Finger Food At The Lord’s Table: A Chicago Tale

Finger food at the table of the Lord. That, apparantly, is the sum of the Eucharist in Cardinal Cupich’s bailiwick.

His  diktats targeting the Latin Mass were broadcast over Christmas. In his zeal to erase—by piecemeal where necessary— the ancient protocols, Cupich’s broadside included even the Canons Regular who run St. John Cantius Church in the Chicago Archdiocese. [The order’s founding Constitution commissions its priests to restore a sense of the sacred in solemn liturgies. Central to their apostolate is the Latin Mass and the treasury of Tridentine liturgies.]

Cupich’s war on liturgical traditions is, at base, an assault on the catechetical traditions embedded in liturgy. Among those traditions is strict reservation of the Eucharist for those qualified by two indispensable preconditions: faith in the meaning of the Eucharist and fidelity to the Church’s moral norms. Exclusionary restriction serves a distinct, civic purpose. It reminds all and sundry of the ancient understanding that the Church is in the world but not of it.

But that unfashionable reminder is out of sync with the pretensions—and ambitions—of Pope Francis’s court eunuchs. God and Caesar hold hands these days. And they can do it openly on the cordial turf of the average Novus Ordo. By contrast, the venerable Tridentine Mass, with its solemn atmosphere of reverence—a prompt to awe—inhibits mundane geniality. Ceremonial decorum puts a brake on nonchalant impiety. And on the use of it for political theatre.

Glance back to Chicago this past August.

Consider the farce of Cupich permitting Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot—non-Catholic, pro-abortion, and in a high-profile lesbian “marriage”—to stand for the Eucharist at the funeral Mass for Ella French. Officer French, a 29-year-old Chicago policewoman, was gunned down in the line of duty, August 7th. She was slain making a routine traffic stop in a city that witnessed 679 homicides in 2020 alone. And some forty shootings of police in the first eight month of 2021.

By custom in a line-of-duty death, Lightfoot’s attendance at the funeral was inevitable. It is hard, though, to imagine that a grieving family welcomed the presence of a cheerleader for defunding the police. And what did they think of Lightfoot turning to the cameras when the service was over? A slick pol intent on sustaining her public image, she wasted no time making an exploitative emotional spiel: “We have to come together around this simple message that we need each other.”

Who is the “we” in need of each other here? It is Lightfoot herself and the police force she was pleased to deprive of needed funds. Her eulogy-of-a-sort delivered a couched concern for her own position vis-à-vis the men and women she handicapped. Just a week earlier, cops turned their backs to the mayor when she arrived at the hospital where French and her wounded partner had been taken. It was a telling rebuff.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things.”

It does not matter much what the mayor’s actual words were to the media. Read Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and The Carpenter” for the soul of it. His final two stanzas illumine the cynicism of Lewis’s pair and the naiveté of the doomed oysters:

‘I weep for you,’ the Walrus said:
‘I deeply sympathize.’
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

‘O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,
You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none —
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

Cardinal Cupich, Chicago’s Carpenter in cope and chasuble, presided over the funeral. A canny dissembler, he delegated responsibility for distribution of the Eucharist to his underlings—company men who know how the butter is spread. [The Carpenter said nothing but / ‘The butter’s spread too thick!”]


illustration of walrus and carpenter
Lewis Carroll. Colorized version of Carroll’s drawing for the narrative poem (1871).


Ritual decorum serves a function.

Had the funeral for Officer French been a traditional Requiem, it is unlikely that Lightfoot would have taken Communion. No non-Catholic politician—certainly not one dismissive of the moral code upheld (at least officially) by the church she set foot in—would kneel before a priest to take the Eucharist on the tongue. Theology has nothing to do with things from a politician’s standpoint. It is a basic matter of optics for an image-conscious public figure. Fashionable respect for the gods of diversity lends a teaspoon of solemnity to simple opportunism.

Lightfoot would never have knelt for Communion. Such an act of deference and submission would have been unthinkable in itself. And opening her mouth in a meek, servile position? How the hell would that look in the press, on CNN, or on Twitter? But at the Novus Ordo she could just put out her hand as she would for a pig-in-a-blanket at a City Hall reception.

Devoid of any intuitive reticence, Lightfoot lacked the grace to refrain from taking the Host. That says even more than we already know about the quality of her judgment. And the tenor of her character. It also tells much about the priorities of a publicity-conscious cardinal.

It is common at commemorative Masses—usually nuptial or funerary—attended by mixed congregants for the presiding priest to announce simply: “All Catholics are welcome to the altar.” That, or similar wording, is a courtesy to non-Catholics who might be uncertain about how to proceed. And it guards the dignity of the rite.

By contrast, Cupich facilitated a performance that what would give pause to anyone with a modicum of religious sensitivity. In this instance, the venerable practice of kneeling for Communion on the tongue would have been a brake on inappropriate reception. But a liturgical act drained of meaning is politically safer than defense of the source and summit of Catholic life. Better to offend against the faith than to scandalize a braying media that could accuse His Eminence of playing politics. Every priest distributing the Eucharist knew ahead of time not to contradict the druthers of the cardinal. Just following orders. Surely a bit of sacrilege is excusable in matters of stateship?

The clerical pretense of refusing to play politics is a profoundly political act. It is an empty pose. And Chicago’s cardinal is a hollow man.

Note: I just read that Bishop George Thomas of Las Vegas has bravely asked pro-abortion politicians not to present themselves for the Eucharist. Before you begin clapping, read his weasel codicil: “I place the onus of that decision upon the individual politician’s shoulders, and not on the backs of Pastors or Eucharistic Ministers,” he added.

It helps to read beyond a headline.