In our preparatory document outlining broad guidelines for the Synod on Synodality, we wrote that the synodal process would require “remaining open to the surprises that the Spirit will certainly prepare for us along the way.” This was right and just. However, it is also crucial for Catholics to remain open to the possibility that nothing will surprise us at all.
Many delicate issues were raised in our discussions during this month-long Synod, and many areas of divergence were identified. For instance, we know that, in many places, Catholics are frustrated by the Church’s continued insistence on condemning and excluding LGBTQ people. But we also recognize that there are other places in the world where it is still very popular to condemn and exclude LGBTQ people. And so, we must ask, if no powerful person in a society is willing to stand up for the dignity of LGBTQ people, could that not also be the voice of the Spirit (not) speaking in that society? Is it the role of the Church to ask its clergy to stop using their authority to hurt people? Or is it rather the role of the Church to tolerate all points of view—those that say gay people are beloved by God, those that prefer not to talk about it at all, and those that say gay people should be put to death—with a patient attitude of fellowship as we journey together in the Spirit? But, you may be saying, how can we move forward with integrity so long as our Church’s official teaching denies the reality of gay and transgender lives and offers them no credible path to truth? Ah, we respond, shaking our heads sadly: We know, but you should see how much worse it is in some other places!