Chicago’s Roman Catholic leader, Cardinal Blase Cupich, was dragged this weekend into the roiling clerical sex abuse scandal because of allegations that a now-disgraced Churchman accused of sexual misconduct, Theodore McCarrick, helped advance Cupich’s career.
A just-released letter from a former high-level Vatican official, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, not only is alleging that Pope Francis knew years ago there had been misconduct allegations against McCarrick, but also that McCarrick was instrumental in getting Cupich and other U.S. Church leaders appointed by the pope.
McCarrick, a onetime cardinal, allegedly preyed sexually on adult seminarians and minors in 2013. The pope removed him from public ministry in recent months as the sex misconduct allegations – which Church officials are treating as “credible” – were made public. On Sunday, the Pope declined to confirm or deny Vigano’s claim that he knew of McCarrick’s abuse before the removal, the Associated Press reported.
“The appointments of Blase Cupich to Chicago and Joseph W. Tobin to Newark were orchestrated by McCarrick” and two other bishops, Vigano wrote. “Their names were not among those presented” formally to the Vatican embassy in the U.S., and onto the pope through regular channels.
Vigano, who was the Vatican’s top U.S. diplomat from 2011 until 2016, goes on to rip into Cupich, alleging he has a “pro-gay ideology.”
Cupich has never been accused of any misconduct, sexual or otherwise.
“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,” Vigano wrote, according to a copy of his letter posted on the National Catholic Register news site.
A statement released Sunday afternoon by Cupich questioned the accuracy of some of the details in Vigano’s letter and noted that he’s only had limited communications with Vigano, all of them cordial. The allegations of McCarrick being involved in his appointment are “astonishing,” Cupich’s statement says.
Neither Vigano nor McCarrick could immediately be reached for comment.
Some Church insiders have long believed that McCarrick went to bat for Cupich, and that Cupich’s name was not included on the official shortlist of archbishop candidates submitted to the pope with input from then-retiring Chicago Cardinal Francis George.
Vigano’s letter seems to confirm those suspicions.
- Report identifies more than 1,000 victims of priest abuse
- Vatican condemns reported sex abuse by Pennsylvania priests
- Sexual abuse allegations force the resignation of US prelate McCarrick
In an Aug. 7 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times in which he was asked about McCarrick, Cupich said only the pope knows the particulars of his appointment. He also said he doesn’t buy that there are “kingmakers” in that process, and that many people likely gave their opinions to the pope on appointments.
Pope Francis took office in 2013, and he appointed Cupich the following year, before George’s death.
In the Sun-Times interview, Cupich also lambasted the secretive legal settlements that were made in past years by the Church in New Jersey to resolve sexual misconduct complaints against McCarrick. Cupich spoke to the importance of transparency in the Church, and he also said there’s an advisory group that his predecessor created that helps Church leaders here address allegations of sexual misconduct by priests against adults.
Cupich suggested this advisory group could be something of a model in other parts of the country.
But even while espousing greater transparency, Cupich’s aides have since refused to delve into detail about that group and the types of cases that were handled, and the outcomes.
In 2016, Cupich presented an award to McCarrick at an event sponsored by the Catholic Extension charity, at which Cupich praised McCarrick for his “own unique way of making a mark on the Church,” according to a conservative religious news site.
The Church has been in deep turmoil since McCarrick’s allegations became public earlier this year. McCarrick is alleged not only of trying to bed adult male seminarians – Catholic priests are supposed to be celibate, and homosexual intercourse is considered a sin – but also of alleged sexual abuse of minors.
The scandal grew amid questions about why the McCarrick allegations hadn’t been acted on sooner, and whether McCarrick’s brother bishops had covered for him.
Now Vigano is accusing the pope himself of letting McCarrick continue in ministry for years despite knowing about at least some of the accusations.
Vigano – who is considered a more conservative Catholic voice, unlike the pope who is considered liberal or, to some, even not “authentic” in some of his teachings – is calling on the pope to resign.
Full text of Cardinal Blase Cupich’s statement on Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s letter
Statement of Cardinal Blase J. Cupich in Response to the “Testimony” of Former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States Carlo Maria Vigano, August 26, 2018
The former nuncio makes a number of references to me in his “testimony.” The first is in the sentence: “This is how one explains that, as members of the Congregation for Bishops, the Pope replaced Cardinal Burke with Wuerl and immediately appointed Cupich right after he was made a cardinal.”
The former nuncio is confused about the sequence of these events. In fact, I was appointed to the Congregation for Bishops on July 7, 2016, and was named a cardinal on October 9, 2016.
The second reference to me is in the sentence: “The appointments of Blase Cupich to Chicago and Joseph W. Tobin to Newark were orchestrated by McCarrick, Maradiaga and Wuerl, united by a wicked pact of abuses by the first, and at least of coverup of abuses by the other two. Their names were not among those presented by the Nunciature for Chicago and Newark.”
I consider these remarks astonishing. The only substantial conversation I have ever had about my appointment to Chicago with the former nuncio was on September 11, 2014, when he called to inform me of the appointment. The former nuncio started the conversation by saying: “I call with news of great joy. The Holy Father has appointed you the archbishop of Chicago.” He then congratulated me upon hearing of my acceptance. That is the extent of any conversation I have ever had about this matter with the former nuncio. Moreover, the former nuncio personally participated in my installation ceremony in Chicago in November 2014 and personally presided at the imposition of the pallium the following summer, and on both occasions offered only supportive remarks and congratulations. As to the issue of my appointment to Chicago as well as the question of episcopal appointments in general, I do not know who recommended me for the Archdiocese of Chicago, but I do know that Pope Francis, like his predecessors, takes seriously the appointment of bishops as one of his major responsibilities. Pope Francis has made it clear that he wants pastoral bishops, and I work each day to live up to that expectation in collaboration with many fine lay and religious women and men, my brother priests and brother bishops. I am proud to serve the church in Chicago and I am grateful for the help I receive.
The third and fourth references to me deal with my statements on the causes of clerical sexual abuse as it relates to homosexuality. Any reference I have ever made on this subject has always been based on the conclusions of the “Causes and Context” study by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, released in 2011, which states: “The clinical data do not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity or those who committed same-sex sexual behavior with adults are significantly more likely to sexually abuse children than those with a heterosexual orientation or behavior.” John Jay researchers came to this conclusion after reviewing many studies on the topic. Their scholarly work is not to be dismissed out of hand.
As for the rest of the “testimony,” a thorough vetting of the former nuncio’s many claims is required before any assessment of their credibility can be made.