Last week, I wrote that Cardinal Cupich was taking the satirical Babylon Bee as an instruction manual, by shrugging off the accusations of the Vigano letter because the Pope has more important things to do.
This weekend the Cardinal made the news again, by ordering every parish to read aloud a statement in which he defends himself against accusations of indifference to child abuse. Reports are that parishes complied. (I was out of town this past weekend, though I’m told that at my own parish, the statements was read as a part of the announcements, but the homily had some words, albeit coded, about our leaders.)
Here’s a part of what mass-goers heard:
An NBC Chicago TV report that aired Monday night was edited in such a way that gave the false impression that Pope Francis and I consider the protection of children to be less important than other issues, such as the environment or immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A review of the unedited footage of that interview shows that I was referring to the recent letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, not the terrible crime of clergy sexual abuse. I said that it was not appropriate, or even possible for Pope Francis to respond to the letter’s many undocumented allegations, and I endorsed his request that journalists determine their veracity.
I was then asked whether there should be an independent investigation of the Archbishop Theodore McCarrick case, and I endorsed the call of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for a thorough investigation.
The edited report created the false impression that my comment that the pope should not “go down the rabbit hole” of the allegations in the Viganò letter was about sexual abuse. As the unedited footage shows, it was not.
But even those of us who patiently watched the entire interview (transcript provided here) thought his comments were inappropriate. After all, he dismissed the Vigano accusations by suggesting, indirectly, that he isn’t credible.
For instance, look at the language of the letter and compare it to the language that’s in these websites and news outlets that released the document. There’s so many parallels there in terms of the kinds of things that they’re attacking the Holy Father and other people about.
Then he said that Vigano has the burden of proof:
So the news media now needs to go and press him for information. I read the Washington Post and other major newspapers and their first line always is, he’s made these accusations but offered no proof.
which is again deceptive because Vigano has said that the relevant documents are in the Nuncio’s archives; Cupich and others, if they actually cared about these accusations, would call on the current Nuncio/the Vatican to release these documents, without which a proper investigation cannot be conducted.
And, hence, it is entirely appropriate for the Pope to respond to these claims, because it is up to the Pope to grant access to these documents, and because it surely should be taken as a given that a man who was, until not long ago, the Vatican’s representative to the United States, is a credible source of testimony, not someone who should simply be discarded as a crackpot.
It’s also instructive that the Cardinal also does not seem to be embarrassed about various other parts of the interview, such as his deflection away from the church’s troubles with statements such as
It’s not just about the Catholic Church. Let’s look at all the agencies and institutions that deal with children on a day-to-day basis because we’re seeing in the newspapers every day inappropriate behavior in various institutions, schools systems and so on, with regard to child safety. So let’s make sure that everybody who deals with children opens their files and their records . . .
and the fact that he accuses Francis’s critics of racism:
And, quite frankly, they also don’t like him because he’s a Latino and that he is bringing Latino culture into the life of the Church, which we have been enriched by and I think that that’s part of all of this too.
which was a particularly odd statement since Francis is Italian by ancestry, and I have never heard of any way in which he is bringing “Latino culture into the life of the Church” unless Cupich is referring to not culture, but the “Liberation Theology” which is not what any of us in Cupich’s viewing audience would think of as “Latino culture” and which, I’m sorry, is perfectly reasonable to object to.
And, finally, when asked about questions of sexual misconduct in seminaries, he dodges the question. I have read repeated assertions that seminarians are reporting (though anonymously) that they are being propositioned in seminaries, that a significant number of their peers treat sexual chastity as highly optional. (Apologies for not hunting down links to these claims.) But Cupich ignores this:
NBC: Is this the Catholic Church’s #MeToo scandal with adult clergy in positions of power not just abusing children but adults like seminarians who are subordinate to them?
Cupich: Right. Mary Ann, you are hitting the nail on the head, because this is not about sex. It’s about power and clericalism. That’s what has to change in the life of the Church, and that’s what the pope is talking about.
But let’s also be clear that people who want to make this about sex, in terms of homosexuality and all the rest of it, are a diversion from the real issue that we need to attack in the life of the Church. And that is that there are some people who believe that they are both privileged and protected. That has- that wall has to come down.
So, yes, this is, strictly speaking, not a matter of homosexuality per se in that it would be no better if it were being reported that Catholic priests were regularly unrepentantly having affairs with women. But it is a matter of both power and sex, and you can’t just dismiss the latter issue. Are there significant numbers of priests and seminarians who reject Catholic teaching on sexual morality? Cupich claims that each and every act of “adult misbehavior” is acted upon earlier in the interview (FYI, as I wrote this, I checked my twitter feed to find a report of two Chicago area priests “misbehaving” in Florida) but rather than reiterate and clarify this he dodges this question.
And yet — here’s what I’d, being charitable, I can only label as Cupich’s blind spot: Cupich criticizes clericalism. He claims that Francis’s opponents reject lay involvement. But he himself engaged in a very unmistakable act of clericalism in mandating that, as soon as his ego is wounded, all parishes in the archdiocese have to obey his order and mount a defense.
But here’s the bright side: I do have the impression that because this is all coming out under a liberal pope and, in Chicago, a liberal archbishop, there is at least the prospect for some sort of coalition-building between progressives and traditionalists. And locally, I’ve been having some Facebook conversations which may yet produce in-person discussions with other parishioners.