Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa, gives his assessment of the Cupich appointment:
September 30, 2014 – While still reeling from the news of the imminent removal of Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the more conservative and traditional Catholicism of the United States – and historically the more “papist” – has been dealt another blow with the appointment of the new archbishop of Chicago.
Francis’ selection of Blase J. Cupich ( in the photo) as the new pastor of the third-ranking diocese in the U.S. has plunged this particularly dynamic component of American Catholicism into a profound depression, almost to the edge of a nervous breakdown. It is enough to scan the reactions of the websites and bloggers of this area to grasp the embarrassment and disappointment over the appointment.
On the contrary, the more progressive segment of American Catholicism, historically hypercritical of the recent pontificates, has celebrated with enthusiasm the arrival of Cupich, called a “moderate” by the secular press, a description typically used in the United States to indicate a “liberal” who may not be radicalized, but is still a “liberal.”
“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.”
George has always been highly critical of the secular tendency in the legislative field established under the presidency of Barack Obama, whom he has known well since he was a senator for Illinois. But it is difficult to imagine that his prophecy will come true, at least for his immediate successor.
His first episcopal see was Rapid City, where he succeeded the conservative Charles J. Chaput. And it was in this tiny diocese of South Dakota that in 2002 he became noteworthy for prohibiting a traditionalist Catholic community from celebrating the Easter Triduum according to the ancient Roman rite, which was later liberalized in 2007 by Benedict XVI with the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum.”
Conservative Catholics also remember that during the clash between the bishops of the United States and the White House over health care reform, Cupich was one of the very few prelates, fewer than a dozen, who said not even one word against it, even though the criticism of Obamacare was not a position of some “extremist” bishops or “culture warriors,” as they are often called in a disparaging sense, but the official position of the episcopate.
After being made bishop of Spokane in 2010, the following year Cupich prohibited his priests and deacons from taking part in prayers in front of abortion clinics. A ban in stark contrast with the “mainstream” of the Church in the United States. The Rosary is in fact recited in front of these clinics in almost all the dioceses of the United States. And dozens of bishops participate in them, including, for example, the “moderate” cardinal of Washington, Donald Wuerl, and the current president of the episcopal conference, Louisville archbishop Joseph Kurtz.
Cupich’s voice – as noted both by conservative Catholics, with distress, and by progressives, with satisfaction – always rings out loud and clear when the talk is of immigration or the death penalty, but he seems to get laryngitis every time there is a discussion of abortion, euthanasia, and religious freedom, or criticism of the Obama administration over health care reform.
Significant in this regard is the fact that Cupich decided to expand the scope of the “Respect Life” office in the diocese of Spokane, to give the fight against the death penalty the same weight as the fight against abortion.
So Cupich seems to be bringing Chicago back to the heyday of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, George’s predecessor, a champion of “liberal” Catholicism in the United States and the creator of the mountainous bureaucratic machine of the episcopal conference, of which he was president from 1974 to 1977 and “dominus” until his death in 1996.
And the Bernardin era seems to be coming back thanks to a move of Pope Francis, who has taken by surprise and wrongfooted an episcopate, like that of the United States, today widely characterized by appointments made by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
That it was a surprise can be noted from the fact that a few days before the appointment the newspaper “Our Sunday Visitor,” the most official of the American Catholic periodicals – its president is the journalist Greg Erlandson, a member of the commission for the reorganization of the Vatican media that met in Rome for the first time last week – in listing eight names of possible successors to Cardinal George did not present the one selected by pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio, that of Cupich.
The fact that the appointment wrongfooted the U.S. episcopate is evident from the results of the elections of the current president and vice-president of the episcopal conference that were held less than a year ago, in November of 2013.
At that electoral cycle, in fact, the ten candidates included Cupich. And his was considered by his colleagues the most distinctly “progressive,” ecclesiasticaly speaking, of the candidacies presented.
So then, at the first round of voting, which saw the immediate election as president of the outgoing vice-president, Archbishop Kurtz, with 125 votes out of 236, Cupich was back in seventh place with only 10 votes.
More ballots went to Houston cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo (25), Philadelphia archbishop Chaput (20), archbishop of Los Angeles José H. Gomez and of Baltimore William E. Lori (15 votes each), and New Orleans archbishop Gregory M Aymond (14).
In the two rounds of voting for the vice-presidency, Cupich was far from being elected, coming in fifth (out of nine) both at the first round, with 24 votes out of 236, and at the second, with 17 votes out of 235.
For Chicago, then, Pope Francis did not take the outlook of the local episcopate into account, unlike for example what he did in Spain, where in Madrid he promoted Carlos Osoro Sierra, who as archbishop of Valencia was elected vice-president of the episcopal conference in the first round last March, with 46 votes out of 79.
Nor does it seem that the pope took account of the recommendations of Cardinal George, who is believed to have asked for a priest of his diocese as coadjutor. Unlike what happened in Sydney, where instead on September 18 Francis appointed the Dominican Anthony Colin Fisher, the protégé of the outgoing archbishop, conservative cardinal George Pell, whom the pope has called to Rome as the “czar” of the Vatican economic-financial apparatus.
Go here to read the rest. So Magister agrees with PopeWatch that Cupich is Bernardin II for Chicago. PopeWatch would really like to able to put a silver lining on this appointment, but except for the diocese of Spokane that Cupich is leaving, PopeWatch can discern none.