Report lists several areas of concern for the university going forward

The Department of Campus Ministry recently released a report on Notre Dame’s participation in the global Synod on Synodality. 

The report states that the Synod on Synodality, also called the universal synod, “is an expansion of the synodal approach that has been used by groups of bishops to discern and decide about specific issues facing the Church in the past.” Notre Dame’s participation in the synod consisted of facilitated conversations across multiple listening sessions with representation from 280 students. The report identified several areas of particular concern for Campus Ministry including the “LGBT community” and “religious conservatives.” It also noted the desire of many students for the university to “publicly object to certain aspects of Church teaching.”

In an interview with the Irish Rover, Assistant Vice President of Campus Ministry Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C. emphasized the synod’s vision to examine how the Church gathers to consider issues. Fr. McCormick stated that the synod provides “the chance for the Church to step back and reflect and think about topics that are of great importance,” and further to “invite people that might be from different backgrounds into conversation about a particular matter.” 

He continued, “Pope Francis wanted to spend time listening and talking about how we, as a Church community, gather. How do we pray? How do we begin to kind of gravitate towards that which matters the most?”

Most of Campus Ministry’s report, however, did not focus on how the Church goes about gathering, but instead identified a few areas of perceived failure in outreach on behalf of Campus Ministry and the university. One group that received particular attention was “LGBTQ members and allies,” many of whom, according to the report, “struggle with Church teaching and … do not participate in the ‘regular’ faith life of Notre Dame as a result.” This group also saw Church teaching, particularly the catechism’s description of homosexual sin and her understanding of marriage, as a barrier to remaining within the Church. Fr. McCormick did not address this specifically, but said that “when we think about the broader reality—that of Catholicism in the LGBTQ community—there are sometimes moments in which there’s room for growth.” 

Another group that received specific notice was “religious conservatives.” The report provided little detail as to why this group was identified as feeling marginalized, but noted a desire to engage in more “traditional expressions of faith, including perpetual adoration, processions on specific feast days, and campus speakers.” Junior P.J. Butler told the Rover that this topic was raised at his particular listening session. 

“Despite coming from many different backgrounds,” he noted, “the consensus of the session was strongly in favor of increasing sacramental and devotional participation while maintaining adherence to orthodoxy, particularly with regard to matters in which the Church’s teaching may be perceived unfavorably by the modern, secular world.” 

Fr. McCormick said he himself was given almost no detail as to the specific impetus for the inclusion of this group. He told the Rover that this was a group identified as saying, “there are times in which we don’t feel fully a part of this university.”

Butler expressed concern that the publishing of the report could foster a widespread reaction against immutable Church teaching, saying “Having read the synod report published by Campus Ministry, I do have concerns about the general direction of the synodal process unfolding around the world. At a time when people desperately need to hear the Truth spoken with charity, it appears that the Magisterium will inevitably be faced with the temptation of softening the Church’s teachings to the point that they will no longer be recognizable.”

Sophomore Will Grannis voiced uneasiness over the impartiality of the finished report. He told the Rover, “the students at my listening session engaged in dialogue respectfully, but I felt the facilitator had a specific agenda.”

The report briefly mentioned other areas of concern such as lack of faith formation in dorm communities and polarization over what it means to be a Catholic university, but did not provide substantive details. The report on Notre Dame’s participation in the Synod on Synodality can be accessed on Campus Ministry’s website.

Daniel Martin is a sophomore from Skippack, Pennsylvania in the Program of Liberal Studies. Email for questions related to this article, or questions on questionality.

Photo credit: Religion News Service

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