[Cardinal] George’s sometimes rigid approach to upholding church doctrine, Cupich has spent his 16 years as a bishop often in a more conciliatory mode.” What does this mean? Well, it means the writers still think in liberal and conservative categories, categories that often do not work well inside
the church. Exhibit A – in the very next sentence the Tribune
says that Bishop Cupich was the leader for the opposition to same-sex marriage in Washington state! How then, I simply ask, could this stance equal what they just claimed about the new archbishop? (Cupich will be installed on November 18, 2014.)
I think the most irritating and misleading part of the story the media is telling the public is that of Cardinal George. One reporter says this new appointment represents “the start of an unprecedented transition in the city’s Roman Catholic Church, in which no other leader has lived long enough to meet the man taking his place.” Another reporter refers to Cardinal George’s “sometimes rigid approach to upholding church doctrine.” Citing Cupich’s work on immigration reform the writers for the Tribune again tried to pit Cupich against George as if the new archbishop will be a moderate, loving and open archbishop as opposed to the outgoing one. This is so much nonsense and reveals my central point. The media doesn’t get it. The Catholic Church has not shifted its emphasis on moral theology one iota by this move. There is not one scintilla of evidence for this antithesis.
Cardinal George is one of the kindest, most humane and brilliant men I’ve ever know. He is in no way inflexible or closed-minded. He is, and this is truly important, a faithful Catholic bishop. Does he have a personality and is he innately shy? You bet. But this man is insightful, pastoral and deeply spiritual. Because he has spoken out on several moral issues does not make him an old, out-of-touch, rigidly conservative cleric. Nor does the outgoing personality of the new archbishop make him a liberal. Cupich might be more pastoral in his tone and nuance but he will reflect the teachings of his church in his own pastoral way, not in the way the Chicago Tribune thinks he should or will.
Buried inside these major stories in the September 21 issue of the Chicago Tribune is a lot of great information about both George and Cupich. I have had the joy of knowing Cardinal George as my personal friend the last three years. I hope I will have the same joy with the new archbishop. (Cupich was born in the same year that I was, 1949! I cannot imagine assuming his duties at this stage of my life the more I think about my own aging.)
I pray that Francis Cardinal George will finish well and experience great peace as he struggles with life-threatening illness in the coming days. And I pray that the new Archbishop designate Blase Cupich will be granted a plentitude of grace and love to serve well in the days ahead. Like any great city Chicago needs great spiritual leadership. I believe Cardinal George has been that kind of servant. I also believe the new archbishop will prove to be a fine pastor and leader. I also believe that he will faithfully continue the great work that many of us have done for ecumenism in this great city. Please pray with me to this end if you love the whole people of God.