CARDINAL Cupich Defends His Record, Pope Francis in Response to Former Vatican Official
By Patrick M. O'Connell
August 27, 2018
|Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, speaks at the Peace Corner Youth Center in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago in 2017. He said he was puzzled to be named in a scathing letter recently written by a former Vatican official. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)|
Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich said Monday he was puzzled to be named in a scathing letter written by a former top Vatican diplomat who accused Pope Francis of covering up the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals.
Carlo Maria Vigano, the retired Vatican ambassador to the United States, mentioned Cupich by name several times in the caustic 11-page letter released over the weekend in which he called on the pope to resign.
Vigano's letter hinted at “a wicked pact” in alleging Cupich secured his appointment as Chicago’s archbishop in large part because of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington who resigned last month amid sexual abuse allegations. The letter was released to the National Catholic Register and other outlets, and posted online.
Cupich granted a brief interview at the archdiocese’s offices Monday, one of about a dozen he conducted in response to the letter. Asked if he believed Vigano was taking a shot at his credentials and qualifications, Cupich said he had a long record of accomplishments before he came to Chicago: “Let’s be honest. I’m not somebody who fell out of the sky.”
Cupich was elevated to cardinal in 2016.
Cupich said he did not know anything about the allegations against McCarrick until moments before they were announced publicly. He said, “It was stunning to me.”
“My record in 20 years as a bishop will show that whenever I have information about anybody who misbehaves, not only with children, but with adults, I’ve always acted on it,” Cupich said.
Cupich, who said he heard about the letter Sunday morning after returning from Ireland, said he fully supports the pope.
“I think the pope has always acted in a way that is filled with integrity and honesty, and I continue to believe that,” Cupich said.
Vigano, 77, who was the Holy See's ambassador in Washington from 2011 until 2016, wrote “the appointments of Blase Cupich to Chicago and Joseph W. Tobin to Newark were orchestrated by McCarrick, (Oscar Rodriguez) Maradiaga and (Donald) 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.”
Cupich was not among the suggested successors’ names submitted to Vigano by Cardinal Francis George when he retired.
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Cupich urged people to also focus on the language and tone of the letter, which he said reflects a political polarization, especially among those within the church who criticize the pope for his focus on migrants, people who are marginalized and those left behind by the economy.
“It was so scattershot that it was hard to read if it was ideological in some ways, or it was payback to others for personal slights that he had because there were some people who in his past he felt had mistreated him,” Cupich said.
Cupich said Vigano, who emerged as a critic of Pope Francis after losing a power struggle under Pope Benedict, had always been cordial with him during personal interactions. Vigano was the papal official who called Cupich in September 2014 to offer him the job as Chicago’s next archbishop. Cupich said he hosted Vigano three times in Chicago: once for when he was installed as archbishop and two other times.
Asked by the Tribune at the time what guidance or directives Vigano gave him, Cupich said, “The first obligation he had to his superiors was getting my acceptance. As soon as that was done, we talked about a date.” In August 2015, it was Vigano who draped the wool vestment known as the pallium around Cupich’s shoulders during a ceremony at Holy Name Cathedral.
Cupich said his history with Vigano made the letter’s accusations all the more surprising.
“I really was taken aback by, not just his words, but the derisive language and scorn behind them because that wasn’t anything close to anything I’d ever experienced with him,” Cupich said.
Vigano went on to criticize Cupich’s “pro-gay ideology” and leveled personal attacks.
“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. “During the speech he gave when he took possession of the Chicago See, at which I was present as a representative of the Pope, Cupich quipped that one certainly should not expect the new Archbishop to walk on water. Perhaps it would be enough for him to be able to remain with his feet on the ground and not try to turn reality upside-down, blinded by his pro-gay ideology, as he stated in a recent interview with America Magazine.”
Cupich said that references he has made related to clerical sexual abuse and homosexuality has been based on the “Causes and Context” study by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, released in 2011, which showed homosexual priests were not more likely to sexually abuse than heterosexual priests.
“If you say that this is about homosexuality, then in the end what you’re really saying is that people who are gay are more prone to abuse children than straight people are, and that’s an injustice,” Cupich said. “The research does not bear that out. And I’ve said that time and time again. Well, people are saying, ‘Well, you know you had so much of this abuse that was male-on-male.’ That’s true. But it was due not because homosexuals are more prone to injure kids, it was due to opportunity and also situational factors.”
The church’s persistent problems with sex abuse continue to unfold locally as well.
A Pennsylvania grand jury report released this month named more than 300 priests who abused hundreds of children over several decades throughout the state. At least seven had ties to Illinois, prompting Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to seek a complete accounting of all sex abuse allegations against those priests.
Cupich said he spoke with Madigan on Monday and told her, “you can have our files. In fact, you already have them because we released them in 2014-15, and you also have all of our names of people.”
Separately, over the weekend, Cupich announced that the Rev. Gary Graf, pastor of San Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio parish in Pilsen, is under investigation for an “allegation of code of conduct violations involving a minor.” Graf “has agreed to step aside while it is investigated thoroughly,” Cupich wrote in a letter to parishioners. Bishop Alberto Rojas will serve as administrator of San Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio parish.
The Associated Press and The Washington Post contributed.