By Charlie Johnston
In the last two weeks, news erupted that Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich had banned the saying of the Hail Mary or St. Michael prayers at the conclusion of Mass. I talked to a few Priests in the Archdiocese who told me they had received no such public edict from the Cardinal, nor had they been privately told by the Chancery to ban the same. I made sure to check on any private word because back when Cupich was Bishop of Spokane, he had forbidden Priests to participate in pro-life protests outside abortion clinics. When he received blowback, he amended that to urging Priests not to participate because the political climate had become too toxic and polarizing. Priests should not contribute to that, Cupich said then, but should give witness by the power of their “unity” with each other. Ah, if only men like St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict had refused to defy the Nazis in WWII and instead had shamed them by the power of their silent, impotent “unity.” After Cupich was elevated to Chicago, I heard from several Priests in Spokane who told me that, yes, under public pressure, Cupich had revoked his order for Priests to refrain from public protests against abortion, but had sent the quiet word out from the Chancery that any Priest caught up in such an action would quickly get a very undesirable re-assignment. (Priests are not just assigned to Parishes – there are many administrative roles they can be assigned to, some desirable, others a way of burying them).
Having confirmed that there was no written edict and no quiet word from the Chancery on the matter, I corrected the record in defense of Cupich as a matter of fairness. Even so, it was a pitifully sloppy piece of reporting on my part. One of our alert readers, Crystal, called me out on it. Crystal was a long-time Parishioner at St. Joseph’s Parish in Libertyville, Illinois where the controversy began and is now a parishioner at St. Gilbert’s in Grayslake, where I was received into the Church and later taught RCIA for years. Crystal said, in part, that, “A group of women who are in a rosary group and are concerned about the state of the world decided it would be good to say the St. Michael prayer after mass as the priest was processing out. Anyone who prays this prayer realizes it take about 35 seconds. When these few women would lead it, a few fellow parishioners joined in. The pastor did not like that and asked the women to stop. Shortly after that, Fr. Emmanuel read his now infamous statement that Cardinal Cupich had asked for the St. Michal Prayer and the Hail Mary not to be prayed after mass. Quote from Fr. Trout’s letter to the parish which can be found on the website:
“At the same time, in accord with sound liturgical practice and in keeping with archdiocesan norms, which I personally confirmed with the Cardinal, the recitation of prayers must never interfere with, interrupt or distract from the public liturgy of the Church.”
Crystal’s comments sent me back to the drawing board. What I found was that Crystal was correct. For whatever reason, St. Joseph’s Pastor Fr. John Trout, did not like these traditional, orthodox prayers being said after Mass. He took it upon himself to tell Assoc. Pastor Fr. Emmanuel Torres-Fuentes to order it halted at the Masses which he celebrated, for it was in violation of the edict Cdl. Cupich had given that, “the recitation of prayers must never interfere with, interrupt, or distract from the public liturgy of the Church.” Fr. Trout added that he had confirmed this with Cdl. Cupich directly.
The problem is that the formal policy of the Archdiocese has nothing to do with the saying of the Hail Mary or the St. Michael prayer after dismissal from Mass – and only the most mendacious of observers could interpret it as forbidding it. Fr. Trout could very well have confirmed with Cdl. Cupich that the quoted passage is, indeed, the formal policy of the Archdiocese – but it has NOTHING to do with what Fr. Trout ordered Fr. Emmanuel to do, while intimating that is was an order from the Cardinal. It is scarcely more logically coherent than saying, “I have confirmed that the Cardinal prefers scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, therefore you are not allowed to say the Hail Mary or St. Michael prayer after Mass.”
Ah, but Fr. Emmanuel unwittingly created a new problem by announcing that those prayers would not be allowed anymore because the Cardinal said so – which is what Fr. Trout had told him, but was not actually what had been said. It was only Fr. Trout’s mendacious interpretation of how the actual rule could be used to suppress pious devotion. Fr. Trout issued a formal statement that tried to thread the needle by incorporating Cdl. Cupich’s actual policy which HE had misrepresented and ordering Fr. Emmanuel to apologize for falsely attributing the mendacious interpretation of Fr. Trout to Cdl. Cupich. Poor Fr. Emmanuel: he gets it from both ends – actually trying to be obedient and honorable.
