Newly appointed Chicago archbishop Blase Cupich appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program last Sunday where he offered strikingly positive remarks about LGBT people and their families and seemed to endorse legal protections for families led by a same-sex couple.
Introduced as “America’s Pope Francis,” Cupich was asked how the church should respond to the rapid legalization of marriage equality and whether the church needed to change. Speaking about his own experience in Washington State, where same-sex marriages were legalized through a successful 2012 referendum, the archbishop said:
“I said first of all that we cannot use this moment of public debate to say anything or do anything that would provoke violence against gay and lesbian people. We have to make sure that we’re not part of that and we would condemn that. At the same time it’s not just about gay marriage. It’s about whether or not we’re going to have statutes in our states that uphold and protect people who take the risk of bringing children into the world. People who as mothers and fathers coming together in their love, continue the human race.”
At this point, host Norah O’Donnell asked Cupich whether he thought same-sex parents were included in those needing protection, and specifically whether he considered them to be good parents. The archbishop responded:
“I think there are people not only who are gay but many single people are good parents. And I don’t think that’s the issue. I think the real issue is, should we have — should we continue to have legislation that supports, protects and upholds those people who take the risk of actually bringing children into the world and preserving the human race…
“I do know that there are gay couples, there are others — grandparents, single people who adopt children, who maybe even have children not from the act of love, but to care for children in that way.
“And yes, I think that there has to be way in which we do support them. But I do think there is something unique about a man and woman coming together and bringing children in to the world, preserving the human race and providing that example as a mother and father, a male and female within family that also deserves the state’s support and also protection.”
It is also worth noting that Cupich positively evaluated Pope Francis and promised a similarly pastoral direction for his leadership in Chicago, saying:
“I’m going to do what I’ve tried to do the 16 years that I’ve been a bishop of a diocese. And that is to get to know people. I think one of the things that the Holy Father is appreciated for by people is that he is speaking in a way that really resonates with their aspirations and concerns. What I find to be very interesting in the Francis effect as people call it, is that people do have a sense that the church is listening to them, and also that he is speaking to their deepest desires. And if I can in some way emulate that example then I think that I’m probably on the right track.”
Cupich also affirmed he would not deny Communion to pro-choice politicians, making a larger point that bears on LGBT issues in the church:
“I think that is important always to begin with an attitude of dialogue. It’s important to listen to people and it’s very hard to have dialogue because in order for someone to tell you why they think you are wrong, you have to sit in patience to allow that to happen. The community — as I say, cannot be the place where those discussions are fought, but rather we have to look at how we’re going to deal with the tough issues of the day in a constructive way and as adults who respect each other.”
All of this led to a decidedly different interview with Face the Nation than the typical episcopal appearance. Too often, these interviews have been used by Cupich fellow American bishops to hammer away at LGBT equality. Instead, Cupich’s pastoral inclinations are clear, as is his commitment to dialogue and to respecting difference.
Further, he recognizes LGBT advocates within the church as adults with whom a constructive conversation can occur.
Most striking is Cupich’s admission that gay parents are good and society should evaluate how it can protect all families which, while not endorsing marriage, is a significant shift given his peers’ stated views.
Whether or not Cupich is “America’s Pope Francis” remains to be seen, but what is clear is that his leadership in Chicago signals a new voice in the American church. At the very least, LGBT advocates have a prominent archbishop who says he is ready to listen, willing to dialogue, and seems to be more realistic about what family life really consists of today.
You can watch the full interview by clicking here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry