A new article in Catholic media praises the two cardinals most conspicuous for their vocal criticism of President Trump as champions of a “culture of encounter.”
In his November 17 essay for Crux, “Tobin and Cupich: Battling the bullies; creating a culture of encounter,” Christopher White holds up Cardinals Joseph Tobin and Blase Cupich as two of the most effective Catholic leaders for overcoming divisions and bringing people together.
“Tobin and Cupich both told Crux that first and foremost, they’re committed to Francis’s call to build a ‘culture of encounter’ as a defining part of their pastoral ministry,” White writes.
Yet the culture of encounter they envision seems to exclude the 52 percent of Catholics who voted for Donald Trump, who is anathema to the two prelates who have been labeled as “shills” of the Democratic party.
As Breitbart News reported last summer, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, slammed President Trump in an interview with a French Catholic newspaper, saying he appeals to the “dark side of Americans.”
In his interview with La Croix, Cardinal Tobin said that the current climate of insecurity “has caused an exaggerated patriotism in the United States,” suggesting that Trump plays on Americans’ fears and desires to see America “great again.”
“I think President Trump appeals to the dark side of Americans,” Tobin said. “He speaks to fears, to insecurities.”
Tobin later called Trump “malicious” for his decision to hand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation over to the U.S. Congress.
“The bishops must beware of him, because he tells them that he will be against abortion, that he won’t force them to pay for contraception, and in return, he asks for silence concerning his disrespectful remarks toward others or on the deportation of migrants. It’s dangerous,” Tobin said.
“We, American Catholics, are a Church of migrants. We have always pleaded their cause,” he said.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, the progressive Archbishop of Chicago, has been similarly critical of President Trump and blasted him for his executive order putting a moratorium on new migrants from terror-exporting countries, calling it a “dark moment in U.S. history.”
In a lengthy statement released last January, Cardinal Cupich said the executive order “is contrary to both Catholic and American values” and called the president’s decision “rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States.”
The cardinal called Trump’s prudential judgment on the refugee matter a repetition of “disastrous decisions of the past.”
Cupich has a history of alienating conservatives by his close alignment with the Democratic party, and raised eyebrows when he suggested a divine mandate for comprehensive immigration reform, saying it is on God’s “agenda.”
As bishop of Spokane, Washington, Cupich discouraged priests and seminarians from praying outside Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, urging them to avoid confrontation that could contribute to a “polarizing” environment over the issue of abortion.
After the release of damning videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of aborted baby parts, Cupich notoriously equated abortion with other social ills such as unemployment and the death penalty, suggesting that people should be just as appalled by a broken immigration system as they are by the gruesome ripping apart of unborn children and the sale of their organs.
This unfortunate error led to a temperate, though public, rebuke from the redoubtable archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput.
“The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act,” Chaput wrote. “No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.”
How these two cardinals are building a culture of encounter, especially with the half of the nation whose agenda differs from theirs, is not exactly clear.
In last November’s election, Catholics favored Donald Trump by seven percentage points, the highest margin for a Republican candidate since the turn of the millennium. As a group, 52 percent of Catholics voted for Mr. Trump, while only 45 percent voted for Mrs. Clinton, according to the Pew Research Center.
The victory for Trump among Catholics represented a significant five percent shift away from the Democratic Party in the four years since 2012.
For now, the “inclusive” Church of Cardinals Tobin and Cupich seems to include everyone but conservatives.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome