Pope Francis has named Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington, to be the next archbishop of Chicago, dashing conservative hopes.
The Holy See Press Office announced the move, which is Francis’ most important U.S. appointment to date. This nomination could mark the end of decades of conservative dominance of the American hierarchy.
Cupich, 65, will be the ninth archbishop of Chicago, succeeding Cardinal Francis George, a conservative who has headed this diocese–the third largest in the country–since 1997.
A Nebraska native, Cupich has served as a local aide at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus and pastor of a parish in his hometown. In 1999, Cupich was named as bishop of Rapid City, one of the nation’s smallest, poorest dioceses, comprising the western half of South Dakota.
A regular contributor to the Jesuit magazine America, in 2008 Cupich wrote a piece against racism, just prior to the presidential election. In it he suggested that voting on the basis of race is morally equivalent to voting for a pro-abortion candidate. In this he misrepresented the Bishops’ letter “Forming Conscience for Faithful Citizenship,: which stated: “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position.”
Though referring to the statement, Cupich modified this position, writing that voting for a candidate “solely because of that candidate’s support for abortion” or against him “solely on the basis of his or her race” is to promote an intrinsic evil.
Cupich has worked to find common ground with the Obama administration, especially regarding Obamacare. Cupich criticized constant confrontation with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services and advocated dialogue instead. His invocation of “common ground” was reminiscent of the approach of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the progressive archbishop of Chicago before Francis George.
Last June Cupich was a featured speaker in a seminar sponsored by the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., calling into question whether one could be a good Catholic and a libertarian.
Cupich has been an outspoken admirer of Pope Francis, frequently praising his approach to evangelization and the economy.
In moving to Chicago, Cupich will leave a diocese of 90,000 Catholics and 82 parishes to take charge of a very different reality: an archdiocese with more than 350 parishes and 2.2 million Catholics.