In our post “Synodality and the end of ultramontanism,” we made the point:
However, we are far from sure that the way to combat this spiritually unhealthy attitude is to start spinning off essentially Roman functions to the regional episcopal councils. That seems like a multiplication of the problem, rather than a reduction. It is unlikely that the newly juridically empowered episcopal conferences will engage in tentative, faintly self-deprecating expressions of their authority. No, it seems like quite the opposite will happen: they will insist on their authority. So, we’ll get, instead a distorted sense of the pope’s power, a distorted sense of the power of a plethora of episcopal conferences. Out of the frying pan, eh?
And unlike Canterbury, Rome will retain power to reimpose uniformity. So Vatican/papal politics will be *more* contested, not less. Every papal conclave, every synod, will have the crazy feel of this month. The center won’t cease to matter; it will matter more.
In other words, since it will be Rome’s job to moderate between the newly empowered episcopal conferences, the inclination and disposition of Rome will be even more important. That is, Douthat suggests that we could get a differently distorted sense of papal power (in addition to whatever distortions creep in through the works of the episcopal conferences).
Not a happy thought.