Cardinal Cupich’s counterproductive advice

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 14, 2019

Cardinal Cupich explains why he will not deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians, despite the clear mandate of Canon 915:

I think it would be counterproductive to impose sanctions, simply because they don’t change anybody’s minds, but it also takes away from the fact that an elected official has to deal with the judgment seat of God, not just the judgment seat of a bishop.

Two reasons, then. First, he doesn’t think disciplinary sanctions “change anybody’s minds.” But he can’t really mean that, can he? Because the implication would be that no action should ever be punished— that we should have laws, perhaps, but not legal penalties. Presumably the cardinal is not proposing to abolish all Church discipline. He must be referring to this specific case, and to the likelihood that even if he did deny Communion to politicians, they would continue to support legal abortion.

And maybe they would. But that’s not— or shouldn’t be— the cardinal’s primary concern. It’s not the task of a cardinal-archbishop to lead the political fight against abortion. That’s the work of the laity. It’s the task of the bishop to safeguard the sacraments— among other things, to prevent sacrilege and scandal. Preserve the integrity of the Church, ensure the sanctity of the Eucharistic sacrifice, and let lay Catholics sort out the political implications.

But the notion that the denial of Communion would be “counterproductive” is an argument that we’ve heard before. The second reason given by Cardinal Cupich is less familiar— and less understandable. How would disciplinary action detract from the understanding that the offending party will face God’s judgment? Isn’t that the very point of the canonical provision: to underline the seriousness of the offense, to prod the offending party toward repentance and reform?

Imagine that you have invited X over for dinner on Saturday night. Then Friday night, you catch him cheating on his wife. He’s done something seriously wrong. You know it, and he knows you know it. If you tell him that he’s no longer welcome for dinner, does that somehow “take away from” the fact that he’s guilty of serious sin?

Or look at it from the pastoral perspective. If your little child is getting too close to a hot stove, by pushing him away will you “take away from” the danger of a burn?

And think about it: If the child’s hand is scorched it will be painful, but eventually he’ll get over it. Wouldn’t you be all the more likely to push if you thought he might burn forever?

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 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Jun. 20, 2019 1:01 AM ET USA

    That’s a particularly fine concluding question!

  • Posted by: KC627 - Jun. 16, 2019 8:20 AM ET USA

    Will not Cardinal Cupich himself "have to deal with the judgement seat of God?"

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jun. 15, 2019 2:20 PM ET USA

    Phil, you are correct in your arguments and I am glad you provided them, but arguments work with those interested in the truth. Are some cardinals, particularly if appointed recently, interested in the truth?

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jun. 14, 2019 10:05 PM ET USA

    I don't think since he has been appointed Archbishop and Cardinal that I've heard a single positive thing that Cupich has done.

  • Posted by: MWCooney - Jun. 14, 2019 5:53 PM ET USA

    Do not think that the cardinal and his ilk have gone as far as they will in this blatant obfuscation. Soon, it will be said to be praiseworthy for politicians to rebel against the rigid, archaic, hateful rules conveyed by the Church. And then they'll distract their audiences into focusing on more important issues; you know, "the environment," so-called "social justice," etc. Millstones, millstones. Deus non irridetur!

  • Posted by: Monserrat - Jun. 14, 2019 3:42 PM ET USA

    The malodorous, cacophonous offal continually spewing forth from Eminences Cupich, J. Tobin and their ilk do not deserve comment. Just pray that somehow, miraculously perhaps, they just go away.