Chaput: Family synod must speak to global church, not just West

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Pope Francis shakes hands with Archbishop Charles Chaput as he arrives on the Independence Mall to deliver remarks on the theme "We Hold These Truths," a quote from the Declaration of Independence, in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, on September 26 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CHAPUT-SYNOD, originally transmitted on Oct. 7, 2015.

Pope Francis shakes hands with Archbishop Charles Chaput as he arrives on the Independence Mall to deliver remarks on the theme "We Hold These Truths," a quote from the Declaration of Independence, in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, on September 26 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CHAPUT-SYNOD, originally transmitted on Oct. 7, 2015.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput on Wednesday (Oct. 7) reflected on the debate underway at the Vatican’s synod on the family, stating bishops must recognize global diversity while staying true to church doctrine.

The 270 bishops participating in the synod have been separated into 13 small groups, divided by language, to better debate family issues.

Chaput, who last month hosted the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, said there was concern among members of his group that the synod’s working document did not reflect the “universal church.”


READ: At Vatican synod, bishops want an open discussion on divorce, gays


“Who is our audience? Our audience is huge, and we must address that diversity,” he told journalists at the Vatican. He said the synod is focused on Western issues rather than those faced in African countries and elsewhere.

Although bishops must be aware of the reality faced by their counterparts around the world, Chaput said that did not mean changing Catholic teachings: “It’s not appropriate for individual bishops’ conferences to decide matters of doctrine.”

The Philadelphia archbishop did not participate in last year’s synod, which launched the bishops’ discussion of the family, but at the time spoke out against bishops’ willingness to present a more open church to gay and remarried Catholics.


READ: Pope opens synod, calls for welcoming church but no gay marriage


“I was very disturbed by what happened,” he said last October. “I think confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion.”

A report released midway through last year’s synod showed a more pastoral approach to gay and remarried Catholics, but these paragraphs were stripped from the final synod document after they were challenged by conservatives.

Speaking at the Vatican on Wednesday, Chaput said homosexuality had been mentioned by bishops but was not the “dominant point” of conversation. “We have to be careful with our language so people don’t get hurt, but also we must be faithful to church doctrine,” he said.

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