Cardinal Blase Cupich vowed “to be clear-eyed about what we have done” in a letter Friday to Chicago congregants, lamenting the wave of “appallingly familiar” sex-abuse allegations revealed earlier this week in a Pennsylvania grand jury report.
“And yet 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,” Cupich wrote in the four-page letter.
The grand jury report released Tuesday identified about 300 Catholic priests accused of molesting more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania dating back to the 1940s, with claims of a systematic coverup by senior church leaders using many of the same methods unearthed in the initial clergy sex-abuse scandal that broke nationwide in 2002.
“I know that many of you are asking: How could this be happening again?” Cupich wrote. “What are they doing now, and why should we trust that this time they will do the right thing?
“These are precisely the questions that ought to be asked. As a former chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, I have asked them myself. And sorrow, disgust, outrage — these are righteous feelings, the stirrings of the conscience of a people scandalized by the terrible reality that too many of the men who promised to protect their children, and strengthen their faith, have been responsible for wounding both.”
Cupich touted the Thursday announcements by the bishops committee — the leading body of American Catholic leaders — that it had requested a Vatican investigation of disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and that it would revise its sexual abuse-reporting procedure implemented in 2002 to include a procedure for allegations against bishops.
He also noted that “the vast majority of abuses” in the new grand jury report “occurred decades ago,” writing that “just two of the 300 priests named in the text were accused within the past decade, and both were reported to civil authorities.
“This excuses nothing, and we can never become complacent about our responsibility to protect children and adults from abuse and harassment, but it does say something about the effects of our post-2002 policies,” Cupich wrote, claiming that “in many ways we can say that the policies . . . have been successful.”
He also said the Chicago Archdiocese has “done even more” since then,” including putting a lay-majority board in place to consider allegations against clergy, requiring background checks and “safe-environment training” for Diocese employees and volunteers, and referring “all allegations of abuse to civil authorities.”
“Anger, shock, grief, shame,” Cupich wrote. “There is one other word that we bishops must summon: resolve. 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.”
Contributing: Associated Press