The USCCB Synodal Synthesis: Testimony to a Counterfeit Christianity

With little fanfare, the USCCB released its latest contribution to the interminable Synodal process in the form of a document called The National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Interim Stage of the 2021-2024 Synod (the “Synthesis”). As its title suggests, the document is a flavorless and textureless work of committee-craft, heavy with the awkward formulations beloved by ecclesial bureaucrats. Although utterly bereft of literary and devotional merit, the Synthesis is worth surveying insofar as it illustrates the extent to which a counterfeit Christianity has displaced the authentic apostolic faith within the ambit of mainstream American Catholicism.

By way of overview, the Synthesis articulates “two basic hopes for the Church”: first, to be a “Safe Harbor of certainty and openness,” since the Church “is at its best when it’s warm, welcoming, and focuses on community building and doing more for other people”; second, to cultivate the “prophetic mystery at the heart of our Fiery Communion,” which entails creatively reconciling the concerns of “marginalized people” with traditional doctrine and practice.

The document briskly develops these major themes, hitting the expected notes: involving lay people (especially women and other “marginalized groups”) in evangelization and mission; improving clarity and consistency of communication; overcoming “polarization and conflict” around the Church’s “social magisterium”; assuaging the pain of those who have “experienced systematic rejection”; encouraging “adaptability and innovation in how the Church evangelizes, welcomes, and reaches out to people”; addressing structural sins like racism; prioritizing “encounter and reflection”; and fostering “mutual understanding” among the bishops.

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