Following the daily proceedings coming from the Synod on the Family can leave you overwhelmed. And, depressed. I keep hoping that the Spirit of Wisdom will be allowed to fly freely through the synod halls, despite the efforts of some to batten down the hatches and barricade the windows. Maybe the same Spirit can give a gentle thwack on some of the more hard headed zucchetto’s during a fly by!
But, amid the wrangling and seeming confusion, heroes are emerging. One of these is Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, who gave a briefing to journalists on Friday. His candour and openness reflects a respect for the uniqueness of each one’s journey. And, he believes, the bishops would benefit from hearing first hand from the travellers who are so often marginalized by the church, such as divorced and remarried Catholics and gay and lesbian couples, “rather than having them filtered through the voices of other representatives or the bishops”.
Cupich doesn’t merely reiterate the black and white of doctrine, or paint a picture of a sinful world of doom and gloom. He seems comfortable in the messiness of the in-between that many of us inhabit.
He knew a retired archbishop who wants his tombstone to read, “I tried to treat you like adults.”
“I think that what he means by that is we really do have to have an adult Catholic response to living the Christian life,” said the Chicago archbishop. “That I think is where the Holy Father is leading us.”
This requires providing solid catechesis, but
“We can’t just refer to doctrines as though they’re syllogisms that we deduce a conclusion to,” said Cupich. “There has to be that integration of a person’s circumstances, case by case in their life.”
He shared a story, told to him by another priest, about a woman whose son committed suicide.
At the funeral Mass, the woman approached the priest for a blessing during Communion, as she was not permitted to the Eucharist because she was divorced and remarried.
“The pastor said, ‘Today you have to receive,’” Cupich recalled.
The woman did, in violation of Church law, and she then returned to her seat, in tears. Eventually, she met with the priest and the two of them worked through her anger at God and the Church. She eventually took steps that allowed her to be welcomed back to the sacraments.
“It was because that priest looked for mercy and grace to touch her heart, and that’s something we have to keep in mind,” he said.
This is more than a story. It’s a modern day parable. Can’t you picture Jesus sharing it, perhaps with the scribes and pharisees who still didn’t get the meaning of mercy? The archbishop goes on,
We have to believe in the mercy of God, and the grace of God, triggering conversion, rather than having it the other way around, as though you’re only going to get the mercy if you have the conversion,” he said. “The economy of salvation doesn’t work that way.
To believe in the mercy of God. To not demand conversion and perfection before welcoming someone into our community and to our table. To treat women and men as adults. To acknowledge that our personal worlds are seldom black and white, making black and white answers difficult or impossible to embrace. Here’s hoping that ears and hearts within the synod halls are open to this message.