Cardinal Cupich launches “Amoris Laetitia” seminars for US bishops

Among the several theologians to present at the upcoming seminars are a former national board member of Call to Action and an advocate for the ordination of women priests and for the approval of artificial birth control.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago speaks Nov. 13, 2017 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Denver, Colo., Feb 12, 2018 / 04:05 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of Chicago has invited some U.S. bishops to a series of conferences on the 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The seminars will be held at three Catholic colleges later this month.

According to a letter obtained by Catholic News Agency, the meetings, dubbed “New Momentum Conferences on Amoris Laetitia,” are designed to offer a “tailor-made program that goes from why Amoris Laetitia provides New Momentum for Moral Formation and Pastoral Practice to how to provide formative pastoral programs.”

“The aim is to gather fifteen to twenty Bishops to have a conversation with the aid of theologians on the related topics,” the letter said.

The letter, written by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, explains that the conferences are modeled after a seminar of bishops and theologians discussing Amoris Laetitia held at Boston College in October 2017.

“The seminar treated the full document giving particular focus to its reception in the multi-cultural and diverse environment that characterizes the Church in the United States,” Cardinal Cupich wrote.

“Both the bishops and the theologians universally agreed that our two-day seminar was an exercise in synodality, a walking together in which the Church both taught and listened. In fact, in keeping with the counsel of Pope Francis at the start of the 2014 synod, the Boston College participants spoke with candor and boldness, parrhesia, but they also listened with humility,” the letter explained.

The letter said that Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery on Laity, Family and Life, encouraged and endorsed the upcoming conferences, which will be held at Boston College, the University of Notre Dame, and Santa Clara University.

The upcoming seminars come in the wake of a speech given by Cardinal Cupich Feb. 9, at the Von Hügel Institute, at St. Edmund College, in Cambridge, England.

In that speech, Cardinal Cupich said that “Pope Francis is convinced of the need for a new ministerial approach to families as he looks at the challenges facing families in today’s world.”

He added that “some people misinterpret and misunderstand Amoris simply because they fail or refuse to take into account the present reality in all its complexity.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Archbishop Wilton Gregory are scheduled to speak at the upcoming Boston College seminar. Cardinals Joseph Tobin and Blase Cupich will present at the University of Notre Dame. Bishops Steven Biegler and Robert McElroy will present at Santa Clara University, according to the invitation.

Several theologians and a canon lawyer will also present at the upcoming seminars.

Among the theologians is Dr. Kate Ward, a professor at Marquette University. From 2012-2015, Ward was a national board member of Call to Action, a group that has called for the ordination of women to the priesthood, expressed support for same-sex marriage, and said that the Church should re-evaluate its “position” on the use of artificial birth control.

From 2006-2009, Ward served as a national board member of Call to Action Next Generation, a youth affiliate of the organization. She chaired that board from 2008-2009.

In 2006, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, then-prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, wrote that Call to Action’s activities “are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint. Thus to be a Member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith.”

Also scheduled to present is Dr. Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a theologian at Manhattan College.

Imperatori-Lee was also a presenter at the October seminar at Boston College. At that seminar, she criticized the Church’s “infantilization of the laity,” saying that “lay people are infantilized by a logic…where pastors serve as gatekeepers, offering permission for sacraments, rather than as counselors who accompany laypersons on their sacramental journeys.”

In a 2015 interview with the podcast Daily Theology, Imperatori-Lee described the late theologian and University of Notre Dame professor Fr. Richard McBrien as a mentor. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “McBrien advocated the ordination of women priests, an end to mandatory celibacy for priests, moral approval of artificial birth control, and decentralization of power in the church.”

In a 2016 essay in the magazine America, she wrote “any claim that there are only two kinds of humans, male and female, is simplistic.”

Msgr. Jack Alesandro, a canon lawyer from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, also presented at the Boston College seminar, and will present at the upcoming conferences.

At the 2017 seminar, Alesandro said that Amoris Laetitia “as a whole supports the idea that as time passes, sacramental marriages become more sacramental and therefore more indissoluble.”

Alesandro also said that Amoris Laetitia suggests new thresholds for the validity of consent to sacramental marriage. The document suggests “a superior capacity and resolve of the will is required of those entering sacramental marriage than of those entering a non-sacramental union,” he said.

He said the exhortation “is challenging judges in a tribunal process to discover whether both spouses, including the man, were at the time of the wedding truly capable at the time of tenderness in the sense described by the pope, the tenderness of a mother cradling her infant.”

