Quick Hits: mayor judges prelate, the real Archbishop Cupich, confusion in Brazil

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 08, 2016

  • Philadelphia’s Mayor Jim Kenney, who identifies himself as a Catholic, has scolded Archbishop Charles Chaput for confirming the Church’s age-old teaching that Catholics who divorce and remarry cannot receive the Eucharist unless they agree to abstain from sexual intercourse. Prodded by a reporter to comment on the archbishop’s policy, Mayor Kenney tweeted : “Chaput’s actions are not Christian.” Here we have an interesting reversal of roles, which would be comical if it were not taken seriously by some many observers. Archbishop Chaput has the authority to decide who is, and who is not, in good standing as a Catholic in Philadelphia. The mayor has no such authority—and as a Catholic, he should accept the authority of his archbishop. But instead the mayor sets himself up as a competing authority on how Christians should act, and the media treat his pronouncements seriously—in fact, sympathetically. Can you imagine the uproar that would occur if Archbishop Chaput issued a public statement accusing Kenney of un-Christian behavior? This story will play itself out soon, but there is a serious question lurking behind it. Are the mass media prepared to accept the right of political figures to rebuke religious leaders? Watch the dust-up in Philadelphia in the context of a nationwide battle over religious freedom, and notice how that much-touted “wall of separation” seems always to protect the state from (unlikely) interference by the Church, and never the Church from (far more threatening) interference by the state.

  • The news that Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Blase Cupich to the Congregation for Bishops confirms the impression that the Chicago prelate stands at-- or at lest near-- the top of the list of the Pontiff's favorite American prelates. But is he the sort of "shepherd with the smell of his sheep" that the Pope has described as his ideal? Writing in Catholic World Report, Carl Olson has some potentially surprising news for you. Archbishop Cupich was not terribly accessible, even to his pastors, during his previous assignment in Spokane. “Those familiar with Cupich’s schedule and activities say that he was often out of the diocese for long periods of time,” Olson reports. Couldn’t he be described, then, the sort of “airport bishop” the Pope has criticized? And while he is characterized now as a peacemaker, his most remarkable move during his tenure in Spokane was the filing of a scorched-earth lawsuit against the legal firm that had handled the diocesan bankruptcy case. That suit was settled—on terms favorable to the law firm—shortly before the newly appointed archbishop arrived in Chicago. The Cupich case highlights the disparity between what Pope Francis says he wants to see in bishops and the sort of bishops he chooses and promotes. That’s an unsettling reality, in light of the fact that Archbishop Cupich will now have considerable influence over the appointment of new bishops in the US.

  • The Brazilian bishops’ conference has issued a thoroughly confusing statement of “heartfelt gratitude” toward Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto, who has stepped down from his post at the Paraíba archdiocese amid serious allegations that he was guilty of both molesting young men and “connivance” in abuse by others. If he is innocent of these charges, he should not have been removed; if he is guilty, he should not be praised; if the facts are uncertain, the episcopal conference should remain silent until the investigation is complete. We should pray for Archbishop Pagotto, certainly. But under the circumstances, the bishops’ public prayer to “make fruitful the good seeds sown by him” is jarring.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jul. 11, 2016 4:43 PM ET USA

    There was a day when someone asked me if I were Catholic, that shame would force me to say, "Yes. But a bad one." Mayor Kenney, take heed. God cares not a whit for your mayoral opinions of His Law.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jul. 09, 2016 11:34 AM ET USA

    The quick rise of Cupich from obscurity to prominence is a mystery. It seems that nobody in the Vatican bothers to consult with the priests and pastors who are directly exposed to his peculiar style of governance. In Chicago, Cupich is known as being generally inaccessible to his clergy.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jul. 09, 2016 10:05 AM ET USA

    "...who identifies himself as a Catholic." Well said, Phil. Against all reason the millions who vote for those intent on destroying the Church hold themselves up as their own gods. "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven." The repercussions of "Who am I to judge?" will continue to echo through the political corridors that rule those who identify themselves as Catholic, but who do not live, speak, or listen as Catholic. Catholicism is a disciplined way of life as much as a service to God.

  • Posted by: shrink - Jul. 09, 2016 9:15 AM ET USA

    Hearing a farewell instead of an apology betrays a deep shamelessness in the speaker, and those who lack shame have come to terms with evil. Recall Cdl Levada's att-a-boy send-off of Santa Rosa Bp Ziemann. Z was sent away in 1999 for sexual extortion. Levada joined “friends throughout California and beyond in thanking him (Z) for the energy and gifts he has shared far and wide. Our prayers and good wishes go with him.” Good wishes, indeed, since reports emerged that Levada gave Z legal cover.