CV NEWS FEED // Bishop Robert Barron just spoke out on his experience at the October Synod on Synodality in Rome, sharing several concerns about the synod’s interpretation of love and truth, the Catholic Church’s mission, and sexuality.
“We must welcome everyone, but . . . at the same time must summon those we include to conversion, to live according to the truth,” Barron wrote in an article published on the Word on Fire website.
Barron, who leads the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, is an author, speaker, and theologian known for his online presence through Word on Fire.
Barron based his reflection on the Instrumentum Laboris (“Working Document”) and the final summary report that synod members approved at the end of the October listening phase of the Synod on Synodality.
He criticized the final document for implying that scientific development “will require a rethinking of our sexual teaching, whose categories are, apparently, inadequate to describe the complexities of human sexuality.”
“A first problem I have with this language is that it is so condescending to the richly articulate tradition of moral reflection in Catholicism, a prime example of which is the theology of the body developed by Pope St. John Paul II,” Barron wrote. “To say that this multilayered, philosophically informed, theologically dense system is incapable of handling the subtleties of human sexuality is just absurd.”
He also observed a “deeper problem” underlying the document’s argument.
“This manner of argumentation is based upon a category error—namely, that advances in the sciences, as such, require an evolution in moral teaching,” Barron wrote:
It is troubling to see that some of the members of the German bishops’ conference are already using the language of the synod report to justify major reformulations of the Church’s sexual teaching. This, it seems to me, must be resisted.
Barron confirmed that Synod members prioritized “listen[ing] to the voices of those who have… felt marginalized from the life of the Church.”
“I can assure everyone that their demand to be heard was heard, loud and clear at the synod,” he wrote. “And I’m glad it was. The Church is meant to announce the Gospel to everyone.”
However, Barron wrote that he wondered
whether, in our enthusiasm to include people in the governance of the Church, we forget that the vocation of 99 percent of the Catholic laity is to sanctify the world, to bring Christ into the arenas of politics, the arts, entertainment, communication, business, medicine, etc., precisely where they have special competence.
He wrote that he was also worried that the synod conversations and the working document focused too much ad intra (“toward the interior”) rather than ad extra (“toward the exterior.”)
“This despite the fact that Pope Francis has been consistently calling for a Church that goes out from itself,” he wrote.
Barron stated that, as a pastor, he is “delighted” to listen to the laity, but was concerned about the “perceived tension between love and truth” expressed at the Synod:
Practically everyone at the synod held that those whose sexual lives are outside of the norm should be treated with love and respect, and, again, bravo to the synod for making this pastoral point so emphatically. But many synod participants also felt that the truth of the Church’s moral teaching in regard to sexuality ought never to be set aside.
Barron said that because love means willing the good of another, there is “no real tension” between love and truth.
“One cannot authentically love someone else unless he has a truthful perception of what is really good for that person,” he wrote.
He noted an oversimplification of “mission” in the document which focused on “social justice” rather than on the large-scale mission of the Catholic Church: to evangelize on behalf of Christ.
“Conspicuous by their absence in the texts on mission were references to sin, grace, redemption, cross, resurrection, eternal life, and salvation,” Barron observed, “and this represents a real danger.”
The primary mission of the Church is to declare the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and to invite people to place themselves under his Lordship. This discipleship, to be sure, has implications for the way we live in the world, and it certainly should lead us to work for justice, but we must keep our priorities straight.