Cardinal Blase Cupich is speaking out after finding himself in the middle of a firestorm between a former Vatican official and Pope Francis.
That former official claims the pope covered up sexual abuse allegations against the former archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The official also alleges McCarrick orchestrated the appointment of Cupich to lead Chicago’s archdiocese.
Cupich says he’s “astonished” by these accusations. They are leveled by the Vatican’s former ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was also the person that informed Cupich of his selection to lead Chicago.
But in an explosive letter, Vigano accuses Pope Francis of covering for McCarrick despite knowing for years about sexual abuse allegations of adult males and minors. Vigano says it is McCarrick who had the pope’s ear and went to bat for Cupich to get the job in Chicago, when Cupich was not thought of as a finalist.
Cupich on Monday denied that any of that is true and says he believes Vigano has a vendetta.
“That statement seems to imply that all of a sudden I fell out of the sky. I had been appointed by three popes as bishop,” Cupich said. “I don’t think anybody walks into the pope’s office and says, ‘Oh by the way here’s someone I pulled out of a hat, you should appoint him.’ There’s some payback going on here of relationships that soured between him and other people in Rome over the years. And I think there’s a real bitterness there.”
Full interview: Paris Schutz interviews Cardinal Blase Cupich on Monday.
There are many people within the Catholic Church that paint this as part of a broader war between conservatives and progressives who advocate for a more pastoral ministry, like Pope Francis. Cupich said he hoped that wasn’t the case but it certainly appeared that way
In the letter, Vigano reserved his harshest words for Cupich’s view of homosexuality. Vigano, who believes the priest sex abuse problem is an outgrowth of a tolerance of homosexual behavior in the church, writes: “Regarding Cupich, one cannot fail to note his ostentatious arrogance, and the insolence with which he denies the evidence that is now obvious to all: that 80% of the abuses found were committed against young adults by homosexuals who were in a relationship of authority over their victims.”
Cupich said Monday he simply goes by studies that say it is inaccurate to conflate homosexuality and pedophilia.
“The point that they’re trying to make is that the child abuse problem we have is due to homosexuality,” Cupich said. “And my point is, be careful. Because a John Jay College study says you cannot reduce this to one factor. If you do that, what you’re saying is that homosexuals are more prone to abuse people than straight people. That’s unjust. It’s wrong.”
Meanwhile, Pope Francis, who was visiting Ireland last week, declined to say much about the damning letter. “Read the statement carefully and make your own judgement,” he told reporters. “I will not say a single word on this. I believe the statement speaks for itself. When some time passes, and you have drawn your own conclusions, I may speak."
Hotline for victims
Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday announced a hotline for victims of priest sex abuse to come forward. She has requested records of seven clergy members that spent time in Chicago who were named in the explosive Pennsylvania grand jury report of sexual abuse and cover-up in that state. Cupich says he is complying with her requests for records on those people.
“We’re going to cooperate fully, but they have all of our records already, and all of the names have already been reported to police,” Cupich said. “But I also think that child abuse isn’t just in the Catholic Church. We read on the pages of the paper that it’s happening in school systems and other organizations. So, let’s be even handed. Let’s make sure that the records of all those institutions are opened up so that the state can come take a look.”
Madigan says her office plans to meet with Chicago’s Archdioceses and other Catholic Dioceses across the state, and hopes to avoid a full grand jury investigation if all of the officials are cooperative and transparent.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz