Holy Smoke

How the Vatican tried to suppress criticism of the new president

Text settings
Comments

In this episode

Damian Thompson

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the ambitious left-wing archbishop of Chicago, must have imagined that Joe Biden's inauguration last week would be a moment to savour. He and a small number of his liberal colleagues, known as 'the Biden bishops', have been working tremendously hard to make sure that, once their candidate was elected, any mention of his radical support for abortion would be sotto voce and preferably inaudible. They thought they'd succeeded.

But then things went spectacularly wrong. The president of the US bishops' conference, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, drafted a statement on behalf of his colleagues that not only mentioned Biden's pro-choice activism but also drew attention to the fact that the new administration planned to remove certain legal protections or 'conscience rights' from Americans who won't participate in abortions or other affronts to their traditional morality.

The Biden bishops were horrified, and pulled a fast one: they contacted the Vatican's left-leaning Secretariat of State, which ordered that Gomez's statement be spiked until after the inauguration. News of the censorship was immediately leaked – unsurprisingly, since most American bishops agreed with Gomez's statement. A new online publication called The Pillar revealed what had happened – and named the two pro-Biden cardinals who had clashed with Gomez: Cupich of Chicago, who seems to have been the ringleader, and Joseph Tobin of Newark.

At which point Cupich did just about the most stupid thing imaginable: he resorted to Twitter. To find out what he said, and why he's now blotted his copybook in Rome, listen to this week's episode of Holy Smoke.