NY Times: Pope sets tone in U.S. with “inclusive prelate” for Chicago

NY Times: Pope sets tone in U.S. with “inclusive prelate” for Chicago September 20, 2014


Their take on the big news from Saturday morning:

Pope Francis’ choice of prelate for Chicago was highly anticipated as a sign of the direction he intends to set for the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Chicago is the nation’s third-largest Roman Catholic diocese, with 2.3 million members, and its archbishops have often taken leading roles in the American hierarchy.

Bishop Cupich appeared at ease in a news conference on Saturday morning in Chicago, deftly handling questions about whether he would call himself a “moderate” and what message Francis may be trying to send with the selection.

“His priority is not to send a message but a bishop, and that’s what he’s sending you, someone to serve the needs of people,” Bishop Cupich said. “I think he sent a pastor, not a messenger.”

Very early into his prepared remarks he shifted into Spanish, the language of a growing percentage of Chicago’s Catholics, saying they should think of him as “your brother” and relating that his relatives were immigrants. He gave a strong push, in English, for immigration reform, saying, “It’s time for political leaders to put aside their own agendas and to take up this issue.”…

…He spoke out against a referendum on same-sex marriage in Washington State in 2012. But even before Francis became pope, Bishop Cupich and he sounded much alike. Bishop Cupich emphasized care for the poor and dispossessed, and on hot-button moral issues he employed a tone that emphasized respect and dignity for gays and dialogue with those who disagreed with church teaching.

In a pastoral letter before the vote on same-sex marriage, Bishop Cupich wrote that “the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility towards homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity.”

Some liberal Catholic commentators and groups, like Call to Action, which is based in Chicago, praised the appointment, while some conservatives were a bit wary. They recalled an experience in 2011 when priests and seminarians said Bishop Cupich had urged them not to join protesters planning to hold prayer vigils outside clinics that perform abortions.

In a brief interview on Saturday immediately after the news conference, Bishop Cupich was asked whether his approach to ministry is to emphasize dialogue over confrontation. He said the church should be willing to confront social issues head-on, but also to listen to opponents.

“I’ve learned from people on both sides of any issue,” he said. “So both are needed: dialogue and, I think, confrontation at times. I’m not afraid of that.”

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