Church Response to Abuse Reports
Letter from Cardinal Cupich on Father Patrick Lee
June 15, 2019
Dear Parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish,
In January, I informed you of the accusation against your pastor, Father Patrick Lee, and that, in keeping with our procedures, he was asked to step aside from his pastoral duties until a thorough investigation and process could be completed. He has fully cooperated with civil authorities and the Archdiocese of Chicago during these months.
Following the determination by state officials, who are charged with the protection of minors, that the allegation of child abuse was unfounded, the Independent Review Board of the Archdiocese of Chicago studied the matter in accordance with our usual procedures. At their meeting on Saturday, June 15, 2019, they found that there was insufficient reason to suspect that Father Lee had committed sexual abuse of a minor. Therefore, I am pleased to inform you that I am reinstating Father Lee as your pastor effective immediately.
These have been difficult days and months for you as a parish. You have shown great patience as each jurisdiction has completed its process. I thank you for doing so. Father Lee has also suffered, as you well know, but he has offered that suffering freely, convinced of the need for us as a Church to keep our word that the protection and safety of our children remains the priority.
After the Independent Review Board meeting, I immediately contacted Father Lee and shared the recommendations of the Review Board. He took the occasion to reaffirm his longstanding conviction that the Church must remain vigilant in protecting our children, and that we should spare no effort to bring healing to victim survivors who have been harmed. In keeping with the spirit he has demonstrated during these difficult months, he let me know that he fully embraces our longstanding policies and practices regarding the conduct of all church personnel, and asked that I take the occasion of this letter to remind our parishioners and the public that: 1) since 1992, we have enforced safe environment protocols and a code of conduct for all who work with minors and we have reached out to victims with pastoral and personal attention; 2) since 2002 we have reported all allegations to the civil authorities and in that year we reported all historical allegations to these authorities; 3) beginning in 2006, we have publicly listed the names of priests who have substantiated allegations of abuse of minors against them and in 2014 we published more than 20,000 pages of information on these cases; 4) in accord with our zero tolerance policy, no priest with even one substantiated allegation of abuse of a minor remains in ministry.
At the same time, I reminded Father Lee that our policies also call us to do everything possible to restore the good name of priests when the process has determined the allegations to be unfounded. This, too, is a matter of justice. Therefore, both out of regard for Father Lee and all our priests, I am resolved to see that Father Lee’s good name is restored. As a result, I will share this letter with all the parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago, asking them to provide it to their parishioners. This letter will also be sent to the media and posted on our archdiocesan website.
Healing now must be the pathway forward for all of us. Father Lee shares this very same sentiment and you can honor him by doing everything to make sure that a spirit of reconciliation and unity prevails as you move ahead with the efforts of Renew My Church to make your parish vibrant, vital and sustainable. In this way, the mission of Jesus can flourish. That is my prayer for you.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
Statement of the Archdiocese of Chicago on the
List of Accused Priests Released by Anderson & Associates
March 21, 2019
Anderson & Associates released the names of clerics and laypeople they say have been accused of the sexual abuse of minors and have served in one or more of the six Illinois dioceses. The Archdiocese of Chicago reports all allegations we receive to the civil authorities. In addition to the priests listed on the archdiocese’s website, we have identified 22 priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago on Anderson & Associates’ list.
The archdiocese has reported 20 of these clerics to the civil authorities; in one of the remaining two cases, the archdiocese first received notice when the cleric was arrested, and in the other it was an allegation of misconduct with an adult, not a minor. The attached chart details the circumstances surrounding these 22 allegations and disposition of those cases.
Priests with substantiated allegations are listed on the archdiocese’s website.
The Archdiocese of Chicago reports all allegations to the civil authorities, regardless of the date of the alleged abuse, whether the priest is a diocesan priest or religious order priest, and whether the priest is alive or dead.
When an allegation against an archdiocesan cleric is made and before any investigation begins, the archdiocesan Office of Assistance Ministry promptly reaches out to the person making the allegation and offers therapy at archdiocesan expense from a licensed therapist of the person’s choosing. The archdiocese withdraws the accused priest from ministry pending investigation of the allegation and publicly announces this action.
After the civil authorities have completed their investigation, the archdiocese conducts its investigation.
The Independent Review Board, which considers the results of such investigations, was established in 1993. The majority of its members are laypeople. The Independent Review Board is the primary adviser to the archbishop on issues of risk to children and fitness for ministry.
Anderson & Associates conflates people who have been accused, but may be innocent, with those who have substantiated allegations against them, referring to all as perpetrators. Their list includes:
- a priest whose allegations were investigated by the public authorities and were determined to be unfounded. The Archdiocese’s Independent Review Board also investigated and determined that the allegations were not substantiated. The priest was then returned to ministry.
- two priests whose cases are under investigation; their cases were reported to the authorities and they have been withdrawn from ministry, pending the outcome of the investigation.
- a seminarian (who was a transitional deacon) who was never ordained a priest.
- a priest who was accused of misconduct with an adult, not a minor.
Many of the names listed by Anderson & Associates are religious order priests. We provide the following information to help clarify their governance:
Dioceses and religious orders are separately governed entities in the Roman Catholic Church. Bishops govern dioceses; religious superiors govern religious orders. The bishop selects, trains, and supervises diocesan priests. The religious orders select, train, and supervise their priests. The diocesan and religious order priests often do similar work, but each group is responsible to its own chain of authority (Canon 586). Disagreements between a bishop and a religious superior are referred to the Holy See for resolution.
A bishop and a religious superior work cooperatively such as when a bishop grants faculties (a license) for a religious priest to work in a diocesan institution, such as a parish (Canon 678). Nevertheless, the religious order priest is still under the authority of his religious superior. Similarly, a bishop may revoke a religious order priest’s faculties (a license) to work in the diocese. In that eventuality, the supervision and management of the order priests also remains the responsibility of his religious superior. In brief, a diocesan priest is the responsibility of the diocese and a religious priest is the responsibility of the religious order.
If the Archdiocese of Chicago receives an allegation that a religious priest has engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor, the archdiocese reports it to the civil authorities, publicly withdraws the priest’s faculties to work in the archdiocese, and refers the matter to his religious superior.
Religious superiors have the same obligation and responsibility as bishops to adhere to the terms set forth in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
For more information about the archdiocese’s response to clergy sexual abuse, please visit: https://heal.archchicago.org/.
Archdiocese of Chicago
835 North Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611
Reflection Of Cardinal Cupich on the Plenary in Rome:
The Protection Of Minors In The Church
February 27, 2019
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Thank you for keeping me in your prayers during the recent Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church, convened by the Holy Father in Rome. Your support gave me great hope and encouragement, and I would like to provide you with an update on what was accomplished and our next critical steps.
The historic meeting on the protection of children convened by the Holy Father this past week set the direction of the entire global Church on the question of child safety. Our firm resolve and the actions we will take were the direct result of our listening to victim survivors throughout the meeting. Their unflinching witness moved the hearts of the participants and the world and led us to commit to a common mission of making the Church a safe place for all, achieved by taking personal responsibility, holding bishops accountable and practicing transparency.
The nine talks over three days were given by presenters approved by the Holy Father. There was no glossing over the problem as each of the speakers pointed out the failures of bishops to act responsibly and described the damage done by their lack of accountability and transparency. Pope Francis built on what was said in the various talks by making it clear at the end of the Mass on Sunday that the Church’s agenda in protecting children must be proactive not reactive or defensive. He insisted that the Church will spare no effort to hold abusers accountable and will not tolerate cover ups.
The Holy Father has already begun the transformation of the Church’s approach to child abuse. The pope’s Apostolic Letter, Like a Loving Mother, provided for the removal of a bishop on the basis of incompetence rather than the higher level of proof of fault in handing cases of abuse. Additionally, the way has been cleared for episcopal conferences to establish procedures for holding bishops accountable should they abuse minors or mishandle cases.
The all-out effort the pope has called for will continue to build over time and will be marked by a commitment to ongoing learning and improving, particularly by listening to victim survivors of abuse. Four concrete steps were announced at the end of the meeting.
- The imminent publication of a motu proprio by the pope, providing rules and regulations to safeguard minors and vulnerable adults within the Vatican City State;
- The distribution of a “vademecum” (or rulebook) to bishops around the world, standardizing guidelines so church leaders everywhere take on this task in a united way and explaining their juridical and pastoral duties and responsibilities regarding protecting children;
- Recognizing that the global Church is marked by great culture diversity and unique regional challenges, task forces of competent experts that are culturally sensitive and regionally representative will be organized to assist bishops’ conferences that may lack the necessary resources or expertise to fully address the issue of safeguarding minors and dealing with abuse;
- The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is responsible for approving the norms of each bishops’ conference.
I invite you to view the major talks, prayer services with testimonies of victims, the penitential ceremony and Mass, all of which were live streamed, so the entire world could follow this event. The videos and talks are posted on the Vatican’s dedicated website at pbc2019.org.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
Audio Message from Cardinal Cupich at Masses
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
You may know that Pope Francis has called a meeting in Rome, of the presidents of bishops’ conferences and other leaders in the Church from around the world to address the crisis of clerical sex abuse of minors. As I work with others to organize this meeting, I want to tell you that your concerns are close to my heart. I truly appreciate the input I have heard and received from you. I will carry your concerns and insights with me as I go to Rome.
At the same time, I know how hard these past few months have been for you. I understand the anger and disappointment many feel as the Church suffers from the scandal of clergy sexual abuse, and the mishandling by some church leaders.
Victim-survivors have been courageous in telling their stories. Listening to them, taking measures to protect children and holding everyone accountable is the only response to make.
We are and have been doing all of this in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and will continue to provide support for victims, to report every allegation of clerical sexual abuse to civil authorities, and to permanently remove anyone from ministry who is credibly accused.
I invite you to learn more about what the Archdiocese does to protect children, heal victims and make sure all priests and church leaders are held accountable, by visiting our website heal.archchicago.org. I’ve also asked pastors to print the website address in your bulletins.
Pope Francis understands that abuse in the Church is a global problem that needs a global solution. The Holy Father’s aim in calling the meeting at the end of this month is to make sure that every bishop in the world takes personal responsibility and is held accountable for how he handles these matters. But, the pope also intends to make clear to all bishops the concrete steps for complying with this agenda. Getting this right is the priority
I also want to tell you how sorry I am, for the harm done to victims, but also the harm done to you, the faithful who also have been deeply wounded by all of this. You continue to be in my prayers and I ask for yours, not just for me and the success of the February meeting, but especially for our priests and all who work for the church faithfully during these very challenging times. They need our support now more than ever.
God Bless you all.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
Statement of the Archdiocese of Chicago on the Attorney General of Illinois Report on Clergy Sexual Abuse
December 20, 2018
Yesterday, the Attorney General of Illinois released a preliminary report on her investigation of the Illinois Catholic dioceses’ response to the child sexual abuse crisis.
We issued a response, which you can READ HERE, but it is important that I reach out to you, our coworkers in our mission, to offer reassurance that your archdiocese takes its responsibilities to victims of clergy abuse seriously and works diligently to protect children from harm.
As many of you know, the Archdiocese of Chicago has been at the forefront of dealing with the issue of clergy sexual abuse for nearly three decades. In 1991, Cardinal Bernardin called for a dramatic change in our culture and developed a set of policies and practices that keep children safe, hold offenders accountable and ensure we act with transparency. These policies, adopted in 1992, were the model for the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the United States bishops’ conference a decade later.
You may be confident that everyone who has come to the Archdioceses of Chicago with an allegation has been treated with respect and offered pastoral care. We have reported all allegations of child sexual abuse to civil authorities and investigate every allegation against an archdiocesan priest, regardless of whether the accused is alive or dead. We have published the names of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse since 2006, a time when few dioceses made this information public.
For more information on the actions the Archdiocese of Chicago has taken to address this issue, resources for victim-survivors, instructions for reporting a sexual abuse allegation, frequently asked questions about our independent review of our policies, procedures and practices, and public statements made by me and other Church leaders, please visit our Healing and Reconciliation website.
Once again, we mourn the grave damage done to the many people harmed by clergy sexual abuse and stand ready to cooperate with all institutions and agencies that care for children. It can never be stated often enough: No matter where a child is educated or cared for, they are all our children and deserve to be protected.
During this holy season, as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child in our own hearts, let us continue to pray for all those harmed by abuse. Let us reflect the light of Christ for them and be messengers of His Good News to all we encounter.
