“We assume that the bishops are well-versed in the writings and thought of John Paul II, and thus know his teachings about marriage and family. But most are not. And many of them have very little grounding in such matters.” This comment is not critical; it is simply truthful. Yes, there are some bishops with an exceptional grasp of John Paul II’s theology of the body and many related matters. Some of them have written erudite works about the same. But more than a few are not only hazy on the details, they have a long distant relationship with the basic doctrines of the Church regarding any number of essential moral issues.
Thus, during the 2015 Synod the Archbishop of Chicago (Blaise Cupich) held a press conference in which he uttered remarks about “conscience” and homosexuality that not only bordered on banal but were quite evidently in complete contradiction to the clear teachings found in Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II’s brilliant 1993 encyclical on moral theology. “The conscience is inviolable,” stated the American archbishop whose record as a shepherd has been mixed at best, “And we have to respect that when they make decisions and I’ve always done that.” Not so fast, responded Saint John Paul II in a twenty-two-year-old preemptive strike:
In their desire to emphasize the “creative” character of conscience, certain authors no longer call its actions “judgments” but “decisions” : only by making these decisions “autonomously” would man be able to attain moral maturity. Some even hold that this process of maturing is inhibited by the excessively categorical position adopted by the Church’s Magisterium in many moral questions; for them, the Church’s interventions are the cause of unnecessary conflicts of conscience. (Veritatis Splendor, 55)