful of friends and invited them to help me “more systematically” and with real-live meetings (Collecting assistants for the sinoditalgud). Formulated in terms of apostolic governance, I formed a second, “inofficial” team.

I plan to work with the sinoditalgutiim on my draft until March 2022.

On 2022-03-31 I will submit the report produced by our common work to the sinoditiim, i.e. we simply participate in the official synodal process. Our report will be one of many submissions.

Between April and August, the sinoditiim will read all the reports and then write the actual report to be sent to the Vatican. I happen to be one member of this team, but I have no authority there. We are 5 lay persons and one priest. It is a synodal community, we must ideally find a consensus. And even when we found a consensus, it will finally be the Bishop who will sign our report. If he disagrees, he will discuss with the us. If really we wouldn’t find a consensus, he might ultimately write the report himself.

I predict that there will be intensive discussions. And these discussions won’t be public.

Just my personal opinion?

One can say that my draft is “my” report, my personal opinion. My job was not to say my personal opinion but to represent the opinions of all participants. Am I “answering the wrong question”?

Some friends exclaimed “But this is your own opinion, not a summary!”.

Some friends exclaimed “But this is not teamwork!”. I reply that this project is teamwork, but of a special style, to which not everybody is used. This project is actually real example of synodal teamwork, which differs in some aspects from “classical” teamwork. Synodal teamwork is characterized by an appointed leader who has more autonomy than a board of managers (but on the other hand is under authority of the person who appointed them).

The procedure I chose to apply for this project is efficient for teamwork in this particular type of project and brings satisfying results. Producing a common text like this document requires an editor. I offer my talents and motivation to assume this role. Let me know it you prefer to assume this role in my place; I would be glad to delegate it.

My job as the editor is to listen carefully to every contributor and to the Holy Spirit. Each iteration will bring us closer to a consensus. There will probably be no single contributor fully happy with every detail. A consensus means that each contributor can say at least “I agree to make some compromises because I want us to reach our common goal, which is to have a common statement at the Synod”