A week ago, we reported here the puzzling remarks made by Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich regarding Catholic membership in labor unions. Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, has plenty more to say regarding Cupich, the formation of one’s conscience and membership to unions. In Crisis Magazine, Gregg first tells readers what Cupich recently said when questioned about someone being in the state of sin and receiving Communion:
While recently discussing the question of whether those who have (1) not repented of sin and/or (2) not resolved to go and sin no more may receive communion, Archbishop Cupich stated: “If people come to a decision in good conscience then our job is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I’ve always done that.” Referring specifically to people with same-sex attraction, he noted that “my role as a pastor is to help them to discern what the will of God is by looking at the objective moral teaching of the Church and yet, at the same time, helping them through a period of discernment to understand what God is calling them to at that point.”
Gregg refers to this sort of thinking as “subjectivity of truth:” it’s hedging with a smidgen of truth in an attempt to please everyone. Cupich did much the same when speaking about labor unions:
Alongside a defense of religious liberty, most of the Archbishop’s address simply reiterated Catholic social teaching about unions. Perhaps it wasn’t the occasion to say such things, but absent from Archbishop Cupich’s remarks was any reference to the numerous caveats stated by popes—such as those detailed by Blessed Paul VI (who no-one would describe as a gung-ho anti-union capitalist) in his 1971 apostolic letter Octogesima Adveniens (no.14) and Saint John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens (no.20)—concerning the very real limits upon what unions may do. Unfortunately, modern America is awash with examples of what happens when unions (in collusion with business executives who go along to get along) ignore those limits, as broken cities such as Detroit know all too well.
This misunderstanding of what “conscience” is and how it is formed is a problem for many, not just Cupich. However, when Joe Catholic gets it wrong, it’s bad; when an archbishop gets it wrong, it highly damaging. Gregg:
Without prioritizing of the continued teaching, clear explanation, and articulate defense of the apostolic tradition on faith and morals and its implications for our consciences by those charged with that responsibility, there’s a serious risk that any accompanying will degenerate into effective affirmation of that which cannot be affirmed and an exaltation of subjectivity over truth.
And that is of no service to anyone, especially the least among us.