Civil divisions based on race have long been a problem characteristic of U.S. life. The cardinal-designate said that this election demonstrated, however, that “there has also been a division based on the disparity in the economy, and that is even more pronounced today as many feel trapped in a system that does not work for them.”
“The pope has spoken about this as it pertains to the entire world,” said Cardinal-designate Cupich. “There is inequity in the system, and many are of the opinion that there is no way forward for them or their families.
“In Chicago, that is experienced by those living in neighborhoods that are segregated, where people are convinced that they have no way of moving out and up onto another level on the economic ladder.”
How can the church respond? “I think that we have to first of all re-establish a greater sense of solidarity, revitalizing our democracy, as the pope said to the Popular Movements last week, and emphasizing the factors that unite us rather than divide us. My hope and aspiration would be that the leaders of the country now would be able to raise up those factors that make us a United States, and which draw us together. We don’t need more divisive language or programs and policies that are going to tear the fabric of the nation apart.”
He urged U.S. bishops to “speak in a pastoral way to calm the fears of people and let them know that we are advocates for them, that we will be their voice, defending them. So for starters, we have to come out [of the fall meeting in Baltimore] with that very clear message to our people.”
The election also indicated divides within the U.S. bishops conference. “I think we have always had that kind of division in the episcopal conference when it comes to how some take up the various issues and give single focus to some over others,” he said. “There are always some who would like us to make one issue, or a set of issues, the non-negotiables.
“The bishops have rejected that approach in each reframing of the ‘Faithful Citizenship’ document.”
But this election cycle a number of bishops issued statements that were close to outright endorsements of then-candidate Trump. That was a phenomenon that the cardinal-designate found worrisome. “We always spoke about principles and the issues,” he said, “but we never used the opportunity of addressing issues related to the campaign by actually naming and criticizing individual politicians by name.
“I think that’s a very disturbing departure from the way we have done things in the past,” the cardinal-designate added. “I am convinced that in the long run this tactic does not suit us well, and it really is not what we should be doing as bishops.” He said that he hoped the matter would be addressed at the fall meeting of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore; “otherwise our voice will be even further marginalized in the public square.”