Americans at the Synod

Vatican II
There’s an interesting CNS story about various people the Pope has invited to attend the synod next week. I thought I’d scour through the official Italian list to find the Americans (Zenit has it in English). I only came up with four:

1. Fr. Peter Damian Akpunonu, professsor of biblical exegesis at St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Chicago and member of the International Theological Commission (expert consultant)
2. Sr. Sara Butler, professor of dogmatic theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY (expert consultant)
3. Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus (official observer)
4. Ricardo Grzona, president of the Foundation Ramon Pane of Honduras and Catholic consultor to the United Bible Societies of the Americas (official observer)

According to Zenit there are 32 voting members, 41 experts and 37 observers. I thought it a bit disappointing that the US didn’t get a voting member at all, but oh well. (This is not correct, see this more recent post for correction.) I also thought the selection of these four people to represent the American perspective at the synod was a bit mercurial. I mean, these are not the names that leap to mind when I think of “American Catholic Biblical Scholarship.” But I don’t get a phone call from Rome before these things happen. If only…just kidding! Now I will say that the pool is quite small–only 32 votes–so I suppose not every country can get a seat at the table.

It is also a little odd that Fr. Akpunonu is not from the US, but from Africa. Here’s his bio at the Mundelein website:

    Professor, Department of Biblical Exegesis and Proclamation.
    S.S.L., Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome;
    S.T.D., Pontifical Urban University, Rome.
    Former Associate Pastor 1966-67;
    taught at Bigard Memorial Seminary Enugu, Nigeria 971-1978;
    and Rector of the same 1979-1989;
    President of Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt, Nigeria 1989-1997.
    Author of: The Vine, Israel and the Church
    and The Overture of the Book of Consolations (Isa 40: 1-11).
    Contributor to Bigard Studies and CIWA Studies.
    Member of the International Theological Commission, Vatican City.
    Member of Catholic Biblical Association of America, Conference of Catholic Theological Institutions, Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians.

But I suppose being a member of the International Theological Commission probably puts him in good stead to be an expert consultant at the synod. Ah, yes, this must be the case. Turns out Sr. Sara Butler is also a member of the ITC. Here’s her bio from the St. Joseph Seminary website:

  • “Sister Sara teaches dogmatic theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary. She recently published The Catholic Priesthood and Women: A Guide to the Teaching of the Church (Hillenbrand Books). Her articles have appeared in Worship, The Thomist, Theological Studies, Theology Digest, Anglican Theological Review, Communio, Ephemerides Mariologicae, Chicago Studies, and the New Catholic Encyclopedia. In 2004 she was appointed to the International Theological Commission, and she has served on the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission since 1991. Sister Sara belongs to the Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity.”

At her bio page she has an interesting paper on women’s ordination.

The other thing is that the synod is not an exegetical conference, but a pastoral synod. The most important things to discuss is how the Bible functions in the life of the Church as a whole–not the intricacies of biblical scholars opinions on minute topics. So the most important members are the pastors of the Church–the cardinals, archbishops and so on. They represent the authority and pastoral intelligence of the Church. Thank God the Church is not run by Bible scholars!

Oh yes, the other two. I find the official observers less interesting to talk about because, well, I imagine them just sitting in the back of the room shaking hands with people and such–not actually participating in the work of the synod. But anyway. You probably know who Carl Anderson is. He just wrote a new best-selling book and you’ll find him wherever the Knights may go. But Ricardo Grzona…hmmm…well, I found a picture of him handing a book to the Pope. According to the American Bible Society, he’s a Spanish speaker and has been active in promoting Lectio Divina with the UBS. Unfortunately, most of the stuff about him on the web is in Spanish so I can’t do much with it.
Ricardo Grzona

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *