The National Catholic Review
Nov 16 2014 - 3:57pm | Matt Malone, S.J.

AMERICA AND NBC NEWS

NBC CORRESPONDENT: ANN CURRY

NBC PRODUCERS: JUSTIN BALDING AND NATASHA LEBEDEVA

FOR AMERICA: MATT MALONE, S.J.

Editor’s Note: The following is an edited transcript of the NBC/America interview with Archbishop-Designate Blase Cupich. It has been edited for clarity, length and style, including the removal of extraneous information, redundancies, incomplete sentences and filler words. To jump to Father Matt Malone's questions, click here.

ARCHBISHOP-DESIGNATE BLASE CUPICH:

[Archbishop-Designate Cupich was in Munich when he received the news that he was going to be the next Archbishop of Chicago]. I was getting ready to catch the flight the next day, and my cell phone rang. And it was the nuncio on the other side. And he began by saying, “I have news of great joy.” And the thing that shot through my mind right away was—this sounds like the angel Gabriel. (LAUGH) And then when he told me…the other thought that came to mind was Mary's response: “How can this be?” (LAUGHTER) So it was…totally…not on my radar screen. There were many people, qualified people who are archbishops of major dioceses. And also a number of bishops who come from Chicago itself. And I saw that the Holy Father was looking at people who were from the same region, many times. Sensitive to the culture of…a particular city and state. So it really did not even enter my mind as a possibility. And I think …that’s borne out by the fact that it wasn't on any the published list of people who were…giving predictions.

ANN CURRY:

Your name was not on the published li—

BC:

No.

AC:

On any published list—

BC:

Well, I mean, people threw out, you know, dark horses…but for the most part…the top ten that people had, that they were talking about in publications, rarely even hinted at me.

AC:

And on top of that, the archdiocese of Chicago hadn’t, for about a century, ever had anyone named archbishop who wasn't already—

BOTH:

An archbishop.

BC:

Yes. Mundelein was the last one. He was an auxiliary out of New York. Yes, that's right…it is unusual.

AC:

So you weren't thinking about this—

BC:

No. No, I—

AC:

—at all, and you get this call.

BC:

And in fact, the very week that I was going back to the United States was—it was scheduled for me to release a pastoral letter—that was the product of a two-year process called, “Know, Love, and Serve,” in which we were putting together priorities and plans for the next four years. And that was all going to be launched the week that I was coming back. And so I came back—and everybody was excited about that and I couldn’t tell anybody for the next ten days. (LAUGH)

AC:

But in the moment—in that moment when you had heard the news, what where your emotions? 

BC:

Well, the call was very quick, so there wasn't time to react and then I was going to dinner with some friends right away afterwards. I was just ready to leave the room and go to dinner and-- stalled on that—a little bit afterwards. But, I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about it. The call was very fast. And the nuncio wanted to know if I accepted and we would set a date at which it would be announced. And I had to wait for a call later on from Cardinal George. So I didn't have a lot of time to react.

But on the airplane coming back…it was a lot of time for reflection and…I’m still surprised. Somebody asked me at the first press conference that I had—“Is it sinking in?” And I said, “It’s still sinking.”

AC:

Even now?

BC:

Oh, even now. I mean, when I think about…not only the daunting challenges that are there, but how this could have developed, I don't have an explanation.

AC:

It would seem that Pope Francis has seen something in you that he wants to see more of. What do you think that is?

BC:

I don't know if that's the case, because the pope doesn't know me. I’ve never talked to him. I've never met him. As I kiddingly said to a group of people, he couldn't pick me out of a lineup of criminals. But I don't know. I haven't the slightest idea. If, maybe through his-- his own inquiry, he learned something about me, some of my writing, I don't know. It would be far-fetched for me to even guess.

AC:

We are here to learn more about you as you make this important step forward. Let me see if you could tell me if what we're hearing about you (LAUGH) and probably what the pope has been hearing about you is true. You live in one room in a seminary.

BC:

No, I live in an apartment in a seminary. It’s a faculty apartment. It has a sitting room, a small kitchen and a bedroom and bath. And a little dining area, too.

AC:

Your way of life has been described as humble. Would you disagree with that?

BC:

Oh, I think that's dangerous territory to get into, to describe yourself as humble, because I know I'm very prideful. And I think people, maybe, who have-- locked horns with me over various things or had disagreements would think maybe, that-- humble is not a word that would come to their mind. I just try to be myself. I think that's what it comes down to. And when I overreach or am not myself, then I get in trouble. And God has been very gentle with me about that-- slapping me back into shape by humbling me whenever I go beyond my capacity or abilities. And I've learned just to be myself. I think my parents taught me that.

AC:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Talk to me about that. About those parents.

BC:

Oh, well, (LAUGH) they were great. Very simple people. They went to the same high school together, the same grade school, they were baptized in the same parish. But as my mom said, my dad was big man on campus during high school and a year older; he didn't give her the time of day until he came back from  basic training after World War II was declared.

After Pearl Harbor, he went into the Navy and was home that summer and  his sisters plotted to get him to go to what they call, "Saint Anne's Devotions " in the summertime, in July. And so they knew that my mother was going to be there and so they got them to meet each other. As my mother said, all the young ladies would go to Saint Anne's Devotions praying underneath their breath as they said the prayers, "Anne, Anne, find me a man." (LAUGHTER)

AC:

And she did for your mother.

BC:

That's right. My dad was smitten and he went back into the service and he came back in 1945. And he told me later on that he probably would not have come back -- he would have made the Navy a career had my mother not been there waiting for him. So I thank my aunts for getting them together.

AC:

In Omaha?

BC:

In Omaha. St. Peter and Paul Parish.

AC:

And then nine children happened?

BC:

Then nine children. My dad came back and took the exam for Letter Carriers. He worked for Letter Carriers and was very much in the Letter Carriers union. And then when he was 48 years old, he was struck with Parkinson's and he had to leave his work. And that was very tough. I was in the seminary in Rome when I got word of it. But he slowly got himself back in shape. His medication was stabilized and by the time his health really began to fail, he died when he was 79. So he had the disease for almost 32 years. But he was a resilient individual and so was my mother. They did a lot with a little.

AC:

It sounds as though he,  you know, had a great impact on your life. As you speak about him--

BC:

Yes. But they both had an impact on all of our lives-- even, you know, when both of them passed away, my nephews and nieces or grandchildren were just really—inconsolable. They (my parents) had a great impact on them and I think they gave us a sense of how important it was just to be real, just to be yourself. You don't have to apologize for who you are, for your state of life—for your poverty or  anything else. Just be comfortable with who you are.

AC:

Poverty? Are you saying that you were raised poor?

BC:

We didn't know we were (LAUGH) but I think we probably were. You know, when you think of raising nine children on a salary of a letter carrier and then my dad took other jobs, you know? He would go early in the morning, carry mail, come back in the afternoon-- have lunch with my mother. My mother didn't work outside the home. Then he would go up to the school-- where we all went and-- my three brothers and I helped him clean the school (he was a part-time janitor), come home and have supper. And then he'd go out, work again, maybe bartend or something else, then get up in the morning and do the same thing.

AC:

As I listen to you, I feel the love you feel for them; I get a glimpse of it. But I also hear your empathy, your empathy for them in trying to raise nine children, your empathy for the poor as a result of your own experience, watching them make sure you didn't feel poor.

BC:

Well, there are a lot of people who are struggling today, you know, just to raise their kids. And you know, these new immigrants who just want a better life like my grandparents did. All four of my grandparents emigrated from Croatia. And it is an aspiration that-- the church should always favor and should always encourage for all of society. But it's an honest aspiration and I think that for my folks, they totally sacrificed for their family. That was very important. And I see that in so many families today. That's very admirable to me.

AC:

So the idea of being real, being connected, to the suffering of people is actually something that you come from?

BC:

Yes. It's part of who I am.

AC:

So then I have to be, because we're talking about your youth, I have to ask you about Richard,  your brother, who says that it was after you were in a bike accident that you started talking about becoming a priest.

BC:

That's mythology. I have no idea where he got that one. You know, Richard was in a seminary before with me, you know? He was in. He was older. And  he remembers something when I was ten years old but it surely left my mind. But I do know that-- in high school-- I was very active. I was a president of Student Council. We had about 1200 kids. I was very active socially. Neither one of my brothers dated through high school. I come home and I go to the prom and homecoming when I'm a sophomore. And so they're wondering, "Where did this one come from?" So when I was going to go off to college there were a number of priests in school and other places who encouraged me. And I decided, "Okay. I'll give this a try," and I did. And it wasn't something that I felt that this was slam dunk. It it took a while. It was like peeling an onion  layer by layer. So there was no bolt out of the blue with my vocation. I said this before, God's been very gentle with me, you know, pacing me little by little-- in an organic way. But I think that made the vocation more real.

AC:

But, you know, even you know and I know that it-- even if there isn't a bolt out of the blue, there has to be something that clues you into it. There has to be something inside yourself that creates your own passion to keep going.

BC:

Well, it was. First of all, I learned how to pray and to have a real close relationship-- with God through my prayer. That was really key. But the other is that I just like serving people. And I found that  I liked it when I saw the impact of people's encounter with God,  that it could be life-transformative. And that's what's sustained me through my whole priesthood and my ministry. It's not unlike, for instance, sometimes you see tourist guides, even though they get bored by, maybe, taking people through the same building. But when they see somebody come in like a St. Peter's and give a tour and those people see it for the first time, that refreshes them. So I am never bored in my ministry because I continually see the impact of God in people's lives.

AC:

And do you see a mirror-- or a window-- between seeing that impact on others and the impact that God had on your own parents and your own family?

BC:

Oh, I think so. You know, we were very tied to that church. We were about four or five blocks away. I mean, we went to school there. We served Mass. We each had our hour of adoration where we'd go up and my mother was up early, like 5:00 in the morning on Tuesday or I don't know what her hour was. And so was my dad. And then we would sing in the choir on Sunday. We would be a part of most everything on Wednesdays, because it was a Croatian parish, we would go up there and learn folk dances, Croatian folk dances.

AC:

Are you good?

BC:

No, well, I probably still could remember a few steps but we would rather be on the baseball field, the guys would. But nonetheless, we had to go up there and do that. And we performed for various groups in these various costumes. So that was all part of the church experience. It was kind of the pool we swam in.

AC:

My impression just in this brief time that we've had together, you know, as you talk about your parents and what they struggled against and how difficult it was for your father, how many jobs he had to work and how he sort of, you know, had to face illness and all that and then you  choosing a life of service. There, to me, is a hand and glove there?

BC:

Oh, yes.

AC:

You find in people generally when they make these kinds of choices about wanting to serve, it's oftentimes a reflection of their love for those they've witnessed in their own lives growing up generally-- who had to also be served. And so I wonder what-- how you make that connection for you. Do you think that that had an influence? Does it have an influence in the way you minister today?

BC:

Well, it does but I think the key thing is, I saw my parents happy, living that kind of life. It wasn't a drudgery. When they were helping other people, when they were involved in things, when they pulled their weight and participated in the lives of the parish and sacrificed for the children, they were happy. There was a happiness there. And I that that was part of the attraction too  and made it made it something that I wanted to do. Even when my dad was sick, he did not go into himself where he felt sorry for himself. Because he was involved in St. Vincent De Paul he had to go to the people that he carried mail for, especially on his rural route. Because he knew that some of them were lonely; they were shut up in their houses. They were malnourished so he went to the county board and decided that he would tell them that a new program was coming out called "Meals on Wheels," in the 1970s. Well, they didn't want to go along with it, because they said it was too much bureaucracy. So he ran for office against a man who was in his district and he beat him by a handful of votes. He served three terms as county commissioner and they have Meals on Wheels today. So he was an individual who said, "There's a need here. I'm going to try to do something about it." He didn't wallow in his self-pity because he had Parkinson's. But he went forward. And there was great courage there.

AC:

So you're saying you,  in some ways, you're walking in his footsteps--

BC:

Oh, yes. Well if I have half of his ability and dedication, I'm going to be okay.

AC:

That's beautiful. I think I want to sort of go back to something we talked about earlier, in terms of why His Holiness Pope Francis would have chosen you for this post. And not to go over the same question, but rather-- it seems to me that there is also a similarity in what we're talking about with your parents and your upbringing and how you have ministered. That there is a similarity between you and Pope Francis. Like Pope Francis, you have spent many years focusing on the poor.

BC:

Yes, maybe that's true. There is a great deal of wealth in this country. And there are a lot of people who are Catholics who are wealthy. And so I have associated with them, too, and have good friends who are very wealthy. But I think maybe the meeting place-- with regard to a lot of the folks who have great wealth and means has been helping the poor through education. I've done a lot over the years, in my first assignment as a priest, I was very much involved in a school. My first parish was upper-middle class, but I was in a school all the time. Some of my best friends are still from that parish. But I also-- when I was the bishop of Rapid City, we-- raised money for a new grade school. A lot of tuition assistance. And we've done that here in Spokane, as well. Because I think that education is a pathway out of poverty, for many people. It was for our family.

AC:

You also have historically seemed to want to move the church to be more inclusive.

BC:

It should be. That beautiful scene of St. Peter's [Basilica] with [Bernini’s] colonnade[s] in front of it. They are open arms. That should be the model, the metaphor for the church.

AC:

And you've surprised people because you want that inclusiveness to embrace also people who are homosexuals, or people who maybe have not felt always welcomed by the church.

BC:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM). Well, I think that's what the mission of the Gospel is. Christ said to go out and seek people who are lost. People who are injured. People who are excluded. And he did that his whole ministry. That's what got him in trouble. So if I get in trouble with that, I don't mind. I'm in good company.

AC:

You seem to also embrace this idea that we've heard-- from Cardinal Kasper and also from Pope Francis the idea of mercy. Not ideas, but the mission of mercy. Why mercy?

BC:

Well, as Cardinal Kasper said in his very important book on mercy-- there really has not been a fully developed theology of the mercy of God, and so that's why he wrote about it. And yet, it's at the heart of  the Scriptures. That if you read throughout the Psalms,  also through the Prophets and then how Jesus conducted himself, mercy is at the heart of what God does for us. And it's because the condition that we're in of sinfulness. Sinfulness is not just about doing something that stains us or an infraction of a law, in which we go before a tribunal and seek a remedy through a penalty. But sin is also grafted into our will, to the point where we're enslaved. And so the only remedy for that is God's mercy. It's not something that we can do. So we are thrown at the at the feet of God's mercy, because we're enslaved by sin. All of us are.

AC:

And to recognize that, but also for members of the church to let their parishioners know that there is mercy for them. That they're-- the fundamental issues that they face as human beings require mercy. This is an important message that I think really opens people up. Makes them realize that they can breathe more deeply in accepting who they are.

BC:

Yes, I think that's true. Or maybe to put it in another way, which is, I think the key to understanding this pope. It's about how he looks at people. How he sees them. He doesn't see them as a problem, a challenge, as people who should be judged by whether or not they're orthodox or not orthodox, whether or not they have sinned or not sinned. But he looks at them with respect that they're children of God. That's where he begins. And that God wants to offer his mercy. People pick up on that. That's why he's wildly popular. He's telling people their lives count. And I think that that's created an enormous positive feedback that people are responding to.

AC:

And where do you think that is leading us? Where do you think it's leading the church?

BC:

I think that it'll make us more human and divine at the same time. (LAUGH) We need real human kindness and generosity. And we also need the divine spark that says "There's some things that we're not going to figure out ourselves and we need God to help us.” We need God's mercy in a situation. So let's, as the Pope says--walk together. Let's accompany each other. I think that's probably where it's going to lead us. I think this is a great moment in the life of the church. I think it's as significant, even more so, maybe, than the Second Vatican Council-- because he's taking-- the Pope is taking-- a lot of the insights of the Council and really making it happen. I think John Paul II worked at that in his own way. So did Benedict XVI. But this pope is doing something different. Somebody said it this way: "John Paul II told us what to do. Benedict XVI told us why we should do it. Francis is saying, 'Do it.'" So I think that's the contribution he's making.

AC:

Are you saying that we are going to be seeing a kinder, gentler church?

BC:

Well, I would hope that we would always be kind and gentle. It's those two of the marks of the life of the spirit that Saint Paul talks about. Peace, patience, sacrifice. They're all part of it. I would hope that we would we would live the virtues of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So we always need to grow on that. We're a pilgrim people. We fail, but we try again.

AC:

But-- so I'm not misunderstanding, because I am a lay person: Do what?

BC:

Do the Gospel. Go out and search for people. Realize that Christ is doing something new in our time. That's a hallmark of what the Pope is saying. He takes seriously that Jesus has risen from the dead, that the Resurrection wasn't a past event that we read about in a history book. But that the Lord is risen. It's his agenda. He's the one moving forward. And we are invited to be a part of that. 

AC:

So as parishioners, I mean, just thinking about people who walk into the churches all across the world and specifically in America, you know, he's not talking about a change in doctrine, but he is talking about a change of something. What is it that they're going to see?

BC:

I think it's-- first of all, beginning to take people where they are, not where they should be. Yes, there are aspects of our Christian life, our response as disciplines that we have to move towards. But it's beginning where people are. And then bringing them or sharing what their encounter is with Christ and the life-transformative experience that that is. And then walking with people. I think that's a very important aspect. That we come to people with the sense already that God's working in their lives. [The pope] said that to a group of missionaries when they were going off:  "Don't go there thinking that you're going to bring something new." Remember, the Holy Spirit was there before you got there." And I think if we can give people a sense that God's already present in their lives-- that their lives count and matter, and it's a place where God works. And we as ministers are there to confirm them in that. I've said this to seminarians when I was a rector. People come to us as ministers of the church because they have had an experience of God or they're looking for one. And they want us to confirm them in that. And they want us to nourish that in them. So let's not begin by saying, "This is what we're going bring to people." Let's see what's already happening.

AC:

So it's about listening?

BC:

It is. It's about listening. I have said that when I give retreats when I talk to priests or bishops. I tell them that the scene in the Gospel that comes to mind for me as a bishop is the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus is looking at people and he's seeing where they're blessed and where they are a blessing. And he says, "Blessed are you who are poor. Blessed are you who mourn." That God's already working in there. That's what a bishop does. He should be able not just to correct people when they're astray but first of all begin to say what they're doing right, and where they're blessed, and where God's working in their life. I think-- don't parents realize that as well-- as they're raising their children? You can always find something wrong that a child does. But if you always harp on that, that child is not going to grow and is going to be demeaned. But if you hold up the things and the talents that they have and the good things that they do, they're going to grow.

AC:

But there are some who feel that the church is focused too much on abortion and homosexuality and talked about a position-- a strong, firm position of toughness on these points.

BC:

Well, the Pope said that--

AC:

What is your view? 

BC:

He said something along those lines. I've always said that those are very serious issues, especially when we're talking about human life. And yet at the same time, we have to make sure that we see it within a whole context of our respect for life. I've always said it this way: Our concerns with respect for life begin with the unborn but don't end there. And we need to make sure that we talk about all these issues. Because the fundamental point is that human dignity has to be preserved. And so if we don't defend human dignity in all these aspects, including the people who are on Death Row. I wrote piece in America magazine some years ago about the unconditional right to life. Well, if it's unconditional, especially for those who are in the womb, it's unconditional for all of us. So my hope would be that we can talk about all of these issues but always in a way that engages dialogue, engages people where they are. There has to be that kind of dialogue. Not one that it turns into a debating society but one that listens to where other people are and opens a new way for them to hear us. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said a number of years ago: "If you're only interested in winning an argument, you'll never win a convert."

AC:

And so to win a convert, what you have to do is?

BC:

Listen, talk, be respectful of people—and make sure that you really have an openness to where people are coming from. And you don't do anything that's unnecessarily antagonistic, that is only going to make you feel good because you've done it.

AC:

At the same time, as you know, the church's leadership in the United States is seen as especially conservative on issues like abortion, homosexuality. American bishops have expressed unease and even skepticism about Pope Francis' style of ministry and management leadership. Where is Pope Francis' efforts, some call “revolution” in America, most vulnerable, do you think?

BC:

Well, I first of all think that while there have been some voices in the American hierarchy that have said things that might be interpreted as questioning the direction the Pope is going, they're just not even a handful. They're a small number. But they are getting some attention. And I think that maybe it would be good to talk to those people about what they mean. But I think that there are folks and I'm finding this more in the area of the economy where the Pope is saying things with regard to the economy-- that it's not working, it kills people, it doesn't-- it's broken. And there are people who are dismissing the Pope by saying, "Well, he's naïve. He's using only the metric of his experience in Argentina. And so he really doesn't understand the sophisticated economy that we have." They're missing the point. Because, what the Holy Father is trying to get across is not an economic program, but rather to make sure that the economy really serves the people. The word economy comes from the Greek words that mean managing a household, creating a household. The economy is not about making money. It's about building and managing a household. And that's what the Pope is trying to get people to understand.

AC:

Are you concerned at all that Pope Francis will not be able to be successful in his efforts? Or do you feel incredibly optimistic about it?

BC:

Well, I think that the Pope is doing the will of Christ. And Christ is going to succeed. So I don't have any doubts about that at all. And even, you know, the Synod itself where all of the propositions were passed by two thirds except for three. But even those were passed by a majority. I think up to 60%. I think that it’s taken time for people to understand what he is saying, to adjust their own mindset, to study more and more, and to pray about it. So here we had the first meeting, the extraordinary Synod. And a vast majority agreed with all the proposals. 

AC:

And there was a kind of discussion that had never really happened before.

BC:

Yes, because he said, "Don't say you can't say that."

AC:

Another tough question-- especially here in America. As you know the church has been wounded by the child sex abuse crisis. How real is the fear that the American Catholics won't come back?

BC:

Well, it's a concern. And I experience it here. We had a very difficult experience in this archdi-- in this diocese with a bankruptcy. And some pastors tell me that we lost up to 20%, 25%, 30% of parishioners in some parishes. I do know that some people are coming back. I'm more afraid about the young people who, maybe their parents were hurt by this or maybe, in fact, they knew of someone who was abused. And so they've not even given the church a chance as they're moving into adulthood. So it really is a concern. And my hope is that we can address that head on.

AC:

So how would you characterize the crisis in the Catholic church today or this moment in history? 

BC:

Sure. I think that I want to be careful of the word “crisis” in terms of this question of abuse because in the sense that abuse was not dealt with correctly. But since the charter of 2002 particularly and even before, in 1992, many bishops put in measures that were very effective. That part of the crisis is over in the sense that we do have now a way in which we deal with these issues. And people's confidence are growing back for the church. But I think with regard to this issue presently, the real decisions and challenge that we have for us today is to convince people, first of all, that the church has something to offer. That Christ has something to offer them. And it's not a matter of forgetting about the past. But making sure that we are humbled by it and yet realize that it's not about us anyway. It's about what Christ wants us to do. So I'm not too overly concerned or discouraged because I know Christ wants the church to succeed. I know that the Gospel brings people life. And the church proclaims that life.

AC:

So it's about then being connected to that. So in this milieu then comes this new pope. And then out of a great surprise you were chosen. So then there's the Vatican. A veteran Vatican journalist, John Allen, writes about your appointment, "The Francis revolution in Catholicism has finally arrived in the United States." And he also writes, "The American landscape has shifted." So I wonder what you think about-- how do you react to those words? Do you see yourself as a soldier for a revolution?

