SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Roman Catholic cardinals often steer clear of politics. But in the hours after last week's shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 21 people, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago tweeted, the Second Amendment did not come down from Sinai. The right to bear arms will never be more important than human life. Our children have rights, too, and our elected officials have a moral duty to protect them. His comments set off support and criticism. We join Cardinal Cupich of the archdiocesan offices in Chicago. Eminence, thanks so much for being with us.
BLASE CUPICH: Good to be with you, Scott. Thanks.
SIMON: What moved you to speak out?
CUPICH: Well, I think that I joined the voices of so many people in our nation who were speaking out and just out of frustration at, once again, the slaughter of children in a school.
SIMON: How would you urge elected officials to exercise what you called their moral duty to protect children?
CUPICH: Well, I think there are standards of gun safety that other nations have adopted that we can learn from. For instance, do we really need to have assault weapons that shoot multiple bullets at people at one time? Can we benefit from strong background checks?
SIMON: But you think of it as a moral duty.
CUPICH: It is a moral duty because it's about saving lives. People who are elected to public office have a responsibility and take an oath to serve the common good of the country.
SIMON: And what do you say to those people who say that they're certainly interested in what you have to say about the Second Commandment but not the Second Amendment?
CUPICH: I think that there is a understanding that we all have in our hearts, engraved in our hearts, a natural law about the value of human life. And there is no amendment that can trump that.
SIMON: You must know that many of the people who commend and cheer on your comments about guns and the Second Amendment do not share your views on abortion.
CUPICH: Both are connected in terms of respecting human dignity and human life. I think that we should do everything possible to make sure that we build a culture of protecting human life and respecting human dignity, whether it's the child in the womb or the schoolchild who is in a classroom that's very vulnerable because an 18-year-old can walk in with an automatic weapon and begin firing.
SIMON: And, Eminence, how do you meet the argument of many people in this country that it's your right to have your views on abortion and the right of the church, but that it is the right of women to be able to make decisions about their own lives and their own selves?
CUPICH: Well, I do think we have to pay attention to the voice of women on this issue. But how is it that the life of the unborn - especially a viable child in the womb after so many months, is viable to come to birth. So I believe that we need to have a national discussion about this, respecting the voice of women, but also to keep in mind that we should not forget about the baby.
SIMON: Do you think the church might have a different attitude if women were in the clergy?
CUPICH: We have women who are very much involved in the life of the church at every level. Do we need to take measures by which that voice has a greater force and power? I believe that's true. I don't know if ordination is the way in which that has to be done. I, in fact, have always tried to uncouple power and authority with ordination. I don't think that we should collapse those two.
SIMON: It seems to me, just hearing you here, you're leaving a little room for the church to change its mind.
CUPICH: No, I'm not. I would challenge the idea that in order for people in the church to have any voice, they have to be ordained.
SIMON: You are the head of an archdiocese of 2 1/2 million Catholics, including a number of elected officials who have voted in favor of abortion rights. Should the Holy Sacrament of Communion be withheld from them?
CUPICH: No, I don't believe that's the way we should go, simply because what it - in the long run, it does is it takes off the shoulders of the elected officials the real burden that they should have in their own hearts. For the church leadership to go ahead and discipline them this way makes us an easy target of dismissal.
SIMON: As we speak, Eminence, there are thousands of people who are now at the U.S. border with Mexico and thousands more in other places and, I don't have to tell you, thousands more in this very city who are living often what amounts to kind of a life underground because they have not immigrated legally and they're afraid to be identified. They often turn to the church. What obligations do you believe America has to them to take care of them?
CUPICH: Well, we are an immigrant nation. Let's not forget our heritage, and let's be true to it. People are here and have been here for a long time. They've brought children into the world. Those children are American citizens by birth, and maybe they're undocumented. Their family is documented in many ways. They contribute to society. They work. They pay taxes. So I think as a matter of justice, we need to regularize their situation.
SIMON: I feel moved to ask you a question, Chicagoan to Chicagoan. When you spoke out on Twitter, there were people who said, look, I don't want to hear from anybody in Chicago, given the grisly, sad and tragic homicide situation in that city.
CUPICH: I'm speaking out of my own experience of living in a city that is terrorized by the saturation of too many guns. And I think that that does give people in Chicago a standing to speak from that experience and to demand that something be done.
SIMON: Do you have any concerns about faith in politics, faith getting too involved in politics?
CUPICH: Well, I think I would want to make sure that the political realm always leaves room for discussion of principles that are based on truth, and whether that's a truth that we bring from our own faith tradition or the truth that beats in the human heart.
SIMON: The cardinal of Chicago, Blase Cupich - Eminence, thanks so much for being with us.
CUPICH: Scott, good to be with you. And I really do enjoy your listening to your program from time to time.
SIMON: Thank you. I enjoy listening to your Mass from time to time (laughter).
CUPICH: Good. Thanks a lot.
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