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US bishops express ‘some frustration’ with Vatican in new Synod synthesis report

May 29, 2024

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has released its national synthesis report for the interim stage of the synod on synodality.

The synod’s interim stage followed the October 2023 session of the Synod of Bishops. In December, the Synod of Bishops asked episcopal conferences to hold listening sessions; the USCCB, in turn, suggested that dioceses hold listening sessions during Lent.

76% of US dioceses submitted reports on over 1,000 listening sessions in which 35,000 people participated.

“In the discernment of the fruits of the syntheses two basic hopes for the Church began to emerge: the Safe Harbor of certainty and openness and the prophetic mystery at the heart of our Fiery Communion,” the national synthesis report stated, adding:

Participants in synodal listening sessions acknowledged that the synodal process has unearthed tensions within our communion, in which some “were challenged by the Church’s ‘indecisiveness,’ by ‘lack of reverence,’ and by the perception that the Church is ‘changing the traditional methods’ and accepting current ‘things against our church rules’” (Region III).

Similarly, “some are very worried about how the Church responds to LGBTQ and other marginalized people… others want to stand firm in the Church’s teaching and not shy away from the truth” (Region VIII). It was expressed by many participants that “leadership in the Church needs to be clear about our truth; confusion is leading to frustration and division among the faithful” (Region VII). [USCCB region map]

“This stage has been marked by curiosity, creativity, signs of maturation, and an uncovering of tensions that reveal a desire to enter more deeply into the sources of our hope and trust,” the 20-page report concluded. “Participants repeatedly expressed gratitude for the chance to share their experiences and listen to one another. A major theme expressed by many during this time was the deepening awareness of how our trust in God expresses itself in relation to our imperfect institutions within the Church.”

Bishops also participated in their own listening session.

“Fostering fraternal relations and unity with the priests and among them was often mentioned as a high, but challenging, priority,” the report stated. “Various kinds of polarization were mentioned that affect the fabric of dioceses and of the Church in the United States as a whole ... Some of these polarizations are political in origin, others more explicitly theological in nature.”

The report added:

Bishops gave a generally positive assessment of relations between themselves and the Holy See. Several noted, however, that direct contact with Rome is not very frequent, but did express appreciation for the work of the Apostolic Nuncio in fostering a spirit of communion, and in facilitating communication with the Holy See.

The bishops did express some frustration that communication between bishops and the offices of the Holy See could be better, offering the example that in the past they were given advance notice of a document that would later be published by one or other of the dicasteries. This seems not to be done as much as it used to be.

Despite this frustration, the experience of the Ad Limina visits to Rome were described as occasions of fraternity and joy.


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  • Posted by: filioque - May. 31, 2024 7:00 PM ET USA

    Unity? Fraternity? Where were the U.S. Bishops when Bp. Strickland was summarily ousted from his diocese without any semblance of canonical process? What was his crime but giving his flock the tradition, clarity, and stability this report says the people want and, btw, canon law says is theirs by right? When will our Bishops start acting like Successors of the Apostles instead of supine branch managers? I am tired of words, words, words from the USCCB.