“Spouses must be capable of entering a lifelong adventure, and able to renew it constantly if they are to exchange consent validly. It requires that they be friends on the journey. While they do not start out whole and complete, we know that, they must at least be able to grow into this vocation. If they’re incapable of that growth, or they’re really not committed to it, I don’t think they’re validly married, at least, not the Christian marriage.”

“Canon lawyers may find it difficult to get their juridical mind around love, if their thinking has become overly legal, which is another way of saying ‘secularized,’” he said.

According to the invitation, “there will be other theologians who will be invited to participate at one or more of the days.”

During his Feb. 9 speech, Cardinal Cupich said that Pope Francis has introduced a set of “hermeneutical principles” – principles of theological interpretation – that “force a paradigm shift” in the Church’s work with families.

Among the aspects of such a paradigm shift, Cupich said, is “rejecting an authoritarian or paternalistic way of dealing with people that lays down the law, that pretends to have all the answers, or easy answers to complex problems, that suggests that general rules will seamlessly bring immediate clarity or that the teachings of our tradition can preemptively be applied to the particular challenges confronting couples and families.”

Cupich further discussed the importance of discernment in conscience. The “voice of conscience—the voice of God…could very well affirm the necessity of living at some distance from the Church’s understanding of the ideal, while nevertheless calling a person ‘to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized,’” he said, commenting on an excerpt from Amoris Laetitia.

The cardinal said that a pastoral, not “merely doctrinal,” approach is needed in work with families, because “the conscience based Christian moral life does not focus primarily on the automatic application of universal precepts. Rather, it is continually immersed in the concrete situations which give vital context to our moral choices.”

The result of such a pastoral approach, Cupich said, “is not relativism, or an arbitrary application of the doctrinal law, but an authentic receptivity to God’s self-revelation in the concrete realities of family life and to the work of the Holy Spirit in the consciences of the faithful.”

Further, the cardinal said, “doctrinal development is about remaining open to the invitation to see our moral teachings on marriage and family life through the lens of God’s omnipotent mercy.”

“Doctrine can develop as a result of the Church’s merciful accompaniment of families because God has chosen the family as a privileged place to reveal all that the God of mercy is doing in our time,” he added.

The cardinal concluded by saying that a failure to approach questions related to marriage and family life with a “holistic approach” has “led some critics to misinterpret and misunderstand Amoris. Instead of actually attending to the present reality of people’s lives today in all of its complexity, they limit their scope to an idealistic understanding of marriage and family.”

The letter inviting bishops to the upcoming conferences explained that transportation costs would be covered by “foundation grants.”

The Boston College event was sponsored by the Jesuit Institute, the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Cushman Foundation, Healey Foundation, and Henry Luce Foundation.

According to its tax forms, the Cushman Foundation provided the Archdiocese of Chicago a $12,300 grant in 2015 to fund periti, or theological experts, to the Synod of Bishops on the Family, in which then-Archbishop Blase Cupich participated.

The Henry Luce foundation has given at least $600,000 in grants to Commonweal Magazine since 2005, it has also given grants to a number of Catholic universities and theology programs. In 2007, it gave a $25,000 grant to the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, according to grant listings on the foundation website. It also gave a one-time $9,500 grant in 2015 to the Archdiocese of Chicago “to support communications during the Ordinary Synod of the Roman Catholic Church.”

The foundation’s website says it “seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.”

The Luce Foundation’s Theology program gives grants to “advance understanding of religion and theology.”

“Particular attention is given to work that rethinks what theology is and reimagines its contemporary significance; to research that creatively examines received assumptions about religion, secularity, and public culture; and to projects located at the intersections of theological inquiry and the multidisciplinary study of religion,” the foundation’s website says.

Sources told CNA that the USCCB is not involved in the New Momentum Conferences.

The Archdiocese of Chicago did not respond to questions before deadline.

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  1. First we are told AL is a misunderstanding, then no big deal, then a paradigm shift, and now we have *national tours*…

    To what, reach all the faithful who are estranged and barred from communion?

    Is it just me?

  2. Proverbs 31:6
    ” 6
    Give strong drink to anyone who is perishing,
    and wine to the embittered;
    When they drink, they will forget their misery,
    and think no more of their troubles.


