This is fun! Cardinal Cupich apparently doesn’t like anonymous commentators. So, of course, I would suggest more of them pop up in the future! If he doesn’t like them, that’s a good indication that it’s the way to go. He’s got no game, so he’s calling people out for their anonymity rather than what they say. He’s trying to make it look like he’s got substance but if you look at the references he gives, not so much. I think people are beginning to see that he’s all hat and no cattle.
On September 21, Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput presented a critique of the Instrumentum Laboris for the 2018 Synod on Young People, sent to him by a respected North American theologian. Below we publish a response to this critique from Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, followed by a note from Chaput.
The increasing use of anonymous criticism in American society does not necessarily contribute to healthy public discourse, but in fact can erode it. For this reason, the anonymous critique of the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) for the 2018 Synod, published by First Things on September 21, 2018, raises essential questions about the nature of theological dialogue in our Church and the problematic nature of some forms of anonymity. It also raises fundamental questions about why First Things would publish such an anonymous critique.
What’s the problem with anonymous critiques, Cardinal Cupich? My feeling is you’re just bummed that you can’t label this person a foaming at the mouth, alt-right Catholic because you don’t have a clue who it is. Poor you.
The mature vision of Donum Veritatis (On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian), speaks of dialogue that is public and forthright in the search for truth, generous in spirit, fair in critique and balanced in tone. The anonymous critique published by First Things rejects these elements, substituting selectivity, condescension, and the deployment of partial truths to obfuscate the fullness of truth. Worse, this piece distorts the truth at many points and shows condescension toward the issues raised by the bishops’ conferences of the world on which the IL is based.”
The ”mature vision” went out the window when you and your ilk decided to regularly go ad hominem instead of addressing the arguments made, or you try repeatedly to employ the “If I say it enough, it’ll be true!” tactic. I mean, just look at this paragraph! The critique rejects a balanced tone, deploys partial truth and shows condescension?!? How about you put that “mature vision” where your mouth is and dissect the anonymous critique point by point? Whining about how it’s anonymous doesn’t really make an argument against what it says, does it? Oh you will? Let’s see how that goes!
The critique represents a woeful lack of understanding of magisterial teaching in asserting: “The entire document is premised on the belief that the principal role of the magisterial Church is “listening.” Yet there are seven references to magisterial teaching in the document (see numbers 53, 87, 115, 193). The interest in listening is precisely so that the teaching may be effectively received (see discussion in 53).
I thought that, just maybe, you’d actually do a point by point, but nope. We’re going to selectively quote out of context. So, in charity, I will give the actual context from the anonymous theologian AND the actual context from the IL. Remember, the theologian sent this to Archbishop Chaput, it wasn’t really meant for prime-time play so he snipped some.
II. An inadequate grasp of the Church’s spiritual authority
The IL upends the respective roles of the ecclesia docens and the ecclesia discens. The entire document is premised on the belief that the principal role of the magisterial Church is “listening.” Most problematic is §140: “The Church will have to opt for dialogue as her style and method, fostering an awareness of the existence of bonds and connections in a complex reality. . . . No vocation, especially within the Church, can be placed outside this outgoing dynamism of dialogue . . . . [emphasis added].” In other words, the Church does not possess the truth but must take its place alongside other voices. Those who have held the role of teacher and preacher in the Church must replace their authority with dialogue. (In this regard, see also §67-70).
And the context of the quote from IL that the theologian used:
Within this dynamic, the Church will have to opt for dialogue as her style and method, fostering an awareness of the existence of bonds and connections in a complex reality – which it would be reductive to see as being made of fragments – as well as the tension towards unity that, without being absorbed into uniformity, allows for the convergence of all its parts, preserving their individual distinctiveness and the richness they have together as a whole (cf. EG 236). No vocation, especially within the Church, can be placed outside this outgoing dynamism of dialogue, and any true effort towards accompaniment of vocational discernment will have to be measured against this horizon, devoting special attention to the poorest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters.
Archbishop Cupich is asserting something the theologian didn’t state. The theologian did say, “The entire document is premised on the belief that the principal role of the magisterial Church is ‘listening.” However, he did NOT say there were no other references to magisterial teaching. That said, just for fun I went and looked at the references Cardinal Cupich made for magisterial teaching. While he provided a nice list, none of it proves that the critique “represents a woeful lack of understanding of magisterial teaching.” It does, however, show that Cardinal Cupich apparently has a reading comprehension problem. Here they are for you (my comments and definitions for abbreviations are in bold):
“53. In the ecclesial domain, the importance of the body, affectivity and sexuality is recognized, but not always convincingly presented as a key element in educational and faith journeys, by rediscovering and appreciating the meaning of sexual difference and the vocational dynamics that are peculiar to males and females. Sociological studies show that many young Catholics do not follow Church teachings on sexual morals. No BC (Bishops’ Conferences) gives solutions or prescriptions, but many believe that «the sexual question must be discussed in a more open and unbiased way». The PM (Pre-Synodal Meeting) highlights how Church teachings on controversial issues, such as «contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation, marriage» (PM 5) are hotly debated by young people, both in the Church and in society. There are young Catholics who believe that Church teachings are a source of joy and would like the Church «to not only hold fast to them amid unpopularity but to also proclaim them with greater depth of teaching» (PM 5). (Not sure where the magisterial teaching is here.)
