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Synod: A moment to listen and learn, but not abandon our teaching

Joseph F. Naumann is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Thank you to all those who participated in the synodal process for the archdiocese.

The 10-page report from our archdiocese is being prepared and will be sent to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and incorporated into the synodal report from the United States. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will forward our national report to the Vatican.

Eventually, the national reports from countries throughout the world will inform the agenda and preparation materials for the Synod of Bishops meeting in Rome that will take place in the fall of 2023.

When our archdiocesan report is completed, I look forward to sharing with you some of the insights and key takeaways from the synodal process. I am confident this will help inform future pastoral priorities for our archdiocese.

Last week’s Leaven contained an open fraternal letter to the German bishops, signed by me and nearly 100 bishops from five continents, expressing our concerns about the Synodal Path in Germany. Pope Francis stated from the beginning that the Synod on Synodality was not to be used as an exercise to change the doctrinal and moral teachings of the church. Our doctrines are not something that we arrive at by popular vote, but are received from the Bible and Tradition.

Sadly, the preliminary reports from the German Synodal Path appear to seek to change doctrine in order to accommodate cultural biases of our time. The German Synodal Path seeks changes to the church’s sexual moral teaching in general, and in particular, the approval of homosexual acts. Since these teachings are derived from explicit biblical teaching, the Synodal Path calls into question the reliability of Scripture as well as Tradition.  

The German Synodal Path embraces the current cultural trend that confuses authentic freedom with autonomy. Our Catholic understanding of freedom has always recognized that it must be anchored in the truth. Christian freedom is the ability to choose the good, not simply the ability to do what I prefer.

It has been disturbing to hear a few members of the hierarchy calling into question the authority of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I lived through the moral confusion caused by the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Moral chaos inevitably results in serious societal repercussions, most notably the weakening of marriage and family life. The greatest victims of this moral confusion are children, growing up in fractured families.

It is ironic that the response of the president of the German bishops’ conference to the open letter was to defend the Synodal Path as an attempt to address the crisis caused by the sexual abuse of children by clergy.

The sexual abuse crisis in Germany or the United States is not a failure of church teaching, but a gross failure to live that teaching.

In large part what allowed Christianity to transform Western civilization 2,000 years ago was the beauty and attractiveness of the Christian understanding of marriage that reverenced the equality of men and women. People were drawn to Christianity because of the contrast between the hedonism of the pagan culture and Christians living the virtue of chastity consistent with their state of life.

The German Synodal Path appears to seek the church’s abandonment of biblical moral teaching in order to embrace a false freedom, moral chaos and a mistaken anthropology.

Christian anthropology believes in the innate dignity of every human being because they are made in the divine image and because they are of such worth that Jesus gave his life on Calvary. However, this does not mean we embrace and endorse sexual immorality, redefinitions of marriage and the denial of the reality of one’s biological gender.

The process of preparing for the Synod on Synodality provides an opportunity for the church to listen better to the guidance of the Holy Spirit on how to live more faithfully the church’s moral teaching. It is not a moment to abandon our teaching by yielding to cultural trends that have harmed marriage and family. Children are the ones who bear the most severe wounds when marriage and family life are weakened. 

There is much good that can come from the synodal process. Sadly, the German Synodal Path gives a bad name to synodality.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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