ACI Prensa interviewed Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, archbishop emeritus of Philadelphia, about the confusion and controversies that have arisen around the German bishops’ Synodal Way. The North American archbishop, who has participated in numerous synods during three pontificates, including as one of the representatives of America at the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family, is a widely recognized authority on the matter.
What’s your reaction to recent pronouncements of the synod organizers who told continental assemblies not to “impose an agenda” on discussions?
The only worthy agenda for the synod is the one given to us by Jesus in the Gospels. The Church right now is a divided house, both the ecclesial left and right have agendas. Church gatherings should be about proclaiming the Gospel and not about advancing a particular ideology or sociological analysis.
The president of the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, has said that his task is to bring “a worldwide process that is meant to renew the Church” and that “We [the Church] need convincing answers about how we can rediscover and proclaim the Gospel.” This has been combined with a majority of German bishops and a German synodal path that advocate for the blessing of same-sex unions, reshaping the priesthood and diaconate, including the ordination of women, allowing open Communion with Protestants and those in irregular marriages, and other doctrinal changes. What is your reaction to these proposals as “convincing answers and proclamations of the Gospel?”
The Church has always given convincing answers. They’re convincing because they’re true; not always easy or welcome, but life-giving and true. That’s what explains the success of Christianity through time. Getting back to fundamentals is what will renew the Church — not answers that are convenient for the times, but violate Catholic belief.
Recently, U.S. Cardinal Robert McElroy echoed many of the same [German] ideas in the media, prompting a response from American Archbishop Samuel Aquila and African Cardinal Wilfred Napier, both of whom believed Cardinal McElroy missed Jesus’ call to “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” What’s your reaction to the global criticism of these views?
Cardinal McElroy clearly and courageously wrote about his convictions. Unfortunately, many of his convictions are wrong and contrary to the faith of the Church. I’m surprised — and what’s worse, many good people are confused and scandalized — that he hasn’t been publicly corrected by the Holy See.
Latin America is currently 40% of the world’s Catholic population, but has said very little on the topic of synodality. What do you make of the relative silence from Latin America regarding the Synod on Synodality?
It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment; they know their pastoral circumstances much better than I do.
What encouragement would you give to your Latin American brother bishops during this synodal process?
I’d remind all bishops, not just my brothers in Latin America, that our one unique responsibility as bishops is to proclaim and protect the apostolic tradition of the Church. We may or may not need to do that in new and creative ways; but on a foundational level, we need to protect the faith from distortion and pass it on to others, fully and effectively, as we received it….
Full interview at the National Catholic Register.