U.S. Bishops’ Working Group May Dull “Amoris Laetitia” Impact


Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia will head a working group tasked with “furthering the reception and implementation” of Amoris Laetitia in the United States. Given the archbishop and other members’ notable LGBT-negative records, what may be the impact of this working group?

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) president, appointed Chaput to head the working group, according to the National Catholic Reporter. A USCCB statement listed three tasks for the working group: assisting bishops with the positive reception and implementation of it, learn about local initiatives towards this end, and provide a report to the Vatican on these efforts.

Four bishops round out the working group. These are Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina; Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York; Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit; and Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis. All but Hebda have records of speaking out strongly and negatively about LGBT issues.

As part of North Carolina’s Catholic Conference, Burbidge initially supported North Carolina’s anti-transgender HB 2 law.  The conference said the law “yielded a favorable outcome. Burbidge later distanced himself from the law after it received international criticism. The bishop withdrew his diocese from the North Carolina Council of Churches in 2013 over marriage equality.

Malone, on the USCCB’s behalf, described recent federal directives to protect transgender students as “deeply disturbing,” and he cited Amoris Laetitia in his condemnation. In the same capacity, he also said that President Barack Obama’s executive order protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors “implements discrimination” against religious organizations. Locally, he forced a Catholic parish to remove a sign about Jesus’ two dads and expressed gratitude that a Catholic high school rejected a lesbian alumna’s wedding announcement.

Archbishop Vigneron has said breaking up same-gender relationships is similar to Moses leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt, that Catholics supporting marriage equality should not receive Communion (though he eventually softened this stance slightly), and banned a Fortunate Families parents’ group from a local parish because it was hosting a speaker from New Ways Ministry.

As for Chaput himself, the record is longer. The National Catholic Reporter noted that Chaput responded to Amoris Laetitia by claiming the pope had clearly rejected “gender ideology and the sexual identity confusion it promotes” and wrote further:

“It would be a mistake to misread the compassionate spirit of Amoris Laetitia as a license to ignore Christian truth on matters of substance.”

Chaput said the 2014 synod confused the faithful. At the 2015 synod, the archbishop was among those participants who opposed to Pope Francis’ work who were vocally fearful of change. Beforehand during the pope’s visit to Philadelphia, Chaput ejected LGBT organizations from hosting programs at a Catholic parish and warned LGBT Catholics against protesting. Locally, he has implemented a morality pledge for parents of Catholic schoolchildren that includes non-support of LGBT equality, dismissed the concerns of a Catholic mother with gay sons, and said he was “very grateful” lesbian educator Margie Winters had been fired by the Sisters of Mercy. This list of problematic statements and actions against LGBT people goes on. Perhaps more troubling is Chaput’s rising status as incoming chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Family Life, in addition to this new working group, and his election to the Synod of Bishops’ 12-member permanent council.

Taken together, the Amoris Laetitia working group for the United States does not leave much hope that a document which already disappointed LGBT people and allies will produce a wider institutional welcome or effect new pastoral outreach. Indeed, the working group’s efforts may further dull any positive impact the exhortation can have. We need to remember that in the church change rises from the bottom, so the hard work of implementing any of Amoris Laetitia’s more positive aspects remains in the faithful’s hands.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

12 replies
  1. Terence Weldon
    Terence Weldon says:

    That was pretty much my reaction when I saw that Chaput, of all people, had been selected to lead implementation. The lesson must be, as you say, that change comes from below. We are church too – and know a damn site more about love, marriage and family than closeted, celibate bishops.,

  2. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    No surprise here that the USCCB should have such a negative stance. This is not a “morality” issue. This is a human issue. The Church leaders are driving people away . Last week it was revealed that Cardinal Dolan had spent $10 million on lobbyists to diminish the impact of sex abuse claims and the statute of limitations so as to protect church funds.

  3. Babs
    Babs says:

    This is so sad that the Bishops are appointing those who are already somewhat if not whole-heartedly against LGBT people. Let us pray that the people don’t listen to the Bishops and continue to welcome this community into the Church whole-heartedly.

  4. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    When these are the Catholic representatives on the committee, what hope is there? I think it is wrong to say I am Catholic because the public believes this means a crazy, anti LGBT stance. Now this horrific thinking is being further codified. What can we do? I am despairing. I waited my entire life to see women treated better in the church. When I was 20, I really believed we would have women priests. Now I am 60, and things have gotten even worse. This blatant discrimination of LGBT people is beyond the pale. Our church has been taken over .

    • Sue St Louis
      Sue St Louis says:

      Agree, agree. When my patner and I were denied communion at HER mother’s funeral last August, I thought that our heartfelt letters to bishops would bring some solice. It did not. All we received was preaching about the holiness of marriage between and man and a woman. The church will not become a more “Chrislike” institution in our lifetime.

  5. Ray Berthiaume
    Ray Berthiaume says:

    What can you expect? The ideal man for the hierarchy is Jesus, who never had sex, never had an orgasm. The ideal woman is Mary of Nazareth, who never had sex, never had an orgasm, never had natural childbirth & didn’t even die! The hierarchy cannot process human sexuality.

  6. Larry
    Larry says:

    I feel sorry for Archbishop Hebda who is a truly pastoral leader and a wonderful man to be in the company of the other committee members who seem to want to twist AL into some demented document to support their own twisted orthodoxy. I did not have high hopes for AL anyway since it is so diffuse and watered down. But I am increasingly discouraged about Pope Francis’ lack of action when his bishops obviously poke him in the eye. Is it that he really can not see that putting Chaput in charge is a slap in the face to his efforts.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] troubling is the fact that Chaput was recently named chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee to implement Amoris Laetitia […]

  2. […] was appointed by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz to head a working group tasked with “furthering the reception and implementation of” Amoris Laetitia. He […]

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