US Bishops Defeat Death
There's genuine surprise across the Catholic internet today as news breaks that the strongly pro-life Joseph Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City, beat quasi-catholic Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, to be the next head of the U.S. bishops' pro-life efforts yesterday.
The Catholic Herald reports the story with the telling headline: The bishops voted for Archbishop Joseph Naumann over the cardinal, who is seen as a 'Pope Francis bishop'.
This is because Cupich has been twice promoted by Pope Francis: to Archbishop of Chicago, and then to the College of Cardinals. He has also been appointed to the influential Congregation for Bishops. Before this Pontificate, he was known as the bishop who asked priests and seminarians not to pray outside abortion centers and who locked Catholics out of their parish during the Easter Triduum to prevent them from holding Traditional Latin Masses. The parish was forced to conduct its Good Friday liturgy on the sidewalk.
In voting for Archbishop Naumann the US bishops have broken with tradition as the committee has been led by a cardinal since the mid-1980s. Many commentators are genuinely surprised by this turn of events and are reading much into the USCCB voting against Cupich for the leadership of their pro-life committee.
What is surprising is that this really is a sensible choice, and Catholics have grown weary of the bishops consistently making the wrong choice. The way this was lined up it seemed obvious that Cupich was a shoe-in for the job, but Naumann won the vote 96 to 82 in the end.
Cardinal Cupich has a reputation for being right on the ragged edge of recognisable Catholic teaching and his rise through the ranks has thus been worrying and confusing. He has placed abortion at the same level as other social issues, writing:
“We should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighbourhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice.”Cupich has also called dodgy Jesuit Father James Martin the “foremost evangelizer” of youth. Martin is one of the most vocal pro-gay priests in the Church. He says same-sex couples should be able to kiss during Mass, that opposing same-sex “marriage” is akin to racism, and that same-sex attracted priests should “come out.”
Archbishop Joseph Naumann, by contrast, has argued that
“issues that involve intrinsic evils – direct attacks on human life, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, or direct attacks on the institution of the family (for example, a redefinition of marriage to equate with same-sex unions or cohabitation) – must assume a moral priority. While all issues are important, all are not equally important from a moral analysis.”Some observers, such as Christopher white of Crux, had framed the Cupich-Naumann vote in advance as a
“referendum on both the conference’s approach to pro-life policies and Pope Francis”.However, the editor of the Catholic News Agency, JD Flynn, tweeted this after the vote:
Well based on record, I can't see how anyone could think Cupich would be a good fit for this post, so it is worrying that he got 82 votes! Flynn also noted that there were 34 abstentions by his own unofficial count of the house. 212 bishops participated in practice vote. 178 voted.Vote marks the first time since 1980 that a cardinal was not elected to chair pro-life committee. CNA has talked with bishops who emphasize this is not a referendum on Francis. Bishops voting for both candidates told me it was only about trying to discern the best fit.#USCCB17— JD Flynn (@jdflynn) November 14, 2017
It would seem blindingly clear that when a cardinal is not elected to a position like this there's a reason: in this case what it means to be prolife. Cupich is a papal point-man in the US and his brand of prolife was thoroughly rejected by this vote. As Pope Benedict recently put it: