From that unique position in the Church, Gomez has appeal and credibility across a remarkably broad swath in the Church. His intervention will carry a great deal of weight among a number of bishops.
The archbishop is likely to discuss themes that reflect his Opus Dei formation- most especially, the universal call to holiness, and the importance of intentional sacramental and devotional formation for young people. Gomez' intervention will likely be Christocentric, and call for a distinctive place for lay Catholics in the life of the Church.
To Angelus, Gomez said this week that "we need to change gears and say that the lay faithful are also called to holiness and to be leaders in the Church."
"We need to understand that we all are called to holiness; that sometimes we are still in the process of understanding that the Church not only belongs to the pope and the bishops and the priests, but to everyone - the lay faithful," he added. His intervention is likely to follow along similar lines.
Gomez is also likely to emphasize works of mercy, especially service to the poor.
"The young people of today, it seems to me, are trying to do something, to take action. It is difficult for them to stop and learn the teachings of the Church. The first encounter with Christ in serving other people is what I think is most important for us," he said in an Oct. 2 interview.
Cardinal Blase Cupich
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago was appointed by the pope to participate in the synod, along with Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who withdrew in response to fallout from the sexual abuse crisis in his diocese.
Cupich is reported to be a close collaborator of Pope Francis. He was appointed personally by Francis to this synod, rather than being elected by the U.S. bishops, and was similarly appointed by the pope to attend the 2015 synod.
After the synod, he became a vocal supporter of Pope Francis' Amoris laetitia, hosting closed-door conferences on the document for bishops and theologians, and saying this February that the document "represents an enormous change of approach, a paradigm shift holistically rooted in Scripture, tradition and human experience."
Cupich has been expected by observers to play a significant role in the 2018 synod. The cardinal, however, has had a difficult summer.
He become a central figure in the sexual crisis dubbed the "summer of hell," especially because of an Aug. 27 interview in which he argued, or appeared to argue, that Pope Francis would focus on environmentalism and migration rather than going down the "rabbit hole" of an investigation into allegations of widespread corruption and misconduct leveled Aug. 25 by former Vatican diplomat Archbishop Carlo Vigano.
Cupich apologized for his remarks in a Chicago Tribune op-ed issued nearly a month after the interview.
"It was a mistake for me to even mention that the Church has a bigger agenda than responding to the charges in the letter by former Papal Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano," he wrote.
"What I should have said, because it has been my conviction throughout my ministry, is that nothing is more important for the Church than protecting young people. I apologize for the offense caused by my comments. It pains me deeply to think that my poor choice of words may have added to the suffering of victim-survivors."
Those difficulties do not seem to have prevented Cupich from getting an early start to active participation in the synod. After Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia published Sept. 21 an anonymous theologian's criticism of the synod's working document in the journal First Things, Cupich sent the magazine a letter, saying that the "use of anonymous criticism in American society does not necessarily contribute to healthy public discourse, but in fact can erode it."
Cupich wrote that the commentary published by Chaput "raises essential questions about the nature of theological dialogue in our Church," before criticizing the text for "selectivity, condescension, and the deployment of partial truths" which served to "obfuscate the fullness of truth."
"What is needed is the spirit of synodality that Pope Francis has made the very heart of the Church's upcoming moment of dialogue and teaching in search of ways to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the next generations," Cupich added.
Cupich, it seems, is likely to offer an intervention and points for discussion, in support of the synod's working document, or instrumentum laboris. In recent months, he has discussed publicly the importance of listening to young adults, the gifts young people offer to the Church, and the importance of dialoguing with young people about sexuality and gender- topics which all receive considerable treatment in the instrumentum laboris.
"Young people today are living in a whole different world than when I grew up. So they find their classmates, maybe even themselves, in situations where their family is broken and they're in blended families," Cupich said in August interview with Rome Reports.
"The same thing too is with young people who have friends who have same-sex attraction, who are gay and lesbian. They treasure those friendships. So how can we speak to them in a way that challenges them - no matter what their attraction is - to live a life that's in-tune with the Gospel?"
Archbishop Charles Chaput
Archbishop Charles Chaput has not been hesitant to express his views on the synod's instrumentum laboris. In addition to the theological commentary he published last month, the archbishop has published or cited comments from young Catholics critical of the synod's preparatory documents on several occasions.
On Sept. 29, the archbishop published an op-ed in the prominent Italian newspaper Il Foglio, saying that "the synod's instrumentum laboris or 'working document,' needs to be reviewed and revised. As it stands, the text is strong in the social sciences, but much less so in its call to belief, conversion, and mission."
Citing the Sept. 21 theological reflection, Chaput lamented within the document "'serious theological concerns…including: a false understanding of the conscience and its role in the moral life;' a 'false dichotomy proposed between truth and freedom,' a 'pervasive focus on socio-cultural elements, to the exclusion of deeper religious and moral issues,' an 'absence of the hope of the Gospel,' and an 'insufficient treatment of the abuse scandal.'"
"The synod's success depends on a profound confidence in the Word of God and the mission of the Church, despite the sins of her leaders," his commentary added.
Chaput's commentary provoked criticism from Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the synod's secretary general. Baldisseri told journalists Oct. 1 that because Chaput, whom he alluded to but did not name, is a member of the synod's planning council, he could have raised objections to the instrumentum laboris early in the planning process.
In fact, sources tell CNA, the instrumentum laboris was given to members of the planning commission only days before they were asked to approve it, as is typical for the synod council. Sources also say it was likely available only in Italian. If those things are true, it seems improbable that Chaput, or any bishop, would have been able to adequately study the document and give meaningful feedback before it was released.
Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that Chaput will focus on the instrumentum laboris during his intervention.
Instead, Chaput, as a frequent observer of culture, is likely to comment on the way that family, public, and ecclesial culture impact the development of young people- and he will probably raise the sexual abuse crisis, since most of his recent public remarks have addressed the imprudence of holding a synod on young adults without recognizing that sexual abuse and misconduct will be rather significant elephants in the room.
Following the trajectory of his recent remarks, Chaput will likely call for a pastoral focus on forming young people from a genuinely Christian anthropology, and toward a Christocentric self-identity.
Whether the interventions of any American bishop will make a major difference in the synod's final text remains to be seen. Indeed, whether the final text will have an impact on the Church, or merely gather dust on chancery shelves, also remains to be seen. But the interventions and actions of the U.S. delegation can teach a lot about what kind of men lead the Church in the U.S., and what kind of future that Church might have.
J.D.Flynn served as Catholic News Agency's editor-in-chief from August 2017 to December 2020.