Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich called for the church to improve its welcome of non-traditional families in his homily last Sunday, offering a beautiful reflection as the church prepares for October’s Synod of Bishops to discuss marriage and family issues.
Preaching on Ephesians 5, a troubling text given its exhortation that “wives be submissive to your husbands,” Cupich said the text is actually quite subversive because it exhorts that husbands to be subordinate to their wives as well. This mutual submission between spouses is a teaching the early Church “would have found quite astonishing, if not revolutionary.” The archbishop explained:
“Christ was doing something utterly new in the human family, changing how people understand their relationships with each other as family. With the upcoming synod, it is clear that the Holy Father is calling the Church to examine our categories of expression about what we believe and be open to new avenues and creativity when it comes to accompanying families. All of this has much to say to us in Chicago, that we not settle for solutions that no longer work, expressions that no longer inspire and ways of working that stifle creativity and collaboration.”
Though Cupich did not mention families with LGBT members, it is not a stretch to see how this message clearly applies to their situations.
Cupich was preaching in Holy Name Cathedral the at Mass for Investment of the Pallium. where Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Viganó presented the Chicago archbishop with the pallium, a small woolen stole worn metropolitan archbishops to signify their unity with the papacy. This pallium Mass was the first in a new model of investiture instituted by Pope Francis whereby archbishops receive the vestment in their local archdiocese rather than in Rome, reported Michael O’Loughlin of Crux. This is part of Pope Francis’ attempts to decentralize church power and affirm local communities’ participation.
Much of the homily centered around the papacy however, presenting messages of Pope Francis by citing both Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si. In my view, what Cupich was really doing was calling the archdiocese to be a truly catholic church that is “home for all” where all are welcome. Citing Pope John XXIII, the archbishop told those at Mass:
“He called the entire Church to a fresh appreciation of the ancient teaching of the medicine of mercy in an era when many in the Church preferred the narrow path of severity and condemnation. . .It is the pope’s ministry that draws us out of a narrow provincial view that reduces our experience of Church to just what is happening in my parish, my diocese, my country. . . .[The pope in his travels] introduces us to our brothers and sisters in places we never visited, reminding us of what it means to be Catholic, a Church whose universality must be reflected in every particular Church.”
Cupich’s words are worth noting not only for the message given to the congregation gathered, including twenty bishops, but for their broader significance given this church leader’s rising significance. He was Pope Francis’ first major episcopal appointment in the United States, coming with a largely positive record on LGBT issues that was further confirmed when he said last yearon CBS’ “Face the Nation” program that all families deserve legal protection
Yet, Cupich’s remarks are forward looking because he is expected to be appointed a special delegate to the Synod and his weight as a voice in the American Church will only grow.
His comments starkly contrast with those of some of his peers. This is especially true in Illinois, where Bishop Thomas Paprocki, who once held an exorcism against marriage equality, recently announced a restrictive new policy of Catholic school admission which casts a supsicious eye on lesbian and gay parents, and where a priest of the Diocese of Peoria mailed his entire town an anti-gay letter paid for with church funds.
As for the October synod, Pope Francis is hoping for a miracle, and his appointments are raising the stakes that something positive for LGBT families might just happen. Judging from Cupich’s words, he is open to the Spirit’s guidance and to new ways of accompanying families. He commented on the Risen Christ “always doing something new” before quoting Evangelii Gaudium:
“Jesus can always break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him, and he constantly amazes us with his divine creativity. . .[to the point that] new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs, and words with new meaning for today’s world.”
New paths and more eloquent signs are desperately needed when it comes to the church’s response for non-traditional families, like those with LGBT members or led by same-gender couples. Let’s hope more bishops share Cupich’s desire for mercy and creativity in the coming weeks.
To read Archbishop Cupich’s fully homily, which I highly recommend, click here.
For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the 2015 Synod on the Family, click here. To receive regular updates in the coming months on the Synod and ALL Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to the blog (for free) by typing your email address in the “Follow” box in the upper right-hand corner of this page, and then click the “Follow” button.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry