The following comes from a June 29 Vatican Insider article by Joshua McElwee, Vatican Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter:

Many US Catholics want the church to “banish judgmentalism” of people in its ministries and to focus instead on getting close to them and understanding the struggles they face in their lives, the new bishop of San Diego said.

In an almost hourlong interview with National Catholic Register, Bishop Robert McElroy said while people want to be challenged by Gospel teachings, they are looking for a church that has “a sense of accepting people where they are and helping them to come farther.”

“When they speak about the contribution that Francis is making in their view, it draws very much from the type of spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi, which is so core to this pontificate,” McElroy said.

“A sense of mercy, a sense of joy, a sense of accepting people where they are and helping them to come farther, taking the next step in the light of the Gospel, but really trying to banish judgmentalism,” he said.

McElroy said the US bishops’ recent annual spring meeting in St. Louis saw the bishops ask themselves: “How do we take seriously the directions that Pope Francis is leading us toward in terms of transforming the life of the conference?”

Something that may help bishops at the synod in their discussions, McElroy said, is the theological notion of graduality.

“What that says is that many times, people in their lives cannot embrace the fullness of the Gospel at a given moment,” the bishop said. “They need to take steps toward it.”

He identified a possible question for the synod members: “How do you have the mercy which acknowledges that, supports that, and doesn’t make people feel terrible that they’re not at the fullness of acceptance — or even halfway toward acceptance — of this area of the Gospel that they’re finding hard to live out in their life?”

“When Christ in the Gospels encounters people who are troubled in various ways, he doesn’t sit down and give them a lecture first on what the truth is or on the fullness of the Christian life,” he said. “He first embraces them … with the love of God.”

After that, McElroy said, Christ “works to heal what it is that is impeding them in their life from peace and contentment, and, many times, the ability to live of the Gospel well.”

“Then, finally, [Christ] speaks about changing their lives,” he said.

“[Jesus’] first challenge to them is not to transform their lives,” he said. “The first challenge to them is to understand the depth of God’s love for them, in their concrete circumstances with all their strengths and all their weaknesses.”