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.
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