Synod of Bishops?

Roman Catholic websites keep talking about the upcoming Synod of Bishops, a body about which I had not heard much (after all, Jason and the Callers never point to this Synod as a slam dunk of Roman Catholicism’s superiority). So I wonder what kind of standing it has in the church and how much lay Roman Catholics actually know about it. It appears to be a kind of board of trustees that has an advisory role with the pope — one of the institutional manifestations of a collegial ecclesiology if Wikipedia is to be believed. But it is clearly a body in subjection to the Bishop of Rome:

It is for the Pope to

convoke the Synod of the Bishops

ratify the election of participants in the assembly

determine the topic of discussion, if possible at least six months before the assembly

distribute the material for discussion to those who should participate

to set the agenda

to preside either personally or through delegates over the assembly.

In addition, the Pope may appoint further participants in any assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in number up to 15% of those who participate either ex officio (the heads of Eastern Catholic Churches and the cardinals at the helm of departments of the Roman Curia) or because elected by episcopal conferences or the Union of Superiors General.

The Synod appears to have met formally 13 times since its institution in 1967, with a period during the 1990s when it convened in a “special” capacity. (The upcoming Synod will be the 14th meeting.)

After the 13th Synod in 2012, Pope Benedict issued an apostolic exhortation devoted to the theology of the Word of God (Verbum Domini). One paragraph caught my eye:

The Synod Fathers greatly stressed the importance of promoting a suitable knowledge of the Bible among those engaged in the area of culture, also in secularized contexts and among non-believers. Sacred Scripture contains anthropological and philosophical values that have had a positive influence on humanity as a whole. A sense of the Bible as a great code for cultures needs to be fully recovered.

Since the Telegraph recently ran a story about upcoming Hollywood productions on biblical narratives, I wonder if the Synod of Bishops deserves much more attention and credit than it has received:

Phil Cooke, a film-maker and media consultant to Christian organisations, said Hollywood’s epiphany had financial, not spiritual, origins. “What’s happened is they’ve understood it’s very good business to take Christians seriously, and this is a real serious market,” he said.

“For years Hollywood bent over backwards to reach special interest groups, be it feminists or environmentalists. It has finally realised that there are 91  million evangelical Christians in America.”
For their part, studio executives have taken something of a leap of faith that films in which religious figures save the world will bring big box office receipts.

That faith is based in no small part on the success of The Bible, a television mini-series shown on the History channel earlier this year, which averaged 11.4 million viewers and became America’s most watched cable show of 2013.

“It made the Bible cool to talk about again,” said Mr Cooke. “The separation of church and state in America is so strong that people had become afraid to talk about God, at work or at school. Suddenly, these Bible stories were water cooler conversation again.”

I’m still waiting for HBO to do a series on David. Talk about political intrigue, sexual scandal, and family foibles. It could rival The Sopranos.

20 thoughts on “Synod of Bishops?

  1. Acts is an already written screenplay. In addition to the already extant shipwrecks, jailbreaks an floggings, it now has- according to the High Priestess at the head of the Episcopal Church– an oppressed female mystic who could be cast as the female lead .

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  2. Too bad these biblically themed films are as a rule embarrassingly bad. Part of the problem is that they have to be G or PG, lest the faithful become offended.

    There is “The Passion”, but there you have 2nd commandment issues, and do I really want to see Jesus’ suffering? It’s a bit morbid. I didn’t see it.

    Good movies can and have been made about religion, but they usually come at the subject indirectly, not as Bible-hero biopics.

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  3. There was a film about David starring Richard Gere in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Its as bad as you might expect.

    I agree that movies that approach religion less directly are often better and more enjoyable, e.g. “Toy Story,” “Snatch,” etc.

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  4. There is “The Passion”, but there you have 2nd commandment issues, and do I really want to see Jesus’ suffering? It’s a bit morbid. I didn’t see it.

    I think the term is obscene, rather than morbid. There is a reason why the Greeks had all the sex and violence stuff take place offscene. It was all about an aesthetic experience rather than an emotional assault.

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  5. [Hollywood] “has finally realised that there are 91  million evangelical Christians in America.”

    It would be great if these folks were to come into contact with some church history, especially the history of the Reformation and the post-Reformation study of theology.

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  6. You never know how Hollywood is going to tell a Bible story but it’s good to see that Kirk Cameron isn’t playing Moses.

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  7. Eww, just no more ‘God and Generals’. The only thing worse than earnest evangelicals are actors trying to emulate the same.

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  8. Speaking of Kirk Cameron, I do have to watch “Fireproof” whenever it comes on. I’m a sucker for the Kendrick’s.

    Right now on my DVR I have “Fireproof”, “Groundhog Day”, “The Fugitive”, “Goodfellas”, “Klute”, “The Magnificent Ambersons”, and “How Green Was My Valley”.

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  9. I watched C. Heston movies as a kid, so (obvious point alert) this has already been done. Of course (also overly obvious) people have short memories, and where ever a buck is to be made, someone’s working on it.

    I’ll stream Disney’s upcoming 2015 movie Star Wars 7, before I see Noah. Kudos to those of you avoiding Passion.

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  10. Watching “Hannah Arendt”. The film makes the assertion that The Vatican assisted Adolf Eichmann in getting a passport to flee Germany at the end of WWII. Apparently he was a “good Catholic” (and Nazi war criminal).

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  11. William Shawn is reviewing Hannah Arendt’s article for The New Yorker on the Eichmann trial. Examines one sentence:

    Shawn: This is Greek?

    Arendt: (Looks at it) Yes.

    Shawn: You understand that most of our readers don’t understand Greek?

    Arendt: They should learn.

    Shawn: (Chuckles)

    Arendt: (Stone faced)

    Shawn: (Looks at Arendt – stops chuckling)

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  12. Erik, the Vatican helped all sorts of people get out of postWWII Europe — good guys and bad guys. There was a great movement of people and much dislocation.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet, but Arguing the World will be of great interest to you if you like HA.

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  13. I’m still waiting for HBO to do a series on David. Talk about political intrigue, sexual scandal, and family foibles. It could rival The Sopranos.

    This already happened, it was a short-lived series called Kings, I think it was on NBC, starring Ian McShane as King Silas (Saul) Benjamin. You should check it out, it was quite good.

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  14. D.G. – Erik, the Vatican helped all sorts of people get out of post WWII Europe — good guys and bad guys. There was a great movement of people and much dislocation.

    Erik – I bought books yesterday from a retired history professor who spent 7 years in a United Nations refugee camp in Germany after leaving Latvia at the end of WWII. He ended up in Lancaster, PA at age 11 and went on to get a Ph.D from Harvard. He taught social history at Iowa State for many years and is now moving to be closer to a daughter. I spent over $200 with perhaps more to come. Very interesting guy.

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