Stephen Brady is coming to South Dakota, and Rapid City Bishop Robert D. Gruss isn't happy.
And that's strange. After all, Brady runs Roman Catholic Faithful, a group that has a long record of exposing clerical abuse and cover-ups. And he's coming to Rapid City because Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich, who served as Rapid City's bishop from 1998 to 2010, is now in the crosshairs of massive criminal and civil investigations that are rocking the Church.
Looking at the record, one would think that Bishop Gruss would welcome Brady's visit. Consider: Archbishop Carlo Viganò's bombshell accusing Cardinal Cupich of complicity in the McCarrick scandal appeared last Aug. 25. Just six days later, Bishop Gruss published a formal statement endorsing a thorough investigation of Viganò's charges. The bishop's statement was especially courageous because, just four days before, Cardinal Cupich had told Chicago's NBC 5 that any such investigation would be like going "down a rabbit hole."
With that now-infamous line, the Chicago cardinal sent a shot across the bow of every bishop in America: "Lay off — or else!"
Bishop Gruss bravely brushed that snarl aside and upped the ante, emphasizing the importance of lay participation in any investigation. So Brady, a layman based in Illinois and a longtime observer of the Chicago archdiocese, had every reason to expect a warm welcome.
Well, it didn't work out that way. In fact, when Bishop Gruss learned of Brady's visit, he issued a letter to Catholics in his diocese condemning Brady's efforts as a satanic mission.
What had Brady done to earn this scurrilous charge? Bishop Gruss's letter explains — sort of: "Mr. Brady and his group are coming to Rapid City on Saturday, February 23 at the Ramkota from 5-10 p.m. to meet with local Catholics who are willing to share information about Blase Cardinal Cupich's tenure while he was the bishop of Rapid City."
Well, Brady had placed several ads in the Rapid City Journal about the meeting, but Bishop Gruss gave him the most valuable promotion possible: His letter was to be read at every Mass in the diocese on the weekend of Feb. 10.
What did Brady's ads say? "Our organization is seeking information on the political actions, the spiritual direction, and the troubling issues" regarding Bishop Cupich's tenure in Rapid City.
Bishop Gruss saw all this as part of a sinister plot.
"Based on what I have read in their materials, their goal is to attempt to destroy the reputation of Cardinal Cupich," he wrote. "Therefore, their mission is evil and guided by the Evil One. Any group that seeks to divide the Church by sharing false information is doing the work of Satan."
Strong stuff; I asked Brady if he had solicited false information.
"I am only looking for the truth, I have no desire to find or seek false information," he said. "It would serve no purpose."
Why seek information regarding the Chicago cardinal? Well, when in Spokane, Bishop Cupich had failed to report the presence of over a dozen sexual predator priests who had been living among young students at Gonzaga University for years. As archbishop of Chicago, the cardinal forced out Fr. Paul Kalchik, pastor of Resurrection parish in Chicago, because Fr. Kalchik had allowed parishioners to burn an LGBT rainbow flag that had hung over the altar in the days when Resurrection was Chicago's "gay parish."
Given this background, doesn't it make sense for the laity to pursue the truth about the actions of the cardinal in Rapid City? In Spokane, he covered up. In Chicago, he protects sodomy. Isn't it natural that the laity has a right to know what he did in Rapid City?
Brady is looking for information and Bishop Gruss clearly overreacted. Why?
With the departure of McCarrick, Cardinal Cupich is now the most powerful prelate in America. Yes, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, but Cupich made a fool of him at the bishops' Baltimore meeting last November. Cupich and the disgraced but still-Cardinal Donald Wuerl decide whose names will be sent to Rome for appointment as bishops. And Cupich is among the cadre running the upcoming meeting or the world's leading bishops to address the abuse and cover-up scandals.
The Chicago cardinal will come down hard on anyone who cooperates in the truth-finding efforts of the laity. Why? Because Abp. Viganò has placed him at the center of a malevolent sodomite syndicate.
Jayd Henricks, a former senior staffer at the USCCB, recently wrote that American bishops are afraid — of one another and of Rome. One "dominant" faction in the conference is interested only in politics, he adds.
It's obvious that the Chicago cardinal leads that faction. And Chicago politics doesn't seek compromise; it seeks destruction.
Bishop Gruss is terrified, so he overreacts — uncharitably and desperately. Given the facts, it was he who maligned Brady's reputation. Has he apologized?
Through the bishop's personal secretary, I asked him: "Where did Brady say he was seeking false information? In August, you supported an investigation: why not encourage the laity to help? Would an investigation into the facts surrounding the Cardinal McCarrick scandal also 'be guided by the Evil One'?"
And finally: "Have you spoken with Cardinal Cupich about the Brady meeting?"
At press time, Bishop Gruss had not responded.
All this leaves us in a most curious, potentially historic, situation. Cardinal Cupich might emerge as one of the most prominent candidates considered by the conclave that will someday elect the successor to Pope Francis in Rome.
Or he might become the next American prelate to follow McCarrick into obscurity, shame and disgrace in the middle of nowhere.
Only time will tell.