Cupich says we should all just pack up

Cupich says we should all just pack up April 7, 2017; By Goat_Girl [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

that is, if Chicago-area churches aren’t actively involved in anti-poverty programs in the city.

(Per a press conference a couple days ago, as reported by the Tribune:

With the blessing and prayers of Pope Francis, Cardinal Blase Cupich on Tuesday pledged a quarter of a million dollars to support grass-roots anti-violence initiatives and announced more parishes would invest in social services and youth programs to reduce poverty and violence throughout the city.

“If we don’t do this as a church, we might as well pack up,” Cupich said at a news conference at the Peace Corner Youth Center in the South Austin neighborhood, which was founded 15 years ago by a Catholic priest. “This is what we should be doing.”)

Sorry, but this rubs me the wrong way.  Our parish is in the red year after year.  Partly as a consequence of the rise of none-ism (at our CFM group we hear frequently of empty-nester parents discouraged that their kids have left the church), perhaps as a result of changing demographics, attendance is down considerably.  Last year we had a big mandated capital campaign the lion’s share of which was designated for the Archdiocese and urban parishes, and, though I can’t back this up with numbers, it certainly seemed that our already emptier-than-the-should-be pews emptied out just a little more after weeks of homilies asking for money.

For suburban Catholics, it generally isn’t feasible to actively go into the city to help with anti-poverty or anti-violence programs.  Most suburbanites would make crappy mentors to inner city youth, because that requires interpersonal skills that we just don’t have, and, even if we did, we simply can’t spend our time driving an hour each way to get to the violent/poor parts of the city.

So the Cupich ask is financial, whether it’s direct or indirect (e.g., being told/required to contribute more to the Annual Catholic Appeal, if more funds are planned to be used for these sorts of programs rather than the usual funding of Pastoral Center ministries).

And, in principle, he’s right — but he’s also got things backwards.  You can’t demand that your Catholic flock meet your aspirations for social justice activism and charitable donations, if you can’t at least start by inspiring your flock to stay put in the first place.

Now, maybe he would say that, if only we suburban parishes were more active in social justice ministries we’d boost our overall participation levels, attendance, and collections, but none of us have any clue how to get there from here.  We talk about this in our CFM group – what can we do about the dwindling numbers?

It almost seems as if it’s easier for him to dig into these sorts of social justice efforts than it is for him to address the question of dwindling membership, so he’s just trying to will the latter problem away — because I haven’t seen any indicator that he’s actually interested in evangelizing.  (His Renew My Church initiative seems to be really more a matter of a business reorganization than a matter of inspiring spiritual renewal.)  Instead, I have the feeling that he doesn’t really care about anything but social justice issues.


Image:; By Goat_Girl [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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