Cupich Defends Pope’s Record On Abuse A ‘Catholic Herald Article by Dan Hitchens – With Comments by Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivor Group

Cupich Defends Pope’s Record On Abuse

A ‘Catholic Herald Article by Dan Hitchens

Cardinal Cupich called for a ‘paradigm shift’ in pastoral practice and said that the Pope recognised the need to ‘listen’ to abuse survivors.

Cardinal Blase Cupich has defended Pope Francis’s record and called for a “paradigm shift” in Catholic practice. Addressing the Von Hügel Institute at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, under the title “Pope Francis’ Revolution of Mercy: Amoris Laetitia as a New Paradigm of Catholicity”, Cardinal Cupich called for “a major shift in our ministerial approach that is nothing short of revolutionary”. The hoped-for “paradigm shift”, the cardinal said, would be from an approach focused on “the automatic application of universal principles” to one which is “continually immersed” in “concrete situations”. Vigorous debate has followed the publication of Amoris Laetitia in April 2016, with different cardinals, bishops and theologians advancing varying interpretations. In a question-and-answer session after the cardinal’s lecture, the historian and philosopher Professor John Rist suggested that “the Pope’s ‘paradigm shift’ should be recognised as an attempt, under cover of offering solutions to genuine social problems in Western society, to impose on the Church radical changes of doctrine”. Cardinal Cupich replied that those with such concerns should ask themselves: “Do we really believe that the Spirit is no longer guiding the Church?”

Speaking to the Catholic Herald before his lecture, the cardinal also defended Pope Francis’s actions over the abuse scandal in Chile. The Pope’s support for Bishop Juan Barros, whom he appointed to the diocese of Osorno, has recently been under scrutiny. It emerged last week that in 2015 Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Francis’s top advisor on child protection, gave the Pope a letter in which an abuse survivor alleged that Bishop Barros had turned a blind eye to abuse. Last month Cardinal O’Malley said the Pope’s sharp words in defence of Bishop Barros had caused “great pain for survivors of sexual abuse”.
Asked to comment on Cardinal O’Malley’s remarks, Cardinal Cupich said: “I think that now, the Holy Father sees that by sending Archbishop Scicluna, that we have to listen to those who have come forward and made accusations. And I think that was right. I’m pleased the Holy Father did that: I think Archbishop Scicluna is particularly suited for that kind of review.” The cardinal said that the Church was “moving forward” in implementing Benedict XVI’s reforms on child protection, and that the pope had set up the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors “to do everything to keep people on the track”.


The purpose of Cardinal Cupich’s visit to the Von Higel Institute at Cambridge University was to discuss the controversial Papal document ‘Amoris Laetitia’, but I have excluded the extensive references from the original article as that subject is not appropriate to this forum. Of more interest are Cardinal Cupich’s comments regarding the issue of clerical sexual abuse.

The cardinal’s comments – “that the Church was moving forward in implementing Benedict XVI’s reforms on child protection, and that Pope Francis had set up the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors “to do everything to keep people on the track” – is of more interest to me. Pope Benedict XVI served as pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013. He is best known for his rigid views on Catholicism and topics such as birth control and homosexuality. Nevertheless, he did make some strides into the clerical sexual abuse problem prior to his papacy when he was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In 2004, when Benedict XVI was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, he reopened a stalled investigation into the accusations against Father Maciel. As pope, Benedict XVI removed Father Maciel from active ministry, a step that John Paul II had resisted. And in 2010, Benedict XVI took control of Father Maciel’s order, the Legionaries of Christ, in what was then the Vatican’s most direct action on sexual abuse.
Yet that same year, the scandal came closer to Benedict XVI himself, with revelations concerning a case that unfolded when he was an archbishop in Germany in the 1980s. After a priest in his archdiocese was accused of molesting boys, he approved the transfer of the priest for therapy. The priest was later allowed to resume pastoral duties, despite repeated warnings to archdiocesan officials from his psychiatrist that he should not be allowed to work with young children. The priest was later accused of molesting other boys and convicted of sex abuse in 1986. A subordinate took responsibility for allowing the priest to resume work with children, but Archbishop Ratzinger knew of the priest’s reassignment, according to church officials.

Amongst survivors of clerical sexual abuse Cardinal Ratzinger, however, is better remembered for dismissing large numbers of priests from the clerical state following secret investigations and judicial declarations to which the victims themselves played no part, gave no evidence and were not even specifically consulted. Victims claim that such secrecy does not provide justice.

Cupich’s claim that Pope Francis has continued the reforms of Benedict XVI would be hard to spot without a microscope. The Vatican still does not acknowledge the receipt of cases of child sexual abuse forwarded to them. Victims are still not involved in the process of ‘Secret’ investigations and action may or may not be taken against the cleric – but no demonstrable informative steps are taken to advise the victim of the procedures undertaken, the details of the evidence presented and nor, in many if not most cases, a full description of the outcome. So again – there is no deliverance of justice to the victim.
Moreover the response to the provisions of Canon Law by both Bishops and the Heads of Religious Institutes and Abbots of the Orders – is very much a take it or leave it attitude. Canons are routinely ignored by all – and Victims of clerical sexual abuse remain ignored, un-consulted, disparaged, trivialized and undervalued. The Vatican has not yet even begun to upgrade the language they use to describe Victims of Clerical Sexual abuse itself. Out in the Dioceses and Religious Institutes they are still being labelled shamelessly to their very faces as ‘money-grabbers’! As for Pope Francis’ creation of the Pontifical Commission – well ‘Yes’ he did set it up – and then he closed it again!

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