Q: Is your ad hoc committee planning a consultation with the entire USCCB about implementing "Amoris Laetitia"?
A: It's already done. The committee solicited thoughts and experiences from bishops around the country. That work was completed some weeks ago. The committee report was then presented to Archbishop Kurtz as USCCB president. Cardinal DiNardo, as the new conference president, will presumably act on it as he and conference leadership find appropriate.
Q: Why did you feel it was important to issue pastoral guidelines in your archdiocese that went into effect July 1?
A: Because both the final synod document and Pope Francis in "Amoris Laetitia" encouraged local bishops to do so. Actually you ask a rather odd question. It's more sensible to ask: Why would a bishop delay interpreting and applying Amoris Laetitia for the benefit of his people? On a matter as vital as sacramental marriage, hesitation and ambiguity are neither wise nor charitable.
You'll recall, I'm sure, that I was a delegate to the 2015 synod and then elected and appointed to the synod's permanent council. So I'm familiar with the material and its context in a way that Cardinal-designate Farrell may not be.
"Amoris Laetitia" was issued on April 8. Our guidelines were actually ready by June 1, after consulting our Priests' Council, Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, auxiliary bishops, seminary faculty, and a variety of liturgical, canonical and theological experts, both lay and clergy -- all of whom made excellent suggestions. We waited until July 1 to complete a final review. Other bishops have issued their own guidelines and responses consistent with the circumstances of their dioceses, which only they, as local bishops, know with real intimacy.
Q: Cardinal-designate Farrell has told CNS that he believes that under Chapter 8's guidance, a pastor cannot say to all divorced and civilly remarried: Yes, receive communion. But neither can they say to all: No, it's not possible unless you live as brother and sister. How would you respond to this observation?
A: I wonder if Cardinal-designate Farrell actually read and understood the Philadelphia guidelines he seems to be questioning. The guidelines have a clear emphasis on mercy and compassion. This makes sense because individual circumstances are often complex. Life is messy. But mercy and compassion cannot be separated from truth and remain legitimate virtues. The Church cannot contradict or circumvent Scripture and her own magisterium without invalidating her mission. This should be obvious. The words of Jesus himself are very direct and radical on the matter of divorce.
Q: Do you have any other comments you would like to make?
A: I think every bishop in the United States feels a special fidelity to Pope Francis as Holy Father. We live that fidelity by doing the work we were ordained to do as bishops. Under canon law -- not to mention common sense -- governance of a diocese belongs to the local bishop as a successor of the apostles, not to a conference, though bishops' conferences can often provide a valuable forum for discussion. As a former resident bishop, the cardinal-designate surely knows this, which makes his comments all the more puzzling in the light of our commitment to fraternal collegiality.