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U.S. synod report finds participants share common hopes, lingering pain

Report released Sept. 19 summarizes concerns, hopes, pains and desires voiced during the diocesan phase in the U.S.

WASHINGTON — Catholics across the country continue to feel wounded by the clergy abuse crisis, seek a more welcoming Church in which their “lived reality” is prioritized over rules and regulations, and desire lifelong spiritual, pastoral and catechetical formation as disciples, according to a report synthesizing the 10-month synodal process in dioceses.

Participants in the process also expressed concern that the U.S. Catholic Church is deeply divided and that a lack of unity exists among the bishops, spoke of a desire to “accompany with authenticity” LGBTQ+ individuals and their families, and voiced hope that laypeople’s gifts would be more widely utilized in a spirit of collaboration throughout the Church, the report said.

Released Sept. 19 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the report summarizes the concerns, hopes, pains and desires voiced by an estimated 700,000 participants who joined thousands of listening sessions and other events during the diocesan phase in the lead-up to the Synod of Bishops on synodality in October 2023.

“The listening is an opening movement toward a wise discernment locally, regionally and nationally about what our deepest concerns, our deepest hopes are right now at this moment in time,” Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, who is overseeing the U.S. involvement in the synodal process, told Catholic News Service.

Titled “National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Diocesan Phase of the 2021-2023 Synod,” the report was prepared in advance of the Synod of Bishops called by Pope Francis.

The synod’s theme is “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.”

The report is the synthesis of 290 documents received by the USCCB from various contributors. The report said the documents “represent over 22,000 reports from individual parishes and other groups” that emerged from more than 30,000 opportunities to join the synodal process.

The national synthesis report draws from the 14 intermediate syntheses submitted by teams from each of the geographic regions of the U.S. Church. All 178 Latin dioceses and archdioceses submitted syntheses that were incorporated into the regional reports.

The report is divided into four themes: “Enduring Wounds,” “Enhancing Communion and Participation,” “Ongoing Formation for Mission” and “Engaging Discernment.” Each section summarizes common observations raised in the listening sessions.

It includes directly quoted descriptions of common concerns, hopes and desires from individual regional reports raised in the local listening sessions.

The report cites several “enduring wounds” expressed during the sessions. In addition to the still unfolding effects of the sexual abuse crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exact a toll on the sense of community people felt before 2020.

Divisiveness and polarization in the Church was a concern expressed in multiple regional reports. The Region 9 report covering four Midwestern states said division over the celebration of the Eucharist is disconcerting, particularly when it comes to the pre-Vatican II Mass.

Other concerns were expressed by people who feel marginalized — including those vulnerable due to lack of social or economic power and women who “are frequently marginalized in the decision-making processes of the Church,” the report said.

The report said marginalized people fall into two broad groups.

One made up of those who are vulnerable by their lack of social or economic power, including those with disabilities, the mentally ill, immigrants, ethnic minorities, people in the U.S. without documents, the unborn and their mothers, and those living in poverty, who are homeless, are incarcerated or living with an addiction.

The second group includes women, “whose voices are frequently marginalized in the decision-making processes of the Church,” the report said. Others in the group include those who are marginalized “because circumstances in their own lives are experienced as impediments to full participation in the life of the Church” including members of the LGBTQ+ community and people who are divorced and may have remarried, and those civilly married.

The full national synthesis report and each of the 14 regional intermediate reports are available online at www.usccb.org/synod.

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