Brace yourselves, Chicago Catholics. Chicago’s getting a seat at the table.
Last week, the Vatican announced that Chicago’s own Archbishop, Blase Cupich, has been selected to serve as a delegate to this fall’s Synod on the Family. Archbishop Cupich will be one of only six American delegates to the conference (the other four selected thus far are Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.) A likely sixth candidate is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who heads the U.S. bishops’ defense and promotion of marriage subcommittee.
For those unfamiliar with the process, the Synod on the Family doesn’t make any laws, rules, or regulations for the Catholic Church. Rather, they exist solely to make recommendations to the Pope on a wide range of matters pertaining to traditional family values and family life. Because the Pope has to speak for the entire Catholic Church worldwide, he seeks to get detailed policy analysis from Catholic clergy across the globe. Some critics of Pope Francis believe he would try to “stack the deck” with a synod that would simply rubber stamp what the Pope has said in the past. These criticisms appear to be unfounded. The 2014 Synod had a highly contested and spirited debate among its delegates, and the 2015 Synod appears to be headed down the same path – the delegates chosen by Pope Francis thus far come from a wide variety of different ideologies and cultures.
For Chicago Catholics, the selection of Archbishop Cupich is definitely a mixed bag. On the one hand, it means that local Catholics will have direct “representation” on a worldwide Catholic synod, which is especially good for Chicago’s role as a central hub of Catholicism in the United States, as well as being home to one of the largest Catholic populations in the North America. On the other hand, while Archbishop Cupich has stood by orthodox Catholic teaching on marriage and family, he has not made these issues a major focus of his tenure as Archbishop. Indeed, he has spoken out much more frequently and loudly to promote issues like raising awareness of climate change and gun violence. Given the Archbishop’s focus, he seems to be an odd choice to attend a Synod focused exclusively on family issues. In contrast to Archbishop Cupich, Archbishop Chaput has strongly articulated why social issues like traditional marriage and the right to life are a major priority, saying “Children need to survive the womb before they can have needs like food, shelter, immigration counseling and good health care… Humanity’s priority right – the one that undergirds all other rights – is the right to life.” Archbishop Chaput further added: “The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act… no amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.”
Many of Archbishop Cupich’s fellow American delegates bring very strong credentials for the Synod on the Family. For example, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville is the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia is hosting the 2015 World Meeting of Families.
Given the players involved, its certainly important that the voices of Chicago Catholics are heard loudly and clearly during this fall’s conference. If you don’t agree with Archbishop Cupich that the biggest priority in America right now is immigration reform and climate change, perhaps its time to let him know. Let’s make sure our Archbishop speaks for us!