Please pray for me; I will continue to pray for you and your families as I remain sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
Article from Parish Bulletin – The Arrow on December 2, 2018
Some important information has been shared with me, and I want to be sure to share it with you. On the subject of clergy sexual abuse, the pain caused to victim-survivors, as well as the parishioners in every faith community has left damage that may never be erased. Recently, the Archdiocese sent information to Pastors detailing the work our Archdiocese has done regarding this issue, dating back to Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in 1991.
At the time, a lay commission reviewed the procedures in place then for handling accusations of sexual abuse and helped frame what were then model policies. To be sure the Archdiocese is both vigilant and current, they have engaged an independent firm to assess our policies, procedures and practices. A report is expected in early 2019.
In the meantime, there is a two page outline on the work done thus far and the procedures currently followed by the Archdiocese of Chicago. You are welcome to take a copy from the kiosk, in the gathering space in the back of church.
Article from Parish Bulletin – The Arrow on November 4, 2018
You may recall in September, anyone who wanted could sign a petition that our community was sending to Cardinal Cupich. It centered on our concerns and frustrations around the recent news about clergy abuse and a lack of responsibility on the part of many bishops in their dioceses.
After the signatures were collected that weekend, I sent a cover letter and the signed petition to the Cardinal’s office. A letter from the Cardinal came last week and you can view it by CLICKING HERE.
We know painfully well, this is a very difficult time for the church. Many are angry at the betrayal of bishops who did not do enough to protect the innocent from abusive clergy. Many people we know and love have left the Church, with little hope that they will return. We understand their anger. But why do we stay?
I’d like to think that it’s this: despite the effects of seeing this evil exposed, we also have seen the Church at it’s best! We have been part of the Church when it works as Jesus intended: when the sick and poor are cared for, when those lost are sought out and welcomed back, when children come to realize and believe they are God’s beloved, when we are able to use our simple gifts and remarkable talents to bring God’s justice and mercy to bear to our small corner of God’s vineyard we call Saint Giles!
WE STAY BECAUSE OF WHAT WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD OF GOD’S GRACE IN OUR MIDST!
There is much work to be done regarding these concerns over clergy abuse. But, let’s thank God for what our “eyes” have been blessed to see in one another!
Do you know someone who’s been away from the church and has used this issue as a reason? Perhaps you might reach out to them, invite them back to church, and share today’s Corner with them.
Article from Parish Bulletin – The Arrow on September 30, 2018
Two weeks ago, I mentioned that I would share some of the questions raised in the open meeting that I had invited folks to attend regarding the current challenges in our church. Here are some of the thoughtful questions asked:
Why doesn’t our church ordain married priests? And, would a married clergy help solve the problem of abuse? – It is the practice of the Church to ordain men who promise to take the vow of celibacy giving their undivided attention to the Body of Christ, the Church. While this is something that might be changed, it really is a separate issue to consider. It would not necessarily solve the problem of child abuse, which often occurs in the family home.
Are priests fingerprinted? Do they undergo background checks? – I have never been fingerprinted and do not believe that is a practice even today when entering the seminary. Today before entering the seminary, everyone goes through a background check. This has been the practice for a number of years in the church for anyone who will be working with or around young children in a parish setting.
What is the church’s practice and policy on vetting priests? – Before a priest can go anywhere outside the diocese or when a priest comes into the diocese to say Mass, for example a wedding or funeral, there must be a letter of suitability from the Bishop before approval is given. It has been the practice of our church that all priests go through the VIRTUS Training program to have an understanding of abuse, and also undergo a background check.
Are priests mandated reporters OUTSIDE the confessional? – YES, we are.
Do priests and lay people working with children receive on-going training regarding protecting God’s children? – Yes, all adults working with children must go through the VIRTUS Training program.
Can the Peace and Justice ministry work with the faithful of Saint Giles to have our voices heard? – Last weekend, the Men’s Society led a petition campaign to send signatures to Cardinal Cupich outlining our concerns. I wrote a cover letter for the signed petitions, and they were all mailed to the Cardinal’s attention this week.
