IMAGE: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World
By Michelle Martin
(CNS) — Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago welcomed the release of Pope
Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of
Love”), saying the document might be surprising to some for its insistence
on the need for mercy and compassion and its emphasis on the role of
document is the pope’s reflection on the 2014 and 2015 meetings of the Synod of
Bishops on the family, which addressed all aspects of family life and included
contentious discussions about under what circumstances divorced and remarried
Catholics could receive Communion.
does not offer any new rules or norms. Rather, Pope Francis urges careful
reflection on ministry to families and, especially, greater consideration in
the language and attitude used when working with those who do not fully live
think that by and large, the average Catholic is going to find that what the
pope is saying here is very arresting and new and creative and imaginative,”
Archbishop Cupich said at a news conference April 8, the day the document was
released at the Vatican. “He is saying things they haven’t heard before
with regard to the church. For instance, individuals in shaping their
conscience take responsibility and nobody can come in and in some way try to
replace that conscience.
talks about the need for families to be tolerant with each other in situations
where people’s lives are not perfect so that we don’t separate ourselves and
judge. ‘ This is not about a reform of rules. This is about a reform of church,”
the archbishop added.
Cupich said that he intends to study the document with lay and ordained advisers,
and the Chicago Archdiocese will look at the ways it ministers to families,
perhaps by extending marriage preparation into the first year of marriage or
finding new ways to support parents as they welcome children.
the church does must be done with mercy, he said.
doctrine of the church has always been one of mercy and compassion and the pope
is recovering that in a much stronger and forceful way. It is a part of the
doctrine of the church to reach out with compassion to people,” he said.
archbishop acknowledged that some might rather have a clear set of rules to
follow, something Pope Francis addressed as well.
knows that this call for a more compassionate pastoral outreach of
accompaniment, discernment and integration, one marked by tenderness, will
leave some perplexed,” the archbishop said, then quoted the document:
Cupich rejected the idea that meeting people in the midst of the complexities
of their lives means a “slippery slope” to a change in church
is not a slippery slope but a path forward for people who find themselves stuck,”
document calls on pastors to help people who can’t find that way now, he said.
healthy dose of criticism is in order for us pastors, in the way that we treat
people and the way that we present the church’s teaching,” the archbishop
told members of the media. “Too often, he says, we speak in a way that is
far too abstract, presenting an almost artificial theological ideal of marriage
far removed from the concrete situations and the practical possibilities of real
Cupich said the document calls on the church and its pastors to walk with
people as they discern the best way forward and to seek to integrate them into
the church, and he added that Pope Francis reminds pastors that “we have
been called … to form consciences, not to replace them.”
must help people understand the teaching of the church and the guidelines of
the bishops when it comes to divorce and remarriage, he said.
can no longer be said, according to Pope Francis, that all those living in an ‘irregular
situation’ are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying
grace,” Archbishop Cupich said.
one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!’ the
pope insists,” he said. “The goal of accompanying people is to help
each person find ‘his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial
community and thus to experience being touched by an ‘unmerited, unconditional
and gratuitous’ mercy.’ He is not speaking here only of ‘the divorced and
remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.'”
in what specific situations he would allow a divorced and remarried person to
receive Communion, Archbishop Cupich refused to rule anyone out.
wouldn’t exclude anyone,” he said. “I would like our pastors to have
discussion in all of those folks who are in these kinds of situations. ‘ I know
in my experience as a pastor, if you’ve seen a marriage then you’ve seen one
marriage. There is no instance that can be replicated. Every situation has its
variables that are part of it.”
archbishop said he was impressed with the pope’s crisp, accessible writing style,
and the way he draws on varied literary and cultural sources to connect with
got an intuition about where people live their actual lives,” the
archbishop said “He’s not living in a bubble.”
is a staff writer at the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of
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