87. The Second Vatican Council clearly recovered mankind’s vocational horizon when it used such terms to express both how all human beings are destined for communion with Christ (cf. LG 3.13; GS 19.32), and the universal call to holiness (cf. LG 39-42) (Lumen Gentium), locating individual vocations within this interpretative horizon: vocations to the ordained ministry and consecrated life, as well as lay vocations (cf. LG 31), especially in their spousal form (cf. LG 35; GS 48.49.52). Subsequent magisterial teaching developed along the same lines, recognizing the analogical character of the term “vocation” and the many dimensions that characterize the reality it designates with respect to each personal mission, and to the communion of all people.” (Document fails to identify the “subsequent magisterial teaching” to which they are referring.)
115. For those who accept and draw inspiration from it, Christian wisdom offers valuable instruments such as the Word, the teachings of the Church and spiritual accompaniment; these are all aids to interact with the living norm that is Jesus, to get to know him intimately to the point of “having his heart”. Therefore, a true journey of discernment requires a listening and praying attitude, meekness towards our teacher and the willingness to make tough decisions. This is also what the young people of the Pre-synodal Meeting have discussed: «Spending time in silence, introspection and prayer, as well as reading the Scriptures and deepening self-knowledge are opportunities very few young people exercise. There is a need for a better introduction to these areas. Engaging with faith-based groups, movements, and like-minded communities can also assist young people in their discernment» (PM 9). A fundamental step in this direction is practicing what the tradition calls “examination of conscience”, which actually aims to make people aware of the signs of God’s presence and enables them to recognize his voice in the practicalities of our daily lives. For this reason, Pope Francis recommends this practice to all Christians, and even more so, to young people who are trying to find their way: «I ask all Christians not to omit, in dialogue with the Lord who loves us, a sincere daily “examination of conscience”» (GE 169) (Gaudium et Spes). Within this dialogue with Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, what one DV (Vatican Dicastery) wishes for young people can indeed take place: «A formation of their affectivity, that might help them to connect more to good and truth rather than their comforts and interests». (OK, I can get on board with GE being a magisterial document. But, again, simply mentioning a magisterial teaching doesn’t mean that the critique about the document being “premised on the belief that the principal role of the magisterial Church is “listening.”)
193. In some contexts, catechesis takes place in schools and therefore the teaching of religion is very important for young people’s vocational growth. All this is an invitation to the Synod to think about the relationship between schools and Christian communities as educational alliances.
Those who do not agree with them, still wish to be part of the Church anyhow, and ask for greater clarity on this issue. Hence, the PM asks church leaders to «speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues, which young people are already freely discussing without taboo» (PM 11). (Not even sure where he was going with this reference.)
Back to Cupich’s lame rebuttal:
Additionally, the critique falsifies the truth when the author focuses singularly on paragraph 144, relying on the fallacy that the absence of a matter in one paragraph means it is absent throughout the entire document. The anonymous author writes: “Nowhere, however, does it note there must also enlarge this view with the great certainty that there is a God, that he loves them, and that he wills their eternal good.” Yet the document recommends that we turn to the varied activities of God 78 times.
Then there is the section about naturalism and the absence of soul; just more examples of false reporting. The document refers to the body or embodiment on 20 occasions and 71 times on the spiritual.
I’m not sure why Cardinal Cupich is saying the author focuses “singularly on paragraph 144.” Even in the section where the author critiques paragraph 144, he cites several other paragraphs. It’s like he’s just going to say “Poof! I make it true!” and hope nobody looks. In addition, I can’t stop laughing. Cardinal Cupich seems to have hit control-F and wrote down the count for times “God” used instead of comprehending the entire quote. Honestly, are his followers this dumb, or does he just think they are? I mean, I’ve seen atheists write entire articles with the name “God” throughout, but that doesn’t mean they accept the thought that God loves them and wills their eternal good.
