So, earlier today I happened to see an interview with Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich with the headline, ‘The Pope Has a Bigger Agenda’: Cardinal Cupich. You can watch the very brief interview here.
I found it a bit staggering, and tweeted out a response. I didn’t want to be disrespectful, but…
Yes, the environment, migrants, etc are right concerns of the church, but right now we have an arterial wound bleeding out, affecting the faith/trust of millions. That needs to be our first concern.
— Elizabeth Scalia (@TheAnchoress) August 28, 2018
Cupich’s remarks were so surprising that even Twitchy, a secular site monitoring Twitter, took notice, and pointed out that the Babylon Bee, a satire site, had (in a manner of speaking) anticipated such a response by a few weeks.
Because I am forever a daughter of St. Philip Neri, who said, “All of God’s purposes are to the good, and although we may not always understand this we can trust in it,” (the lesson of the crucifix), I am hopeful that something good will come from this iffy interview.
The reactions to Cupich’s remark have been hot; people hate it. I’ve only seen a few attempts by folks to defend it by saying some variation of “I suspect he only meant the rabbit hole of the Vigano letter…” (See Update – ES)
Well, if that’s what he meant, he might have tried: The pope has a bigger agenda; he wants to pull out the systemic root of corruption, so we’re not going to go down the Vigano rabbithole. Because we want to deliver justice to victims, an investigation will be launched…
Something like that? Better? I think so. Deflecting, playing the race card is neither helpful nor pastoral. On social media I’ve been pretty outspoken about glaring weakness in the Viganò release, but this answer stinks.
There should be nothing on the pope’s agenda that is bigger than the crisis that affects the church in America, in Australia, in Chile, in Honduras, in France, and probably elsewhere. If we do not address and repair the arterial bleed that is the Church’s systemic corruption, worldwide, we will not be a healthy enough church — or a Church with enough moral authority — to speak effectively on the environment or anything else.
Although my warmth is growing chillier, I’m no “Francis hater”, and I know there are ideological factors at play here that complicate things and may even have the pope’s back up a little — perhaps he doesn’t want to feel manipulated, or be seen as bending to a crowd he doesn’t much care for. That’s a human response, and we can all identify with it, but the Holy Father will have to get past it, because he is not only Jorge Maria Bergoglio he is Peter. His absolute first priority needs to be tending a wounded flock and leading the church into wholeness through the pursuit of both Mercy and Justice.
I don’t think I am alone in feeling like he is failing on the defining issue of our time.
A friend has said, “I don’t think one man, or one papacy can fix this.” I agree. But it is absolutely incumbent on Peter, in every iteration, to preserve the health of the flock, to work toward fixing what is broken within the pastures, so they are safe and to feed them with food of Jesus Christ. This must be his first priority or all else fails.
It must be his first priority, because Jesus charged him to it:
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)
I dont believe this bleed-out can’t be staunched, but regaining the trust of wounded Catholics, and the world, is going to take decades, and the effort must begin immediately.
I talk to people every day whose hearts are broken, who — if they are not already staying away from worship and the Eucharist — are thinking about leaving. How can Peter feed the sheep if they are too ill, or too disgusted, to come and eat?
Catholics are beginning to see no point in following untrustworthy shepherds. They wonder why they should when the shepherds are corrupt and not looking out for them. Some are beginning to wonder if the shepherds even believe, anymore, in the pasture, or in the food. “If these shepherds truly were in love with Jesus, and wished to serve him,” they think, “they would never do what they have done, or they would make right what they made wrong.”
The Catholic people want Jesus, in spirit and in the Flesh. They want the consolation of the Eucharist, and the fellowship of the rest of the sheep. They can certainly get that at Mass, but — stupid sheep — they also want the awesome experience of falling into the hands of the living God. They want real-time models of faith who challenge them to live better, love better, pursue heaven with vigor. They cannot get that at this moment, with the shepherds and the pasture, in such a state.
You shepherds of the Church, don’t deflect from the most crucial issue facing the Church at this time. Rise above the culture wars. Serve Christ first. Pursue justice for the victims. Root out evil.
Otherwise, may God help you, because the weight you will be carrying into eternity, as Christ asks you “Did you feed my sheep; were any lost while under your watch?” is going to be heavy beyond comprehension. As I wrote elsewhere, do the right things, and we’ll have your backs. We’ll pray for you.
I have no idea whether the Cupich interview inspired this, but the editors at the Jesuit publication, America, just put this up: Pope Francis must lead on the sexual abuse crisis.
UPDATE:For the sake of fairness, here is the full interview with Archbishop Cupich, so you can see his remarks in context. He says some good things, some meh things, some odd things, and went out of his way to emphasize the environment, etc (all unbidden) twice, which suggests a talking point/priority to me. I’m not sure it’s improved in context, but your mileage may vary.
In any event, I don’t think it makes my sentiments here any less valid. What we face is urgent, and the culture war stuff is hurting us. I know there are destructive ideologues all about. The shepherds must rise above it.
UPDATE II: Bishop Cupich’s statement on the video.