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.