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Archbishop Chaput sees 'subtle hopelessness' in message of Synod working document

October 07, 2015

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that working document for the Synod of Bishops "engenders a subtle hopelessness" in his address to the assembly.

The instrumentum laboris, prepared as a guide to the bishops' discussion, has been criticized by many of the prelates speaking during the first two days of the Synod meeting. Archbishop Chaput joined the critics, saying that the document fails to inspire a sense of Christian hope. The instrumentum does not convey confidence that Catholics, with the help of grace, can resist the pressures that are undermining marriage and family life. The archbishop continued:

This leads to a spirit of compromise with certain sinful patterns of life and the reduction of Christian truths about marriage and sexuality to a set of beautiful ideals— which then leads to surrendering the redemptive mission of the Church.  The work of this synod needs to show much more confidence in the Word of God, the transformative power of grace, and the ability of people to actually live what the Church believes. And it should honor the heroism of abandoned spouses who remain faithful to their vows and the teaching of the Church.

Responding to a question about the demand for a Synod message that will make all people feel welcome in the Church, Archbishop Chaput said that the need for attractive language must be balanced against the demand for truth. "We have to be careful with our language so that people don't get hurt, but also we must be faithful to Church doctrine," he said.

At an October 7 briefing for reporters covering the Synod, Archbishop Chaput downplayed concerns about disputes among the participants. "I have never been at a church meeting where there aren't groups that get together and lobby for a particular direction," he said; "and that's going on, I assure you." The archbishop said that such lobbying is natural and harmless, as long as bishops continue to work for the welfare of the universal Church. "We are not here to win anything," he said. "We are here to arrive at the truth of the Lord that He has set out for his Church." 


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  • Posted by: Bai Macfarlane (Mary's Advocates) - Oct. 08, 2015 7:58 PM ET USA

    Thank you Archbishop for saying “the Church should honor the heroism of abandoned spouses who remain faithful to their vows and the teaching of the Church”! A group exists supporting each other doing this at “” When one abandoning marriage professes to be a serious Catholic, the abandoned spouse can ask the Church for help with “Petition the Bishop to try to Stop a Break-up.” In this way, the Church can be careful with its language, and also faithful to Church doctrine.

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - Oct. 08, 2015 10:29 AM ET USA

    I value Abp. Chaput's opinion higher than most within the Church. I just grow so weary of those who want to be like everybody else. I know we should try to build up the Church, but I sometimes think that those who want to join the secular world should just leave. Jesus didn't try to stop those who wanted to leave Him. Maybe we should either.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 08, 2015 8:54 AM ET USA

    Consider the "progression" in thought from the mind of the "archconservative" Pope St. JPII to the mind of the more "progressive" Pope Francis. It seems to have become fashionable to consider the "ordinary" Catholic too weak, fragile, and "adult" (read "enlightened") to strive to live the Catholic virtues. Pope St. JPII's message was twofold: (1) be not afraid of evil, (2) be not afraid to commit yourself to heroic virtue. Sure, living Catholic discipline is difficult, but faith can conquer all.

  • Posted by: jimr451 - Oct. 08, 2015 8:12 AM ET USA

    We're so blessed to have him here in Phila. He must spend all his free time praying and reading, because he always seems to act and speak with great wisdom and prudence.

  • Posted by: unum - Oct. 07, 2015 8:33 PM ET USA

    Abp. Chaput is clearly in touch with the People of God, unlike many of the hierarchy. Many want to play Vatican power games with the objective of emerging from the contest with a political victory. It will be interesting to see where those in touch with the people finish in this battle with the Vatican politicians.