The report synthesizing the consultation process with American Catholics in view of the synod was released by the United States Conference of Bishops (USCCB) on September 19, 2022, more than a month after the deadline imposed by the Vatican . However, the substance and form of the document are far from unanimous.
“You can find everything at La Samaritaine” department store. In the United States, the synthesis of the consultations of the faithful in view of the synod will not prove the advertising slogan of one of the most famous Parisian department stores.
This is what seems to be acknowledged – given the abundance of language elements – by Msgr. Daniel Flores, president of the USCCB's doctrinal commission, when he describes the report made public on September 19 as “an attempt to synthesize and contextualize common joys, hopes and wounds.”
From the point of view of joy, the document contains only two paragraphs on the importance of the Eucharist in the life of a Christian.
The synthesis puts greater emphasis on “wounds,” of a very diverse nature: the “lack of unity among the bishops in the United States” and the Holy Father due to alleged “political ideologies,” alongside the criticism of a too “limited” access to the traditional mass, in the wake of the motu proprio Traditionis custodes.
Not to mention a Church deemed insufficiently welcoming towards “members of the LGBT community,” “remarried” divorcees, victims of “racism,” and women “whose voices are frequently marginalized in the decision-making process.”
Voices were not slow to rise in the episcopate, such as that of Msgr. Thomas Tobin, Bishop of Providence, known for his conservative positions, who regrets that the consultations have given rise to a “rather austere document, centered on the wounds, struggles, and complaints,” leaving in the background the “great and generous work that is carried out every day in the Church.”
Moreover, it is allowable to question the relevance of a synthesis that is based on approximately 700,000 contributions at the diocesan level, out of the 73 million Americans who identify as Catholics.
Some diocesan reports have also noted the low total number of participants, not to mention the fact that the “local listening sessions” were attended by rather old crowds, from the 1968 generation: several testimonies from the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Omaha, and San Francisco go in this direction.
To answer the objection of unrepresentative consultations, the synod coordinators evade the issue, explaining that the synodal process is “a spiritual enterprise, not a scientific enterprise; it requires prayerful discernment rather than quantitative analysis.”
The report must now be incorporated into an instrumentum laboris – or working document – which will serve as a basis for reflection during the “continental phase” of the synod which is due to begin at the end of the year. The whole synod process on synodality is expected to culminate in a worldwide meeting of bishops in October 2023.