Earlier this week Giovanni Panettiere interviewed Archbishop Charles Chaput for the Italian publication “Qn” (Quotidiano Nationale) and website Quotidiano.net on issues related to the 2018 synod, which concludes on Oct. 28. The full-text English version of the interview appears below.
PANETTIERE: What’s your opinion of the debates at the synod?
ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT: I think some of the interventions, like those of Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Bridgeport’s Bishop Frank Caggiano, have been excellent. I’m very grateful that Pope Francis encouraged the synod fathers to speak frankly and openly, because that’s the only way to achieve anything useful. Disagreement is a natural part of the synod process. It’s a healthy thing, as long as discussions are conducted in a way that focuses on issues, not personalities, and people are respected.
Overall, the small circle discussions have been friendly and productive. The mood in the synod hall is fraternal. So it’s been a good experience.
Do you continue to think that it would have been better canceling the youth synod in light of the sexual abuse crisis, rather than proceeding with it?
Yes, but the Holy Father makes those decisions based on his own best judgment. The synod can still accomplish a great deal of good. All of us, as delegates, are working to make that happen.
Do you agree with the Vatican’s answer on the Viganò’s dossier?
My experience of Archbishop Viganò as nuncio to the United States was very good. But as I’ve said elsewhere, the current issues between the Vatican and the archbishop are well above my area of responsibility and outside my knowledge.
You’ve been critical of the instrumentum laboris: Are you working to change it?
A lot of delegates are working to change it. The original document had a variety of serious problems and almost no evangelical zeal or confident teaching. It was a social science text, not a proclamation of Jesus Christ to the young. But this isn’t so unusual. Every synod’s original working document is a martyr text. It gets picked to pieces. The final result, whatever form it takes, will hopefully be much improved.
Bishops at the synod are reportedly divided on the value of the web and other digital technologies; are the risks for young people greater than the opportunities?
It’s very important for the Church to understand and use the new social media and digital technologies in her work. They’re powerful tools. But I want to emphasize that word “understand.” Augusto Del Noce – a philosopher I admire and whose work is underappreciated – wrote very insightfully about the unintended impact of technology on our thinking and social dynamics. I hope the synod fathers will focus on some of those deeper issues. Not doing so would be a mistake.
What do you expect from the final document?
What I expect – or what I hope for – is a clear and confident exhortation to young people to follow Jesus Christ.
Have you any fear that this synod will change the Church’s sexual teachings for young people?
No. Some delegates may try to do that with ambiguous language, or in the name of “compassion” or “inclusion,” but it would only result in long-term and very serious conflict. Critics often caricature the Church’s teaching on human sexuality as a collection of “nos.” That’s simply false. The opposite is true: It’s a “yes” to the dignity of the human person. Sexuality links deeply to our identity and purpose as children of a loving God. The Church can’t change what she has always known and taught to be true about life-giving vs. destructive sexual behavior. She would betray her mission if she did.
Do you agree with those who want to give a right to vote to women religious (and in the future, to laywomen) at synods?
It seems logical that a “synod of bishops” should be for bishops. They’re ordained in the apostolic succession; they have the duty to lead; they have a collegial relationship with the Holy Father. But if male religious superiors also have a vote – and that, in itself, should be open for review and discussion — it makes little sense to exclude female religious superiors. Why would we do that? Likewise, if laymen were given a vote, why wouldn’t the same vote be extended to laywomen?
These issues are for another day, but sooner or later, they’ll need to be addressed.
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