Bishop McElroy: US church is adrift, synodality can renew it

By Bishop Robert McElroy, 15 November 2019
Cardinal Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego. Image: Catholic Diocese of San Diego.


Bishop Robert McElroy from the Diocese of San Diego has delivered a lecture on how the church in the United States can learn from the recent Synod on the Amazon.

Bishop McElroy gave the 2019 MacTaggart Lecture on November 6 at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

“During the month of October, I had the great privilege of participating in the synod on the Amazon in Rome. It was a gathering overflowing with the spirit of God that constituted a dramatic, prayerful effort to address a central question: How can the church in the Amazon ever more effectively proclaim the salvation of Jesus Christ in its fullness, so that all men and women of the region, especially indigenous peoples, might find in the church a true sacrament of God’s love and the pursuit of justice for the poor and for the Earth?” Bishop McElroy explained.

“In order to begin to answer this question, the church in the region had engaged during the previous two years in a massive process of discernment reaching into the depths of the Catholic communities in the villages and the forests, in the cities and among the landless communities of itinerants. Through conversations with catechists and liturgical leaders, with village congregations and with the urban parish communities, with bishops and priests and local parish leaders, most of whom are women, the Catholic community sought to identify the dreams and the hopes, the sufferings and the questions, the frustrations and the spiritual joy which the people of God find in the church and need from the church.

“Listening in the synod assembly to the voices of the church of the Amazon — village leaders and catechists, women religious and lay missionaries, bishops and priests — was a poignant, hope-producing, complicated, painful, joyful experience. But it was the experience of a church that is alive and unafraid to ask fundamental questions of reform and renewal, of creative new pathways for moving forward in the present moment, of believing that the Holy Spirit is leading God’s people constantly, lovingly, vigorously.

“I have been asked in this lecture so suggest how the church in the United States might move forward from this most painful moment in its history. My suggestion would be to embrace the type of synodal pathway that the church in the Amazon has been undergoing — one filled with deep and broad consultation, the willingness to accept arduous choices, the search for renewal and reform at every level, and unswerving faith in the constancy of God’s presence in the community.

“At this moment of turmoil and stasis for our church, it is alluring to believe that the easiest and safest pathway is to stand firm. But for the church, turmoil and stasis are the calls to renewal and reform. Let us look outward rather than inward.

“Let us move in synodality.

“Let us rekindle the fire.”

To continue reading Bishop McElroy’s lecture, click here.

With thanks to the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), where this article originally appeared.


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