Cardinal Cupich booed and heckled by some at Chicago March for Life rally

Cardinal Blase Cupich Credit Daniel Ibanez 1 CNA Cardinal Blase Cupich. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

An otherwise peaceful March for Life event in Chicago on Saturday turned contentious when some in the crowd booed and heckled Cardinal Blase Cupich during his speech at a rally at Federal Plaza.

Caitlin Bootsma, a spokeswoman for March for Life Chicago, said the behavior was limited to a small portion of the crowd.

"There was some disturbance in the front of the crowd by a small number of individuals," she told CNA.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Cupich was escorted by security personnel away from the rally, but Bootsma said it was not because of the rough reception the cardinal received.

"The Cardinal’s plan was already to leave after his speech," she said. "Security accompanied him out as they have in previous years and also did for some other speakers."

Approximately one minute into his speech, Cupich, who wore a mask at the outdoor rally, elicited a ripple of boos when he shared words of support for those he saw in the crowd wearing masks.

"You know, we come here in these days of the pandemic when life is threatened. And I'm so glad that I see many of you wearing masks. I hope that you continue to look for ways in which we can end this pandemic by promoting life. It's really important to do that," Cupich said.

Hearing boos and shouting from some in the crowd, Cupich then added: "Now I know you people, there are some in the crowd here who don't respect the unborn, and that's too bad. But let me speak. Let me speak." You can watch Cupich's remarks in the March for Life Chicago live stream video, beginning at the 43:53 mark.

The booing and heckling subsided momentarily, but grew louder toward the end of Cupich's remarks. Some in the crowd could be heard shouting statements about "Biden" and one man yelled, "Tell the USCCB!"

"Now, these people won't let me talk because they're not here to respect the unborn. They're not here to respect you," Cupich responded.

Cupich was criticized by some in the pro-life movement last year for leading an effort to head off a direct confrontation between the United States Conference of Bishops and President Joe Biden, who as the country's second Catholic president has pursued policies at odds with official Church teaching against abortion and same-sex marriage.

A year ago Cupich took to Twitter to issue a scathing criticism of what he called an "ill-considered" statement the USCCB released on the day of Biden's inauguration that called abortion "a direct attack on life that also wounds the woman and undermines the family."

Cupich flew to Rome to meet with Pope Francis 10 days later, in a move some observers saw as an attempt to enlist the Vatican's help in steering the USCCB away from adopting a policy of denying communion to Biden and other politicians who actively promote legalized abortion. The U.S. bishops in November voted 222 to 8, with three abstentions, in favor of releasing a new teaching document that calls for Eucharistic renewal in the Church. The document does not mention Biden or any other politicians by name.

In his remarks on the March for Life rally on Jan. 8, Cupich referred to the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide when it rules on the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization later this year.

"We have many reasons to be hopeful that the legal protections for the child in the womb, which we have advocated for decades, will soon become a reality," Cupich said.

"But as we've heard already today, that's really not our only goal," he said. "We march today for respect for all human life. That's the goal that we need to pursue." Cupich later pointed to the need to defend the elderly, the sick, immigrants, and those living in poverty, among others, against a mindset that treats human life as if it were "disposable."

March for Life Chicago is considered the largest pro-life event in the Midwest. This year's event drew thousands of pro-life marchers as well as a smaller counter-demonstration.

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Editor's note: This story was corrected to state that the rally was held on Saturday, Jan. 8. The story was updated on Jan. 9 at 9:40 p.m. ET to add comments from a spokeswoman for March for Life Chicago that only a "small number" of people in the crowd shouted and booed during Cardinal Cupich's remarks.

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