Spokane meets its new bishop

With that, the tumultuous era of Spokane Catholic Bishop William Skylstad came to a close. 

At 11 am, at the McCarthey Athletic Center Blase Cupich (pronounced Soup-Itch) was installed as the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane. 

It happened before a crowd of 4800 students and community members, and amid hymns, liturgies, elaborate ceremonies, and a visit from the Archbishop Pietro Sambi (the Pope’s envoy to the United States.)

But all this was silhouetted against a stormy backdrop: The diocese stricken by multiple sex abuse lawsuits, the diocese in bankruptcy court, the diocese to pay a $48 million settlement, the diocese mulling selling churches to pay for it. And nationally, Catholicism is declining — with only 45 percent of self-proclaimed Catholics attending mass weekly in 2009, dropping from 75 percent in 1955.

Unsurprisingly, then, most of the messages at today’s ceremony touched on a motif of renewal, resurrection and revitalization. 

“We know the shame and humiliation of public humiliation and scorn…” Cupich said about the church, describing the horror which Catholics felt upon learning that some priests had abused young boys.

Cupich ended a light-hearted anecdote about an 11-year-old boy at the airport handing him a business card that said “Best Kid in the World” by addressing the sex abuse scandal.

“It’s that spunk, that verve, that enthusiasm for life… that same innocence that was crushed and taken away from the young people [who were abused],” Cupich said. “This is a gaping wound in the body of Christ that needs our attention.”

It’s a new day. And, Cupich said, referencing the words of Pope St. Gregory I, the church should be the dawn.