His Eminence, Mario Cardinal Grech
Synod of Bishops
00120 Vatican City
The “National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Diocesan Phase of the Synod 2021-2023″, prepared by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a very disappointing document, especially because it focuses largely on what the 1% of American Catholics who participated in these “synodal” discussions find wrong with the church – a list of grievances that, unsurprisingly, reflects both the progressive Catholic agenda in American Catholicism and certain prevailing (if wrong) impressions of our local church in Rome. But rather than amplify others’ criticisms of the “National Synthesis,” I would like to share with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops some good news about American Catholicism: news that may well be of interest to the universal Church as it considers its future evangelical.
Catholic schools in America are a treasure that the country is beginning to recognize as such. When US public schools let students and parents down during pandemic shutdowns, Catholic elementary schools stepped in, providing on-site and online instruction that public schools were unable to mount — largely thanks to unionized teachers and interested. In contrast, Catholic teachers tend to think professionally, and that has made a huge difference. Moreover, Catholic schools in our urban areas, like the new, state-of-the-art Mother Mary Lange School in Baltimore, are the most effective anti-poverty program the American Church has ever devised—and they serve students from many countries. religious circles.
The American church is experiencing something of a golden age in Catholic university ministry. This encouraging fact of American Catholic life in the 21st century has many expressions. There are vibrant ministries on major state college campuses; the most notable of these, at Texas A&M University, has become a rich source of vocations to the priesthood and religious life while preparing many Catholic couples for marriage and family life. The Thomistic Institute, launched by the House of Dominican Studies in Washington, is bringing serious Catholic content to 83 college and university campuses this academic year; another Dominican initiative, “Aquinas 101”, has 90,000 online subscribers, and its imaginative displays of Catholic philosophy and theology have been viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), a peer-to-peer evangelism effort, now has a presence and is actively serving on 195 U.S. campuses and eight international campuses.
The Catholic seminaries were profoundly reformed. While vocations to the priesthood have been on the decline over the past decade—perhaps reflecting constant criticism from priests in Rome—American seminaries are in their best shape for decades and in all aspects of priestly formation: personal, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.
Catholics are a core group of the vibrant American pro-life movement. Pope Francis has often spoken of the dangers of a “throwaway culture”. American Catholics are doing something to challenge this, on both ends of the spectrum of life.
Vocations to the consecrated life in the United States are increasing where religious institutes fully embrace the Gospel and live a distinctive way of life. Examples include the Province of St. Joseph of the Order of Preachers, the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, the Sisters of Life, and the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan. As in other sectors of the global church, Catholic Lite is failing to promote American vocations to religious life, while “integral Catholicism” attracts some of our best young people.
Young Catholic scholars are leading a renaissance in Catholic intellectual life. The most impressive scholarship of American Catholicism today is achieved by men and women who transcended the liberal/conservative dichotomies of the post-Vatican II period, who embraced the teaching of the Council as authoritatively interpreted by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and who engage a disturbed culture to convert it. It’s the future that belongs to them, not the warm-hearted Lite Catholic who has returned to several pontifical universities in Rome.
Catholic parishes are more vibrant in the United States than in virtually any other developed country. These parishes have their challenges, of course, but they remain the institutional foundation of American Catholic life and are engaged in a variety of innovative pastoral programs that seek to engage the marginalized and disaffected—often aided by vibrant Catholic associations like the Knights of Columbus. , another jewel in the American Catholic crown, and by the creative catechetical materials developed by the Augustine Institute and Word on Fire.
I hope these brief notes will help complete the portrait of American Catholicism sent to you by the Episcopal Conference. They tell a story that the entire world church needs to hear.
Weigel is Distinguished Senior Scholar and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.