In an Oct. 19 interview, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that despite an implied assertion in America Magazine over the weekend, no synod father is an “opponent” of Pope Francis.
“If the welcome we gave Pope Francis in Philadelphia last month looked like ‘opposition,’ people need a trip to a really good eye doctor,” the archbishop told CNA, adding that Pope Francis “has explicitly invited candor and open discussion.”
On Oct. 16, Archbishop Chaput published an article in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “How to Read the Vatican Family Gathering.” Two days later, America Magazine ran an article referencing the “Pope’s Opponents” and cited Archbishop Chaput’s column.
In addition to responding to that article, Archbishop Chaput also spoke at length during the CNA interview on pornography, calling it a “kind of cheap junk food” that is built on illusions and robs men and women of an authentic relationship.
The full transcript of the interview with Archbishop Chaput is below:
CNA: During these weeks, one issue that synod fathers appear to voice increasing concern over is pornography. How big of a problem is this as it relates to the family?
Pornography’s always been a problem. Ancient Rome was famous for it. Sex is powerful and fascinating, and people have always abused its appeal. But modern technologies make it a lot easier to access and much, much more widespread. It’s an epidemic; or more accurately a pandemic. Anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world can find all the porn he or she wants. And note that word “she.” Pornography used to be a largely male problem. Today, many women use it as well.
Porn does huge damage to families. It isolates individual family members by creating private sexual obsessions. And it wrecks the intimacy between husbands and wives with notions of “perfect” sex that bear no relation to real human beings. It’s a terrible cheat. It steals the richness of a long term, mutually rewarding sexual friendship between husband and wife, and it substitutes a shabby replacement that can never really feed the human heart.
By the way, porn also damages the larger family of the Church. The number of our Catholic clergy who struggle with this problem is very unsettling, and it has nothing to do with celibacy. Married Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis have the same issues.
In Western secular media, the synod seems to have been reduced to the two issues of communion for divorced and civilly remarried, and Church teaching and pastoral care regarding homosexuality. If pornography is truly a global epidemic, would it stand to reason that it’s a more relevant topic to a synod on the family, versus the two aforementioned issues?
There’s an old Roman saying that hard cases make bad law. In other words, sensible leaders make laws for the norm, informed by the ideal – not the exceptions. A synod on the family should logically focus first on intact families trying to live their Catholic faith, raise their children well, and deepen the love between husband and wife. These families – and we have many millions of them in my country — need support and encouragement from the Church. They also deserve some sincere gratitude and praise for their efforts.
The divorced and civilly remarried, and persons with same-sex attraction, need the help of the Church as well. No one should diminish the importance of their needs. The cornerstone of the Church, though, is healthy families open to new life. If we neglect them, if we don’t make them our first priority, then we cripple the witness of the Church in the decades ahead.
The harm done to women via pornography — and its direct connection to human trafficking — is something that’s getting mainstream validation. But we hear less about porn’s effect on men. What’s your view?
Porn demeans the best in the male spirit. It addicts them to a kind of cheap junk food, when real women with minds and hearts, beliefs and hopes, are much more interesting. Happiness is built on reality, with all of its warts and joys — not on illusions. Pornography is nothing but illusions.
Christian men are meant to have a little bit of knighthood in their hearts. The world makes fun of purity, but a clean heart and mind are the foundation of a man’s courage. And men who want to be what God intends them to be need courage, because their job is to provide, to protect, to teach by example, and to lead by putting the people they love before themselves. Pornography undermines all of that.
Do you find that other language groups are concerned about this issue? What do you hope the synod accomplishes in this regard?
I don’t know enough bishops in other language groups to offer an opinion. And the synod has so much material to cover that pornography probably can’t be a significant focus. But I think all the synod fathers would see pornography as both a symptom and a contributing cause of many of today’s marital problems.
Just two final questions: First, in an interview with Cardinal Wuerl, America Magazine placed you in a list of the “Pope’s opponents.” Is that the case?
If the welcome we gave Pope Francis in Philadelphia last month looked like “opposition,” people need a trip to a really good eye doctor.
Second, what do you think would be at the base of such claim?
The Holy Father wants a collegial environment for the Church. He has explicitly invited candor and open discussion. I believe he means what he says. It would be very strange for any bishop to doubt that; or for anyone to discourage or mischaracterize an honest difference of views among the synod fathers. That’s especially true as it applies to cardinals. One of their main jobs is to offer their best counsel to the Pope. So I suppose you need to ask America’s editors why they ran their story. The reason escapes me.