Cupich/Gómez Spat Reveals Divide in USCCB

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Cardinal Cupich was not happy on Wednesday. He probably should have been; after all, the end of the Trump presidency was supposed to be a joyous day for denizens of the Left like Cupich. But the celebration was spoiled for the most vocal of the USCCB’s left-wing bishops because of a statement issued by USCCB President Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles. Cupich went into a tirade on Twitter, calling it “an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration.” According to Cardinal Cupich, it was issued without the customary “collegial consultation” of the USCCB Administrative Committee by Gómez.

The statement from Archbishop Gómez opens with an assurance that the prelate’s “prayers are with our new President and his family.” If anything, the tone may be a bit too amiable for some. But this is entirely appropriate. We should be praying for Joe Biden, we must pray for Joe Biden. He needs it.

Of course, it’s not the call to prayer that Cardinal Cupich finds so upsetting. It’s the reason why Joe Biden needs our prayers especially (or, rather, the USCCB’s acknowledgment of it) that merits the cardinal’s objection. In Archbishop Gómez’s words: 

“I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”

All things considered, this is pretty vanilla. Yet episcopal responses to the statement were apparently split down philosophical lines, with noted conservative Archbishop Alexander Sample joining heartily in Archbishop Gómez’s message and adding an exhortation of his own:

“As we face the moral, social and political challenges ahead for our nation, I encourage all Catholics to pray for our new president. May the Holy Spirit inspire in his heart a desire and a resolve to serve in the spirit of the Gospel, with a special concern for the most vulnerable among us, including the child in the womb. May God bless this great land with justice, peace and love.”

There’s shouldn’t be much for Cardinal Cupich to object to here. In fact, there’s nothing for any faithful Catholic to object to in either Archbishop Sample’s comment or Archbishop Gómez’s original statement.

When the Emperor Theodosius—a faithful Catholic who made Rome officially Christian—ordered the slaughter of 7,000 innocents in Thessalonica, St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan (where the imperial court was then situated) rebuked the emperor, requiring eight months’ public penance and denying Communion to the penitent until it was complete. Tradition has imagined a physical encounter in which the saint bars Theodosius from the church, depicted in paintings by Rubens and van Dyck. Yet the 7,000 of Thessalonica are slaughtered every two days under a regime that Biden is more than happy to perpetuate—that, in fact, he now has more power over than any one individual. A strongly worded criticism is the absolute least we can expect from a latter-day Ambrose.

There are those—not just Cardinal Cupich and other radicals, but well-meaning moderates too—who will say that Catholic leaders should not create a rift between the episcopate and a Catholic president, instead seeking to collaborate on those areas in which Mr. Biden does not reject the authoritative teaching of Holy Mother Church. But it is the president’s professed Catholic faith that makes a direct response from the Church so vital—not just because the Church has clear authority over Biden on matters of faith and morals, but because the evil he does while touting and flaunting his Catholicism is effectively done in the name of a Catholic faith. The scandal caused thereby is grave, as damaging to the Church’s ability to function as a moral force in this country as it is to this country’s hopes of functioning morally.

In a briefing the very same day that this occurred, Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki was asked by a Catholic journalist what the newly inaugurated president planned to do about the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion, and the Mexico City Policy, which restricts U.S. funding for abortion oversees. Psaki managed not to answer the question, but she did provide us with this gem: “I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that [Biden] is a devout Catholic and somebody who attends church regularly.”

In a saner time, pointing out that the president is “a devout Catholic” in response to a question about the slaughter of innocents would be an obvious, implicit answer against. In our own upside-down world, it’s taken as cover for the fact that our “devout Catholic” president intends to support such evil any way he can. Biden is gearing up for a massive wipeout of the United States’ already meager restrictions on abortion. 

Any time we object, we will be reminded that there is nothing wrong here: the president is no abortion fanatic, he’s a devout Catholic. Already the line has been trotted out more than once, and it will provide ample coverage for the merchants of death during the four years that their Catholic friend occupies the Oval Office.

If there is any problem with the USCCB’s statement, it is precisely the opposite of those imagined by Cupich and other Biden apologists: a stronger stand might have managed to nip such ridiculous gaslighting in the bud.

[Photo Credit: Catholic News Agency]

Declan Leary

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Mr. Leary is the Collegiate Network Fellow at The American Conservative and a graduate of John Carroll University.

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