Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Michael Sean Winters thinks Cupich is the Cat's Meow

I received the wire about 2:00 AM. It was Guy Noir - Private Eye again, clearly distressed:
As the songs says, "Listen I don't want to bother you but I'm in distress..."

Michael Sean Winters thinks Cupid is the Cat's Meow.

With that as context, read the following, and ask yourself, "Is it really conservatives who are distorting the situation that is solidifying itself under Pope Francis?" Are they really being melodramatic when they sense a sea change, or are their critics being disingenuous when they dismiss such concerns?

It all reminds of of the early 80s, when liberals derided the phrase "Culture Wars." Madonna was simply harmless risqué pope and Buchannan was uptight. 30 years we have Beyonce's "Blow" and "No Angel," and Billy Graham is regarded as a homophone. And liberals now have no problem claiming the exact same phrase they earlier found silly, when they tell us we have lost the culture war.

As usual, appearances are what they seem, despite all the "Nothing to See Here!" Witness this impossible nice reality check:
His reference was to an article by Douglas Kries, "Bishop Cupich: A View from Spokane" (The Catholic Thing, September 24, 2014) [emphasis and comments by G.N]:
Now that he has been named archbishop of Chicago, many people have expressed interest in Bishop Blase Cupich’s time as bishop of the Diocese of Spokane. I should make clear that I barely know Bishop Cupich on a personal level. I am only a Catholic layman in the diocese of Spokane. I do, however, hold an endowed chair in “Christian Philosophy” at Gonzaga University, serve as academic advisor to Bishop White Seminary (an undergraduate college seminary at Gonzaga), and am a former director of Gonzaga’s small Catholic Studies Program. Gonzaga University is, primarily, a school of approximately 4800 undergraduates that calls itself Jesuit and Catholic and that operates within the Spokane diocese.

First, the good news: Not long after he was appointed to serve as bishop in Spokane, Cupich delivered a talk at Gonzaga as part of “Ignatian Heritage Week.” His lecture was devoted to the work of Christian Smith, an accomplished sociologist who is the director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.

Professor Smith’s work is vast [and problematic if one is the least bit theologically aware beyond general assumptions of the establishment -- but I guess that is an impossible hope] but he is especially deft at using sociological tools to chronicle the inability of Christian parents and educational programs, including Catholic ones, to pass on the practice or even the mere knowledge of Christian faith to young people in the United States. In his presentation, Bishop Cupich seemed quite convinced by Smith’s analysis of our current and ongoing crisis. [And he would be, not being a parent himself. Otherwise he would know what Smith misses -- convinced and faithful parents usually do not fail to pass on faith, even if the kids later repudiate it. There is no mystery to what works, despite endless knots of endlessly conversing cardinals can't see].

This means that Cupich recognizesthat there are very serious problems within the Catholic Church and within Catholic education in the United States. But Cupich may be unaware that after his appearance, Ignatian Heritage Week was taken over by Gonzaga administrators and that ideas such as Smith’s have hardly been featured during Ignatian Heritage Week ever since.

Not long after Cupich became bishop, the Gonzaga administration gave permission for the Vagina Monologues to be performed on campus. This was widely perceived – if never openly stated – as Gonzaga’s repudiation of former president Fr. Robert Spitzer. (Spitzer had refused such permission.) In the uproar that followed the approval of the Monologues under the new Gonzaga regime, it came out that Cupich had given his own approval for the performance.

It has been said that Cupich received promises from university administrators that the performance of the Monologues would be framed in some sort of proper educational context [Cardinal Dolan, call your office!], but in the event the educational context turned into plenty of radical feminist bashing of, among others, the Catholic Church and her bishops. In any case, whatever his intent, the upshot of Cupich’s decision was to undermine the position of traditional Catholic scholarship at Gonzaga.

Bishop White Seminary at Gonzaga, which was nothing short of an extraordinary success story until Cupich became bishop, fell quickly into desuetude after his arrival. Moreover, when Gonzaga University refused to continue club status for Gonzaga’s campus Knights of Columbus council, Cupich, it is widely whispered, told the remaining seminarians not to discuss the matter with the press. It has also been widely reported that Cupich did not want his diocesan priests involved with certain pro-life groups that he considered too strident. Cupich may not even know it, but at the time, students involved with Gonzaga’s Right to Life Club felt abandoned, even though they were not his direct target.

I once wrote to him expressing in particular my concerns about the direction of Gonzaga’s core curriculum. His reply was polite, but he made it quite clear that he had no interest in involving himself in such matters. Gonzaga adopted, and is now planning to implement, a core curriculum that diminishes the number of courses that students take in “Catholic or Christian religion” from three to one.

The formerly required course on the Bible is being eliminated and the course in applied Christianity, which often in practice meant Christian morality, is being changed to world religions. Gonzaga students, many of whom belong to Cupich’s diocese, will soon be devoting only a single semester course in four years of college (3 out of 128 credits, or 2.34 percent) to the study of “the Catholic or Christian religion.”

The local Spokane newspaper describes Cupich as “a moderate who has called for civility in the culture wars,” since he has said that Pope Francis doesn’t want “ideologues.” From what I can tell, the description is inaccurate. Real moderates engage all sides, trying to find common ground, if it is available, that will permit them to advance their principles. By not inserting his office into conflict situations, Cupich has often, whether intentionally or not, quietly ceded much ground to one side, and without advancing his principles.

