A Tale of Two Bishops | Carl E. Olson | CWR Editorial
One is described as “America's Pope Francis”. One is criticized for failing to "truly walk the talk" set forth by Francis. Who is he?
It was the best of times...” One bishop was described, in a recent interview with a major network, as “America's Pope Francis”. A veteran Catholic journalist described him as “humble and open, precisely the sort of pastor who 'carries the smell of his sheep' that Francis has said he wants.”
It was the worst of times...” One bishop was strongly criticized, in a just published op-ed in a large newspaper, as “a bishop who, while professing to reflect the new direction set by Pope Francis, does not by his actions truly walk the talk.” The author insinuated that this bishop was not “in sync with the new pope, who acts and speaks with common sense and humanity guiding him.”
Fascinating, I'd say. It is even more fascinating considering that the two bishops are one and the same man: Archbishop Blase Cupich, the recently installed head of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who had previously spent almost five years as bishop of the Diocese of Spokane.
On November 30, 2014, Abp. Cupich was interviewed by Norah O'Donnell, host of CBS's “Face the Nation”, who prefaced her live interview with Archbishop Cupich by saying, “Finally today, some are asking if he's America's Pope Francis.” Who those “some” are is not clear, but perhaps they included journalist John Allen, Jr., whose September 20th CRUX piece about Cupich's appointment stated, “By now, the profile of a 'Francis bishop' has come into focus: Ideologically, moderates rather than hardliners; pastorally, men who place special emphasis on concern for the poor and those at the margins; and personally, leaders who aren’t flashy personality types, with a reputation for being accessible and hands-on.” Allen then lauded Cupich as “humble and open,” the sort of pastor who “carries the smell of his sheep” referenced by Pope Francis.
On Sunday, February 2nd, The Spokesman-Review published an op-ed, “Catholic Church better off if bishops follow pope’s lead,” written by Chris Carlson, former press secretary to four-time Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, a Democrat who is not, it seems apparent, a “conservative” Catholic. Carlson focuses on a recent story that is familiar to Catholics in Spokane but has hardly been noted—with a couple of exceptions—outside of the Inland Northwest:
The recent settlement of a malpractice lawsuit filed by the Diocese of Spokane against its longtime outside counsel should be viewed as another example of a bishop who, while professing to reflect the new direction set by Pope Francis, does not by his actions truly walk the talk.
The Spokane Catholic diocese, while under the leadership of Bishop Blase Cupich – now archbishop in Chicago – spent two-and-one-half years, and who knows how many wasted dollars, because he was, according to the deposition of former vicar general the Rev. Steven Dublinski, “throwing mud at Paine-Hamblen to see if any mud sticks.”
The difficult, perplexing background
The story of the lawsuit against Paine Hamblen, the highly respected Spokane-based law firm that represented the Diocese of Spokane for over a decade, is complicated and riveting. In fact, it has the makings of catnip for journalists angling for sensational news about the Church: an unprecedented malpractice lawsuit by the bishop against the Catholic lawyers who had spent years representing the diocese in settling close to 200 sexual abuse claims; a resulting legal battle over millions of dollars (a “money grab”) and claims of conflict of interest; clashes and a resignation within a chancery over the handling of sexual abuse cases; accusations of a bishop involved in backroom mudslinging; a letter sent to Pope Francis because of allegedly “vindictive” actions by the bishop against fellow Catholics.
And yet, oddly enough, the story barely registered with national media and Catholic media alike.