THE NATIONAL SYNTHESIS
A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
Recently, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published the National Synthesis for the 2021-2023 Synod on Synodality. The results are challenging, honest, and encouraging. Over 700,000 people participated, reflecting a broad spectrum of the Catholic population. People from many different religious traditions also participated. The National Synthesis reflects the wisdom of 22,000 reports.
The active participation of young people and those estranged from the Church makes the Synthesis a valuable instrument in our understanding of what is important to those troubled by the Institutional Church. Synodality invites us to discernment which in turn invites us to listen to one another in a spirit of prayer, humility, and openness. The document is readily available on the USCCB website. Three areas of concern are worth exploring here for a few moments.
First, the Synthesis reveals the deep wounds caused by the sexual abuse scandals. The responses reflect disappointment, baffle-ment, and deep sorrow. How is such a failure possible in a Church that treasures life and human dignity? The scandal has caused many to question the Church’s credibility. Many find they can no longer participate in the life of the Church. The call for honesty is strong. Amends must be a reality, and serious reflection and self-examination the order of the day.
Second, the place and dignity of women are of crucial concern, according to the Diocesan Reports and Summaries. Women’s ordination issues must be addressed with openness and willingness to hear what women experience in their vocational calls. Women’s participation in the Church’s life is vital, as in the case of women religious. Yet, the incorporation of women into the full and complete life and structure is lacking.
Third, the Church must be a welcoming Church where people are treasured more than rituals, doctrine, and customs. Many participants lamented the exclusion of the LGBTQ+ communities. In addition, the issue of racism is of great concern. The Synthesis offers several important paragraphs exploring the nature of what would constitute a welcoming Church.
There are other areas of concern, such as priestly formation, participation of young people, and the quality of the liturgical practice of the Church. The section on discernment invites us to understand the ongoing dynamic of Synodality.
Pope Francis made it abundantly clear that synodality is not an opportunity to complain and write a report but an opportunity to discern the movement of the Spirit in the Church by listening to the entire People of God.
The Synod on Synodality, scheduled to meet in Rome in October 2023, will no doubt emphasize that synodality is the way of being Church. A wonderful and challenging future has begun anew as the synodal way of being Church takes hold in our hearts and structures. We already have bold testimony about how the Spirit is moving in our Church and World today.
Blessings to all of you, Holy Community, who continue to share the wisdom of your discernment in ways both humble and bold.