The archbishop, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke to reporters Oct. 15 about the process of recommending amendments to the midterm report, which Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo delivered two days earlier.
Erdo's address stirred controversy inside and outside the Synod hall with its strikingly conciliatory language toward people in situations contrary to Church teaching, including divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, co-habitating couples and those in same-sex unions.
Following the cardinal's address, the 191 Synod fathers split into 10 discussion groups organized by language. Kurtz was one of 18 bishops in his English-speaking group. The archbishop said his group completed its work that morning, a half-day ahead of schedule, and had arrived at its recommendations with "great unanimity."
Kurtz said the group's proposed changes had three basic purposes: "to highlight the importance of the witness of sacrificial, loving families today," to encourage a missionary spirit of "reaching out and accompanying people, starting where people are," and "to locate clearly our pastoral avenues and pastoral outreach ... within the beauty of sacred Scripture and our Church teaching."
Asked about the midterm report's call for the Church to recognize the "positive reality" of non-marital unions when they reflect "authentic family values," the archbishop said his group had sought to "refine and clarify what that means."
When the Church reaches out to someone, he said, it begins by "pointing to positive elements that are already in that person's life or that person's relationship that will accompany them. It's not a way of denying but rather it's a way of amplifying the beauty of our Church teaching."
Kurtz said his group agreed that "we have to do a better job" in proclaiming Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI that affirmed the prohibition of contraception, as a "'yes' to the gift of faithful love that's open to life."
In response to a question about particular challenges facing American families, the archbishop said "our biggest problem is that individuals in the United States are tempted to feel that they are the mercy of statistics" and often buy into a "self-fulfilling prophecy of doom" about their marriages. Americans need a "sense of inspiration," he said. "We need that to live full lives, to live loving lives with others."