Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago listens Aug. 2 during a panel discussion on the death penalty in Chicago. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic)   Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago listens Aug. 2 during a panel discussion on the death penalty in Chicago. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic) 

Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago and a former head of the U.S. bishops’ committee on child and youth protection, said he supports an investigation into breakdowns in the handling of allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct against former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a process he said should include lay people. But he praised the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by U.S. bishops in 2002, saying it was effective in helping both to remove the former cardinal from public ministry and encouraging other victims to come forward.

“I would go with a review to confirm if policies that already were in place were not followed,” he said in a recent interview with America. But, he added, “it seems to me, that they were followed.” He said church leaders must continue to strive for an environment where “anyone who has been victimized by a cleric” is offered “compassion and [is] given support.”

Cardinal Cupich said Cardinal Timothy Dolan should be “commended” for listening to the lay review board in the Archdiocese of New York that investigated a claim of abuse against Archbishop McCarrick. That board deemed the complaint credible and ultimately recommended then-Cardinal McCarrick be removed from public ministry. That announcement was made on June 20, when the New York archdiocese said in a statement that it had found credible an allegation that Archbishop McCarrick, then a priest in New York, abused a teenager nearly 50 years ago. Church leaders in New Jersey also confirmed in June that Archbishop McCarrick had been accused at least three times of sexual misconduct with adults while serving as a bishop there decades ago.

It appears “there was somebody [who] dropped the ball” in handling accusations of sexual misconduct involving adults.

“The Archdiocese of New York did their job,” Cardinal Cupich said, referring to its investigation of the abuse complaint. “It’s painful to have all of this other information come out,” he added, pointing to subsequent allegations of abuse leveled against Archbishop McCarrick, who resigned from the College of Cardinals last month. “But it’s important for victims to feel freedom to do that, and we want to continue to let victims know that.”

While the review board in New York appears to have acted on a complaint involving a child, which led to Archbishop McCarrick’s removal from ministry, Cardinal Cupich said it appears “there was somebody [who] dropped the ball” in handling accusations of sexual misconduct involving adults.

The New York Times reported last month that complaints against Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior with seminarians were reported multiple times between 1994 and 2008 to bishops, Vatican officials and even to Pope Benedict XVI. Dioceses in New Jersey settled claims of sexual misconduct made by two former priests against Archbishop McCarrick, one in 2005 and another in 2007, the paper reported. But Archbishop McCormick’s successor in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, said he was not made aware of the agreements.

Cardinal Cupich, who said he was “shocked” to learn about Archbishop McCarrick’s “double life,” said he would support “a full inquiry” into why those settlements were not disclosed.

“I’ve always trusted the laity to do the right thing. Their expertise and their knowledge far exceeds many of us who are ordained.”

“We have to find out exactly what took place, especially with regard to the adult misbehavior that was alleged,” he said, adding that if dioceses lack policies on how to deal with allegations of misbehavior involving adults, then “we need to correct that.”

The Chicago cardinal, who serves on the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, said a board in Chicago that investigates allegations of sexual misconduct between church personnel and adults could serve as an effective model. That board includes lay and ordained members with expertise in counseling, pastoral work and law.

“I’ve always trusted the laity to do the right thing. Their expertise and their knowledge far exceeds many of us who are ordained,” he said. “We need to pay attention to that.”

Another breakdown in handling allegations against Archbishop McCarrick was made public by the Rev. Boniface Ramsey, who told The Washington Post last month that he sent a letter in August 2015 to Cardinal Seán O’Malley, who heads the Vatican’s commission on child sexual abuse. Father Ramsey said he tried alerting the commission about sexual misconduct allegations against Archbishop McCarrick but, he told The Post, he received a reply from Cardinal O’Malley’s secretary informing him that such allegations were outside the purview of the commission.

When asked if the church needed new structures to report sexual misconduct not involving children, Cardinal Cupich said, “Yes, I believe that’s the case.”

“If there was a misstep in this, so that people did not have the means by which they could put forward a complaint with objectivity and security, [knowing] that it would be acted on, then we need to put [that] in place,” Cardinal Cupich said.

But, he said, there is no need to “invent any new machinery” in order to adopt policies for reporting such allegations.

“An H.R. department would know how to help us do that, and we should learn from those best practices,” the cardinal said.

In the weeks since allegations were made against Archbishop McCarrick, some commentators and clergy have suggested that allowing gay men to be priests has created a culture ripe for the kind of abuse Archbishop McCarrick is alleged to have committed.

But Cardinal Cupich said he “would be very careful” in accepting that conclusion, noting that similar claims made during the height of the child sexual abuse crisis in the 2000s were refuted by an independent 2011 report compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of the sex abuse crisis]

“I really believe that the issue here is more about a culture of clericalism in which some who are ordained feel they are privileged and therefore protected so that they can do what they want,” Cardinal Cupich said.

“People, whether heterosexual or homosexual, need to live by the Gospel,” he said, adding that he “would not want to reduce this simply to the fact that there are some priests who are homosexual.”

“I think that is a diversion that gets away from the clericalism that’s much deeper as a part of this problem,” he said.

When asked if Catholics should feel confident that allegations of harassment and abuse against church leaders are being handled correctly today, Cardinal Cupich said they should ask their bishops to explain the policies in place to protect both children and adults from harassment and abuse.

And if church leaders “need help in that nationally, then we need to do something,” he said. “Let’s roll up our sleeves when we get together in November and do it.”

Correction, Aug. 7, 2018; 11:49 am ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Archbishop McCarrick's successors in Newark have said they were not aware of the settlements between the dioceses and two former priests. The story has been corrected.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Vincent Couling
5 years 10 months ago

“I really believe that the issue here is more about a culture of clericalism in which some who are ordained feel they are privileged and therefore protected so that they can do what they want,” Cardinal Cupich said.

These issues are carefully teased out in Fr James Alison's excellent analysis at http://jamesalison.co.uk/texts/were-in-for-a-rough-ride/

"This is not a matter of left or right, traditional or progressive, good or bad, chaste or practising; nor even a matter of twenty five years of Karol Wojtyla’s notoriously poor judgment of character, though all these feed into it. It is a systemic structural trap, and if we are to get out of it, it must be described in such a way as to recognise that unknowing innocence as much as knowing guilt, well-meaning error as well as malice, has been, and is, involved in both its constitution and its maintenance. "

Tim O'Leary
5 years 10 months ago

Vincent - this is a terribly tepid response from Cardinal Cupich. McCarrick got promoted to Bishop and Cardinal despite many priests and bishops knowing he was sexually active and a predator of young adults. He was active in getting others promoted, some of who might have known of his crimes. And all Cardinal Cupich can muster above is: “I would go with a review to confirm if policies that already were in place were not followed,” and “it seems to me, that they were followed.” In my opinion, this Cardinal has disqualified himself from this investigation. We need one led my lay people experienced in forensic investigations, as recommended by Bishops Scharfenberger, Lafayette, McKnight and Robert Barron https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/the-mccarrick-mess/5873/ "“What did the responsible parties know and when did they know it?” Only after these matters are settled will we know what the next steps ought to be."

James Haraldson
5 years 10 months ago

The person who "dropped the ball" was every idiotic Catholic who forgot Catholicism, which is to say virtually every Catholic. The Church exists for one reason an one reason only, to save us from our sins, and the lies we tell ourselves to convince ourselves we haven't sinned such as when a smug Cardinal trivializes the harm that comes from homosexuality in the priesthood.

Michael Barberi
5 years 10 months ago


I totally agree. Fr. James Alison did provide an excellent analysis.

The culture of clericalism is only one aspect of the problem. For example, today we have Bishops and Cardinals accusing Pope Francis of heresy over Amoris Laetitia (AL). Most bishops in the U.S. will not implement AL while others fully endorse it. Let's face it we also have a crisis in truth in our Church over many moral teachings. This significantly damages the credibility of the hierarchy.

It is ironic that the hierarchy will demand adherence by the laity to every moral teachings but will turn a blind eye when it comes to despicable sexual crimes and the coverup by Priests, Bishops and Cardinals.

The more important thing in this case in question is not so much an investigation but precisely to implement effective measures to remove all the causes of such crimes, the coverup and the injustice. What is do not need is more 'rules and procedures' and the same enforcement.

Crystal Watson
5 years 10 months ago

We can't trust these guys to investigate themselves, nor can we trust an organization that these guys hire and pay (John Jay College). The bishops harbor within their ranks members who they know without a doubt have covered up sex abuse - Mahony is an example. Their first loyalty is to themselves.

Eileen Flynn
5 years 10 months ago

I'm thinking about the suspicion with which people are viewing priests who were ordained by McCarrick. Some of them got superior assignments early on in their careers. Did this happen because they slept with him at the beach house? It seems to me that those who were in the seminary when McCarrick was bishop should be encouraged to speak up and say whether or not he had taken advantage of their vulnerability and how things turned out for them. Admittedly this is a yucky expectation but it may be a necessary counter measure to the conspiracy of silence which envelops this tawdry situation.
HR experts and new policies have a role to play in regard to responding to sexual exploitation of seminarians by superiors but truth telling about what has gone on is needed first.

