The scandalous sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy has wracked the Catholic Church for decades, but it has taken on a new urgency in light of information that has come out over the past few months — including a horrific grand jury report that found church leadership worked to protect over 300 pedophile priests in Pennsylvania alone.
A whistleblower recently emerged, formerly from the top ranks of church leadership, and accused other top Catholic leaders — including Pope Francis — in a scathing open letter of knowing about and covering up the sex abuse scandal for years.
That whistleblower is former Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was the top diplomat from the Vatican before he was let go by Francis in 2016. Vigano accused the pontiff and others of caring more about liberal social issues than the sexual abuse of minors or conservative Catholic traditions, and called for Francis to step down as pope.
Of course, some in the Catholic Church have pushed back against Vigano’s assertions, including the archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Blase Cupich, who ironically seemed to confirm some of Vigano’s accusations even as he attempted to dismiss them.
“The pope knows we have a bigger agenda,” Cupich said in an interview with WGN-TV. “We have to speak about the environment, about the poor, we have to reach out to people who are marginalized in society. We cannot be distracted at this moment.”
In essence, the cardinal just declared that environmental and social justice issues were at the top of the church’s agenda, and implied that the scandalous sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy was little more than a distraction.
Sorry, Cardinal Cupich, but saving spotted owls and whales ranks far lower on the priority list than saving innocent children from molesters and rapists … at least in our book.
To be sure, caring for the poor and reaching out to marginalized members of society, as well as caring for the environment, are laudable things in and of themselves.
But, again, those things pale in importance compared with ensuring vulnerable children aren’t abused by authority figures in the church. Outing and preventing that sort of despicable abuse must be a top priority for the church going forward, if it hopes to survive this growing and ongoing scandal with any credibility.
Many of Vigano’s accusations centered around Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, formerly the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., who has been accused of sexually abusing minors for decades.
Vigano pointed to McCarrick and McCarrick’s replacement — Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who has also been implicated in the sexual abuse scandal — as being “king-makers” for Cupich, and said those two were “united by a wicked pact of abuses by McCarrick and a cover up of abuses by others.”
Of that particular charge, Cupich replied, “I did not have any pre-knowledge about this. I think that my record across 20 years as being a bishop would indicate that had I had any information about anybody who was abusing children or anybody else, I would have acted on it. So, the answer is a straight-forward ‘no.’”
“As someone who is supposed to be so focused on changing things with regard to the church’s sex abuse policy, how could you not know?” WGN’s Dina Bair asked the cardinal.
“All I know is that this knowledge was not given to me in any way,” Cupich said about the actions of McCarrick, who has been shown to have been the source of payoffs and subject of complaints dating back to the 1980s.
The cardinal suggested the people around McCarrick had been “groomed” to be supportive of the cardinal and automatically disbelieve any “rumors” that may spring up against him.
“What are people to believe right now?” Cupich said of the ongoing scandal. “I think they have to look at what is happening in their own local church.
“We are proud of the way we’ve handled this situation. We are transparent. We have given all of our documents over to authorities. We have the safest child protection program in this city, in this dioceses, and I would dare anyone to come forward and try to match what we have.”
Again, sorry, cardinal, but the church is only being “transparent” now that the scandal has been exposed more than ever before. Furthermore, the suggestion that environmental and social justice issues are of greater importance than protecting innocent minors from sexual abuse isn’t going to help much in convincing people that the church has handled this situation properly, or will do so in the future.
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