What the Pope said doesn’t matter . . .

What the Pope said doesn’t matter . . . April 12, 2016

at least, not nearly as much as what bishops, priests, and ordinary Joes think he said, with the last of these coming largely from how the media reports it and what bishops and other prominent Catholics have to say about it.  “It” being, of course, whether there’s a change in doctrine and/or practice with respect to remarried Catholics, as a consequence of Amoris Laetitia.

I am not going to try to interpret Amoris Laetitia.  I will not dig into the footnotes, and tell you whether Francis meant to give the all-clear to those who want changes or was very careful to encourage greater welcome without doing so, staying entirely within the existing framework of conscience.  There’s really no way of knowing what his intention was, absent him making a statement that he appears to be unwilling to make.

But Archbishop Cupich’s comments, on the other hand, concern me greatly.  In addition to his statement reported in the Trib that it’s a “game-changer” (which I cited in a post on Saturday), the (liberal) National Catholic Reporter quotes him as having said that “doctrines are at the service of the pastoral mission.”  This statement was quoted without context, and I was unable to find a full transcript of the press conference, but it’s a rather worrisome statement.  Taken with his other comments, it suggests that he doesn’t see the teachings of the Catholic Church on morality as expressing any larger truth, but just a set of rules that the Church has arbitrarily decreed — rules which, to be sure, are meant to help society function, but offer room for modification if they seem to pose hardship in particular cases.

How far, after all, does he extend his idea of showing compassion above all, and accompanying people in their small steps?  How would he counsel an adulterer not ready to change his ways?  An unrepentent domestic abuser?  A white-collar criminal stealing from his employer?  A business owner cheating his workers by shaving hours off their timecards?  A woman contemplating abortion, or a man encouraging his partner to abort?  Would he advise these people to just maybe “cheat a little less,” “hit with a little less force,” or “just try harder not to get pregnant next time”?

Probably not.

But it would be consistent with his objective to be “pastoral” above all, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, it’s very unsettling.  What’s Cupich really up to?  What does he really believe?  Does he see himself as the head of the local church, or of a community social services organization in need of restructuring for changing times?

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