Archbishop Blase Cupich commended Pope Francis Friday for rejecting the church’s emphasis on black and white rules for the faithful and encouraging individual conscience as a guiding principle.
“This is not a slippery slope,” Cupich said shortly after Francis’ “The Joy of Love” document was released. “It’s a way forward.”
In the 256-page document, Francis addresses controversial issues within in the church, including gay marriage, divorce, contraception and other topics.
Though Francis makes no change in church doctrine and strongly upholds that marriage is a lifelong commitment, he makes clear that he wants nothing short of a revolution in the way priests accompany Catholics. He said the church must no longer sit in judgment and "throw stones" against those who fail to live up to the Gospel's ideals of marriage and family life.
“I welcome this document,” Cupich said. “The message is clear. Family life is a gift.”
On thorny issues such as contraception, Francis stressed that a couple's individual conscience — not dogmatic rules imposed across the board — must guide their decisions and the church's pastoral practice.
"We have been called to form consciences, not replace them," he said.
The document's release marks the culmination of a divisive two-year consultation of ordinary Catholics and the church hierarchy that Francis initiated in hopes of understanding the problems facing Catholic families today and providing them with better pastoral care.
“People respond to the Gospel the best they can,” Cupich said. “There are no easy recipes. The Pope is urging a responsible reaction from Pastors on a case by case basis…even if someone is falling short of an ideal, God is still gracing us. The goal is integration into Church life.”
In footnotes, Francis cited his previous document "The Joy of the Gospel" in saying that the Eucharist "is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak."