University of Chicago students couldn’t attend Mass this weekend because church officials insisted it’s unsafe to worship when 0.6 percent of young people threatened more by flu contracts COVID-19.
This was not the result of a directive from the secular UChicago administration. The decision came directly from the archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich, who ordered the campus church to cancel Mass for students due to the campus COVID “outbreak.” Not only did the bishop cancel Mass for students on campus, but he instructed them not to attend anywhere else.
Per Cupich’s directive, Calvert House Chaplain Fr. Andrew Liaugminas and Associate Director of Campus Ministry Matthew Moran agreed to bar students from the Eucharist. Moran wrote the following in an April 16 email to undergrads: “Recognizing that most of our congregation is affiliated with the University, the Archdiocese has asked us to refrain from all in-person liturgies and events while the special measures are in force.”
Moran confirmed on the phone that the archdiocese requested students not go to Mass or seek Holy Communion at St. Thomas the Apostle, a nearby open Catholic church. He wrote in his email to students that it would be “risky” and “scandalous for those aware of the [university] restrictions.”
Providing the university administration doesn’t extend its amped-up lockdowns, Calvert House is set to resume Mass on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Mass resumption at the campus Catholic Church still isn’t pre-pandemic “business as usual.” Calvert House makes it as difficult as possible for students to attend Mass by forcing them to sign up in advance and imposing strict capacity limits and social distancing. Students are turned away if they fail to sign up for Mass and the chapel is at capacity.
Your Body Is More Important Than Your Soul
In an email Moran wrote to me in February, he said turning people away from Mass to comply with social distancing is “how we show obedience to our bishop as Catholics.”
But when college-aged individuals have a 99.9 percent COVID survivability rate and are suffering unprecedented rates of depression and suicidal thoughts, canceling Mass based on the whims of the university administration and Chicago public health department is wrong. Church attendance has plummeted at precisely the time people need it most. Submitting to university and government recommendations that are not even based on science sends a callous and cowardly message to one’s flock.
To those who live in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cupich’s lack of courage and evangelical zeal is not the least bit surprising. In a survey that scaled the trustworthiness and orthodoxy of individual U.S. bishops, Cupich was ranked the “worst” U.S. bishop. Since the onset of the pandemic, Cupich has been one of the most compliant bishops in America. He immediately shuttered churches and, when they finally reopened, he made it as difficult as possible for people to attend Mass.
A year ago, a group of laity in Chicago formed the “Saint Charles Borromeo Society” to call on Cupich to reopen churches and restore public Mass. “We are desperately in need of spiritual leadership during this pandemic, and that is sorely lacking in the archdiocese of Chicago,” said one of the organizers. Cupich coldly and arrogantly refused to meet with the group.
Not only is Cupich collapsing church attendance by voluntarily imposing excessive COVID rules and regulations, but he is permanently closing many historic and beautiful Catholic Chicago Churches with “vibrant communities.” Julie Sawicki, president of the Society of St. Adalbert, a group fighting to preserve St. Adalbert Church in Pilsen, Chicago, recently lambasted Cupich for failing to take care of the faithful in these difficult times: “It is especially disappointing and painful that the Archdiocese of Chicago embarked on a path of closure, liquidation and sale instead of one of renewal and revitalization. Cardinal [Blase] Cupich we ask you please follow canon law, guide the faithful, [and] cater to the faithful, not to investors.”
Cupich’s Moral Failures Are Well-Known
Cupich has a history of poor leadership and out-of-touch priorities. He has repeatedly made woke statements to the Chicago Catholic community and taken stands on partisan current events. Following the January Capitol riot, Cupich released a strong statement, calling those involved a “national disgrace.” However, on the long summer of Black Lives Matter riots that continue to the present, Cupich remains silent.
He also doesn’t have a history of standing up for Catholic teachings. After the inauguration of Joe Biden, Cupich slammed the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for publicly criticizing Biden’s immoral and anti-Catholic positions on abortion, human sexuality, and the family. Cupich shared his own congratulatory statement for the inauguration of the most radically pro-abortion administration in American history, and his letter did not even include a defense of Catholic values.
In June 2019, Cupich refused to enforce Canon 915 and withhold the Eucharist from pro-abortion politicians, while chastising priests who do. Given that Cupich scandalously told priests in 2011 not to participate in 40 Days for Life vigils, one has to wonder if he is pro-life at all. In January 2019, Cupich was the keynote speaker at the annual conference for the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, a dissonant, leftist group of priests who have called for the “open discussion” of women priests.
A Long History of Covering Up Sex Allegations
Most disturbing of all is that Cupich has a long history of being embroiled in sexual abuse scandals. While he was bishop of Spokane in 2010 through 2015, Cupich was informed that seven priests credibly accused of sexual abuse were being placed, unsupervised, at Gonzaga University.
It was later revealed that Cupich did not tell the Spokane bishop, Thomas Daly, about the abusers. When the story broke in 2018, it led to the abrupt resignations of two top Gonzaga administrators four days later—yet Cupich continues to be archbishop of Chicago.
In 2016, Cupich presented disgraced rapist Cardinal Theodore McCarrick with the “Spirit of Francis” award. Just a few years later, McCarrick was found guilty of abuse of power and sexual crimes against adults and minors. He was dismissed from the clergy in February 2019.
In a 2018 interview with NBC News regarding the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, Cupich defended Pope Francis against those who accused him of protecting perpetrators. “The pope has a bigger agenda,” Cupich said of the sexual abuse scandal, “He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”
Cupich’s statement disregarding abuse in the church is insensitive. Moreover, it’s deeply troubling. From 2008 to 2011, Cupich was the chair of the Bishops’ Committee on the Protection for Children and Young People, whose purpose is to address abuse in the church. Cupich clearly was never committed to the task.
All this is only the tip of the iceberg. In 2018, the Illinois attorney general announced that Cupich and other Illinois bishops withheld the names of least 500 priests accused of sexual abuse. The Church Militant news site reported in early March 2019 that Cupich waited nearly a month before removing a seminary rector found in possession of male child porn. Cupich also failed to immediately report the priest to law enforcement, which gave the priest time to get rid of the primary evidence of his crime.
In 2018, Complicit Clergy created an online petition for Cupich to resign. The petition includes an ongoing list of Cupich’s scandals.
Putting the City of Man Above the City of God
Cupich seems more interested in woke virtue signaling, closing churches, and covering for child rapists than he is in spreading the gospel and administering the Eucharist in a crime-ridden, murderous city that desperately needs the church. To the young Catholics at UChicago and to the rest of the Chicago Archdiocese, Cupich is sending a message: political posturing is more important than Holy Mass and the sacraments. According to his edicts, church is decidedly non-essential.
Thanks to Cupich’s overt corruption, Chicago’s priests are keenly aware of the type of man Cupich is. Rather than tacitly watch as Cupich fails his flock, we need hero priests who are willing to defend the faith from the malice of its enemies—who prowl on the inside of the church walls just as much as they do on the outside.
For centuries, Christians have died for their faith. Even today, Christians remain the world’s most persecuted religion. Christians are killed and churches are destroyed every single day in places like North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, and India.
Yet, in Chicago, Cupich is denying young, spiritually hungry Catholics the bread of life, the Eucharist, and the Catholic fellowship they so desperately need. While students are far from home, missing their families, and experiencing unprecedented isolation and loneliness during a pandemic that is less deadly for them than the seasonal flu, Cupich turns his back and locks the church doors.
This story was originally published in the Chicago Thinker.