Cardinal Cupich: the synod, women deacons, bishops’ job reviews, LGBTQ


Following the closing Mass of the first session of the Synod on Synodality in Rome this October, Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago (pictured left), spoke with America’s Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell.

Cupich told O’Connell about his experience of the meeting and the synod’s synthesis document, published Oct. 29.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

O’Connell: What is your overall take on the synthesis document?

Cupich: The document is not as important as the experience that we had. I think the document tries to convey that experience. And it does a good job.

But my hope would be that we are able to take that experience back home and share it with our people because that really is what the synod is about. It’s a new way of being Church.

At the same time, the document does call for a codification of synods in the future [being] done along these lines, rather than going back to what we did before.

That’s a very important statement, made loud and clear in this document.

We were aware that there are people in the life of the Church and in synod hall who had their doubts about synodality itself as a model for Church life.

There were calls to develop [that model], theologically, so that we’re clear about this.

But there was no doubt whatsoever that this is not only a new way that the Church is going to function, but, in fact, [that it is] tapping into the roots of our tradition.

The Church has been synodal from the very beginning. What we’re doing is recapturing something that can serve us well in this moment.

O’Connell: You participated in past synods. How has the fact that you have non-bishops voting changed things?

Cupich Instead of having bishops say, “This is what our people are saying,” in the old synods, which we tried to do our best to do, we actually had people there.

Young people, elderly people, religious men and women, who, in fact, were on the ground in pastoral ministry, who gave voice in ways that were fresh, were challenging, and in ways that maybe a bishop could not say before.

There was an actual paragraph that was passed overwhelmingly about non-bishops being a part of this: Does it in some way take away from the understanding that it’s a Synod of Bishops?

And there was a resounding acceptance that non-bishops should be a part of it because it’s not a threat.

It allows the bishops to have that immediate interaction with the voice of the whole church.

That’s important. It was pointed out to me that if you look at the votes and you strip away all of the non-bishops who were a part of the synod, the propositions still pass by 75 percent.

O’Connell: But even in this document, they talk about the need to clarify whether this is a Synod of Bishops or an assembly of bishops. Some people raised objections.

Cupich: They did, but I think that there were some propositions that said very clearly that non-bishops should be a part of [the process] going forward in the future.

O’Connell: So you see no going back.

Cupich: I don’t think there’s a need to go back. We have made some real progress here, and the bishops enjoyed having lay people there.

It wasn’t [simply] tolerating it. Maybe there were some voices that had difficulties with it because they wanted it to be all bishops [but] very few.

By and large, the bishops interacted really well with lay people at the tables.

O’Connell: One of the big developments in this document is the role of women in the church.

Cupich: We’re talking about a real paradigm shift here.

We recognise the fact that women, de facto, carry the life of the Church, on so many levels, to make it operational on a day-to-day basis.

But I think it’s more than recognising that; it’s dealing also with how you include women in important decision making, how you place them within the life of the community so that their leadership is regarded, respected and protected.

[The document] talks about different ministries that might be created to do that. I know that there was a lot of discussion about women deacons, and that was not resolved here.

But it was very clear that the assembly called for a study and hopefully that we would have the results by the next [synod meeting]. I imagine it’s going to be taken up again.

But it’s not only about [making] everything about women deacons.

There has to be another way in which we respect that women bring a particular gift to the life of the church, that if absent, impoverishes the church.

How do we take advantage of their gifts and charisms? That’s an agenda that’s not complete yet. Continue reading

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