To be fair, Cupich was willing to debate publicly a local city councilman about legalization of same-sex marriage. Still, on the whole, the record is hardly a bold one. And one wonders: if he comes across as too timid to be effective in the small, rather polite, and humble diocese of Spokane, what are his chances to be effective[or noticeably orthodox] in a large, muscular, broad-shouldered place like Chicago?

My advice to Catholics in Chicago? Your new archbishop is a very nice man; he is also very intelligent and talented. I respect him far too much to flatter him, as many of my fellow Spokanites are wont to do. And I refuse to believe that he really thinks that those of you trying to defend and advance the Church in the public forum are just “ideologues.” But he tends to be – to use a polite phrase – “conflict averse.”

We send him to you with our prayers and our charity. He’s got a very big job now, and he is going to need you to involve yourselves robustly in the struggles of the Church in Chicago if he is going to be successful. [Even if he doesn't want your Idealogue-Types' robust help!]


Fagan the Wise said...

This does not sound good.

Anonymous said...

Under the new regime, we are all Protestants in the sense that we can't count on the hierarchy to have our back. Cupich is not any different in that regard.

What interests me, however, is Guy Noir's remark: "And [Cupich] would be [convinced by Smith's analysis], not being a parent himself. Otherwise he would know what Smith misses -- convinced and faithful parents usually do not fail to pass on faith, even if the kids later repudiate it. There is no mystery to what works, despite endless knots of endlessly conversing cardinals can't see.

Would Guy Noir care to elaborate? I am all ears.

Chris said...

I am pleased that I don't have Pope Francis' job, or his advisors.

As of this morning, I'm pleased that I don't live in Chicago.

Anonymous said...

Guy Noir responds:

Dr. Blosser,

Wary as I am of adding to my late night wire or revisiting the ship's telegraph office, I'll risk the blowback.

I mean this: Even a decent academic like Smith obscures the obvious with a snowstorm of stats. There *is* no mystery as to what works, since it is proven generation after generation: converted hearts sharing their faith in a context where young people see it lived out. This is hard to make happen at CCD. Families provide the proven environment, even if they are fragmenting. In their absence, strong one-on-one relationships. That does not make CCD pointless, but the endless studies and conversations abut *everything* in the Church of the 21st Century to my mind reflect a similar trend seen in American federal bureaucracy. Policies and programs are seen as the answer versus individual effort. Intervention from large organizations and grand schemes that will provide the answers. Lots of commotion and lots of attempts to feel good about the outcome.

Does anyone really think we need a “Synod on the Family”? What we need is for pastors to teach the Truth clearly and to counsel people with prayerful concern and in keeping with Catholic doctrine. And if that needs a Synod to explain, well good grief. If people follow teaching, very good, but if they don’t, that does not mean our approach is necessarily a failure. Obedience and rebellion are both human options. If the truth is being discarded, I am not of the opinion an enticing presentation of Theolgoy of the Body is suddenly going to be a game-changer. Catholic secuality is a hard road, period. A narrow gate.

But we insist on studies, trends, and grand gestures because we want to understand failure and see "success." Think World Youth Day: It’s a Revival, wow!… even if the lawn is littered with beer cans and condoms. We still can read the stirring homilies about “shaking things up.” Look at Vatican II: a New Springtime, finally… even if our numbers decline and the documents are read as powerpoint transparencies that can legitimize every novel interpretation of doctrine. And I can hardly mouth the phrase “New Evangelization” without getting queazy: I hear it incessantly, but in 9 years as a Catholic I have witnessed hardly any faith sharing akin to that practiced by Frank Sheed or what I knew as an Evangelical. (Convert? No, stay where you are and be your Best Self! We are about human flourishing.) There is no urgency.

And their will be none that reverberates from talk, studies, conferences… Aademics and Catholic cardinals must see these as their lifeblood. But as an individual at the parish level, I have found them to be like suffocating pillowcases: they cover the issue with little room for reality-based breathing, either narcotizing people with words and numbers or knocking them unconscious with the idea the slogan is self-authenticating. Clear truth and committed hearts work. Studies… well, Sean Michael Winters also thinks Christian Smith has answers, but I’d argue that since Winters lacks a good grasp of Truth, even if he appropriates Smith the result would be one less than desirable. And this is all when discussing Smith’s sociology, not even broaching his debatable epistemology. The bottom line, though, is we don't need sociology, we need concise theology, grasped with head and heart enacted with the will.

JM said...

"I'm pleased that I don't live in Chicago."


Anonymous said...

Guy Noir,

Thanks for that. Absolutely brilliant!

Anonymous said...



this relates...

I think we all already knew that the vast majority of Catholics “have scarce familiarity” with the Church’s teaching on a number of topics. What we can’t all seem to admit, however, is that teaching our pastors how to “accommodate” this is a dead end. ‎We are enthralled to “Common Core Catholicism‬”, which not only applies dynamic silence to its own patrimony, but is also largely waged in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Survey. Amen.

There needs to be less preaching about “contemporary issues” and more preaching about the state of the soul before communion and the reality of the Eucharist.

Pertinacious Papist said...


"Common Core Catholicism." Good one. I have to remember that.