Instead of quoting in context, point by point, and disproving the points with actual points from the Instrumentum laboris, Cardinal Cupich does word counts for his smoking gun. Sigh. Use your head, people. The author of the critique actually went painstakingly through the Instrumentum laboris and Cupich hit control-F and entered in “God”, “body”, and “embodiment” but I’m relatively sure that American Magazine and the National catholic Reporter will find Cardinal Cupich’s “arguments” to be THE most compelling arguments every made in the history of man! Sigh.
Seriously, here is the evil, anonymous author’s critique, in context:
The IL displays a pervasive focus on socio-cultural elements, to the exclusion of deeper religious and moral issues. Though the document expresses the desire to “re-read” “concrete realities” “in the light of the faith and the experience of the Church (§4),” the IL regrettably fails to do so. Specific examples:
- 52. After a discussion of the contemporary instrumentalized conception of the body and its effects of “early sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, digital pornography, exhibiting bodies online and sexual tourism,” the document laments only its “disfiguring the beauty and depth of affective and sex life.” No mention is made about the disfigurement of the soul, its consequent spiritual blindness, and impact on the reception of the gospel by the one so wounded.
- 144. There is much discussion about what young people want; little about how these wants must be transformed by grace in a life that conforms to God’s will for their lives. After pages of analysis of their material conditions, the IL offers no guidance on how these material concerns might be elevated and oriented toward their supernatural end. Though the IL does offer some criticism of exclusively materialistic/utilitarian goals (§147), the majority of the document painstakingly catalogues the varied socio-economic and cultural realities of young adults while offering no meaningful reflection on spiritual, existential, or moral concerns. The reader may easily conclude that the latter are of no importance to the Church. The IL rightfully notes that the Church must encourage youth “to abandon the constant search for small certainties (§145).” Nowhere, however, does it note that she must also enlarge this view with the great certainty that there is a God, that he loves them, and that he wills their eternal good.
This naturalism is also evidenced in the document’s preoccupation with the following considerations: globalization (§10); advocating for the Church’s role in creating “responsible citizens” rather than saints (§147) and preparing youth for their role in society (§135); secular goals for education (§149); promoting sustainability and other secular goals (§152-154); promoting “social and political engagement” as a “true vocation” (§156); encouragement of “networking” as a role of the Church.
The hope of the gospel is noticeably missing. In §166, in the context of a discussion of sickness and suffering, a disabled man is quoted: “you are never prepared enough to live with a disability: it prompts you to ask questions about your own life, and wonder about your finiteness.” These are existential questions for which the Church possesses the answers. The IL never responds to this quotation with a discussion of the Cross, redemptive suffering, providence, sin, or the Divine Love. The IL is similarly weak on the question of death in §171: suicide is described as merely “unfortunate,” and no attempt is made to correlate it to the failures of a materialistic ethos. This is also seen in the tepid treatment of addiction (§49-50).
Just to show he can cite the Magisterium Cardinal Cupich goes on…
I will close with a quotation from the Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, 3 from the Second Vatican Council, which St. Pope John Paul II cited in paragraph 32 of Ut Unum Sint: “As the Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom affirms: ‘Truth … is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth. Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that individuals are to adhere to it.”
Exactly. Teaching, instruction, communication and dialogue doesn’t equal control-F. The author of the critique went through Instrumentum Laboris and gave it a quite thorough read.
What is needed is a concern for the church that is animated by a love for truth. What is needed is the spirit of synodality that Pope Francis has made the very heart of the Church’s upcoming moment of dialogue and teaching in search of ways to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the next generations.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago”
What’s needed, in charity, is to cancel this debacle before the youth of the world are led astray! Sorry youth. I’m not against a gathering for you but this one is already off the rails.
I’ll let Archbishop Chaput complete the smackdown:
I’m grateful to Cardinal Cupich for his useful comments, and as I indicated in my own original comments, “others may disagree” with the critique of the Instrumentum I quoted. I do not. In fact the critique I selected is among the most charitable I’ve received from scholars; others have been longer, more thorough, and less gentle in assessing the 33,000-word text. But this is not unusual. A synod’s Instrumentum is always—or at least should always be—a work in progress, open to discussion and adjustment by the Synod Fathers. I’m sure we can count on that process in the upcoming synod conversation. As to the anonymous nature of the critique: I certainly agree with the cardinal that unnamed sources can be regrettable. So is the toxic environment in many of our academic communities that makes them necessary.
Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
BAM! Apparently Cardinal Cupich doesn’t remember that people have been fired by the likes of his cronies for offering honest critique. These guys might find themselves permanent residents of St. Luke’s Institute. “Toxic environment” is dead on. If you want to engage in honest discourse, how about you stop throwing out-and-out hissy fits every time someone disagrees with you? Egomania is a sure way to stop people from engaging in fruitful discussion, Your Eminence! #ResignNow