Chaput: Pope speaks 'in a new and engaging way'

FILE: Pope Francis (right) and Archbishop Charles Chaput at an audience in St. Peter's Square on March 26, 2014.

This is the text of a question-and-answer session with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

Question: In view of the popular perception that Pope Francis is asking bishops how the church can be more inclusive of persons in "irregular" domestic relationships, and is therefore "liberal," and the perception of you as traditionalist and "conservative" on the church's life and family doctrines, what would you say to those who wonder if you and Francis are on the same page regarding these matters?

Answer: Pope Francis has said nothing that differs in substance from previous popes, but he's speaking about issues in a new and engaging way. So people want to hear what he's saying.

The Holy Father combines two great qualities with unusual skill. He has compassion for people who feel alienated from the church, and he has courage in speaking the truth with love. He condemns no one. He genuinely shares in the sufferings of persons wounded by the hardships of life. This makes his voice deeply appealing.

At the same time, he's also spoken frequently in support of what Paul VI called the "natural family." He showed his support again just last week in Rome with his words at the Humanum conference. A strong family is the greatest source of nourishment for healthy human development and the greatest antidote to poverty and loneliness. He'll bring these same messages of mercy and truth to Philadelphia next year.

Q: So, do you feel you and he are on the same page?

A: Some people waste a great deal of time trying to interpret what the Holy Father "really" means by his actions. He doesn't need narrators. Pope Francis is a man thoroughly grounded in Catholic faith and teaching. I've admired him since our first meeting in 1997. So, are we on the same page? Yes. It's called the Gospel.

Q: What would you say to those who wonder if the tone and message of the Congress of the World Meeting will be more reflective of your style and approach or of Francis'?

A: The World Meeting of Families will deal with a wide range of family issues where our faith is both needed and tested. These are matters that affect families not only here in the United States, but on a global scale - things like the family and poverty, the family and addiction, the family and children with disabilities, the loss of a spouse, and similar.

The message of this congress - and of this papal visit - is rooted in a single word: love. We need to provide content that's not only rooted in love, but will resonate on a global scale. And to do that well, we need to create an event that looks further than reflecting any one person's style or approach. The agenda is the joint work of the Holy Father and our team with the Holy Father working through his Pontifical Council for the Family. So it is not my program but the Holy Father's program.

Q: How useful are the categories liberal and conservative when talking about the church's teachings - or the content of the congress' workshops?

A: They're not useful at all. Terms like liberal and conservative lead to unneeded division. They're politically rooted, and they start from a flawed understanding of who and what the church is. The church is a universal community centered on the love of Jesus Christ. And in that spirit, the Catholic Church and the World Meeting of Families welcome all people of good will.