US Catholic Bishops’ Report to Vatican Shows Church Divided by Politics

VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Catholics in the United States are deeply divided on issues as disparate as LGBTQ inclusion, clerical sexual abuse and celebration of the liturgy, according to a summary of consultations conducted in dioceses across the country in recent months within the framework of the Pope Synod of Francis on synodality.

“Participants experienced this division as a deep sense of pain and anxiety,” the U.S. bishops wrote in a summary released Monday, Sept. 19, after being sent to the Vatican last month.

In 2021, Francis launched a global discussion, compelling parish churches and a host of other religious organizations to bring their congregations together to talk about their view of the hierarchy and the issues facing the church. The discussion will inform a summit of bishops at the Vatican scheduled for October 2023 on the theme “For a synodal Church: participation, communion and mission”.

Bishops’ conferences were tasked with collecting feedback made at the parish level and sending it to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which produced a report for the Vatican.

To collect information from the more than 66.8 million Catholics living in the United States, the bishops divided the country into 15 administrative regions, including one representing the Eastern Churches. Contributions from Catholic organizations and individuals have been grouped into 16e Region.

A total of 290 documents were sent to the American bishops to summarize them.

In a section of the document titled “Enduring Wounds,” the bishops wrote that Catholics brought born divisions in the political arena, including views on the Eucharist and the celebration of Mass, to the pews.

A controversy over whether pro-choice Catholic politicians, including President Joe Biden, should be allowed to receive Communion at Mass has fractured Catholic communities in recent years and led US bishops to launch a process of 28 million dollars over three years to “restore” and “revive”. » the Eucharist.

Francis’ decision last year to severely restrict the celebration of Mass in the Old Latin Rite, which the pontiff said had become a rallying cause for conservative dissent, has led some Catholics to lament “the level of ‘animosity’ and a ‘sense of being judged’ in the church, according to the USCCB report.

The polarization has also affected the hierarchy of the Church, with divisions among bishops — and sometimes between bishops and the pope — becoming “a source of grave scandal,” the summary says.

“This perceived lack of unity within the hierarchy appears, in turn, to justify division at the local level,” the document states.

“Marginalization” was tied to the theme of polarization. The report highlighted the calls of many Catholics for the church to become a more welcoming and open space. Two most marginalized groups, he suggested, were those who lacked social or economic power and those whose lifestyles were condemned by church teaching.

Migrants, ethnic minorities, unborn children and the poor belong to the first group, according to the document, which also included women, “whose voices are often marginalized in Church decision-making processes.”

The second group included members of the LGBTQ community and divorced and civilly remarried couples. “Concerns about how to meet the needs of these diverse groups surfaced in each synthesis,” the document says.

The issue of LGBTQ Catholics was particularly troubling, with “virtually every synodal consultation” saying the lack of welcome was at least partly responsible for the bleeding of young people from the church. “The hope for a welcoming Church was expressed clearly with the desire to authentically accompany LGBTQ+ people and their families,” the summary reads.

American Catholics have also called for greater involvement of the laity, especially women. “There was a desire to strengthen leadership, discernment and decision-making roles for women – both lay and religious – in their parishes and communities,” the report said.

Catholic teaching prohibits women from becoming deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals, or popes and limits their role in the liturgy, interpreting the masculinity of Jesus and his followers as sanctioning an all-male liturgy and clergy. The church also condemns homosexual acts as a sin and considers homosexuals to be “inherently disordered”.

The political divisions and tears in the Catholic Church in the United States are occurring against the backdrop of the “still ongoing effects of the sexual abuse crisis,” the document says. “The sin and crime of sexual abuse has not only eroded trust in the hierarchy and the moral integrity of the Church, but has also created a culture of fear that prevents people from relating to one another. others and therefore to feel the sense of belonging and the connectedness to which they aspire.


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Despite these challenges, the bishops said, Catholics shared a desire for more Church activities, especially for families, to be experienced together and demanded better training for seminarians and a greater focus on how to translate the homilies into action.

The report relayed to the Vatican the “skepticism and suspicion” that hung over the synod discussions as the process was underway. But once the faithful embraced the spirit of listening to the discussions, the bishops said, the meetings were welcomed as a “seed of renewal” to mend fractures in the community.

“Synodal consultations around the lingering wounds caused by the clergy sex abuse scandal, the pandemic, polarization and marginalization revealed a deep thirst for healing and a strong desire for communion, community and a sense of belonging and belonging. ‘unity,’ the bishops write.

The U.S. bishops’ summary, along with those from hundreds of bishops’ conferences around the world, is currently under review by the Vatican, which will release a document in the coming weeks to guide discussions by faith groups and organizations divided into seven “continents.” “. groups.”


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