BC:

Well-- John Allen, I don't think I’ve ever met him. And he writes well. He's a bit dramatic. The pope made an appointment just yesterday in Boise, Idaho, of really a fine bishop who was in Superior, Wisconsin. I know him well, Peter Christensen. And he's going to do terrific work there as well. So I don't see my appointment as something that's singular, that's earth shattering to the point where this is going to be some sort of an indication that everything is going to go in a whole different direction. I don't have that kind of presence.

AC:

But you have to know that he has found you, a man, not too different from himself in the way you minister as a man of God. You share a number of traits. And I'm guessing that before his arrival those traits were not too popular in some parts of this church.

BC:

Well, that may be. You'll have to talk to other people about that. I do know that-- I've been asked--in the 16 years that I've been a bishop to serve on a number of committees and to run for various offices which I've always been elected to. So, I mean, it's not as though I don't have friends in the hierarchy of the Catholic church or that in some way I'm an outsider.

AC:

I didn't mean to imply that at all. 

BC:

No, no, yes. So, I mean, I do think that we wouldn't be having this discussion if this was not Chicago. Chicago is the third largest. But I can tell you that there are bishops that the Holy Father is appointing to other places, smaller places that probably the same question could be asked about. And I just think that more and more you're going to see that kind of appointment happening. And so as you say in television land, stay tuned. 

AC:

When you say “that kind of appointment?”

BC:

The kind of appointment that you're talking about of somebody who looks at people the way the pope does and wants. The pope has said this and the nuncio has said this. The nuncio told us last year the pope told him, I want more pastoral bishops. I don't want people who are going to be antagonistic. If you go back to his speech, the Holy Father wants bishops who know “the smell of the sheep.” The pope has been very direct about that.

AC:

What do you hope to accomplish from the grand pulpit of Chicago?

BC:

I'm going to be attentive to the needs of the people that are there and get to know them. When I was first announced at the press conference, the first question was, "Okay, what are your priorities? What's your agenda?" And I had to beg off and say "Look, I just got here 18 hours ago. I know very little about this church." But if I do have a priority it's getting to know the great things that are already happening there. And that's the way the pope operates. He wants to see what already is happening there and hold it up. And there are a lot of great things happening. The Church of Chicago has a wonderful heritage. And a lot of good things have happened for many, many decades and centuries. 

AC:

Oftentimes in school the teacher wants you to say something and you've got to stand up in front of everyone and say it. And you already have a history of saying a great deal. You've spoken out about the need for immigration reform. You've criticized Washington for not doing more. Do you expect to continue that? What do you want to change in immigration reform? What is the message from you on that?

BC:

My message is the one of the bishop's conference. I've always tried to speak in a way that is in union with the other bishops because I think our voice is stronger when we're united. And I'm going to continue to do that. I do think that the other part of it is that there are issues that have to be addressed because of their time sensitivity. And immigration is one of them right now. Here we are, the day after the election-- the Republicans have won the Senate. And we have to now look at how we're going to get this done. My hope would be that something can be done in the lame duck session. Or surely in the first few months of the new year. Because in 2016 the general election cycle is going to kick in. And if it's not done soon, I think the chances lessen day by day.

AC:

What's the least that you want to get done?

BC:

Well, I think we have to legalize the situation of those who are undocumented, yes, to give them documentation. But also to provide a pathway to citizenship. And then also look for a way in which we are going to have our borders secured. But it can't be driven only be securing our borders because there is a lack of security as well for our nation and for the people who are undocumented that has to be addressed through a way in which they're going to be given documents and they're going to have a pathway to citizenship. So, my hope would be that those would be the priorities.

AC:

As you become an archbishop you will be afforded a different lifestyle. Not necessarily a humble lifestyle. Won't you have to give up the kind of lifestyle you've had to become the archbishop of Chicago?

BC:

Well, yes, and I have to make choices, and I have to be centered about that… But the

the decision is not made in just terms of the exterior but what's going to happen to me interiorly. So I have to make sure that my “interior” is not compromised. So that's one of the reasons that I decided not to live in the archbishop's residence, but to live in the rectory at Holy Name Cathedral because it would give me first-hand, day-to-day experience with the people who live in the city who also come to Mass. And it's also convenient, because I can walk around the corner. So I can make some strategic decisions. But will I, in fact, be in settings that are quite lavish and where I'm put in a situation where people have enormous wealth? Yes, that's part of living in America.

