The accusations of Cardinal Cupich: name names, please

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 09, 2018

In his latest column for the Chicago archdiocesan newspaper, Cardinal Blase Cupich—who styles himself as a champion of civil dialogue within the Church—lashes out at people who disagree with Pope Francis:

For this reason, it is not surprising that we occasionally hear voices, unfortunately often expressed in print and broadcast media claiming to be Catholic, who criticize Pope Francis for introducing topics such as discernment, dialogue, mercy, gradualness to help us understand better our Christian lives.

Is that the way the cardinal proposes to “accompany” people who are “at the margins” of the Church? By questioning whether they are really Catholic—and going on to speculate about whether their thoughts are motivated by fear or by a failure to believe in the Resurrection?

But beyond that, I have two more questions:

  1. Yes, there have been people (myself included) who protest when terms like “discernment” are used to camouflage an unwillingness to call a sin a sin, and a scandal a scandal. But those are complaints about the way these words are used—one might say misused. But who are these people who criticize the Pope for introducing those terms into the discussion? Name one.
  2. And by the way, which of those terms did Pope Francis introduce? Cardinal Cupich himself mentions that Pope Benedict XVI spoke of “gradualness”—although the cardinal gives a highly tendentious rendering of the retired Pontiff’s thoughts on the subject. The words “discernment” and “dialogue” appear in the 50-year old dictionary on my desk. And I seem to recall reading something about “mercy” in the Bible.

Do I sound angry? Yes, I am angry—at the tactics of those who, while speaking in lofty terms about open dialogue and respectful debate, do their utmost to impugn the motivations and question the good faith of those who disagree with them.

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 See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Bveritas2322 - May. 17, 2018 2:34 PM ET USA

    When did Pope Francis introduce discernment, dialogue, mercy, and gradualness? These have been a part of Catholic terminology for thousands of years. At the risk of being called a Francis "critic," Francis has abused these ideas to undermine an orthodox moral theology. The only thing he has "introduced" is moral relativism: "We musn't apply the moral law mechanically," and ambiguous support for pro-life values by his praise of mass murdering abortionists.

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Mar. 11, 2018 10:33 PM ET USA

    But let us not let our anger get the best of us. "Be angry, but do not sin," was Paul's very wise counsel. Let us not become bitter or descend to mere bishop-bashing, but turn to fasting and prayer and trusting that Jesus Christ is still Lord of His Church.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 11, 2018 10:27 AM ET USA

    Perhaps Card Cupich attempts to change the doctrine by a simple change in phraseology? But, unlike the Vicar of Christ, Card Cupich does not enjoy a comparable level of respect to be able to afford to ignore critics of that sort of technique.

  • Posted by: MatJohn - Mar. 09, 2018 7:28 PM ET USA

    Paraphrasing a politician of the not too distant past- Anger in affirming truth is no vice. Semantically challenging settled doctrine is no virtue.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Mar. 09, 2018 11:59 AM ET USA

    And Mr. Lawler, you are right in being angry. I am proud of belonging to the "Angry Catholics Group", a group whose numbers are increasing. Your presence confirms that I am in good company.