Yesterday, an extreme "progressive" American publication released what is partly a long interview, partly a cheering mutual-praising and self-serving powwow, with Archbishop Blase Cupich, without doubt Pope Francis' most important appointment (so far) to the United States' episcopate. After reading this, there is only one thing we can say to our friends in Chicago: we will keep you in our prayers.
Archbishop Cupich during the first Sunday Mass after his installation.
On how to deal with the overall decline of the Church in the USA:
There are, however, some targeted things we can do. For instance, I think people will take notice that we are being good stewards when we are not afraid to make hard decisions about reconfiguring parishes and schools so that we use limited resources in a way that’s going to benefit the most people. Good stewardship is very important. We shouldn’t be afraid to make the hard decisions because people like good stewardship.
The other piece of this is finding ways to bind up the wounds of people, to reach out to those who have been alienated from the church for one reason or another—and be very programmatic about finding ways to invite them back. When it comes to young people, we should challenge the tendency in society to want to go it alone. I think of the scene in Robert Bellah’s book Habits of the Heart in which a woman called Sheila is asked about her own system of beliefs, and she calls it “Sheilaism.” We can challenge that. The way to do it is not by saying, “You’re not going to Mass and so there’s a problem.” Rather, we can say, “We have an opportunity to better society and to better the common good. We work for the poor. Come and work for the poor with us.”
Pope Francis recently met with the Pope St. John XXIII Community, which was created in the 1960s to address the problem of young people who were alienated from the church. What this group did was to say to them, “We’re not going to bug you about church attendance. But here are the poor. Let’s work for those who are disabled.” This has been a public association of the faithful for almost fifty years. Pope Francis celebrated their work. So there are many ways we can do it.
On the 2014 Synod:
[Interviewer]: The ethic of accompaniment seems to have guided the pope’s design of the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Some bishops expressed some confusion about that meeting—whether it was over the media’s coverage of the synod, or what actually took place.
BC: The media is not to blame at all. I think the media reported what actually took place. What really took place at the synod was that a majority of the bishops voted for all the proposals that were there in the final summary document. And I think Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that at the November bishops meeting. It’s true that three of the paragraphs [about divorce and gay people] did not get two-thirds majority support, but they got more than a majority. That’s what’s new. That’s the story. Those hot-button topics had been highlighted, and the majority of synod bishops voted for proposals that said we need to consider aspects of these issues.
The pope has a firm belief that the spirit of the risen Lord is working in our midst and is alive in the hearts of people—and we cannot squelch that voice. We have to look for ways to listen to how the Lord is working in the lives of people. That’s why the pope said to the synod fathers, “Don’t come to the synod and say ‘You can’t say that’”—because it may be the spirit of Christ who is calling us to say these things. And we have to listen to that.
3. Promoting Kasperite theology and the theology of the 2014 Synod "Relatio" in Chicago:
[Interviewer]: The Vatican has developed another document for the world’s bishops in advance of next October’s synod, asking them for more input from the people in the pews. How do you intend to implement that here in Chicago?
BC: I have met with my archdiocesan women’s council, the presbyteral council leadership, and my archdiocesan pastoral council. I gave them the relatio of the synod [the summary document] and asked them to propose a way in which there can be an effective—not necessarily widespread—consultation with their various constituencies, so that I can be informed, and our priests can be informed to speak articulately to our people. That will help me respond to the Holy See. It will also help me while talking with my brother bishops about this, since we are probably going to address this at our June meeting.
What I did last year in Spokane I want to do here too. We’re going to have a day-long presentation for priests on two things: First, what are the canonical issues here? A good canonist will tell you that there are multiple ways in which we can be sensitive to our people’s needs. Second, we have to unpack this notion of the theology of the family. Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a talk about this to the cardinals last year, which has been published as a book called The Gospel of the Family. In Spokane, I gave all my priests a copy. Then I brought in a priest who knows Cardinal Kasper’s theology quite well, Msgr. John Strynkowski, and he helped them understand what Kasper is saying.
4. And on doctrine:
[Interviewer]: The synod deliberations also raised underlying theological questions about doctrine. What do you think the synod process itself says about the nature of church teaching?
BC: Ours is a living tradition. It always has been. There is no moment in time that can be so idealized that it undermines the idea that the tradition is a living one. It is a living tradition not because of anything we say, but because the risen Christ is always doing something new in the life of the church. In Pope Francis’s Evangelii gaudium, there is a whole section in which he talks about the idea that Christ is always doing something new in the lives of his people as he accompanies them.
(Source: A Listening Church)