A Fielder
5 years 10 months ago

I suspect that allegations of clerical misconduct with adults are disregarded by clerics because many are happy to assume that the sex is consensual: no victim, no problem. That's the Jesuit motto. As long as closeted gay people are considered disordered, they will be subject to blackmail. Consider that once a cleric knows that cardinals and rectors can have sex without consequence, then nearly anyone can follow suit and discipline is nearly impossible. Of course, many foreign (African) priests have mistresses, and there is no accountability here either. How many generations of clerics have been introduced to these clerical cultures? My credible allegation was in 2007, and I am pretty sure I also benefited from the Dallas Charter, even as an adult. I am very grateful that the then Chancellor of the Diocese of Oakland was a woman.

Pam Ruigh
5 years 10 months ago

It is so bad in Kerela, India that a women's group has called for confession to be abolished as so many young women have been abused in the confessional.

Molly Roach
5 years 10 months ago

Let's not wait until November to roll up our sleeves and get working on this.

Crystal Watson
5 years 10 months ago

This kind of thing is depressing because it gives the illusion of progress without actually changing anything. The pope has had the opportunity to remove bishops/cardinals who are known to have covered up abuse, like Law, Brady, Mahony, but he never even said a harsh word about them. He's had the opportunity to allow accused clergy stand trial in civil cases ... Archbishop Wesolowski for sex abuse in Poland, Monsignor Carlo Alberto Capella for child porn in the US and Canada ... but he called them back to Rome instead. He doesn't have the will to clean house on sex abuse.

Jack Mccauley
5 years 10 months ago

I find the Cardinal’s language tepid, evasive and utilizing the same feigned “shock” as his clerical brothers used 20 years ago. Deeply disappointing — first off “somebody” didn’t drop the ball , there were many who looked the other way or covered up McCarrick’s predatory behavior. Its amazing to me after hearing this mamby pamby language of the Cardinal’s that we can only conclude that these men of God have learned very very little and to quote Pope Francis “I (they) are all part of the problem”. Many need to be defrocked, not a few....many.

Pam Ruigh
5 years 10 months ago

I don't understand how all these Cardinals and Bishops are so shocked and allege that they had no knowledge of McCarrick's behavior when I, a lowly laywoman and convert knew about it in 2008 when it was all over the internet. I read about it on Richard Sipe's Blog as well. It stinks.

J. Calpezzo
5 years 10 months ago

Who dropped the ball with the countless appeals made to the Vatican with previous scandals, like the priest who raped the deaf children in Wisconsin? And what about that pillar of the faith, Roger Mahony, Investigating Uncle Ted isn't enough. Justice for the victims of Cousin Roger and others is in order!

Danny Collins
5 years 10 months ago

Just the guy to push for the truth: a bishop who ignored the accusations against McCarrick before they became public while suspended the most popular priest in his diocese over false allegations of sexual impropriety (and refusing to reinstate him when they were proven false). www.protectourpriests.com

Of course, Cupich is going to deny that this has anything to do with homosexuality. He's part of the McCarrick tribe. Who do you think pushed for his elevation to Cardinal leaving Gomez of the world's largest archdiocese behind? McCarrick, of course.

At the height of the sex abuse crisis, 90% of the victims were males. Overall, it was 80%.

If 80-90% of murder victims by police officers were black, would we deny that racism plays a role?

If 80-90% of financial fraud was committed by banks, would we deny that the banking culture was rotten to the core.

If 80-90% of sex abuse victims were students, would we deny that the schools were rotten and corrupt?

Why, when 80-90% of the sex abuse victims are adolescent boys, do bishops deny that homosexuality has anything to do with it?

Because their leader McCarrick surrounded himself with lots of men like himself, I'd venture. Men who preyed on seminarians under their control, and then turned these broken men loose on parishes to prey on the altar servers under their control.

Why anybody continues giving to the ACA while bishops like Tobin and Farrell continue in their office without calls from other bishops for their removal is beyond me. To live with a man like McCarrick for 6 years, and to rise in the Legionaries of Christ under the bigamist and child rapist Maciel, all while while claiming complete ignorance is beyond belief.

