Some thoughts to consider if you’re at all concerned about the Synod on the Amazon or the final synod document:
1. A synod is ultimately just an advisory body for the pope. Likewise, the Amazon Synod was simply bishops and religious from the Amazon area coming together, as a unified assembly, to inform Pope Francis and Church leadership about the reality of Catholicism in the Amazon and to make the pope and the Church aware of the pastoral needs in the region. In other words, this wasn’t a group of ideologically-driven Europeans or Americans trying to change the Church.
We have to keep in mind that from the perspective of the Universal Church, American Catholics are the minority. Over 40% of all the world’s Catholics live in South America and only about 6% are in the US. We should be open to the idea that our understanding of the Catholic Church may not totally correspond to the worldwide reality of Catholicism.
2. The final synod document is simply an advisory document for the pope to do with as he pleases. It has no magisterial weight in itself. It’s not assisted or protected by the Holy Spirit in the way an official papal teaching is. The reality is that 99.9% of Catholics will never even read the final papal exhortation anyway, much less the synod document. Is it really prudent to get emotionally invested in the contents of the final report from the advisory committee?
3. Modern communications and social media have given Catholics a glimpse into how the sausage is made when it comes to magisterial teaching. This was not at all the case, even in the recent past. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. However, it does mean that there’s more responsibility on us, individual Catholics, to be aware of the humanity and messiness that goes into how the Church governs and teaches. If I am not able to watch the process without doubting the promises that Jesus made about the final product, then it may be my responsibility to stop watching.
Fear or anxiety about what may be in the final papal document reveals a lack of trust in Christ and His promises to Peter. If this is where you are, consider asking the Holy Spirit for a renewed anointing of faith and possibly even the grace to step away from the news and commentary surrounding the synod.
Paul Fahey is a husband, father of four, parish director of religious education, and co-founder of Where Peter Is. He can be found at his website, Rejoice and be Glad: Catholicism in the Pope Francis Generation.