The 16th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops published its Final Report and gave us moral theologians some homework.

The document touches on a wide array of important topics, each one deserving attention and careful reflection. In this brief post, I want to highlight four instances in which the Synod calls for further theological reflection. Please note that as I write, the final report is only available in Italian. Accordingly, the English translation below is not the official one.

  • “To allow us to listen to the Father’s will truly, it seems necessary to understand the criteria of ecclesial discernment better from a theological point of view so that referring to the freedom and newness of the Spirit may be appropriately coordinated with the event of Jesus Christ that happened “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). This requires first of all clarifying the relationship between listening to the Word of God testified by Scripture, the reception of Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium, and the prophetic reading of the signs of the times. To this end, it is essential to promote anthropological and spiritual visions capable of integrating and not juxtaposing the intellectual and emotional dimensions of the experience of faith, overcoming all reductionism and all dualism between reason and feeling.” (no. 2, sec. f-g)
  • “Among the issues on which it is essential to continue reflection is that of the relationship between love and truth and the consequences it has on many controversial issues. Such a relationship, before being a challenge, is actually a grace that inhabits Christological revelation. In fact, Jesus brought to fulfillment the promise found in the Psalms, “Love and truth will meet; justice and peace will kiss. Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven.” (Ps. 85:11-12). […] If we use doctrine harshly and with a judgmental attitude, we betray the Gospel; if we practice cheap mercy, we do not convey God’s love. The unity of truth and love implies taking on each other’s difficulties to the point of making them one’s own, as is the case between true brothers and sisters. That is why such unity can only be achieved by patiently following the path of accompaniment.” (no. 15, sec. d and f)
  • “Some issues, such as those related to gender identity and sexual orientation, the end of life, difficult marital situations, and ethical issues related to artificial intelligence, are controversial not only in society but also in the Church because they raise new questions. Sometimes, the anthropological categories we have developed are insufficient to grasp the complexity of the elements emerging from experience or knowledge in the sciences and require refinement and further study. It is vital to take the necessary time for this reflection and invest our best energies in it without giving in to simplifying judgments that hurt people and the Body of the Church. The magisterium already offers many insights waiting to be translated into appropriate pastoral initiatives.” (no. 15, sec. g)
  • “We propose to promote initiatives that allow for shared discernment on doctrinal, pastoral, and ethical issues that are controversial in light of the Word of God, the Church’s teaching, theological reflection, and giving space to the synodal experience. Such discernment can be achieved through in-depth discussions among scholars with different expertise and backgrounds in an institutional setting that protects the confidentiality of the debate and promotes the frankness of the conversation and by giving space, when appropriate, to the voices of people directly affected by the controversies mentioned.” (n. 15, sec. k)

Most of us are moral theologians because of a sense of vocation, that is, out of a desire to respond to the Lord and serve the Church. The Synod is asking for our help. Let us get to work!

PS. Jana Bennett and I are editing a special issue of the Journal of Moral Theology on the legacy of the encyclical Veritatis Splendor. We’d love for reflections on some of the topics above to be part of the collection. The full Call for Papers is HERE.