This past week, some in both the religious and the secular press, began reporting about the massive divide along ideological lines that exists between the American bishops attending the 2015 Extraordinary Synod on the Family.
David Gibson posted an article for Religious News Service, entitled “US archbishops Cupich and Chaput offer sharply different visions of Vatican Synod.” The answer is yes, of course, these two archbishops offer different visions of the Vatican Synod because they are two different men, with two different experiences of life.
The views expressed by Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia in his article in The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 16) that “anxiety about the final product (of the Synod) runs high” and cautiously urged the synod fathers that although it is clear that no doctrine concerning issues of marriage and human sexuality can change, the discipline and pastoral praxis can, which, because practice influences and shapes belief, is almost tantamount to changing doctrine.
Archbishop Blaise Cupich of Chicago, on the other hand, stated, “I don’t share the anxiety at all,” citing the calm example of the Holy Father Pope Francis. The archbishop stated, “He just looked so refreshed, calm, at peace,” and went on to state, “That, I think, is the attitude that we should all have.”
“If the Holy Father is at peace with the way things are going, I think each one of us should put aside the fears or anxieties that might be … present in our hearts and pay attention to” Francis’ example,” Archbishop Cupich said.
Two good men, two very Catholic men, two fine bishops with no real difference in doctrine approach, just with a different view on the synod process. It is an example, once again, of how we do not always have to think alike, but we have to think together.
The synod is a process. It is an exercise in dialogue. In his address celebrating the 50th anniversary of the synod process, Pope Francis stated that the participants have “gradually learned of the necessity and beauty of ‘walking together,’” further underscoring his constant theme of accompaniment, journey together as the People of God, Vatican II’s prime image of the Church, to one day, the Kingdom of God.
Don’t posit that there is a great divide among the U.S. bishops at the synod, because it simply isn’t the case.
There is greater continuity than discontinuity. Trust these men, some of the finest leaders in the Catholic Church in the U.S. and pray for them, as well as for the other bishops at the synod. Pray for their good insight and proper judgment, as they continue to address the Church in the modern world, all the while being faithful to the fonts of Divine Revelation, namely Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
We should also trust the pope. The Holy Spirit has chosen this man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now called Francis to be the Vicar of Christ on Earth, the successor to Peter. It is the pope who, after consultation with his brother bishops and the People of God, acting in accord with the consistent teaching of the Church, will make the final decision.
The pope has stated “the fact that the synod always acts with Peter and under Peter – therefore not only with Peter, but also under Peter – is not a limitation of freedom, but a guarantee of unity.”
The Synod on the Family is all part of the journey. Through prayer and study, we calmly walk that path with the Holy Father and the Bishops now gathered in Rome.