Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

The Synod's choice: change the marketing campaign or change the product?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 12, 2015

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, who is participating in the Synod of Bishops, expresses an unusual perspective on the meeting on his blog:

Why bother with the time, energy and expense of two Synods and all that’s gone with them if nothing whatsoever is going to change?

Really? Does anything have to change?

Sure, it would be disappointing if, at the end of this long messy process, the world’s Catholic bishops had absolutely nothing to say to the faithful. But a stirring exhortation would work nicely—much better than an ambiguous statement on doctrine.

When the executives of a major corporation go into a weeks-long planning session, shareholders might reasonably expect an exciting new product. But just because the bishops have gathered, that doesn’t mean we need a new dogma!

When the Synod ends we’ll have the same old Gospel, the same Mass, the same Creed. That’s not a bad thing. Even the prelates who are pushing most aggressively for dramatic change at this Synod insist that they do not intend to change any aspect of formal Catholic doctrine.

Sometimes, of course, there’s an obvious need for change. Let’s assume that Archbishop Coleridge intended to suggest that with marriage and family life in crisis, there’s an urgent need for the Church to provide emergency help. On that point, I hope, all Catholics could agree.

But what needs to change? Is a) it the teachings of the Church that are causing the problems? Or b) the way those teachings are (or are not) being conveyed? Or c) the failure of people to understand and accept those teachings? If the problem is b and/or c—as I suspect the vast majority of Synod fathers would agree—then the “change” we need from this Synod does not involve Catholic teaching. We may need a new marketing campaign; we don’t need a new product.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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