AC:

I know you've not met Pope Francis. When you meet Pope Francis do you know yet what you'll say to him?

BC:

Well, the time for my first meeting I think is June 29th, when we have the pallium ceremony. I'm going to greet him and then let him start the conversation. I think it's better to do that because he obviously has something to say to all of us. And so I'll be responsive.

AC:

So I'll end with my final question: Are you happy now that you don't have to defend your position on the Chicago Bears? You're going to be in a town where they're not going to be mad at you for loving them.

BC:

That's right. Well, that's right, exactly. Especially living here, where the Seahawks were so very popular. And when I lived in Washington, the Redskins were big. But I never gave up on the Bears. Just like I don't give up on the Corn Huskers in Nebraska.

MATT MALONE:

Couple of follow-up questions. One of the things the pope has asked us to do is to have this conversation over the next year about the topics that came up at the Synod on the Family. And I guess my question is how could we have that conversation as a church in a way that looks like the church is having the conversation and does not make it look like just an extension of what we see on the cable news?

BC:

Well, first of all, I'm hoping that the meeting that we have in November of the bishops will be an opportunity for us to [have an] exchange on how we think. Because I think  we can come up with some ideas together. Already, I've talked to some senior priests in the archdiocese of Chicago. So we already are going to be [starting] on that. It's going to have to be focused and also limited, given the time constraints that we have. But I already did something here in this diocese last September. I brought in two experts, one in theology who knows Cardinal Kasper's writings and another to talk to our priests about what are the issues on the landscape going into the next Synod. And it was very helpful. He took Cardinal Kasper's text and he went through that. And it was a good preparatory way for the priests. I hope to do something like that as well in Chicago.

MM:

How should pastors do it at the parish level? I'm sure it'll depend on the context and all the rest. 

BC:

Right, I guess, I'm not sure. I think it's too early to tell. I'd like to see what's going to happen in the conference. I think though that we-- as we should-- do it as a diocese so that everybody feels as though they're going to be included in the discussion, the people in the pews. And so if we do it as a diocese, then there is some evenness to the procedure and I think that we don't want a procedure in which it is uneven, where people feel neglected or excluded. And so I think the diocesan bishop is going to have to make some decisions.

MM:

What is the quality that is most needed in priests in the United States today?

BC:

I think first of all he has to be in touch with his own baptism, like when the council reminded the bishops at the Second Vatican Council that ordination does not annihilate our baptism. Which I think is a very good way of putting that. We have to be disciples first of all and convinced of what we're doing. And a deep desire to want to accompany people-- not unlike the Holy Father. So I always tell-- when I was director of the seminary I always told students-- seminarians-- forget about priesthood, forget about ordination. Think about your baptism. What does that mean?

MM:

Which is exactly what every Christian should be thinking about.

BC:

Right.

MM:

I know you're not a Jesuit. But-- I know you're a student--

BC:

Wasn't smart enough!

MM:

--you're a student of-- (LAUGHTER) but I know you're a student of Saint Ignatius. And he always talks about the lights and the shadows and the hopes and the fears. What are your hopes and your fears for the church in the United States?

BC:

I think that in the language of Ignatius, I think that we have to have a discernment process that's very suspect of attachments. And I'm not talking just about material attachments, in which people allow materialism to eat up their lives. I think that's a very serious attachment. Or even those that have to do with pleasure. But there's also the attachment to power structures. And I think there's a conversion that's needed particularly in the leadership of the church to make sure that they are clear in their own mind that they are not so attached to power or to the power structure that it has made their life more comfortable or secure. I think that is the key moment for all of us in hierarchy: to ask whether not we are attached.

MM:

That what we need most is freedom.

BC:

Freedom.

MM:

And the freedom only comes from Christ.

BC:

[Cardinal George] was asked or he spoke about what he saw unique about the pope. And he said, "He's free.” I think that was a great observation.