Catholics in the Diocese of Allentown had a lot to say when asked their opinions during the Synod of Bishops, delivering a wide range of positive and negative feedback in listening sessions and through written surveys.
There were moving testaments of the importance of the Catholic faith in people’s lives, there were many positive comments about the Church and the Diocese, and there were criticisms and suggestions for improvement on a wide range of issues.
A summary report of all comments received will be forwarded to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which will prepare a national summary and send it on to Rome for Pope Francis’s Synod of Bishops meeting in October 2023.
While the Diocese of Allentown is reviewing the comments and compiling the summary report, here is a sampling of input received in several key areas:
On the love of our faith:
“I love the Catholic Church and my Catholic faith. I feel fully alive and thankful for the sacraments.”
“I find the sacraments a great source of grace.”
“The Church has always been a place that brings me peace, where I can slow down and listen to God’s word when I am in need or looking for guidance. It brings me joy to see my children grow in Faith.”
“I build my life around the liturgical year, and I am continually blessed by it.”
On being asked for feedback:
“As a practicing Catholic for over 60 years, this is the first time I can remember being asked my opinion.”
“I am glad the Pope is seeking input. This endeavor is so refreshing. It is a great way to build trust which we need now.”
On people drifting away from the Church:
“I am extremely disappointed that my adult children are not practicing any faith and not teaching my grandchildren any component of faith.”
“I have drifted away especially over the past few years. Most of my children have grown and moved away, starting their own families and not all are practicing Catholics.”
“We need to get better at reaching out to those who have not been to church, to let them know they are missed and welcome them back.”
On the role of women in the Church:
“All decisions are made by the male leaders in our Church. The role of women is still limited. Our Risen Lord first appeared to a woman. I think He was sending a clear message.”
On being welcoming of all people:
“The Church community should reflect the broader community in which we live including people of all ages, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.”
“I am a new parishioner and I have been warmly welcomed.”
“Be more accepting. Is it truly a sin if you love someone of the same sex? Wouldn’t Jesus forgive us?”
“The Church should not engage in polarizing political discord. It needs to demonstrate love, acceptance, mercy, and forgiveness.”
“Be more welcoming to divorced Catholics.”
“Please speak up for the traditional teachings of the Catholic church and do not succumb to the pressure of this world to reverse what we know to be the truth.”
On the clergy sexual abuse crisis:
“Child abuse by priests made me lose faith in my Church.”
“The recent heartbreaking sexual abuse by some clergy has made me more aware of what the Roman Catholic Church is doing to be transparent and accountable.”
“I do applaud the Church for taking a hard stance on child protection.”
“Every time there has been a new development, the Diocese has been very open and communicative.”
On our priests:
“We are blessed to have gifted priests. Their guidance has profoundly changed my life.”
“I would appreciate better teaching during homilies, and better training for priests in Confession/Penance.”
“I have had engaging pastors who have played a major role in guiding my life and my family through some difficult times.”
“Need more interaction with priests in the parish: priests being involved in all parish activities, not just walking through.”
Some additional issues the Church should address:
Culled from Synod comments, here is a list of issues that people suggested the Church pay more attention to: environmental justice, support of Catholic schools, involvement of lay people, impacts of Covid shutdowns, better spiritual education for adults, more youth engagement, better outreach to disaffected Catholics, and the traditional Latin Mass.
Bishop Alfred Schlert thanked everyone who provided input as part of the Synod. “I’m very grateful that so many people took the time to prayerfully make comments and suggestions,” he said.
“I can assure you that we will report your comments faithfully to Church leadership,” Bishop Schlert said. “In addition, I plan to review your heartfelt comments carefully, and discuss them with diocesan priests and staff. Your input will be very valuable as we make plans on how best to serve the spiritual needs of the faithful in the Diocese of Allentown in the future.”
Note: Listening sessions are complete, but there is still time to make comments for the Synod by filling out a survey. Surveys will be available through Easter. Visit the Synod website for more details.