The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC) holds a key function to provide insights, opinions and input to Francis Cardinal George from the perspective of Catholics throughout the entire archdiocese. The APC consists of pastoral council representatives from parishes throughout Cook and Lake Counties representing the Archdiocese of Chicago. APC members are active in their parishes and deaneries. They contribute input received from local discussions as well as their own perspectives. Also, insights, responses and opinions are provided by standing committees of the APC who meet prior a General meeting.
The Cardinal met with the APC on January 11, 2014 to discuss and reflect upon the second question he asked the APC to bring to their parishes, deaneries and committees: “The Church is in the world, but not of the world. More and more, the world seems to stray further from the Church and its teachings. What are ways people in the Archdiocese react to calls from the world that the Church must change?”
During their discussion of the issue, the APC delegates surfaced three predominant responses of people in the Archdiocese to the Cardinal’s question. 1. Run and Hide. They generally agree with the Church’s position on moral issues, but don’t engage others publicly because of a sense that they do not know the basis of the Church’s positions and cannot respond intelligently when questioned. There is also the fear of being labeled as bigoted or hateful by those of the world who do not agree with the Church’s moral positions. 2. Ignore the Church’s positions. Go along to get along and agree with the world’s belief that the Church needs to change to conform to societal changes. 3. Respond. Vigorously engage those in opposition to the Church’s moral teachings and defend the Church’s positions. March for Pro-Life, picket abortion clinics, write letters to the editor and politicians; get involved in the political process and make their views known.
There is a need perceived for more adult formation and catechesis to empower the laity with the tools they need to defend the moral positions of the Church without fear. The need for effective communication was stressed as being as important as or more important than education. Pastors need to listen to their parishioners and engage in loving dialogue with those of opposing viewpoints. The Church needs to change its approach in dealing with opposing views. Pope Francis is leading the way in this with his loving outreach and caring, non-judgmental attitude while still stressing the unalterable truths of the faith. The Church needs to more vigorously tell its story and the good that it has done for two thousand years to change the world’s perception of who we are.
FRANCIS CARDINAL GEORGE RESPONDS
After the delegates presented their views, Cardinal George gave his reaction and feedback to the discussion. He started by thanking all in the Archdiocese for the work put into the celebrations of his 50th Anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. He stated that the Church in any time and place has never fit in completely with society; the Church is a different voice because she sees the world through the lens of Revelation. We need to have a clear understanding of who we are as Catholics because of both our relationships and our personal choices. People today are more and more defining who they are by their personal choices rather than their relationship with God. Life is becoming more and more shaped by personal choices and religion is not supposed to get in the way. Society has a certain amount of animosity toward the Church and the media wants to put the Church in boxes that fit their own agenda. The church is not a collection of individuals, but a people who rely on both God and human reason. He stated that Pope Francis, though in a tradition bound office, is acting freely to change the style, substance and pastoral approach to moral issues while trying to explain that the Church is a “different voice.” There is concern that with recent changes in law (in Illinois as regards same-sex marriage) that the Church is put outside the law and is therefore going to be put under legal restraints. We need to create a forum for dialogue with political and other leaders. The Cardinal ended his remarks by expressing his gratitude for the discussion of this issue and he related how grateful he is for his priesthood.