A desire for unity amid Church tensions

A comprehensive synthesis of feedback from 35,000 US Catholics, gathered as part of the ongoing Synod on Synodality, reveals a strong desire for unity among lay Catholics and clergy, despite significant political and theological divisions.

Jun 07, 2024

Pope Francis presides over Mass Oct 29, 2023, marking the end of the first session of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops on synodality in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS/Lola Gomez)


By Jonah McKeown
A comprehensive synthesis of feedback from 35,000 US Catholics, gathered as part of the ongoing Synod on Synodality, reveals a strong desire for unity among lay Catholics and clergy, despite significant political and theological divisions.

Participants in the synodal listening sessions, while acknowledging the Church’s efforts, voiced concerns about perceived “indecisiveness,” “lack of reverence,” and changes to traditional practices. Additionally, there was a notable sentiment that some groups, including LGBTQ individuals, “feel hurt by the Church and are reluctant to return.”

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) doctrine committee, reflected on these findings in the report’s introduction. “This document reflects a deep desire among US Catholics to rebuild and strengthen our communion as the body of Christ,” he wrote. He emphasised that restoring trust requires “practising the art of listening to each other and speaking together.”

The May 28 report highlights a call for “increased focus on formation for evangelisation” and stronger catechesis, particularly in programmes for evangelisation, Catholic Social Teaching, and the role of the family. It also stresses the importance of collaboration between clerical and lay Catholics.

Participants noted that parishes with small faith communities, Bible studies, and prayer groups are most effective in integrating diverse backgrounds. The role of Catholic schools in community evangelisation was also emphasised.

Concerns about “the lack of vocations” and the need for greater vocation awareness were widespread, alongside a desire for unity among priests. “Division in the priesthood will bring division in the Church,” one participant commented.

The feedback also highlighted divergent views on the Church’s response to marginalised groups, including LGBTQ individuals. Some participants called for clear adherence to Church teachings, while others stressed the need for inclusive dialogue. “Leadership in the Church needs to be clear about our truth; confusion leads to frustration and division,” the report states.

The report also addressed complacency within the Church, urging more flexible and mission-oriented operations. Effective communication was identified as crucial to avoiding division and maintaining a unified message of what it means to be Catholic.

The celebration of the traditional Latin Mass emerged as a focal point in discussions about tradition and modernity. Participants noted that young people seek new expressions of faith and acceptance.

There were calls for more leadership opportunities for women within Church institutions. Participants acknowledged that while the Church might appear “a little messy,” it is part of the journey towards embodying the perfect and true faith.

The report concludes with Bishop Flores’ reflection on the need for the Church to recognise its imperfections while striving for communion and trust. --CNA

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