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By Dr. Jeff Mirus, Catholic Culture, Aug 29, 2018
I trust most readers will recognize my title as a modified line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the graveyard scene in which Hamlet and Horatio come across the late court jester’s skull. As a child, Hamlet had known and liked the jester, whose name was Yorick. Hence the line delivered while holding the skull: “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio.”
Like Hamlet, we may have known and liked Blase Cardinal Cupich when we were spiritual children, a man whose career was finally made by Pope Francis in what appeared to everyone as a gesture of like appointing like. Since then Cupich has continued to give copious evidence, as head of the archdiocese of Chicago, that he counts himself among those with a confused 1970s attitude toward Catholic renewal—apparently much like the Pope Himself. In tune with our secular culture, the prime motive behind Cupich’s ecclesiastical zeal is best described by the modern slogan of inclusiveness—including moral inclusiveness.
But enough has long since been enough. The point needs to be made that we are not children anymore, and so in the nature of things we do not find jesters quite as amusing as we did of old. Yet the bad jokes of Cardinal Cupich continue.
Thus Cupich assures us that Pope Francis has a larger picture to keep in mind which will prevent him from going down the “rabbit hole” of abuse—a picture that includes his concern for the environment(see Phil Lawler’s commentary, yesterday: In a time of crisis, unfortunate tag lines). Apparently the moral environment of the Catholic Church is of little consequence! Still, in this the Cardinal does seem to reflect the man who elevated him.
But it gets even more astonishing. Yesterday, Matthew Schmitz of First Things released a film clip of Cardinal Cupich explaining that the Pope’s critics “don’t like him because he’s a Latino”. Yes, you heard me right. Critics do not like Pope Francis because…HE…IS…A…LATINO.
It is not surprising that things have come to this in an age in which traditional moral conviction—that is, moral conviction rooted in the natural law—must always be dismissed as rank prejudice.
But the evidence is mounting steadily that there is rot at the highest levels in the Church. It should be no surprise. After all, Pope Benedict himself acknowledged the gay cabal in Rome when he indicated that his reason for resigning was that he did not have the strength to effect the necessary reforms. Even more quickly, the evidence is mounting that Pope Francis himself has, at the very least, refused to take a hard line against such rot, helping to keep it as secret as it can be.
Benefit of the doubt goes only so far
To be fair, there are legitimate reasons to keep quiet about certain ills as long as that does not imply a refusal to correct them. But as a prudential matter, the ship has long since sailed on which secrecy about sexual abuse could reasonably be judged the better part of valor. Instead, there is every indication in the pontificate of Pope Francis that, like the secular West as a whole, this pope is unwilling to name the elephant in the room, that is, the moral depravity of homosexual behavior, and the web of complicity and favoritism it breeds. Instead, he regularly condemns those who prefer unshrinking moral clarity.
Here we have the central problem of moral inclusivity. The idea that we are to welcome all into the Church regardless of their unwillingness to renounce serious sin is rejected vehemently time and again in Divine Revelation, including in the most subtle and enlightened letters of St. Paul, not to mention by Our Lord Himself. It is hard to smoke out sex abuse without frankly recognizing the broadly approved homosexual depravity that lies at the core of its dominant manifestation today. This is what comes from using our larger secular society as a Catholic moral compass.
Truthfully, the secular reluctance to speak the “H” word is received as a kind of life preserver by misguided Catholic leaders, who can hope the media will continue to be silent about the nature of the problem. Ecclesiastics who want to cover things up have long presumed they can control the flak in the Church as long as the secular press is unwilling to tell the whole truth. But things may have gone farther in 2018 than they did even following the revelations of the Long Lent of 2001—far enough at last so that the better high-ranking prelates will refuse any longer to keep quiet “for the sake of the Church” (or for the sake of the club).
Archbishop Vignanò’s testimony has every appearance of being the first to fall in a very long line of dominoes.
Within the Church herself I believe—and I certainly hope—that the tide of righteous anger has become an unstoppable tidal wave. Tidal waves are clumsy solutions, but it may take a tidal wave for the Church to clean her own Augean stable. Moreover, success here will invite persecution, and will not be for the faint of heart. But consider the consequences of such rough cleansing: Moral lines will be drawn more clearly; there will be far less of our current endless obfuscation; some heads will roll; we can at least foresee a time when the apostles of moral inclusivity will no longer be promoted—and may well be removed.
“Alas, poor Cupich!”
I take the Chicago cardinal, of course, as a symbol of a problem considerably larger than himself. Still, perhaps such men are not personified by Yorick the Fool but by Hamlet himself. This is not a matter for humor, after all. We are all imperfect judges, and so must leave final judgment to God. But we should seriously consider the Danish prince’s moral weakness, timid vacillation and faulty judgment. Like so many today, Hamlet was prone to take his cues from the wrong ghost.
Thus may we echo the words Ophelia spoke of Hamlet as he deteriorated: “Woe is me, to have seen what I have seen, see what I see!”
Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.