    If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, who is not espoused, and taking her, lie with her, and the matter come to judgment: [29] He that lay with her shall give to the father of the maid fifty sides of silver, and shall have her to wife, because he hath humbled her: he may not put her away all the days of his life.
    The father could reject the man….but….if accepted, they married. Other Jews were allowed to divorce….the premarital couple ( other versions has them as being discovered….consensual and she did not yell out for help)…they were “punished” with the first Catholic like marriage vow.

    • That’s punished in quotes. In reality they were shown a great mercy by God by signing the future Catholic marriage when non annullable.

  3. This is a Vatican friendly persuasion program for the recalcitrant on the pastoral premise of Amoris Laeritia, communion for D&R. All the Bishops presenting the seminars are already persuaded. Even once orthodox Archbishop Wilton Gregory Atlanta, a presenter said that “The pope’s vision was being embraced by those responsible for pastoral care. ‘It has received the stamp of pastoral authenticity from those who know the territory,’ calling the exhortation a document that doesn’t gloss over tough problems and challenges while remaining ‘a proclamation of hope through the mercy and grace of God’” (Commonweal Oct 2017). Ironically “A confidential letter was sent by then CDF Prefect Cardinal Ratzinger to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Bishop Wilton Gregory that stated ‘no eucharistic communion for the politicians who systematically campaign for abortion'(L’espresso, June 2004). For obvious reason prelates Aquila Denver, Tobin Providence, Conley Lincoln, Molino Madison, Codileone San Fran, Sample Portland OR were likely told they need not apply to be seminar presenters.

  4. Since the voice of conscience is the voice of God…mine says that Cupich is a heretic and I can safely ignore everything he says. See how it works? How can he enforce his view except by…force? I suspect that Cupich would have no problem using his authority to force his priests to toe his line. I guess mercy does have its limits.

  5. If this is not one more step in dismantling the St John Paul II legacy, I don’t know what is.
    Welcome to mainstream Anglicanism, RC style.

  6. “…the present reality in all its complexity.”

    So there is a present reality that overrides past reality in reference to the eternal and unchangeable God?

    God help these men who are leading the flock through the wide gate and along the broad way to destruction.

  7. While painful to endure, the Francis Pontificate has unintentionally allowed us to see the true colors of many of our prelates. This is good because now we known who to listen to and who to avoid. The schism is here. Personally, I’m giving up guys like Cupich for Lent. Play your games guys; enjoy your new paradigm (religion). I choose to keep the Faith of my grandparents and their parents before them. In other words, I choose the old Faith.

  8. This nightmare will not end until Catholics stand up and protest the dismantling of their Church by heretics. I would love to hear Archbishop Sample attend one of these and rebut the arguments presented. Oh wait I forgot, now logical argumentation is just a white male construct.

  9. Well, these will be “Crackpot Conventions”. Note the same old people are behind it. Presumably, these are the only bishops in the US that endorse the odd program of Pope Francis
    3. Tobin
    5. MacElroy
    These are also the same ones that endorse the homosexual program of Father James Martin.

    These are the same left wing Theologians that push the Martin agenda and appear with him all the time. Imperator-Lee is his buddy. Of the 428 active bishops in the US, it’s always these same five or so, pushing the agenda. Not a very good showing. Most bishops will not endorse AL or the very bizarre interpretation of Catholicism that these people endorse.

    • Oddly, the National Catholic reporter claims that 47 Bishops will be attending the seminars. Then, they say that “The three seminars — to be held Feb. 19, 21 and 23 — are being kept private.”


      They are having secret sessions on AL? Well, either they are just lying about the supposed 47 bishops, (a distinct possibility, since the earlier article said they hoped to get twenty bishops) or they don’t want to allow anyone who is not “on their side” to attend, or let the world knows what goes on in these seminars. Very bizarre. Secret societies shamefully sharing their Amoris Laetitia secrets with the elect. Unbelievably bizarre.

    • Yes, the theologians who are supposedly attending these seminars are quite a bunch… on record with their erroneous teachings. The nightmare continues…

  10. All seminaries will be emptied, like Cupich and Bergoglio emptied out the ones they ran in Argentina and Spokane.

    I wouldn’t trust my children in a room alone with these disbelievers.

  11. Since when does one single document – Amoris Laetitia – suddenly have the power to override everything the Church has ever taught about marriage, human sexuality, fitness to receive the Eucharist and everything else?
    Can a schism be far behind?

    • The schism is not something that is in danger of happening or about to happen. The schism is here and has been here for several years. A schism, like a demon, comes in on little cat’s feet. Cui resistite, fortes in fide.

