A ranking U.S. cardinal has invited LGBT Catholics to dialogue, saying he wants to “know more about what’s happening in their life.”
Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, made his comments during a lecture for the Catholic Common Ground Initiative delivered last Friday. According to the National Catholic Reporter:
“Cupich said he also has invited LGBT Catholics to come talk with him as part of his own desire for dialogue. ‘I want to know more about what’s happening in their life,’ he said, adding that church language can dehumanize gay and lesbian people.
“‘They feel alienated,’ he said, noting the high suicide rate among LGBT youth. ‘The church has to step forward and talk to people.'”
The cardinal also defended Fr. James Martin, SJ, who has endured right wing attacks in the last month over his new book on LGBT issues in the church. Cupich, who invited Martin to give Lenten reflections at the archdiocese’s cathedral next spring, said of Martin, “He’s a good priest. . .That’s why he’s coming to Chicago next spring.” NCR reported further:
“Cupich’s suggestion that Martin’s critics should actually read his book drew applause from the audience. ‘And they should do so before ceding their intellects to blogosphere posts that make claims on their infallibility that would make Pius IX blush,’ he added.
“Later, in response to a question about LGBT Catholics, Cupich said he was ‘outraged’ by the way Martin was treated and called priests and religious who try to encourage dialogue ‘easy targets.'”
Cupich’s larger theme at the lecture, held at Catholic Theological Union, was on “Dialogue in the Key of Pope Francis.” He told attendees:
“‘The church is not fully church if it lacks dialogue. . .by emphasizing the importance of dialogue, not just to solve thorny problems but to be true to ourselves as church.'”
The cardinal’s invitation to dialogue with LGBT Catholics comes as the U.S. church finally grapples with how to respond to pressure from right wing groups that has led to lecture cancellations and church worker firings.
Recently, three institutions including Theological College, the seminary affiliated with The Catholic University of America, cancelled lectures by Fr. Martin. Madonna University, Michigan, cancelled a lecture by theologian M. Shawn Copeland. All of these incidents occurred because of pressure from right-wing Catholics who disagree with the speakers’ stands on LGBT issues. Writing in response to the cancellation of Martin’s lectures, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego wrote that the right-wing attacks should be a “wake-up call” for U.S. Catholics to not concede to fringe groups.
Cardinal Cupich already has a strong record of being welcoming of LGBT people. He was one of the few U.S. bishops to make a statement of sympathy and solidarity to the LGBT community in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre last year. At the 2015 Synod on the Family, he stated that he thought synod bishops should have heard the voices of lesbian and gay couples at the meeting, and acknowledged that he did exactly that in his own pre-synod listening sessions. He also spoke out against denying communion to lesbian and gay people, recommending that pastoral ministers respect individuals’ consciences.
Cupich’s latest remarks inviting LGBT Catholics to dialogue is precisely the response that should be offered when conservative Catholics attempt to silence and condemn other voices. His expressed desire not to speak but to listen and learn first is a model in line with Pope Francis and one which every church official should follow. And this dialogue should begin right where the cardinal has located it, namely from the lived experiences of LGBT Catholics and their loved ones who are welcome to speak honestly and openly about their “joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties.”
As the cardinal indicated, dialogue is a way for Catholics to be church together. LGBT Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago should seize this hopeful opportunity, and Catholics nationwide should use Cupich’s invitation as an occasion to seek dialogue with their local bishops, too.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 3, 2017