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Inside the VaticanNovember 02, 2023
Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver and Catherine Clifford, professor of theology at St. Paul University in Ottawa, arrive for a working session of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall, Oct. 26, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

The Synod on Synodality has major implications on the Catholic church’s structures and its hierarchical nature. One of the synod’s goals is to implement the vision of the church laid out at the Second Vatican Council, and to ask what structural changes might be necessary to make that vision a reality, and how the formation of people at every level of the church needs urgent review.

Ecclesiologist and theologian Catherine Clifford, a professor at the University of Ottawa, was a full, voting member of the Synod on Synodality, representing North America. She joined host Colleen Dulle in Rome near the end of the synod to explain what happened and what is coming over the next 11 months.

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Dr. Clifford addresses questions that have been raised about whether the synod might erode the authority of bishops. “I actually don't think this takes away anything from the authority of the bishops,” she said. “In fact, if it's done rightly, it should strengthen the authority of the bishops.”

“We need to distinguish between power and authority. You can have power and exercise it and have absolutely no authority,” she added. “When people have been part of the discerning and decision-making process, they will recognize the decision as the fruit of a consensus within the community, and it will have more weight and more authority than if the bishop sat at his desk and made a decision in isolation from the people.”

In this episode, Colleen also gives an update on several major developments in the case of the disgraced former Jesuit, the Rev. Marko Rupnik.

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