Archdiocese publishes new synod report 

This is the official logo for the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Originally scheduled for 2022, the synod took place in October 2023 to allow for broader consultation at the diocesan, national and regional levels. (CNS Photo courtesy of Synod of Bishops)

More than 100 “deeply engaged” Catholics provided their perspectives on the church during the latest local listening sessions for Pope Francis’ ongoing Synod on Synodality.

The sessions were held during Lent at three locations — the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Pastoral Center, St. Margaret Mary Church and the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky.

“Deeply engaged Catholics attended,” said Richard “Tink” Guthrie, who coordinates the local synod process. The sessions drew 102 Catholics from 28 parishes and three religious orders. They were primarily older, caucasian adults, said Guthrie. 

“It was not as robust” as the original synod listening sessions in 2022, he said, when more than 2,000 local Catholics shared their experiences at 120 sessions. “But the feedback was largely consistent with what we heard in the first round.”

The Synod on Synodality process began in 2021 at the request of Pope Francis. That fall, he called on Catholics around the world to gather and share their experience of the church and listen with an open heart to the experiences of others.

What they shared (available at www.archlou.org/synod-2022/) formed the foundation of the World Synod on Synodality held in October of 2023 at the Vatican. Before the next synod in October 2024, Pope Francis has asked Catholics to offer additional reflections, specifically on church structure and leadership.

The archdiocese has compiled a synthesis of these latest reflections — a five-page report called “ ‘Journeying Together’ The Archdiocesan Synthesis II Interim Phase.” That document and other synod documents are available at www.archlou.org/synod-2022/.   

The introduction explains, “Feedback… included common themes, best summarized under the topics of hope, leadership, inclusion and engagement. Much of the commentary involved both positive and negative suggestions about what the Church should be doing; also included are insights that diverged from common opinions expressed.”

On the topic of hope, participants discussed their love for the church:

“Let God’s love abide in us and among us. Believe that we can be and are called to be ambassadors of that love. Then run with that message!” says one participant. 

Another said, “I hope the Synod reveals what is important and what direction the Church should move to evangelize and meet people.”

On the topic of leadership, participants discussed leadership styles, clericalism in particular.

“Clerical church structures don’t know the world we live in. Be more inclusive, humble, trusting others, respectful, collegial,” said one.

Another acknowledged those who lead well: “I have experienced ways in which Church structures, leadership, or life encourage our shared mission through ‘good and faithful priests who work day in and day out.’ ”

On the topic of inclusion, participants touched on those who feel ostracized in the church, including the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, youth, women, those in poverty and those who are divorced and remarried. They said:

“We need ‘to build a more welcoming Church and turn no one away or do the best we can to help.’ ”

And, “We need to stop asking ‘why don’t they come’ and ask instead where do we as a Church need to go to be present?”

On the subject of engagement, participants lamented the trend of Catholics falling away from the church and offered a variety of suggestions to increase engagement.

One lamented “families not engaging with the faith; integrating the faith into their lives. Hard to get families from Catholic schools to come to Mass. How [do we] continue religious education in a meaningful way after 8th-grade Confirmation class?”

Another offered: “Every parish should have an outreach program to the poor, disaffected, LGBT, and other marginalized Catholics and non-Catholics as well.”

The report also noted that some tensions were apparent at the sessions.

“Some tension emerged between a more traditional or orthodox view of the Church and the viewpoints of those who often described themselves as the Vatican II or progressive Church,” the report explains. It includes a reflection sent by one person who had attended a listening session: 

Feedback from a synod listening session

“Many of us feel the process was instituted to achieve a specific public and internal relations outcome. … I recognize my communication is in vain, but I feel compelled to let you know there are many who do not share the progressive views you heard last night.”

Guthrie noted, “It’s important that our Catholic faithful understand that the synodal process is not a democratic or vote form of church leadership.”

“The synodal approach is a form of leadership planning and discussion, not the end-all-be-all,” he said. “For those who have fears about where this is going, this is just one piece. For those who think this is a way to break through on certain issues, like married priests and women’s ordination, this is about understanding where people are coming from.

“Rather than having seismic change, by hearing from people and understanding where they’re coming from, the church can better respond to them,” he said.

Guthrie noted that the practice of synodal listening — listening respectfully with open hearts —  can help Catholics develop a better understanding of one another’s perspective and bridge polarizing divides.

At the listening sessions, he explained, “You had an opportunity to hear an opposing view. To have a better understanding of why they have that view is the purpose of synodal listening.”

The latest report was forwarded to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in early April where the feedback will be combined with that of other dioceses, ultimately to produce a North American report for the Holy See. 

Reports from the world’s continents will inform the next gathering of the Synod on Synodality in October of 2024.

Marnie McAllister
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Marnie McAllister
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One reply on “Archdiocese publishes new synod report ”
  1. says: Gregory F House

    I have seen “Be Kind” signs around in neighborhoods for several years now, and much, if not most of what I read above falls into that category. But that is not always what Jesus ask of us. It is nice to be kind, but salvation is in the truth. As always, with inclusion, that is ignored. In the post Vatican II years we soften the message as not to offend. We ended up with no rules, and no Church. I don’t want a full church if no on is saved. I have many of the same struggles in my own family, and I will not give up on those who reject the hard road. But saying sin is not sin, has no meaning and is not life giving.

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