What percentage of my weekly Mass contribution goes to Rome and to the Archdiocese? – YOUR WEEKLY CONTRIBUTION STAYS HERE in the parish!! Please understand that without your continued support we can’t exist and continue our ministry here. Unless it’s special collection that is slated for a particular cause, the collection comes in and goes out to pay our bills. That is handled by our own business office.
Every year the parish does pay a archdiocesan tax, so to speak, to help support the offices at the Archdiocese that support the many ministries and offices here in the local parish. That is 10% based on the annual operating revenue of the parish.
In the end, we must keep in mind that nothing should separate us from being who we are and living as the Body of Christ, the Church here at Saint Giles. We need each other to continue to let Christ be our light and guide through any challenges we might face, individually or as a faith community and members of the universal church. Do not let anyone or anything keep you from the Table and the nourishment of Christ himself that is our strength for the journey!!
Article from Parish Bulletin – The Arrow on September 23, 2018
In last week’s Arrow, I reported on some of the key concerns that were raised at an impromptu listening session I invited the community to attend. If you missed it, you can go online to read my Corner (SEE ARTICLE BELOW) or pick up an Arrow at the Parish Center. In this Corner, I want to share a bit about a meeting I attended on Wednesday evening, September 12. The Cardinal invited priests of the Archdiocese to gather with him up at Mundelein Seminary. Aware of the pain for those who serve with great grace and are loved by the people in their parishes, he wanted to hear from us and answer questions. It was an intense meeting. There are many questions and challenges and clearly a lot of work to be done rebuilding trust among the Bishops and the people. The point was clearly made that folks are done with apologies and rhetoric. Now they need to see actions that will bring about changes for the safety and well-being of all members of the church, especially our children. Courage, wisdom, patience and perseverance will all be needed as we work through these challenging times.
I was encouraged on Monday as I sat at the Ordination of three new Assistant Bishops for the Archdiocese of Chicago. Honestly, I thought, this should have been postponed until after some of the current concerns are addressed. In the end, I felt this was a sign of hope for the church! These younger men understand the pain we have all been dealing with and what needs to be worked on from the inside out so to speak. They remind us that, with the help of God, the church will make necessary changes and be healthier and stronger because of God’s grace. Cardinal Cupich did not skirt the present issues and how awkward this might feel for all there witnessing the Ordination of the Bishops. Still, we call forward new leaders with new wisdom and grace to bring about God’s plan for the honest and wholesome care of God’s people. Aware of many of the failures of leaders among the Bishops, he also asked them to kneel and for the congregation to remain standing during the singing of the Litany of Saints. It was a beginning and a beautiful gesture, but one that needs to be backed up with continued action and change. Time will tell. In the meantime, let’s hang in there together because this is our faith and our beautiful rituals. Nothing should drive us from Jesus present in the Eucharist and in the gathering of our community.
Article from Parish Bulletin – The Arrow on September 16, 2018
Last Wednesday evening, about 100 folks responded to my spontaneous invitation to a listening session held in McDonough Hall. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how it would go. In the end, it was, in my opinion, a productive evening. I was able to hear what people were thinking and feeling as well as answer some questions and provide a focus for moving forward as a faith community.
The following is not the complete list but some of the main concerns that were voiced. I am grateful for to Jim Gates, chair of our parish council, who agreed to take notes for me.
- Many of the issues we are talking about, especially allegations, are old ones. However, the issue of abuse should be a number one clerical/papal issue.
- The cover-ups in the past have exposed a view of the church that pedophilia is a moral failing, and not treated as a criminal act.
- We are angry, but stay involved to help reform happen! We have reached a tipping point and the time to act is now!
- The church can’t fix what it won’t admit needs fixing. The issue of clergy abuse cannot only be resolved internally.
- If Catholic communities band together, we can compel change and end this tragic sin of abuse from some of our clergy.
- The Church hierarchy needs to step it up for themselves now and regain the trust of the faithful.
- There are other abuses in the church, such as church leadership failing to recognize women and their important role in being the voice of God.
- We won’t allow these abuses to lead us to leave the church because our faith is in our DNA.
- Our baptism empowers us to speak out and use our voices to end this abuse. Church hierarchy has failed to do so.
- We can not forget who we are as the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ must reclaim our church!
- My heart goes out to good priests working in the trenches.
- Would a married clergy help solve the issue? Perhaps would help but not the answer and another issue to consider all together.
