Cardinal Blase Cupich waded into a debate about how the Catholic Church should interact with gays and lesbians, telling a crowd in Chicago that at minimum they should be called by the phrases they use for themselves.
“We have always wanted to make sure that we start the conversation by saying that all people are of value and their lives should be respected and that we should respect them,” Cardinal Cupich said in response to a question following an address he gave at the City Club of Chicago on July 17.
“That is why I think that the terms gay and lesbian, L.G.BT., all of those names that people appropriate to themselves, should be respected,” the Chicago cardinal continued. “People should be called the way that they want to be called rather than us coming up with terms that maybe we’re more comfortable with. So it begins with that.”
The cardinal’s comments come at a time when some Catholic leaders are considering how to engage the L.G.B.T. community. America editor-at-large James Martin, S.J., argues in his new book Building a Bridge that gay and lesbian people should be referred to by those names, noting that Pope Francis himself has used the term gay.
But critics have said that using those terms in place of phrases such as “individuals who experience same-sex attraction” is a capitulation to secular culture.
"I think that the terms gay and lesbian, L.G.BT. should be respected.... People should be called the way that they want to be called rather than us coming up with terms that maybe we’re more comfortable with.”
Cardinal Cupich, who has emphasized a pastoral approach to questions of sexual morality in a way that mirrors Pope Francis, said that the church teaches that marriage is a union between a man and a woman who bring new life into the world and that “society has a role, it seems to me, in supporting that in a different and qualitative way.”
Later that evening, Cardinal Cupich appeared on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” to discuss gang and gun violence in the city. He declined to comment on anewly promulgated document in nearby Springfield, Ill., in which Bishop Thomas Paprocki told priests that gays and lesbians in same-sex marriages should not receive Communion or be given Catholic funerals.
“That is not our policy,” Cardinal Cupich said, adding, “as a matter of practice, we don’t comment on the policies of other dioceses.”
During the City Club event, Cardinal Cupich touched on a number of issues, including Chicago’s ongoing problem with gun-related violence. Last weekend, at least 11 people were killed in Chicago, including a local anti-violence activist and a 10-year-old boy. The cardinal pledged to continue pushing for “sensible gun restrictions,” including the banning of assault weapons, as well as pledging increased financial support for programs that provide food assistance, after-school programs and job training.
He said the “the destructive force of racism, this great sin, underlies much of what is wrong with society today” and contributes to the city’s woes; he urged an end to segregation in Chicago’s neighborhoods.
When asked about “a crisis of leadership” and how to elect political leaders with “humility and a love of humanity” at the local and national levels, the cardinal said voters have no one to blame but themselves.
“I’ve always said, we’re a democracy; we get the leaders we deserve because we elect them,” he said. “If people have difficulty with those who govern, there is a way in which they can respond and change that. It means let’s not sit back, let’s get involved. Read, get to know the issues and take action.”
(The Chicago Tribune reported that following the event, when asked specifically about President Trump, the cardinal referred to his previous answer.)
Cardinal Cupich, who serves as co-chair of a Catholic-Muslim dialogue initiative sponsored by U.S. bishops, was also asked about Catholic outreach to Muslim communities in the United States.
“Members of the Muslim community here in Chicago and around the nation are afraid,” he said, noting that some parents fear their children could be “easily radicalized” because their faith is not respected in mainstream society.
“This business of demonizing or pre-defining people by the way they look, the religion that they practice or where they came from is not only un-American but it’s going to hurt America,” he said.
During the TV interview, Cardinal Cupich also answered questions about internal church matters. He was asked about “conservatives in Rome who are not happy with the pope,” and he responded by saying that reports of Pope Francis facing resistance from some church officials are overwrought—though he acknowledged there are “voices out there who have a difficult time with the fresh approach that [Francis is] taking.”
A group of four cardinals has publicly challenged the pope for months over a document he wrote that some bishops are using to welcome more people to Communion, including divorced and remarried Catholics. But Cardinal Cupich told Chicago Tonight that the vast majority of cardinals stand with the pope.
“I would say that every pope has had people within his administration who have had difficulties one way or another with his administration,” he said. “The Holy Father knows that he has the support, however, of the vast majority of the people who work in the Holy See and of the cardinals.”
There was at least one question on Monday that Cardinal Cupich refused to entertain, employing a diversion tactic favored by President Trump. At the City Club, the cardinal was asked about a front-page story in Sunday’s New York Times, in which Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark and Cardinal Cupich were described as “breathing fresh air into the American Catholic Church.”
When asked his thoughts on how his goals differed from “the old guard,” the cardinal simply smiled and said, “Fake news!”