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New Chicago Archdiocese Could Shake Up American Catholicism

The Vatican's appointment of Blase Cupich as Archdiocese of Chicago might signal a more moderate direction for the Catholic Church in the U.S.
Posted at 2:43 PM, Sep 20, 2014

There's a new archbishop-elect in Chicago and his appointment could mean a big change in the hierarchy of American Catholicism.

The Vatican announced Saturday that Blase Cupich, who had been heading the Diocese of Spokane, Washington, would take over the third largest archdiocese in the country. (Video via WLS-TV)

He'll be replacing Cardinal Francis George, who has served as Archbishop of Chicago since 1997. The doctrinal differences between the two is getting a lot of attention. 

Cardinal George was seen as representative of what some called the "conservative hierarchy" in the U.S. Catholic Church, who were vocal opponents of the legalizations of same-sex marriage and the employer mandate to provide free contraceptive coverage to employees.

Cupich is seen as more moderate. In a 2012 essay in America Magazine he called on Catholic leaders to "find common ground" with the White House over Obamacare's contraceptive mandate. 

That same year he drew attention for what was perceived to be a moderate position during Washington's same sex marriage referendum. Here he is explaining the position after the vote. (Video via Washington State Catholic Conference)

 "We also wanted to make a point that this was not against people who have same sex attractions. In fact we are very sensitive to the fact that they have suffered discrimination over many years and should not be subject to it." (Video via Emily Rust)

Cupich's moderation is seen to be more in-line with Pope Francis' emphasis on the social justice teachings of the church. 

And, as NBC Chicago reported, many believe this led to Cupich's appointment in Chicago. (Video via WBBM)

MARY ANN AHERN, WMAQ: "Sources believe that Pope Francis Bypassed the Congregation of Bishops...Calling Catholic leaders throughout the country to get a lead on who would be best for Chicago. Cupich is his personal choice."

Cupich said it would be reasonable to expect a difference in emphasis and approaches between he and Cardinal George, but added he expected to work closely with his predecessor in the job.