These were just some of the concerns raised and discussed. One question that came up and I did speak to is, “What percentage of our weekly giving goes to the Archdiocese or to Rome?” I wanted ALL to understand that YOUR GIVING to the parish stays here in the parish. We can not meet our expenses and run our ministries without your support. Please don’t take out any frustration or anger on the parish. It only hurts this community. That being said, the Archdiocese does look at our income and the number of families registered and asks for 10% of what we take in annually. That money helps keep the Arch offices that assist parish, school and Religious Ed programs throughout the Archdiocese. The only monies that goes directly to Rome are the second collections that are specifically taken up for that purpose, for example, Peter’s Pence, which assists the Pope in his special missionary work as Holy Father. If you have any questions, feel free to talk with me about it.
Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God
August 20, 2018
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.
1. If one member suffers…
In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.
With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).
2. … all suffer together with it
The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched
hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).
I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.
Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.1 This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.
It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. 2 This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.3 Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.
It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel,
new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world”(Evangelii Gaudium, 11).
It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.
Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.
In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.
Vatican City, 20 August 2018
Letter from Cardinal Blase J. Cupich to the People of the Archdiocese of Chicago in Response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report
August 17, 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Anger, shock, grief, shame. What other words can we summon to describe the experience of learning about the devastating revelations of sexual abuse — and the failures of bishops to safeguard the children entrusted to their care — published in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, released Tuesday? This catalogue of horrors comes on the heels of news accounts of deeply disturbing sexual-abuse and harassment allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who recently resigned from the College of Cardinals. And yet whatever words we may use to describe the anguish of reading about these heinous acts, they can never capture the reality of suffering endured by victims of sexual abuse, suffering compounded by the woeful responses of bishops who failed to protect the people they were ordained to serve. As the Holy See put it in its August 16 statement on the grand jury report: “The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”
I know that many of you are asking: How could this be happening again? Didn’t the U.S. bishops address this crisis sixteen years ago when they met in Dallas? What are they doing now, and why should we trust that this time they will do the right thing?
These are precisely the questions that ought to be asked. As a former chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, I have asked them myself. And sorrow, disgust, outrage — these are righteous feelings, the stirrings of the conscience of a people scandalized by the terrible reality that too many of the men who promised to protect their children, and strengthen their faith, have been responsible for wounding both.
We know this not only because of the admirable work of the many members of the news media who played an essential role in bringing this crisis into the light. Now, we have been made to face these scandals first and foremost by the courage of victim-survivors — the men and woman who found the strength, even when doing so meant suffering again unimaginable pain, to come forward and seek justice from an institution that grievously failed them.
What are we bishops doing now to ensure that those failures are not repeated? Today, USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo announced on behalf of all the bishops that our conference will launch a thorough investigation of the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick; that it will establish new ways in which people can report complaints against bishops; and that it will advocate for more effective resolution of such allegations. The USCCB will invite the Holy See to investigate the McCarrick case, in concert with a predominantly lay group of experts.
The bishops will also update our 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” by which the bishops pledged to follow a procedure for reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop.
This document needs revision to clarify how victims can report abuse of minors or other misconduct by bishops, as well as develop third-party reporting systems, many of which are already being looked at today. Of course, bishops are not exempt from following standards of behavior. Our own Cardinal Joseph Bernardin provided a strong example, when he chose to step aside after he was accused of abuse — a charge that was eventually retracted.
The USCCB will also press for procedures that will make is easier to resolve complaints against bishops in a timely, fair, and transparent manner.
As Cardinal DiNardo explained, all this will be conducted with “proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.” This call for lay oversight of the investigation, as much as the scandal itself, shows the need for systemic change in the way we order church life. The clericalist mindset, responsible for so much of the scandal, must be purged from church life. As Pope Francis has urged, we need to remember that it is our baptism that unites us. We as a church must reflect more deeply on what we share in common, rather than what distinguishes us.
The abuses contained in the Pennsylvania grand jury report are, as you know, appallingly familiar. And while it is true that the vast majority of abuses contained in that report occurred decades ago, that is of no comfort to victims, nor should it be to any of us. We cannot say this enough: the abuses should never have happened, and no one should have acted in ways that enabled them. This is why, following the 2002 wave of scandals, the USCCB adopted policies designed to protect young people from abusers. We instituted a zero-tolerance policy which holds that even one instance of child sexual abuse would bar someone from the priesthood forever. The Archdiocese of Chicago has implemented these policies and even done more.
