Cupich: Synod Would Have Gained from Hearing from Lesbian and Gay Couples

Below is the next installment of Bondings 2.0’s reports from the Synod on Marriage and Family in Rome. New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo will continue to send news and commentary from this meeting. Previous posts can be reached by clicking here.

In an unscheduled press conference at the Synod on Friday, Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich agreed that it would have been helpful for the meeting’s process to have lesbian and gay people, as well as those divorced and remarried, address the bishops.

Archbishop Blase Cupich

In a crowded room filled with reporters, Cupich, who was appointed archbishop of Chicago by Pope Francis, and also appointed to the synod by the pontiff, spoke candidly of the synod process in an upbeat and genial tone. When I had the chance, I asked him:

“Would it have been helpful to the bishops and synod participants to hear from gay and lesbian couples, divorced couples, people who disagree with the current teaching or whose consciences have told them something else?”

Cupich answered quickly and matter-0f-factly:

“Yes, it may have been.  I know that myself, when I did the consultation in my diocese, I did have those voices as part of my consultation, and put that in my report, and so maybe that’s the way they were represented.  But I do think that we could benefit from  the actual voices of people who feel marginalized rather than having them filtered through the voices of other representatives or the bishops.  There is something important about that, I have found personally.”

Cupich, who had mentioned that the Church should accompany divorced/remarried people in conscience formation, was asked by another reporter if he thought the same principle would apply to same-sex couples in the Church, an area that is a newly public phenomenon, given the advent of marriage equality.   Cupich’s answer was again simple and direct:

“Gay people are human beings, too.  They have a conscience, and my role as a pastor is to help them discern what the will of God is, by looking at the objective moral teaching of the Church, and yet, at the same time, helping them through a period of discernment to understand what God is calling them to at that point.  It’s for everybody. We have to make sure that we don’t pigeonhole one group as though they’re not part of the human family–so that there’s a different set of rules for them.  That would be, I think, a big mistake. “

Another reporter asked about the rumors that the synod may revise moral language such as “indissolubility” and “disordered,” and Cupich replied:

“We have to speak to families the way families recognize themselves. Yes, it’s important to have various principles, general principles, categories, words from our tradition, and so on.  And, yet, if we really do want to engage people, they have to recognize that we know their life [through] the way that we speak.”

Speaking about the much debated topics of mercy for people and calling them to conversion, Cupich offered this analysis:

“We have to believe in the mercy of God and the grace of God to trigger conversion rather than having it the other way around, as though you’re only going to get mercy if you have the conversion. The economy of salvation doesn’t work that way. Christ receives people, and it’s because of that mercy that the conversion happens many, many times in the Scriptures.”

Cupich spoke about the need for the Church to start treating adult people as adults, guiding them along the way, but allowing them to develop their consciences.  The National Catholic Reporter provided his comments in this regard:

” ‘I try to help people along the way,’ said Cupich. ‘And people come to a decision in good conscience.’

” ‘Then our job with the church is to help them move forward and respect that,’ he said. ‘The conscience is inviolable. And we have to respect that when they make decisions and I’ve always done that.’ “

He went on to expand on this idea more fully:

” ‘We have the means by which we can help people come to important decisions about how they live their Christian life,’ said Cupich. ‘This is a moment that I think highlights the need for that kind of catechesis all the more.’

” Catechesis cannot be just about giving people the fixed doctrines … but also helping them, accompanying them by showing them the way, the path that the church has outlined in terms of making prudent decisions,’ he said.

“The Chicago archbishop also quoted a 2009 document from the International Theological Commission on the role of natural law, saying it is ‘a very important piece for this Synod.’

That document states: ‘In morality pure deduction by syllogism is not adequate. The more the moralist confronts concrete situations, the more he must have recourse to the wisdom of experience, an experience that integrates the contributions of the other sciences and is nourished by contact with men and women engaged in the action.’

” ‘We can’t just refer to doctrines as though they’re syllogisms that we deduce a conclusion to,’ said Cupich. ‘There has to be that integration of a person’s circumstances, case by case in their life.’ . . .

” ‘Syllogisms are important,’ he said. ‘General principles are important. But there’s a limitation on how that allows us the freedom to address real life situations that I believe is in concert with what the church teaches.’ “

Crux captured another part of the interview where Cupich spoke about the power of personal encounters:

“He said that it is important for Church leaders to listen to and engage with individual believers in order to understand their issues as they craft appropriate pastoral responses.

” ‘If we’re really going to accompany people, we have to first of all engage them,’ he said. ‘In Chicago, I visit regularly with people who feel marginalized, whether they’re the elderly, or the divorced and remarried, gay and lesbian individuals, also couples.’

