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Linda Oppelt
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Diocese submits summary of synodal process to USCCB

COLORADO SPRINGS. The results of the Synodal Process in the Diocese of Colorado Springs have been summarized and will be included in a national report that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will submit to the Vatican in advance of the world Synod of Bishops in October 2023.

The diocesan phase of the Synodal Process took place from March to May and included six listening sessions hosted by Bishop James Golka — one in each deanery of the diocese and a Spanish-language session. In addition, a survey was disseminated online and via hard copy. The survey was available in English and Spanish, and there were separate versions for practicing Catholics, non-practicing Catholics and non-Catholics. The survey for practicing Catholics mainly contained questions about how they live out their faith in daily life. The surveys for non-practicing Catholics and non-Catholics focused mostly on what obstacles might be keeping respondents from practicing or learning more about the Catholic faith.

For the most part, the listening sessions were well-attended, the report said.

“The composite number of persons who spoke for all listening sessions was 464,” the report stated. “The Eastern Deanery had 64 speakers. The lowest was in the Western Deanery with 60. The North Metro Deanery had 100 speakers and the South Metro had 125. The Northern Deanery had 115 and the Hispanic Community Session at 38. Roughly two-thirds of those who spoke were women and the remaining third were men.  We estimate that 1,000 people attended the sessions.”

Common issues raised during the listening sessions included the number of young people leaving the Church, the role of women, and the need for more civility when discussing “hot button” topics.

Women also made up most of the survey respondents, and 90% of those who took the survey said they attend Mass weekly.

“There were over 3,000 responses to the online and paper surveys, made available in both English and Spanish,” the report stated. “Similar to the listening sessions, roughly two-thirds were women and one-third men. “More than 43% of respondents were over the age of 65, overrepresenting the estimated 20% of Catholics in that age group. Only 7.3% of survey respondents were under the age of 34. This is a significant underrepresentation of that age group. Similarly, 86.6% of respondents were white and roughly 8% Hispanic. In the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Hispanics comprise 40% of the population.”

While Hispanics and young people were underrepresented in both the listening sessions and the survey, the process still yielded useful results and important insights for pastors and other faith leaders, the report concluded. In particular, the synodal process identified the areas where Catholics in the diocese are sharply divided and suggested areas where pastors and other leaders should focus their attention.

“It should be noted that there was significant divergence in areas that are foundational to Catholic teaching, especially in areas of sexual morality, issues of life, the nature and discipline of the sacraments, and ecclesiology. While variance in a number of peripheral areas is always to be expected, such a stark disagreement in such essential areas is noteworthy. This Synodal Process is intended to be an instrument for dialogue achieving greater unity. It seems foremost to have exposed significant areas of disunity in principles essential to the Catholic faith. Rather than downplay them, they should receive special attention and evaluation.”

Key findings from the survey included:

• Of those survey respondents no longer practicing the faith, the largest group — 44% — said they left the Church because they disagree with the Church’s teaching on abortion and/or contraception. Another 42% said they left the Church because of the clergy abuse scandal. Twelve percent said they left the Church because they could not reconcile their marriage with the Catholic Church.

• Of those who identify as practicing Catholics but attend Mass less than weekly, 34% cited fear of COVID as a barrier.

• The issue of divorce and annulment was a common theme among those experiencing barriers to full participation in Mass. Many described the annulment process as too bureaucratic and lengthy.

•When non-practicing respondents were asked “What perceptions about the Catholic faith present barriers to you journeying with the Church?”, 43% chose to respond that “The Church shuns members of the LGBT community.” “Although this is not the teaching of the Church, it seems to be a lived experience that must be addressed,” the report stated.

The full diocesan reports can be found in English and Spanish on the diocesan website, www.diocs.org.

The USCCB will synthesize the summaries from throughout the nation for a report to submit to the Vatican Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. The secretariat will use the reports from bishops’ conferences around the world to develop the “Instrumentum Laboris” or working document, to guide continental or regional ecclesial assemblies that will take place by March 2023.

Dioceses utilized several different tools and opportunities to gather feedback: in-person and online group listening sessions, one-on-one meetings, targeted outreach efforts, online surveys and other methods.

(Catholic News Service contributed to this story.)

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