Introduction to the Book, The Synodal Process Is a Pandora’s Box

The following text is taken from the introduction of the recently published book, “The Synodal Process Is a Pandora’s Box,” written by TFP members José Antonio Ureta and Julio Loredo de Izcue. You can purchase the book here.


Introduction to the Synodal Process Is a Pandora’s Box
Introduction to the Synodal Process Is a Pandora’s Box


Pope Francis has convened a Synod on Synodality in Rome under the motto, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” It is the Sixteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

Despite its potentially revolutionary impact, the debate around this Synod has largely remained restricted to insiders. The general public knows little about it, a gap we seek to fill here by explaining what is at stake. A plan is afoot to reform Holy Mother Church which, carried to its final consequences, could subvert her very foundations.

Although it is an Ordinary Assembly, several factors make this Synod an unusual event, which some would like to be a watershed in Church history, a sort of de facto Third Vatican Council.

No Ordinary Assembly

The first factor is its very structure. After extensive international consultation, as many as two plenary sessions are planned in Rome in 2023 and 2024, preceded by a spiritual retreat for participants.

A second factor is its content. While ordinary General Assemblies usually deal with specific issues (Youth in 2018, Family in 2015, and so on), this time, they intend to question the very structure of the Church. They propose to rethink the Church, transforming it into a new “constitutively synodal Church”1 by changing the basic elements of its organic constitution. This change is so radical that the Synod documents speak of “conversion,” as if the Church has been on the wrong path and needs to make a U-turn.

A third factor making this assembly unusual is its processive character. This Synod is not meant to discuss doctrinal or pastoral issues and come to conclusions but to undertake an “ecclesial process” to reform the Church. Many fear that this will open Pandora’s box.

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Thus, synodality risks becoming one of those “talismanic words” that the Catholic thinker Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira wrote about, meaning highly elastic words that are susceptible to being radicalized and abused for propaganda. Manipulated by propaganda, “[a talisman-word] begins to shine with a new radiance, fascinating the patient and taking him much farther than he could have imagined.”2

This radical reform of the Church, say Synod promoters, would reclaim old procedures of communitarian participation of the early Church too long neglected because of the hegemony of a flawed hierarchical ecclesiology one needs to overcome.3

The Synod on Synodality thus stands as a watershed in Church history and, specifically, in the current pontificate. Pope Francis “is preparing his capital reform: synodality,” writes Vaticanist Jean-Marie Guénois. “He hopes to turn the pyramidal, centralized, and clericalized Church into a more democratic and decentralized community.”4

The German Synodaler Weg

Among the most engaged in the Church’s “synodal conversion” is a majority of German bishops, who have launched a “path” of their own: the Synodaler Weg. This Weg concentrates and revives the most extreme claims of German progressives.

For its promoters, the Weg should not be limited to Germany. Instead, it should serve as a model and driving force for the universal Synod. The Germans thus appear as an extreme, albeit articulate and influential faction in the vast universe of synodality promoters. Some Vaticanists fear the influence of German progressives could be decisive in the synodal work, as was partly the case during the Second Vatican Council, when “the Rhine flow[ed] into the Tiber.”5

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Taken to its final consequences, the Weg would imply a profound subversion of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has stated: “They are dreaming of another church that has nothing to do with the Catholic faith . . . and they want to abuse this process, for shifting the Catholic Church—and not only in [an]other direction but in the destruction of the Catholic Church.”6

Should the universal Synod accept even part of the German Weg, it could disfigure and end the Church as we know it. Of course, this would not be the end of the Catholic Church. Comforted by the divine promise, she has the certainty of indefectibility. Because of that prerogative, she will endure until the end of time (see Matt. 28:20), and the gates of hell will not prevail against her (see Matt. 16:18).

A Failed Path

Before applying the Synodal Way to the Catholic Church, its promoters would do well to study similar experiments in other religions that have proven unsuccessful. Take the example of the Church of England, which embarked on its particular “Synodical Way” in the 1950s.

The testimony of Gavin Ashenden, former Anglican bishop and chaplain to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, now a Catholic convert, is noteworthy:

“Ex-Anglicans believe they can offer some help” because they have witnessed the “ploy” of synodality used in the Church of England “to such divisive and destructive effect.”
“The fact is that the ex-Anglicans have seen this trick played on the Church before. It is part of the spirituality of the progressives. Very simply put, they wrap up quasi-Marxist content in a spiritual comfort blanket and then talk a lot about the Holy Spirit.”7

A similar warning comes from Fr. Michael Nazir-Ali, former Anglican bishop of Rochester and now a Catholic priest. He urges bishops to learn from the resulting “confusion and chaos” among Anglicans and other Protestants.8

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One need not go far to see the failure of this approach. The disaster of the Church in Germany is patent. Ironically, the Synodaler Weg is meant to serve as a model to reform the universal Church. However, everyone sees the Church in Germany almost disappearing amidst the worst crisis in its history because it applied ideas and practices similar to those inspiring the Weg.

Why would anyone want to impose a path on the Church that has led to disaster elsewhere?

