Yes, I agree. It is incredible that the competent and capable bishop from Spokane, Wash., diocese was named archbishop-designate of the great Chicago archdiocese. No question about it. Archbishop-designate Blase Cupich is prayerful, intellectually sharp, humble, humorous, balanced, respectful and fearless. Terrific qualities for a bishop and an authentic churchman.
After the news broke, friends emailed me terms like "an episcopal game-changer." Others have focused on Pope Francis' direct handling of the selection process. Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia suggested that U.S. Cardinals Sean O'Malley and Donald Wuerl were joined by Honduran Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga in advocating for the appointment of Cupich to Chicago.
All heady stuff indeed. But for heaven's sake: Let's not put the weight of the future of the entire U.S. Catholic church on Cupich's shoulders. He's one person. Over time, he will either make a minor misstep or misspeak or make a decision that one or more factions of the church will not appreciate. He will no doubt be subject to terrible attacks by certain dissatisfied but loud factions of the church. It's inevitable.
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My advice: Let's catch our breath and realize that reorienting the U.S. hierarchy after 35 years of seriously conservative, dogmatic appointments (with more than a few who have been disastrous or are disastrous) is going to take both time and talent -- especially talent on Pope Francis' part in the identification and selection of future U.S. bishops.
It's also time for other bishops around the country with personal qualities and pastoral sensibilities similar to Cupich to raise their voices at U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meetings and in the public square. Together, these bishops will begin to communicate collectively the fullness and joy of the Gospel to the world and will engage all people, especially those existing out on the periphery of society, with kindness, gentleness and understanding, not denunciations, declarations and litigation.