Vincent Gaglione
5 years 10 months ago

I wrote this yesterday in reaction to another article on the same topic:

If indeed WE are the Church, then the hierarchy is not more nor less than we. It is obvious to me that the decline in our pews says something about US, not just the clergy and religious, but also about the rest of US in the pews. I don’t know the mechanism. I leave it to those smarter than me. BUT, there needs to be a much more active laity in every parish, in every diocese, indeed even in the Vatican. We cannot blame the hierarchy, clergy and religious for our problems without casting some of the blame on OURSELVES. It is a mindset that is radical perhaps, but only because it upends a view of the Church that has prevailed for a thousand years.

Bennett Kalafut
5 years 10 months ago

Clericalism must be a contributor to the problem, yes, but it doesn' t make any sense to set it against other causes as though they are exclusive. The problem is homosexuality, and clericalism, and probably other things, too.

What kind of clericalism? The same kind that has the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius forbidden by Cdl. Cupich to contact their now-exonerated founder. The same that kept the institutional Church from cleaning house at seminaries known to be "pink palaces" or that were expelling seminarians for orthodoxy. The public image of the institution must be protected. Those who are caught in misconduct (but only with youth) can be removed, perhaps, but the networks behind it should not be probed. Bishops must never be made to lose face or eat crow.

Michael Barberi
5 years 10 months ago

It is short sighted and unsubstantiated to assert that one cause of the problem of sexual abuse by clergy is homosexuality. The overwhelming majority of homosexual and heterosexual priests adhere to their vows and control any desire of sex with a person of the same gender or opposite gender. Granted, there are homosexual and heterosexual priests that do violate their vows. However, a homosexual does not have a greater desire for sex than a heterosexual. That kind of thinking is both absurd and unsubstantiated by any report of a prominent and credible social-scientific organization. Also, the report by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice did not find any evidence that homosexuality was a cause of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. Homosexuality may be an easy scapegoat, but this is not supported by the facts. Sexual abuse is caused by personal moral corruption and influenced by other factors, such as a culture of clericalism and Church structure.

Clearly, the Church does not have effective processes, procedures, or the courage of right judgment. This has lead many priests and those in the hierarchy to a sense that sexual actions, consensual or not, are somehow justified, that sexual crimes must be hidden from sight and covered up for the good of the Church's reputation, and the rights and justice for victims are secondary problems that must be forgiven, buried and forgotten. The seems to be muddling through this crisis and hopes that the problem will go away. Many call for 'investigations' as thought they don't know the cause of the problem.

The recent disclosures of sexual abuse, like those of Cardinal McCarrick (among others), represent the biggest crisis that Church is facing since the Reformation. We need effective reforms that will adequately address the root and contributory causes of sexual abuse by clergy, its coverup and lack of true justice for abusers and victims. Unfortunately, restoring the lost credibility of the hierarchy will take a long time. In the meantime, the Church must first to admit to the problems and have the courage to implement effective solutions immediately.

Isa Kavana
5 years 10 months ago

Well, what is ironic is that a member of a problematic organization was hired in Cupich's seminary: http://www.regnumchristi.org/en/path-seldom-travelled/
After all, still in 2018 this happen in seminaries of the Legion:

Advocate Thruth
5 years 10 months ago

Cardinal Cupich was promoted by Cardinal McCarrick prior to becoming the Cardinal of Chicago. Cardinal Cupich should also be investigated about his procedures in his own diocese as well as his procedures as member of the congregation of bishops. Cardinal Cupich is a very corrupted man, he has concealed many cases of abuse in his diocese, he has covered priest who has abused of children and expelled out of his diocese and even from the US people who has reported to him. As a person who lives closely and sees closely his behavior I want to denounce his acts, and I demand immediate investigation on him. I know that my time here in Chicago will be very short should Cupich realized who is writing this. But I do not care, I know the way he acts; he expels out people who report. We want Cupich out of our diocese because he is doing so much harm here in Chicago.

The latest from america

Pope Francis reportedly used a homophobic slur to refer to a gay culture in the Vatican and warned it would not be prudent to admit young men with homosexual tendencies to seminaries.
Jürgen Moltmann's influence on theology extended far beyond his native Germany or his religious denomination. His "theology of hope" influenced everything from liberation theology to contemporary politics.
James T. KeaneJune 11, 2024
Michael R. Lovell had been battling sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, for three years. He died June 9 in Italy while on a Jesuit formation pilgrimage with members of the Society of Jesus and the Jesuit university’s board of trustees.
Do you have to believe in God to go to church? I used to think so. But more agnostics should give religion a try.
Emma CampJune 11, 2024