Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego called for an end to “cultures of exclusion” that he argued continue to “alienate all too many from the Church or make their journey in the Catholic faith tremendously burdensome”.
Writing in America, he called for new approaches to the marginalised, women and the LGBT community.
“Bringing the peripheries to the centre means constantly endeavouring to support the disempowered as protagonists in the life of the Church,” McElroy wrote.
“It means giving a privileged place in the priorities and budgets and energies of every ecclesial community to those who are most victimised and ignored.”
He called for special attention to the voices of “the homeless, the undocumented, the incarcerated and refugees”.
McElroy noted that virtually every national synod report mentioned the ways women are excluded from the life of the Church.
“One productive pathway for the Church’s response to these fruits of the synodal dialogues would be to adopt the stance that we should admit, invite and actively engage women in every element of the life of the Church that is not doctrinally precluded,” wrote the cardinal.
He voiced support for ordaining women to the diaconate.
Addressing inclusion of the LGBT community, McElroy questioned the emphasis on sexual sins as a barrier to eucharistic fellowship, and the distinction between sexual orientation and activity.
“[T]he church must embrace a eucharistic theology that effectively invites all of the baptised to the table of the Lord, rather than a theology of eucharistic coherence that multiplies barriers to the grace and gift of the eucharist,” he wrote.
“Unworthiness cannot be the prism of accompaniment for disciples of the God of grace and mercy.”
He added: “in pastoral practice we have placed [sexual activity] at the very center of our structures of exclusion from the Eucharist. This should change.”
Conservative Catholics criticised McElroy’s article. Writing in the National Catholic Register, Fr Raymond de Souza insisted on the traditional distinction between orientation and activity that McElroy had question.
“That distinction may not be the ‘principal focus’ – the principal focus is always God’s love and mercy – but the distinction is pastorally essential,” de Souza wrote.