  12. One can only hope that Catholic Bishops will stay away from this event in droves. It is high time for Bishops, instead of gathering in the company of theologians whose primary pursuit is almost always the futile pursuit of fathoming the unfathomable God, instead gather in a state of personal abandon in the company of the unfathomable God to engage in the vulnerability to Him required to allow Him to speak to them for Himself. In this manner, it is genuine knowledge of God which is obtained and not the useless and false promise of understanding Him.

  13. At what point will orthodox canon lawyers revisit the violations of canon law in the election of Bergoglio? It looks like Bergoglio, if he continues on his present course, will himself provide proof that he simply cannot be a genuine pope. Maybe that will be the impetus for canon lawyers to do so.

    The positive proof he may himself provide will be this: A genuine Successor of St. Peter cannot signal his approval of the destruction of the universality (catholicity) of the essentials of the belief and practice of the Catholic Church, either explicitly or by his silence.

    If behavior that is gravely contrary to the teachings and tradition which have been preserved by the Holy Spirit within the Church for millennia is blessed and/or approved of in one diocese, but is appropriately still considered a mortal sin in another, the universality of the essentials of the belief and practice of the Church is being destroyed, which is to say the Catholic Church is being destroyed. A genuine Successor of St. Peter simply will not tolerate this.

  14. Amoris Laetitia is just the table setting for all the rebellious bishops to sit down together. Rebellious bishops have always been around but now they have the venue over which to associate and join forces. “Momentum” is a good name for this conference because these bishops know that they have it; and they are no longer afraid to use it.

  15. Please print the names of all bishops attending the Cupich dog and pony show. We want to know who to keep a very wary eye on in the future.

  16. The sub culture that produced so much carnage in the Church in the 60s and 70s is now to be an uberculture welcomed in the Church as civil rights heroes of the sexual revolution. When I returned to the Church in 2007, I thought the hierarchy had learned their lessons. But no … Heartbreaking …

  17. My my my…the vision of Pope Leo VIII sure seems more and more validated. Bad idea to box with God tho. HE always wins in the end.

  18. Amores Laetitia (and why has this encyclical retained its Latin title instead of the English translation ‘The Joy of Love’?) was not written by Pope Francis sitting in a cave without any input from others. It was written as a summary of a world-wide consultation with both laity and bishops. It regularly refers to the findings of ‘the Synod Fathers’. It also regularly refers to Church teaching on marriage and specifically states that it is not challenging this teaching. Perhaps its attitude can best be summed up in the quote ‘The Synod Fathers stated that, although the Church realises that any breach of the marriage bond “is against the will of God”, she is also “conscious of frailty of many of her children.
    To all the commentators above, can I request that you read the WHOLE document, not one footnote. Please also remember that the devil’s favourite tool is ‘divide and rule’ and make sure that you are not unwittingly doing his work for him.

    • To Jane Coll: What about all the good cardinals, bishops and priests who have read the entire document AL and find it wanting? Also, pay attention to what is being said by those prelates who support AL as they speak on other topics important to the Faith. They seem to be re-writing the Scriptures and the history of the Church. Talk about being divisive. I want my Faith back. Enough already!

      • but no one is taking it away from you! None of the fundamental teachings of the Church have changed. All this soul-searching and agonising is just about a suggested modification of the attitude taken to those sinners (i.e. you and me) who struggle to achieve the perfection that the Church rules are guiding us towards. Some of us fail in some areas, others fail in other areas. We all fail somewhere. If we expect a compassionate attitude from our confessor towards our weakness in e.g. sins against charity, should we not expect an equally compassionate attitude towards sins of the flesh? AL is all about helping people to move in the right direction, nowhere does it say that no movement is necessary.

        • After writing that comment, I found a sentence in AL that is worth quoting – ‘In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur.’ (para 307)
          I also remembered a priest who have refused to baptise illegitimate babies (and actually using the word ‘bastard’ to the mother)and a priest who told an abused wife that she had made her choice and had to live with it. Perhaps it is these attitudes that Pope Francis and the other members of the Synod are trying to change. Are they wrong in doing so?

        • To Jane Coll: Yes, we are all sinners. We go to Confession and confess our sins and make a firm intention to amend our lives and not to commit the sins we confess again. Does AL allow for this? I think not.

