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Cardinal Cupich orders priests to address disputed TV report at Mass

Cardinal Blase Cupich | Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times files

Cardinal Blase Cupich has instructed Chicago-area priests to deliver a statement at Mass this weekend slamming a local TV news report that he calls “misleading,” saying it was edited to suggest he and Pope Francis were downplaying the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal.

The clip came toward the end of a two-minute segment that aired Aug. 27 on NBC5 about the Archdiocese of Chicago cooperating with Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan’s review of abuse allegations across the state. Since the interview aired, Cupich has been castigated across the internet for being seemingly insensitive to the sex abuse crisis.

“Our story on the interview with Cardinal Cupich was accurate,” NBC5 station manager Frank Whittaker said in an email. “The story is posted on our website along with the full unedited interview for anyone to see.”

In the TV report Cupich disputes, reporter Mary Ann Ahern paraphrases Cupich’s claim of a small group of church insurgents upset with the pope’s direction, followed by the cardinal on screen saying: “He’s got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Cupich claimed the clip “was edited in such a way that gave the false impression that Pope Francis and I consider the protection of children to be less important than other issues, such as the environment or immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Cupich said he was referring to the recent letter from former high-level Vatican official Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, “not the crime of clergy sexual abuse.”

Vigano claimed last week that Pope Francis knew for years about misconduct claims against disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick — and also that McCarrick was instrumental in getting Cupich and other U.S. Church leaders appointed by the pope. Cupich has said he doesn’t know whether McCarrick went to bat for him with the pope to get appointed to the top Church job in Chicago.

NBC5 defended its story in a statement on its website.

“We believe our story to be accurate in that Cardinal Cupich was referring to the memo about sexual abuse allegations in question,” the station said. “The cardinal was making a point that until accusations are verified, the Pope shouldn’t respond.”

Now, parishioners can expect to hear about the contested quote at Mass this weekend — a highly unusual move for the archdiocese, the local arm of the Catholic Church. .

“Priests have been asked to read the Cardinal’s statement regarding the NBC5 report during Mass this week,” archdiocese spokeswoman Anne Maselli said in an email, declining further comment.

Cupich has been on a seminary retreat in Mundelein, though it wasn’t clear if he’d be speaking there about the sex abuse crisis that’s stretching from the seminaries to the highest rungs of the Catholic Church.

Read Cupich’s full statement here:

Statement of Cardinal Blase J. Cupich on Misleading NBC Chicago Report

August 29, 2018

An NBC Chicago TV report that aired Monday night was edited in such a way that gave the false impression that Pope Francis and I consider the protection of children to be less important than other issues, such as the environment or immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A review of the unedited footage of that interview shows that I was referring to the recent letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, not the terrible crime of clergy sexual abuse. I said that it was not appropriate, or even possible for Pope Francis to respond to the letter’s many undocumented allegations, and I endorsed his request that journalists determine their veracity.

I was then asked whether there should be an independent investigation of the Archbishop Theodore McCarrick case, and I endorsed the call of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for a thorough investigation.

The edited report created the false impression that my comment that the pope should not “go down the rabbit hole” of the allegations in the Viganò letter was about sexual abuse. As the unedited footage shows, it was not.

As I wrote in my letter responding to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report: “Whatever words we may use to describe the anguish of reading about these heinous acts, they can never capture the reality of suffering endured by victims of sexual abuse, suffering compounded by the woeful responses of bishops who failed to protect the people they were ordained to serve. … We must resolve to face our failures and hold each other accountable. We must resolve to be clear-eyed about what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what remains to be done. We must resolve to live in the light of humility, of repentance, of honesty — the light of Christ. As your bishop, I pledge to continue holding firm to that resolve. And I ask for you to pray for all victims of abuse.”