Winter 2021

Communion, Sacramental Authority, and the Limits of Synodality

Nicholas J. Healy Jr.

Twenty years after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, John Paul II convoked an extraordinary synod to commemorate the council and reflect on the nature and missionary task of the Church. The “Final Report” of the 1985 synod begins by gratefully acknowledging the documents of Vatican II as “a legitimate and valid expression and interpretation of the deposit of faith.”1 At the same time, the bishops note that the period after the council has been characterized by both “light and shadows.” One cause of the difficulties is “a unilateral presentation of the Church as a purely institutional structure devoid of her Mystery.”2 Undertaking a sort of examination of conscience, the synod bishops accept some responsibility for the postconciliar situation.


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1. Second Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (1985), “The Final Report,” available at

2. Ibid.