” ‘I think we need to really get to know what their life is like if we’re going to accompany them,’ he continued.”

After 12 days of being at the synod, Cupich’s presentation was the most refreshing pastoral contribution I have heard yet.

While this synod may not produce our hoped-for outcomes,  I had a sense today that if Pope Francis continues to appoint bishops in the mold of Cupich, the next synod, or any future discussion of marriage and family, will certainly be very positive.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



25 thoughts on “Cupich: Synod Would Have Gained from Hearing from Lesbian and Gay Couples

  1. Terence Weldon October 17, 2015 / 3:44 am

    Well, of COURSE the synod would have gained by having a wider range of people talking to it – and participating in the decision – taking. Thanks for putting the question though.

    I had seen reference to his observations on conscience with regard to divorce and remarriage, but the direct application to gay and lesbian Catholics, I missed. I think these observations are not simply the most “refreshing” to have come out of the synod assembly thus far, I suggest that they are far and away the most important.

    Personal conscience is paramount (provided of course, that it is “well formed”). We must never tire of reminding ourselves, our fellow parishioners, and above all, the bishops, of this basic principle. Having it articulated in this context simply strengthens our armoury.

  2. Terence Weldon October 17, 2015 / 3:50 am

    ‘In Chicago, I visit regularly with people who feel marginalized, whether they’re the elderly, or the divorced and remarried, gay and lesbian individuals, also couples.’

    Interesting. I hope that the good people of Dignity Chicago, and other local LGBT Catholics, are paying attention – and arranging to share in those visits, and also to engage formally with the man.

  3. Ryan Sattler October 17, 2015 / 4:16 am

    I have been waiting for this new voice from Chicago and he didn’t let me down. Refreshing, open, inclusive, pastoral, and several other adjectives describe Frank’s report of Archbishop Cupich. Question: how are his fellow bishops receiving his fresh, non-treating approach? Archbishop Cupich also mentioned the need for dialogue with those who feel marginalized. What a novel thought; “let us speak with God’s people.”

  4. Paula Mattras October 17, 2015 / 7:22 am

    How refreshing to read the words of Archbishop Cupich – someone who not only listens and observes – but absorbs what he hears and can see – and then speaks and acts according to the Spirit of truth that guides him. God bless Archbishop Cupich.

  5. Martin October 17, 2015 / 8:35 am

    Interesting that the question about ‘conscience’ and LGBT people came from the Lifesite News reporter! An honest slap in the face for an attempt at mischievous reporting? Of course Cupich’s response has set the conservative bloggers on fire!

  6. pjnugent October 17, 2015 / 8:41 am

    Archbishop Cupich is a jewel. Too bad we can’t clone him for places like San Francisco and Baltimore! Another excellent report, Frank. Thanks.

  7. Bob & Gerrie Burns October 17, 2015 / 9:38 am

    It would be great if Archbishop Cupich could sit down with the Archbishop of Philadelphia and explain what a good bishop is supposed to do. Our archbishop of Philadelphia just does not seem to get it.
    Thanks Frank for doing such a great service.

  8. Paul Morrissey October 17, 2015 / 9:42 am

    Thank you, Frank, for your reporting, and for this great and hopeful voice from the Bishops.

  9. John Raab October 17, 2015 / 1:22 pm

    Lucky Chicago!

    Los Angeles, too, to have an archbishop who is keen on keeping the thirty-one-year-old ministry with lesbians and gays going that his predecessor so prophetically pioneered.

  10. Lydia Lombardo October 17, 2015 / 2:46 pm

    Hurray. My hometown has another AB willing to listen to the people. Cardinal George, while a holy man, was so conservative and didn’t seem to understand Chicagoans. Cupich is following in he footsteps of Cardinal Bernardino who was loved by ALL the people of Chicago, to whom he listened and treated like adults.

  11. Michael October 17, 2015 / 5:39 pm

    Do not trust this guy. He was the rector of the Josephinum and went on a witch hunt agaisnt gay seminarians and frequently spoke of being gay as contradictory to the lifestyle of the gospel, dangerous and inappropriate.

    • Friends October 18, 2015 / 7:51 am

      Well, perhaps he’s grown in wisdom (through the Guidance of the Holy Spirit?!) — and in any case, under the current (and admittedly misguided) RCC rules for clergy of the priestly class (but not for deacons), ALL expressions of private sexual identity are regarded as “flirting with danger”. My feeling is that as long as he’s making “the right noises” rather than the hateful and bigoted ones, we should give him space to continue to grow in his understanding of the Guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, vigilance over his discourse is certainly more than prudent — it’s absolutely mandatory.

  12. Bill Freeman October 17, 2015 / 6:01 pm

    This is definitely the next Cardinal of Chicago.

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