The Vatican’s “Instrumentum laboris” – documentation to guide the upcoming General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops – has been published.
The sixty-page working document released on Tuesday outlines discussion questions for the Church’s 16th assembly - commonly referred to as the synod on synodality, set to take part in two sessions in October 2023 and October 2024.
It is the culmination of two years of work to discern how to grow as a collaborative and collective or “synodal” Church through the listening of experiences and the gathering of information from across the Catholic Church internationally.
The aid reveals key concerns highlighted through the consultation process and calls for concrete steps by the church to promote women into decision-making roles, provide robust accountability measures for bishops following cases of sexual abuse and a “radical inclusion” of the LGBTQ+ community and marginalised groups.
The document sets out a vision for building a more synodal Church by focusing on “three priority issues” of communion, participation and mission. It highlights those “who do not feel accepted in the Church, such as the divorced and remarried, people in polygamous marriages, or LGBTQ+ Catholics;” emphasising the importance of being “a welcoming and hospitable community.”
“There is a profound need to imitate the Lord and Master in the ability to live out a seeming paradox: ‘boldly proclaiming its authentic teaching while at the same time offering a witness of radical inclusion and acceptance’,” it reads and poses the question of what "concrete steps" can be taken to welcome those who feel excluded from the Church "because of their status or sexuality.”
The document also poses the question of how the Church can better recognise and promote the “dignity of women” through their experiences, status and roles, calling for “the issue of women’s participation in governance, decision-making, mission and ministries at all levels of the Church, to be addressed.”
The fact-finding stage of the synodal journey also revealed the devastating impact of clergy sexual abuse and the resulting credibility of the Church. "Care for survivors of abuse and those marginalised within the Church” and better transparency and accountability were emphasised as pivotal moving forward.
“The Continental Assemblies place great emphasis on learning to exercise justice as a form of care for those who have been wounded by members of the Church, especially victims and survivors of all forms of abuse,” it reads.
“A transparent and accountable approach is fundamental to an authentically evangelical exercise of authority and responsibility.”