'Moderate' Bishop will head Chicago archdiocese

Pope Francis has named the Bishop of Spokane, Blase Cupich, to become archbishop of the Chicago archdiocese, according to an AP report.

The Chicago archdiocese is the third largest in the US and one of the most influential in the nation.

Daily Herald:

Cupich will succeed Cardinal Francis George, according to a person with knowledge of the selection who spoke Friday on the condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly. George, 77, has had cancer and has said he believes the disease will end his life.

The Archdiocese of Chicago has scheduled a news conference for 9:30 a.m. Saturday in Chicago. A spokeswoman for the archdiocese would not comment.

Pope Francis' choice for Chicago has been closely watched as his first major appointment in the U.S., and the clearest indication yet of the direction he will steer American church leaders.

Cupich -- his name is pronounced BLAZE SOO-pich, ABC 7 Chicago reports -- is a moderate and is not among U.S. Roman Catholic bishops who have taken a harder line on hot-button topics. Francis has called the church's focus on abortion, marriage and contraception narrow and said it was driving people away.

An official from the Diocese of Spokane said he could not comment.

Judith Dzieglewicz, a member of the teaching staff at Our Lady of the Wayside School in Arlington Heights, said she does not know anything about the new archbishop but said, "I'm grateful that someone has been appointed so that Cardinal George can have time to work on getting well."

As for his replacement, she said she hopes he follows the example of Pope Francis, "so that we all learn to become like Pope Francis, clergy and laity alike."

"I see Pope Francis as one who is truly living the way Jesus wanted us to live. He just seems to embrace and love everyone regardless of their stature in life," she said.

Father David F. Ryan, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Zurich, said he would like to see the Archdiocese of Chicago continue to reach out to people.

"The Archdiocese of Chicago touches so many lives," Ryan said. "And this voice of the new archbishop continues with the voices of all in its history, and that is to make Christ known.

"Cardinal George did it in his time here and did it well. And the new archbishop, Blase Kupich, I'm confident and hopeful that he'll continue in that same voice."

The Vatican has strongly backed US clergy who have objected to Obamacare's contraception mandate and has rejected the president's efforts to give US religious groups an "out" so that they don't have to "directly" pay for contraception. Cupich apparently supports these efforts although he wants to tone down the rhetoric:

In a 2012 essay in the Jesuit magazine America, Cupich said the U.S. bishops "rightly objected" to the original narrow religious exemption in President Barack Obama's requirement that employers provide health insurance that covers contraception. But Cupich called for a "return to civility" in conversations about religious liberty and society.

"While the outrage to the (government) decision was understandable, in the long run threats and condemnations have a limited impact," Cupich said. "We should never stop talking to one another."

Cupich has his heart in the right place, but such tactics would undoubtedly encourage the administation to steamroll Catholics on the issue. The bishops and other clergy are in a bare knuckle political fight and Cupich should recognize that.

Otherwise, Cupich appears "moderate" not so much in substance as in style. He still opposes gay marriage and abortion but, like Pope Francis, he wants to dial down the rhetoric and seek to persuade the opposition, not condemn them. His main focus will likely be the poor of Chicago - many of whom are Catholics. Blacks and Hispanics make up a sizable portion of Chicago's Catholic schools, the largest private school system in America and Cupich can be expected to reach out to poor neighborhoods.


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