          • Of course it does. That is the ideal to be aimed at.However it acknowledges (quoting the Catechism) that, while something is objectively sinful, the culpability of each individual depends on their specific circumstances. Murder is always wrong but murdering in order to steal is worse than murdering in self-defence. So adultery just for the thrill of it is worse than being in a second marriage that is not recognised by the Church. I remember being on a retreat week-end with a lady who was thinking of coming back to the Church after a long gap. Her first husband had been abusive but her parish priest told her that she could not apply for an annulment. Her second husband was good to her and to her children. When we went to Mass, she sat in the bench watching me go up to receive Holy Communion with such a look of longing on her face that I was almost in tears. She could not ask her husband to live as her brother – he was not a church-goer and did not understand the issues involved. For her to leave him would have broken her heart and his and would have deprived the children of a loving father. So the sensible, caring thing for her to do was just to forget about re-joining the Church or to find one that did not penalise her for being a wife and mother. Is this really what Jesus would have wanted? Remember that AL says that people in irregular situations must accept that they are in a sinful state and must be willing to move as much as they can towards a greater approximation to the ideal. In my example, could the lady not have been allowed the help of the grace received in Holy Communion on the understanding that she would regularly re-asses her situation as her situation changed e.g. when the children grew up/her husband developed a better understanding/whatever?

  19. My comments under Bishop Barron’s column are context for this: while the Church cannot prevent all divorce among its parishioners, it has done nothing, NOTHING significant since 1965’s Gaudium et spes, no. 46 (marriage & family as one of the “Problems of Special Urgency”) to stem the tide. The American Bishops named the 1980s as the “decade of the family.” Many diocesan offices were opened or expanded, and just as many closed or reduced since. But a chancery office cannot renew marriage. That’s the work of pastors in parishes (see canon 1063), something which St. John Paul exhorted in Familiaris consortio, nos 65-71 which was ignored, except for the hopfeul pastoral manual “A Family Perspective in Church and Society (1988, 1998). From what I can tell, all these bureaucratic “actions,” along with white papers, focus groups, etc. resulted in more documents and defenses of marriage, but no plan of action to adopt St. John Paul’s prescription to accompany couples through their life cycle (for which engagement, infant baptism, first reconciliation, first Eucharist and confirmation align very well). Reminds me of the 7 last words of the church: “we’ve never done it that way before.” Meanwhile, Cupich arises in the vacuum created by such inaction, complicating what is already a pastoral challenge before Francis took his seat on the Chair. So I pray, hope, raise a voice…St. John Paul termed marriage “the primordial sacrament.” For me, it’s renewal is necessary for an organic renewal of the Church, and its mission of evangelization.

  20. Pride of place accorded to “theologians” from “Call to Action” and and advocates for the ordination of women priests and for artificial birth control. While he’s at it he might as well invite Cardinal Marx and James Martin SJ to extoll the virtues of rectal intimacy.
    Its all cut from the same cloth.
    Cardinal Cupich has erected an altar in the desert of secular materialism to the idol of personal notions, his and those who share them.
    This is utter fraudulence.
    Where was Blase Cupich hiding during the last two pontificates with these boldly contrary view points? He was wearing a mask. In place when necessary, off when it worked for him.
    What kind of man does that?
    What kind of priest persists in pastoral practice when he does not hold the perennial Magisterium of the Church in his heart?
    Hubris on steroids.

    • James: I think God is revealing all the sins in the Church starting at the top so that the purification can take place. I believe God wanted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to resign and allowed the pontificate of Francis to get the work done. I believe that our beloved Pope Benedict said somewhere that our Church would one day be a much smaller Church. I think he said this before he was elected to the Papacy. Read paragraph 675 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church….before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers… the mystery of iniquity in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.. There’s more. Please refer to these paragraphs 675-677 in the Catechism.

      • And Sister Lucia, one of the Fatima children, said that the final battle between Christ and Satan would be about the family. With Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis has brought this battle over the family within the Church.

  21. Why have so very, very few Bishops spoken out against all this distortion of dogma? If they do not, the Church as we have known it will shatter in schism. Where are the voices of the solid Bishops? One commentator said there are some 428 active bishops in the US. Doubt that since there are only 190 dioceses, some of which have auxiliary bishops, but even so where are the 150 or so who may be faithful?

    • Perhaps because they do not think that it is a distortion of dogma? Perhaps they are perfectly happy to leave their parish priests to apply the rules in a compassionate and merciful way, taking into consideration the individual circumstances of their parishioners.

  22. If Cardinal Cupich does not already have enough funds for the conference, I suggest that he gives a call to Mr. Soros, I am sure he will be very happy to contribute.

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