In the midst of all this, I noted that, while Cdl. Cupich never issued such an order, he also has never objected to that characterization of the actual norm of the Archdiocese – and, to my knowledge, has not issued any clarifying statement. Both Fr. Trout’s statement and an incisive commentary on them by Fr. George David Byers, a Missionary of mercy, is found on Fr. Byer’s blog.
I called the media relations department of the Archdiocese Wednesday morning. They don’t have a person answering the phone. Instead, a machine tells you to leave your question and contact information and someone will get back to you. I asked if the Cardinal’s policy is to ban the Hail Mary and the St. Michael prayers after Mass and, if not, if the Cardinal is going to clarify the situation with a formal statement. They did not return my call.
That afternoon, I called St. Joseph’s Parish in Libertyville and asked to speak to Fr. Trout. This time I did get a real person who I was told was the Pastor’s assistant. I told her who I was and that it was concerning this controversy. She told me Fr. Trout would get back to me. Again, I got no call back.
It looks to me like Cdl. Cupich wants to have his cake and eat it, too, just as he did on the public protest of abortion issue back in Spokane. The ambiguity of it all suppresses pious, orthodox devotion while evading formal responsibility for making such an order.
Both Cdl. Cupich and Fr. Trout like to speak of “unity,” while decrying any public expression of orthodoxy or even recitation of settled Catholic doctrine as divisive. Crisis Magazine published an article recently which covered the divisiveness of introducing innovations that contradict Church teaching or try to coerce consciences for mere secular reasons.
I was not actually incorrect in what I wrote last week on the subject – but I was incomplete and, though unintentionally, deceptively so. I know you do not come here to get part of the story, sloppily crafted. You come here to get the rest of the story. I pledge to go back to the roots of my ethos on straight news reporting. I will not trim my sails on my opinions, but I will make the calls and do the footwork to make sure I am stating those opinions from an unimpeachable foundation. I am embarrassed – and grateful to Crystal for getting me back on track.
So no, Cdl. Cupich did not order that the Hail Mary and St. Michael Prayers not be said. But he is not unhappy enough with the results of this confusion to formally clarify the matter. Until he does, he (and Fr. Trout) are worthy of all the opprobrium they have been getting and more.
A couple of short and happy takes – I have an appointment I must be off to.
San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone penned a piece in the Washington Post in which he openly goes beyond Eucharistic Coherence and discusses the need to formally excommunicate officials who are Catholic and vigorously try to promote abortion. He notes that method was used to end overt racial discrimination by Catholic public officials in the ‘60s.
Washington, D.C. Cdl. Wilton Gregory struck his toe tentatively into orthodox territory yesterday when he said that Joe Biden is “not demonstrating Catholic teaching” on life issues.
I am profoundly grateful that my Archbishop, Denver’s Samuel Aquila, has directed Priests throughout the Diocese to say the St. Michael prayer publicly after Mass. He also got all the Bishops in Colorado to issue religious exemption letters to Catholics who want them, for he knows the rest of the story on the statement that the Church approves of the covid shot is that it insists it must never be mandatory. So nice to have a courageous and orthodox Bishop! As my friend, Bishop Rene Gracida is wont to say, “May his tribe increase!”
If you are anywhere near St. Cloud, Minnesota, make sure to get out to the conference tomorrow. It is an all day event that will begin with a patriotic Rosary at 9:11 a.m., followed by a spiritual warfare presentation by Deacon Dan Dullinger. A shooting range will be open for enthusiasts and there will be presentations on sausage-making, communicating via ham radio, and natural and herbal medicines. In the afternoon at 1:30, I will give a presentation followed by questions and general discussion with attendees. Not only that…organizers have some 2,200 lbs. of dried navy beans on hand – and all who attend are invited to fill a bucketful to take home before they leave. But it is a BYOB event – Bring Your Own Bucket! (only for the dried beans; there will be brats, beans and beverages available on-site to keep you from fainting in the mid-day sun) For information on where it is and to let them know you are coming, call Kris Rehfeld at (605) 228-3539 or Dino Kremers at (320) 309-3655.
Also, if you want to join us for the Texas Right to Life Celebration of Life Dinner in Houston next week, today is the deadline to register for complimentary tickets. Email Laura at Bilot.firstname.lastname@example.org Hope to see you at one or both of these events.
18208 Preston Rd., Ste. D9-552
Dallas, Texas 75252