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Cardinal Blase CupichClaire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

CHICAGO (LifeSiteNews) — Leaked emails reveal that Chicago’s leftist mayor, Lori Lightfoot, consulted with Cardinal Blase Cupich before sending a letter to Chicago’s faith communities in an effort to crack down on non-compliance with religious service restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.

Under Cupich, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago had suspended public Masses and other religious services even before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued his stay-at-home executive order on March 20, 2020. However, some other churches were defying Pritker’s mandates, prompting Lightfoot to issue a letter warning church leaders she would suppress ongoing, in-person services.

An exchange published by the Chicago Sun Times shows that Lightfoot, an active lesbian, had Cupich edit her letter before its dissemination, at Cupich’s suggestion.

A day before Lightfoot sent the letter, Cupich emailed her a copy of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s plan for gradually reopening churches, as well as an accompanying letter he would send to clergy. In his May 13, 2020 email, he shared with her the documents, noting, “I am grateful for your confidence keeping them reserved” until later that afternoon, when he intended to release them.

He went on to offer his assistance in crafting Lightfoot’s planned letter to Chicago’s faith leaders, writing, “Since you mentioned a letter to faith leaders I am also sharing you a confidential communication to my clergy, which will not be released but is designed to get them to stay on board with me. Perhaps some of the language I use may be of help to you and I would be happy to review it if you want to send it to me. Thanks for all you do.”

About two hours later, Lightfoot responded, “Thanks. I will review and keep confidential until I know that it is public. I have attached my working draft. Welcome your thoughts as to tone and content. Thanks again.”

After reading her draft letter, Cupich offered several suggestions aimed at smoothing over the letter’s reception by faith leaders, including the following: “This sentence, too, could be misread: ‘I firmly believe that our faith is measured by what is in our hearts and how we live each day, not the physical surroundings of where we gather.’

“Thinking defensively, I can see some using this to claim the mayor doesn’t understand the sacramental life of the church. Catholic critics of stay-at-home orders complain less about not being able to gather in a church structure than they do about not being able to receive Communion. I think the Gospel quote from Matthew sufficiently does the job,” Cupich wrote.

Lightfoot’s letter, published a day later on May 14, shows that he was referring to her Scripture quote, “where two or more are gathered in my name, there I will be also,” which Lightfoot used to assure faith leaders that religious service restrictions would not hinder “meaningful” religious activities.

Cupich had also told Lightfoot, “You may want to reformulate the section that begins: ‘And what is asked of you?’ This may be too direct and cause those digging in and claiming ‘government overreach’ to be inclined to read this as an elected official telling them how to minister. One way to sidestep this would be to couch these sentiments in affirmations such as, ‘I know that as religious leaders you take the health and well-being of your community with the greatest seriousness.’ And so on and so forth.”

In his email of suggested revisions, Cupich noted that Illinois bishops would that day announce the reopening of churches to allow for a maximum of 10-person gatherings.

Weeks earlier, Chicago Catholics had written to Cupich and were organizing prayer vigil demonstrations calling for church reopenings. Protest organizer Lisa Bergman highlighted the fact that Pritzker had deemed churches “non-essential” while shopping centers and liquor stores were kept open.

Cupich’s office had refused to meet with Catholics asking for church reopenings, but the archdiocese later announced that because of an order issued by Gov. Pritzker, Masses would be soon be held with a maximum attendance of 10 people.

Concluding his email to Lightfoot, which included a few other suggestions, Cupich wrote, “Apart from those edits, I think the letter comes off as persuasive and heartfelt. I hope its audience finds it as compelling.”

According to the Chicago Sun Times, an hour later, Lightfoot responded, “Very helpful. Thanks.”

Lightfoot’s published letter, which acknowledged that she had “heard from and consulted with many” of the faith leaders she was writing to, shows that she had incorporated Cupich’s suggestions.

For example, with only slight tweaking, she used the very wording Cupich had offered for her section “What is asked of you in this moment?” In it, she wrote, “I know that as faith leaders you take the health and well-being of your community with the utmost seriousness and further that you put the health and well-being of your congregants first.”

A little farther down, she went on to write, “I am urging you to stay the course … to be clear, I am resolute that I must enforce the rules of the governor’s stay at home order. To be fair at all, I simply cannot look away from non-compliance no matter the source or intention.”

Writing for the American Thinker, Michael C. Hurley highlighted in November the unprecedented nature of the Catholic Church’s decision during COVID-19 “to shut its doors and abandon the flock out of the fear of mortal death, which the Bible plainly tells us is Satan’s stock in trade.”

“There is no benign explanation for the willful decision to deny a starving world the imperishable bread of heaven, which is the Eucharist, and exchange it for the perishable bread of this world, which is the fleeting illusion of physical health and material comfort that the bishops sought to purchase by closing the churches,” Hurley wrote.

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