When Cardinal Blase Cupich took out his iPhone Wednesday afternoon, he might not have appreciated the importance of the tweet thread he was about to produce.
Twitter can be like that. We often fail to realize what a tweet might mean for us until after we have sent it — until the replies and quote tweets start pouring in.
He is unwise in the ways of controversy. Easily surprised.
Twitter should not be underestimated. Most Americans learned that lesson during the reign of the tweet-happy President Donald Trump, who spent four years tweeting zealously: Firing cabinet secretaries, fighting with Congress, and setting foreign policy, all in 280-character chunks typed out with his thumbs on a cell phone.
By comparison, the impact of Cardinal Cupich’s Jan. 20 tweetstorm might seem insignificant. But the thread from Chicago’s cardinal is a moment of significance for the U.S. bishops’ conference, and may offer a moment of revelation about Cardinal Cupich, and his role in the Church.
Yes, let us consider the man.
Cupich was tweeting about a statement released by USCCB president Archbishop Jose Gomez, which pledged the bishops to work with incoming President Biden on areas of agreement, while also calling out the “moral evils” of the Biden administration’s policy agenda on issues like abortion, gender ideology, and religious liberty.
The cardinal thought Gomez’ statement was “ill-considered,” produced with insufficient consultation, and evidence of unspecified “internal institutional failures” at the USCCB.
Take that, you foolish opponent of mine, for whom I have zilch respect.
“I look forward to contributing to all efforts” to address those institutional failures, Cupich tweeted, though he has since declined to clarify to The Pillar precisely what failures he thinks should be addressed.
Impulsive retort, since regretted?
In fact, the consultations required by USCCB policy took place before the Gomez statement was released, and bishops tell The Pillar that additional consultation, as suggested by Cupich, would not have been customary for Gomez to release a statement in his own name.
Gomez followed protocol. Elected to dog, needed no Cupich OK.
Nevertheless, the cardinal has made clear that he is not happy, and that he does not intend to let the matter rest.
He’s talking to Rome about this. Watch out.
It is unusual – and a breach of customary episcopal etiquette – for a U.S. bishop to air a dispute with his brother bishops in public, and especially on Twitter.
Indeed. Many the non-insider would catch that.
Since Wednesday, some commentators have suggested that Cupich has fired the first shots of a coming intra-conference civil war.
One would think that, though said commentators might have been linked here. In any case, more analysis follows, with a conclusion:
When Cardinal Cupich took out his phone Wednesday, and decided to challenge openly the bishops’ conference president, he may have thought it the moment at which to take a stand. But before posting the tweet thread he might now regret, he may not have expected to find himself standing alone.
We hoy polloi await.