PopeWatch: Cupich




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.”

Cupich’s predecessor, Cardinal Francis E. George, had written not long ago in a column for the diocesan newspaper:

“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.

In order to understand this, it is enough to peruse even briefly the ecclesiastical career of the new archbishop of Chicago.

Cupich, 65, is not originally from Chicago, like George, but from Omaha, in the outlying rural state of Nebraska.

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.


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  1. Silver lining:
    7 “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.”
    Ezekiel 34:7-10

  2. I know you abide in the Chicago Archdiocese Donald. My prayers and best wishes go with you, your family,, the Church in Chicago and your new Archbishop

  3. Actually, Botolph, Don & I live in the Diocese of Peoria. (Which was in the news recently over that ruckus about Ven. Fulton Sheen.)

  4. Don

    It is probably good that the dead cannot sue for libel. Your referring to Archbishop designate Cupich as Bernardin II is most unfair to the deceased Cardinal.

    For better or worse his personality and strength of character made him the defacto head and spokesman for the US episcopate; whoever was keeping the official seats warm.

    I doubt that Archbishop designate Cupich will ever be in that league. I more suspect he will be steam rolled by the progressive elements in and out of the church to say nothing of the “Chicago Machine”.

    Please note: I agree with you completely on the net value of Cardinal Bernadine’s tenure both in Chicago and for the national church was for the worse.

    Pray for your neighbors by the Lake.

  5. There is just one possible silver lining – that there are enough hardened, stubborn people in the Chicago Archdiocese that can make life as difficult for +Cupich as he will for them.

    I really thought that either Bishop Tobin of Providence or Bishop Zubik of Pittsburgh would be headed for Chicago. + Tobin would have been someone Pope Benedict would have considered – he is nobody’s fool and confronts the local Culture of Death that Pope Francis prefers to have “dialouge”with. + Zubik is Polish (would have been a plus for Chicago) and was previously bishop of Green Bay, where he invited in the FSSP and is far friendlier to traditional Catholics than + Wuerl ever was.

  6. I’m in Chicago. I am not happy about the appointment.

    But let him come. We are ready to meet him at the gates.

  7. 3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

    4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

    5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

  8. I more suspect he will be steam rolled by the progressive elements

    The Holy Father elevates about 10 cardinals a year. This is not the Bishop of Woolongong, appointment rubber-stamped. The responsibility for this mess goes right to the top.

  9. I have had a couple of occasions to interact with appointments that were not well inspired, in those cases it was a priest. The attitude I took was somewhat different than I read above. The situation was simple, we were a mission and needed to become a parish. I asked what was the plan, how could I help, and what else was needed. These poorly chosen clerics were never able to answer my questions and when the failures became evident tried to cast blame on the laity. I had the opportunity to reply and said that things would be different if a plan had been laid out and that offers of help would have been taken. Also, I always reiterated that even yet it was not too late and would happily help if attitudes changed going forward. I was sincere.

    I left no escape. The priests were replaced. I was sad to see each one of them go.

    So perhaps Cupich is a bad appointment, perhaps not. I am too far away to judge. Get the goal on record, get the plan on record, sincerely do your best for the Church. If the appointment was inapt, there will be failure. Leave no escape allow for blame shifting. Sorrow for the failure of the shepherd to grow into the stature the office demanded. If the appointment was correct, be happy you were wrong and take joy in your own part of the success because it will be your success too.

  10. Inspiring and hopeful message TNLutas. It is hard because wrongs don’t get righted until after poor appointments in parishes and dioceses have a bad, and long-lasting effects on individuals and on particular churches.
    There are just too many of these “bad appointments”! and they network – Cupich is friends with Jenkins at Notre Dame…

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