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.
Also scheduled to present is Dr. Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a theologian at Manhattan College.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.