Quick Hits: Cupich on conscience, surrogacy, accountability, eroding parental rights

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Apr 20, 2018

Catching up on some excellent commentary that has appeared recently, and would make for good weekend reading:


Eduardo Echeverria is not the first writer to point out that Cardinal Blase Cupich, in his examination of the role of conscience, wanders far afield from the thoughts of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Still Echeverria makes the argument very well, and then—as a bonus—goes on to demolish the notion that Cardinal Cupich is propounding a sort of “paradigm shift” that was suggested by Vatican II. In fact, Echeverria demonstrates in a Catholic Thing essay: “Vatican II is emphatically contrary to Cardinal Cupich’s account of conscience.”


Working almost single-handed, Jennifer Lahl has battled to raise public awareness of the gross injustice and indecency involved in surrogate motherhood. Writing for the Public Discourse, she does her best to alert readers to a concerted campaign for acceptance of the practice—a campaign that, unfortunately, has not yet encountered much organized opposition:

If I’m brutally honest, there simply is no real debate on surrogacy taking place in America or anywhere else in the rest of the world. What is taking place here in the US is a state-by-state effort to pass legislation enabling commercial surrogacy. Internationally, efforts to legalize commercial surrogacy are underway in places like the Hague, the United Nations, and several national governments. One thing you should know for certain is that all of these efforts are carefully orchestrated-and well-funded-by the fertility industry…

Father John Hunwicke, a perceptive English blogger, welcomes the admission by Pope Francis that the sex-abuse scandal in Chile is a matter for legitimate grave concern. However, Father Hunwicke observes, beyond acknowledging the severity of the problem, the Holy Father has not provided much information. We know that Archbishop Scicluna delivered a lengthy report; what did it say? Did the Pope receive a letter, reportedly hand-delivered to him by Cardinal O’Malley, detailing the problem? Did he read it? Who is ultimately responsible for the appointment of the embattled Bishop Barros? Father Hunwicke argues, reasonably enough, that if the Church is committed to transparency and accountability, these questions must be answered.


The Obergefell decision, overthrowing the traditional legal understanding of marriage, has enormous implications for the tangled jurisprudence surrounding problems in family life. In another Public Discourse essay, Adam MacLeod examines some frightening judicial logic involving custody of children—in this case, stored embryos. A New York court has prohibited a paternity test, which presumably would have established the rights of a biological father, because the mother is now legally married to another woman. The court argued that the question of a child’s rightful parents should not be decided on the basis of biology, but rather on the basis of legal marriage. “So,” MacLeod explains, “legal status conferred by state law must trump biological reality.” In other words, when push comes to shove, the state will decide whether or not your children are in fact your children.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Retired01 - Apr. 22, 2018 3:55 PM ET USA

    Father Hunwicke wants some questions answered. Hopefully, he will not have to wait longer than those who want Pope Francis to answer the dubia.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Apr. 21, 2018 10:41 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis has said that there is zero tolerance for covering up sexual abuse of children. What penalty is he going to apply to himself? He restored to active ministry a priest who had been arrested for that crime. The priest was subsequently arrested again. Is the law only for others and not for bishops?

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - Apr. 21, 2018 9:37 PM ET USA

    The first act guided by "Cupich conscience" was Eve's bite of the apple. The problem with acts of "Cupich conscience" is that they ultimately bite back.

  • Posted by: shrink - Apr. 21, 2018 6:48 AM ET USA

    The persons involved the Chile disaster were participants in a criminal conspiracy, either by commission or omission, because, as clergy, they had a duty to protect, and they failed. This failure includes our current pontiff, who has admitted negligent due diligence. The laity and the innocent clergy have a right to know what happened, and a right to know what (if any) punishments of whom have been effected. A failure to do so is yet another attack upon the Common Good of the Church.

  • Posted by: feedback - Apr. 20, 2018 7:25 PM ET USA

    Thank you especially for the top link to the Echeverria article. Detroit's Sacred Heart Seminary is truly blessed with great teachers.