SYNOD WATCH—More “Listening Sessions,” More Gaslighting

SYNOD WATCH—More “Listening Sessions,” More Gaslighting January 24, 2024

SOURCE: JerOme82 / Pixabay

Listening Sessions Round 2

American Catholics are headed for another round of “listening sessions” in the early spring of 2024 according to a post from the National Catholic Reporter.  NCR reports that the directive to American bishops is coming from the synod committee of the USCCB:

“The new guidance gives American dioceses until April 8 to submit to the U.S. bishops’ conference a three- to five-page report about their spring listening sessions. Those reports will be synthesized regionally, then nationally, and a national report will be sent to the Vatican synod office by May 15, the guidance says.”

The “national report” is being sent to Rome because it was the Vatican that called for the listening sessions in the first place.  And they’re even dictating the questions that must be asked. Here’s what NCR reported:

“The guidance, which was created based on a Dec. 11 communication from the Vatican’s synod office, includes two specific questions for dioceses to ask during the listening sessions:

  • ‘Where have I seen or experienced successes—and distresses—within the Church’s structure(s)/organization/leadership/life that encourage or hinder the mission?” and,
  • “How can the structures and organization of the Church help all the baptized to respond to the call to proclaim the Gospel and to live as a community of love and mercy in Christ?’” [I have more to say about this question later on in this article.]

Did Rome Listen the First Time?

Stop right there.  We’ve already had listening sessions.  Before the first Synod on Synodality (SoS). The whole point of those sessions was to bring the concerns of the people back to Rome so that the synod would be able to include their voices and concerns. It is a reasonable question to ask whether anyone feels as though Rome heard them.  

If Pope Francis did such a wonderful job of listening the first time, why is so much of the Catholic world rebelling against him?  Since the conclusion of the synod, there has been unprecedented resistance to Pope Francis and the Vatican, who have published three controversial documents in rapid-fire succession since the ending of the synod. To begin with, Bishop Robert Barron, who participated in the SoS expressed his own consternation with the synod’s final document:

“A final point—and here I find myself in frank disagreement with the final synodal report—has to do with the development of moral teaching in regard to sex. The suggestion is made that advances in our scientific understanding will require a rethinking of our sexual teaching, whose categories are, apparently, inadequate to describe the complexities of human sexuality.”

Did that idea come from the listening sessions?  I don’t think so.

To Whom Are They Listening?

So where did the idea come from that scientific research requires a change in Catholic sexual morality?  One source for this idea is the German Synodal Way. The German bishops claim that science has established that homosexuality is a normal, natural variant of human sexuality, and so the teaching of the Church needs to change to reflect the so-called “science.”

But the Germans do not claim the idea as their own. They give credit to Pope Francis for thinking of it first—in Amoris Laetitia.  And although the pope never discusses changing the teaching on homosexuality, it is true that, in chapter 7, he declares that science is essential for understanding sexual morality. But actual church teaching on homosexuality may not be essential according to paragraph 3:

“3. Since ‘time is greater than space,’ I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium [Church doctrine].”


To Be Continued . . .

About John Gravino
John Gravino is the author of The Immoral Landscape of the New Atheism, which was the topic of a health and spirituality seminar at Duke Medical School. He continues to explore the intersection of health and religion and the other big questions of life right here at Patheos. You can read more about the author here.
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