In a recent address at the University of Cambridge, England, Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich spoke about Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation following the 2015 synod on the family.
The National Catholic Reporter’s Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ, reported on the event which had been sponsored by the university’s Von Hügel Institute for Critical Catholic Inquiry:
“Not only does the church bring the gospel to families, families contribute to the church’s understanding and proclamation of the gospel, Cupich argued in England Friday (Feb. 9). He reaches this conclusion by beginning with the church’s understanding of the family as a privileged site of God’s self-revelation.”
This new perspective reverses the traditional way in which the Church does ministry:
“If we accept that, said Cupich, ‘then no family should be considered deprived of God’s grace.’ As a result, ‘Our ministerial approach should begin with the understanding that families are not problems to solve,’ he said. ‘Rather, they are opportunities for the church to discern with the aid of the Spirit how God is active in our time and what God is calling us to do here and now.’ “
Reese provided Cupich’s further expalnation of this principle:
“In other words, the church must not just teach; it must also learn from families. All must ‘remain open to the possibility of learning from one another in seeking to understand the mystery of God together.’
“Cupich argues that this is what Francis means by a ‘synodal’ church. It means ‘rejecting an authoritarian or paternalistic way of dealing with people that lays down the law, that pretends to have all the answers, or easy answers to complex problems, that suggests that general rules will seamlessly bring immediate clarity or that the teachings of our tradition can preemptively be applied to the particular challenges confronting couples and families.’
” ‘The core goal of formal teaching on marriage is accompaniment, not the pursuit of an abstract, isolated set of truths,’ he asserts. This accompaniment ‘involves a process of listening and learning, that guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God.’
“Cupich argued that ‘This represents a major shift in our ministerial approach that is nothing short of revolutionary.’ “
What does this have to do with LGBT issues?
It does not take much imagination to see that these new principles–of listening, learning, accompanying, focusing on concrete realities–are easily applied to the way that the Catholic Church ministers with LGBT people. It is tragic, however, that the Church generally ignores these families. The tragedy is not just for the families, but for the Church, which does not get the benefit of learning about the rich, varied, and diverse experiences these families have. The Church is missing out on so much of the bounty of God’s blessings.
At the 2015 synod on the family, Cupich had already applied some parts of this type of thinking to families headed by lesbian and gay people when he stated that he thought the synod would have benefited from listening to lesbian and gay couples, which he himself had done in preparation for the synod. Later that same year, he said the Church should respect the consciences of lesbian and gay people.
Late last year, Cupich invited lesbian and gay people to dialogue, and that the Church needed to listen to them.
The cardinal addressed several other important matters addressed in Amoris Laetitia, including the primacy of conscience, the centrality of mercy, and responding pastorally to people. You can read the entirety of Fr. Reese’s report by clicking here.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, March 12, 2018