- We established an independent lay-majority review board to consider allegations against clergy and make recommendations to the bishops.
- We refer all allegations of abuse to civil authorities.
- We require diocesan employees and volunteers to undergo background checks.
- We mandate that all diocesan employees and volunteers undergo safe-environment training to help them identify predatory behavior and understand avenues of reporting. And we required that children be taught how to recognize, resist and report abuse.
- We undergo an annual audit to measure compliance with these policies, which every year has found the Archdiocese of Chicago compliant.
Since 2002, hundreds of thousands of our people in dioceses across the United States have undergone safe-environment training. In many ways we can say that the policies of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which established procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, have been successful. According to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, for example, just two of the 300 priests named in the text were accused within the past decade, and both were reported to civil authorities. This excuses nothing, and we can never become complacent about our responsibility to protect children and adults from abuse and harassment, but it does say something about the effects of our post-2002 policies.
Here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, we have been following procedures that were first established by Cardinal Bernardin in 1992, following revelations of clergy abuse that came to light during that period. In addition to what the Charter calls for, we offer payment for counseling or other assistance to anyone who comes to us with allegations even before attempting to establish the credibility of the claim. After any civil investigation has concluded, we conduct our own inquiry into allegations against priests, and our majority-lay review board considers the case and makes a recommendation to me about whether the accused should remain in ministry. One of the most important things Cardinal Bernardin did was to establish a regular meeting of everyone who might be called in to consider a case of sexual abuse, whether it involves a minor or an adult. So, to this day, representatives from across the relevant pastoral center offices regularly meet with me to advise me on cases that arise and ways to strengthen our commitments.
Of course, no set of procedures is perfect. As the grand jury report illustrates, they are subject to the strengths and weaknesses of those entrusted to carry them out. Closed systems always tend toward self-protection; it is only when we create systems of accountability that we let in purifying light. That’s what our practices are designed to do. They exist because we as a church have a grave responsibility to ensure the safety of our people. That is why I encourage anyone who has been victimized to contact our Office of Protection of Children and Youth at 800.994.6200 or protect.archchicago.org.
Anger, shock, grief, shame. There is one other word that we bishops must summon: resolve. We must resolve to face our failures and hold each other accountable. We must resolve to be clear-eyed about what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what remains to be done. We must resolve to live in the light of humility, of repentance, of honesty — the light of Christ. As your bishop, I pledge to continue holding firm to that resolve. And I ask for you to pray for all victims of abuse. I also invite you to review what I have written here and make suggestions for improving our safe-environment standards, ever heeding the Second Vatican Council’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” which called on the laity, “by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy … to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the church.”
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
Statement at all Masses
Weekend of August 17-18, 2018
Fr. Carl Morello
Good Morning. Before we listen to the Word of God, I want to take a moment and address recent news regarding our church, abuses, and more coverups. I stand with all of you, disheartened, that as a faith community and part of the Universal Church we once again are facing the reality of the humanness and broken nature of some of our most trusted leaders.
Today, I ask that we pray for all victims and their families to find strength and healing from their pain, betrayal, and disappointment.
We pray for Church leaders to have the wisdom and courage to hold accountable those responsible for this betrayal of trust that causes such harm and pain to individuals, families, and our entire church.
We pray as well for ourselves, that the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit will help us persevere in faith and come through this ordeal with a Church that is once and for all rid of such evil.
I want to thank you for being here and for continuing to come, to grow in faith and to support this parish community. A question that has been asked, at times even by myself, is “why stay in the Church?” I humbly offer this: there is no hope for the Church unless you stay, and together we are committed to a true reform from within.
I also hope you will stay here, in this community, because you have experienced and trust the presence and work of God that is evident.
I pray you will continue to trust in that work of God and remain united as a community of faith. Together, against the brokenness and evil that we experience, with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, we can help the Church move forward by being the light, love, and compassion of God that the Church is supposed to be for all, especially the most vulnerable. Stay, because this is how we can rebuild trust and hope.