Furthermore, as this book will show, hardly anyone is excited about the Synodal Way, whether universal or German. The number of people involved in the various consultative processes is laughable. There is general indifference. Will the Synodal Way promoters interpret this indifference properly? Will they realize that they are playing their ball game to empty bleachers? Alas, were it only a soccer game! Nothing less than the Bride of Christ is at stake!

From Conciliarism to Permanent Synodality

While its advocates present the synodal spirit as modern and up-to-date, it draws on ancient errors and heresies.

The so-called conciliarist current arose as early as the fifteenth century under the pretext of accommodating the Church to the new mentality born with Humanism. Its advocates sought to reduce the pope’s hierarchical power in favor of a conciliar assembly. Expressing “the will of the faithful,” the Church should be structured into largely autonomous local and regional synods, each with its language and customs. These synods were to meet periodically in a General Council or Holy Synod, holding the Church’s highest authority. The pope, reduced to a primus inter pares (the first among equals), was supposed to submit to the councils’ decisions reached through an equal vote of their participants.

In its most authentic manifestations, the spirit animating the German Synodaler Weg and the universal Synod assumes and revives these old errors, condemned by several popes and councils.

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Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger denounced these old errors: “In the light of the Tradition of the Church and her sacramental structure and specific purpose, the idea of a mixed synod as the supreme permanent governing authority of national churches is a delusion. Such a synod would lack all legitimacy and obedience to it should be decisively and clearly refused.”9

“I Have Become an Outcast to My Kindred, a Stranger to My Mother’s Children”

To a diligent observer, this panorama takes on apocalyptic tones. A maneuver is underway to demolish Holy Mother Church by erasing the basic elements of her organic constitution and doctrine, rendering her unrecognizable. As mentioned, Cardinal Müller warns that, if applied maximally, the synodal reforms—in their promoters’ utopian intentions—may lead to “the destruction of the Catholic Church.” This destruction is all the more terrible as it is perpetrated by consecrated hands that should guard her from all danger. Never has Paul VI’s warning resonated as now: “Some practice . . . self-demolition. . . . The Church is being affected by those who are part of it.”10

Faced with such a dire outlook, many Catholics feel lost, discouraged, confused, perplexed, and even disappointed, and not all react appropriately. Some give in to the temptation of sedevacantism—they abandon the Church and become self-referential. Others succumb to the temptation of apostasy—they abandon the Church to embrace false religions. Most sink into indifference, leaving the Church to her sad fate. All of them are blatantly wrong! Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur (a friend in need is a friend indeed). Now is the time when Holy Mother Church needs loving and fearless children to defend her against external and internal enemies. God will hold us accountable!

We ask ourselves, as did Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in 1951, “how many are they who live in union with the Church during this moment that is tragic as the Passion was tragic, this crucial moment of history when all mankind is choosing to be for Christ or against Christ?” And also, “We must think as the Church thinks, have the Mind of the Church, proceed as the Church wishes in all the circumstances of our lives. . . . It supposes the sacrifice of an entire lifetime.”11 This sacrifice of fidelity is all the more painful when directed toward authorities who do not always appreciate it and sometimes persecute it bitterly.

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Click here to get your copy now.

We can almost exclaim, paraphrasing the psalmist, “I have become an outcast to my kindred, a stranger to my mother’s children” (Ps. 68:9—NABRE). Yes, a stranger, but still in my mother’s house, that is, within the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of which there is no salvation.

This is the spirit that animates the authors of this book.

*       *       *

The authors especially thank Mr. Juan Miguel Montes and Mr. Mathias von Gersdorff for their valuable contributions to the writing of this work.


1. Synod of Bishops, For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission—Preparatory Document, no. II,, accessed Jun. 10, 2023,
2. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Unperceived Ideological Transshipment and Dialogue, chap. III, 2. C.,, accessed Jun. 11, 2023,
3. See International Theological Commission, Synodality in the Life and Mission of the Church, nos. 57, 119,, accessed Jun. 11, 2023,
4. Jean-Marie Guénois, “Contesté, sourd aux critiques . . . ‘Fin de règne’ solitaire pour le pape François,” Le Figaro, May. 13, 2022, Reprinted with permission.
5. See Ralph M. Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II (Devon, U.K.: Augustine Publishing Company, 1979).
6. Raymond Arroyo, “Cardinal Müller on Synod on Synodality: ‘A Hostile Takeover of the Church of Jesus Christ . . . We Must Resist,’” National Catholic Register, Oct. 7, 2022,
7. Jules Gomes, “Anglican Converts Warn of Synodal Perils,”, Nov. 10, 2022,
8. Gomes, “Anglican Converts.”
9. Joseph Ratzinger, “Democratizzazione della Chiesa?” in Annunciatori della parola e servitori della vostra gioia, vol. 12 of Opera omnia (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013), 183.
10. Paul VI, “Speech to the Members of the Pontifical Lombard Seminary” (Dec. 7, 1968),, (Our translation.)
11. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, The Way of the Cross (Crompond, N.Y..: America Needs Fatima, 1990), 37, 29.