Cardinal Blase Cupich expressed surprise that the 125 new cases involved some priests he had never heard of.
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
ROME (AP) — The archbishop of Chicago urged the Illinois attorney general Thursday to provide information about newly discovered cases of clergy sexual abuse that were included in a state investigative report and said he would be happy to add the names to his list of credibly accused priests. if the allegations were substantiated.
In his first interview since the report was published on Tuesday, Cardinal Blase Cupich expressed surprise that the 125 new cases involved some priests he had never heard of. He expressed dismay that the attorney general’s office had not forwarded the new claims to the archdiocese for investigation, as he had during the five-year investigation.
“We thought we had that type of relationship with the attorney general and we are disappointed to hear this for the first time,” Cupich said.
He spoke to The Associated Press during one of his regular visits to the Vatican, where he sits on church committees and serves as a close adviser to Pope Francis.
In the report, the researchers found that more than 450 Catholic clergy in Illinois’ six dioceses had sexually abused nearly 2,000 children since 1950, making it clear that the problem was far worse than the hierarchy had acknowledged in 2018 at the start of state review. The Archdiocese of Chicago, the third-largest in the United States, had denounced 68 abusive clergy in 2018. Over the course of the investigation, it added more names and reached Tuesday with 150 names on its list of credibly accused clergy.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s report found an additional 125 abusers in the archdiocese, many of them religious order priests whose cases would not necessarily have been handled by the archdiocese but by their religious orders. There was also the likelihood that victims would go directly to the attorney general’s investigators, bypassing the church entirely to report the allegations.
Cupich said he would gladly add the names to his list, but needed information on how Raoul’s investigators corroborated the claims. Asked why it wasn’t enough for the church to accept cases that the attorney general’s office had corroborated, Cupich said the archdiocese just needed to understand the process.
“I can assure the public of this: if these cases are substantiated and we are given the information on how it was done, we will put them on our website,” he said, speaking on the patio of the Pontifical North American College. , the American seminary in Rome where Cupich stays when he’s in town on Vatican business.
Cupich acknowledged that the report exposed an ongoing structural problem in the way the Catholic Church handles cases of abuse, with religious orders such as the Jesuits, Franciscans, Oblates and Marists often escaping scrutiny and accountability. since it is they, and not the diocesan leadership, who maintain the staff. Cupich agreed that the Holy See could and should do more to align religious orders.
“Should there be, in fact, more instructions from church headquarters to talk to religious orders? I would be in favor of that,” he said. “I want to make sure that we put everything out there, because I can tell you this: when we do that and a surviving victim sees it, it brings healing. That’s why I do it.”
Cupich said he would be willing to refuse to allow priests from substandard orders to work in his archdiocese, as the report recommends, though he said he would “rather use the carrot than the stick, because we need these religious orders.”
However, following another recommendation in the report, Cupich was more defensive. Raoul’s investigators called for an independent mediation and compensation process for the victims, similar to the one established by the Archdioceses of Los Angeles and New York. The report argues that the third-party process gives victims a “non-adversarial, confidential place outside the control of the diocese to be heard and to be financially compensated for the trauma inflicted.”
Cupich said he did not want to outsource the compensation process because that would deprive the church of the opportunity to provide pastoral care to the victims. He said that he would continue with the process that he has had for years.
“My concern about contracting this out to a separate third party is that we become a business, not a church,” he said.
Teresa Crawford contributed from Chicago.