testimony published by a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Vigano. That testimony alleged that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was instrumental in Cupich’s appointment as Archbishop of Chicago in 2014..- On Aug. 27, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago was interviewed by Chicago NBC 5 reporter Mary Ann Ahern, about an Aug. 25
After airing a story containing portions of that interview, NBC 5 published five videos which contain more footage of Ahern’s conversation with Cardinal Cupich. For clarity, CNA has transcribed those videos.
NBC: Does the pope need to tell Catholics exactly what he knew about Cardinal McCarrick and when he first knew it?
Cupich: Well I think that the Holy Father on the airplane had exactly the kind of answer that was needed.
He was asked about the letter of the Archbishop Vigano. He said he read it. He encouraged the media to read it carefully and to come to their own conclusions. And that he would not have any final statement - any other statement on it. I think what he was signaling is two things; the first is that, you have to see whether or not these remarks stand up to scrutiny.
There are so many things in there that he says about so many people that it’s impossible to try to get into the weeds on this. And he [the pope] trusts the media to use their skills, their expertise, and, he said, their maturity to explore these questions.
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. The other is look at, look at- look at these things that were said on an individual basis.
That’s why I clarified it. I offered a statement that addressed the three areas that he said about me. I suspect others are going to be doing the same thing.
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. Let’s let the news media do their job here.
But for the Holy Father, I think to get into each and every one of those aspects, in some way is inappropriate and secondly, the pope has a bigger agenda. He’s gotta get on with other things of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the Church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.
NBC: But, does there also need to be an independent investigation from top to bottom of who knew what when?
Cupich: Oh, in fact, you know the president of our bishops’ conference has already called for that weeks ago in saying that we need to know what happened here of how he was promoted, what happened in terms of McCarrick, but also we need to find out what happened in Pennsylvania. Let’s not overlook that. Let’s not let this letter take us away from the fact that there was something flawed in the way that the Charter, which should have been followed from 2002 on, was implemented. We have done it here in Chicago, and we’re proud of it. I’m deeply disappointed and somewhat angry that there were people in another state, in another jurisdiction, that were not doing the things that we promised to do. We should hold each other accountable and we need an independent review of that too.
NBC: By an independent review, would that be Lisa Madigan and the attorney general’s office? (ed note: Lisa Madigan is Illinois’ attorney general)
Cupich: Well, no no no. Independent review of what, nationally, has happened. I think, for instance, we need to call on lay people who are skilled to find out what happened.
Now, with regard to Lisa Madigan and the attorney general, we talked this morning. And I assured her of our full cooperation. I said, “First of all, we don’t mind at all because they have all our documents anyway. We turned them over in ‘14 and ‘15. We also have all the names of people who have any credible accusation against them through our review board that have been released to the officials. So we’re - The only thing I said is that if we’re going to move in this direction, let’s make child protection the priority. 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 . . . (video cuts off)
NBC: So does the rule that those who knew but did nothing, or perhaps worse - it is worse - covered it up, does that apply to everyone? For instance, if the pope knew something, some time ago, about these allegations, should he resign?
Cupich: Well I think that my answer to that would be very simple. My experience with the pope is that as soon as he knows about something, he acts on it. As soon as he’s given evidence about this, he acts on it. Let’s remember the accusation of Archbishop Vigano is that this information was known under the pontificate of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But who was the one who took action? It was Pope Francis. When Pope Francis received the report from Cardinal Dolan, who did his job in accord with our Charter, he acted right away. So I think that the record shows that whenever there’s actionable information, Pope Francis acts.
NBC: Does that same rule apply to you?
Cupich: Oh well, I think that yes, I think that my record shows that I have acted. I’ve been in three dioceses now and if you look at the newspaper reports in Rapid City and Spokane about my handling of situations. And here in the archdiocese, even when there’s adult misbehavior by clerics. We’re public about it. We have been all the time. We’ve always put out information to parishes. So I’m fairly - I’m very sure that we have always followed those procedures.
NBC: So you did have a critical role as the chairman of the committee protecting children. Wouldn’t an allegation involving a bishop or a cardinal, including McCarrick, wouldn’t that have come to your attention?
Cupich: Yes, if somebody made it, it would have come to my attention. I can say that when I was chairman, and I have never had any knowledge of this ahead of time about this about this, I surely would have acted. For instance, he was invited to various events in the Church, life of the Church, that I attended with. If I had known that he was abusing people, either adults or children, I surely would have acted on it. That’s the way I have always done things.
So I think that - I think that it’s - but, you know, somebody told me something very interesting. They said, you know, there’s this business of grooming victims by predators. They kind of get them in a position. But the psychologist told me there’s also grooming of people around him or her, so that they are put in such a position that they can never, ever believe that something like that is true.
But you have that in your own industry. You have people who have been news anchors and heads of communications systems who have for years abused people and they have created this atmosphere that nobody would ever believe any rumor and so nobody acted on it. So I think that it is part of the illness, but also part of the clever tactics of abusers to build that scenario around themselves.
NBC: When did you become aware of the McCarrick allegations?
Cupich: Well after- right when, uh - right when the decision, I think I had a few days ahead of time that it was going to be announced, that it was going to be announced. And that’s - at the time, at the time that when the decision was made by the Holy See that to have him not only removed from public life as a cleric, but also to make it public, I was told that.
NBC: So, because of Archbishop Vigano’s claims that McCarrick had lobbied for you.
NBC: I know you responded by a statement, but what do you say to that?
Cupich: Well, I would say - first of all - I’ve been appointed by three popes. Not just by Francis. I was appointed in 1998 by John Paul II, 2010 by Benedict XVI. It’s not as though I just fell out of the sky.
I worked at the Vatican embassy in the ‘80s, I was the rector of the pontifical seminary, the only pontifical seminary in the United States, so it’s not as though I was a newcomer. People knew me in Rome, and so on. I don’t think that I needed one person to be my advocate and I believe that- I believe that the pope wanted someone who was pastoral, as he said, and I was a candidate that he looked at seriously.
NBC: Were you involved in choosing Cardinal McCarrick for the Catholic Extension St. Francis Award?
Cupich: Yeah, I was consulted about that and I agreed to it and, in fact, had I known any of this I surely wouldn’t have. I think that’s a good indication that I didn’t have prior knowledge. I surely wouldn’t choose somebody that had that kind of record behind them and, and yes I was.
NBC: So those allegations, then, did not - they weren’t common knowledge, as some have suggested.
Cupich: No, they were not to me. I mean, if they were common knowledge, I don’t know who had that information. Maybe on the East Coast, where he was, on a day-to-day basis, but I surely did not know that. And I wouldn’t be so stupid and foolish as to allow him to be recognized by Catholic Extension, which does enormously good work, and have their reputation threatened if I knew this information about him.
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.
Any institution, like the Church or other larger institution, that have that kind of insular protection for their members, always gets in trouble. I have told other people that I’ve talked to, who have asked me to come to talk about the issue from their own perspective of kind of a lay clerical culture in their industries, is that if you circle the wagons when you have an issue, you’re gonna end up circling the drain. And that’s what’s happening.
NBC: Is there a Catholic civil war underway? I mean, today you would think the headlines are so-
Cupich: Well, I would say, I would say not a civil war. There’s a small group of insurgents, who have not liked Pope Francis from the very beginning.
They don’t like the fact that he’s calling for more lay involvement. They don’t like the fact that he is calling for a synodal Church, where we get the advice of people. They don’t like that he’s talking about the environment or the poor or the migrants or that the death penalty is something that we should outlaw. They don’t like the fact that he is saying that economies kill. There are people who don’t like that message. And so there’s an insurgency of people who don’t like that. 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.
NBC: When’s your next visit to Rome and do you believe that all of these issues - Archbishop Vigano, Cardinal McCarrick, the grand jury - will this something that will be discussed between you and the pope?
Cupich: I don’t think so. I’ll tell you why, because I know that the president of our conference is going to be going to Rome, as he said, to talk to the pope. He represents our conference. I’m consulted from time to time by our conference leadership and directly by the Holy See and I stand ready to do my part.
But let’s be clear, I think it’s important right now, in view of the letter that was issued today by the president of our conference, that this is not on the pope’s plate to fix. This is on us.
We, as the bishops’ conference of the United States, obviously need to look at what went wrong here and hold each other accountable. So before we give the pope another task to do, let’s look at what we’re supposed to do. What’s on our agenda to fix this? That’s where the failure is.
CNA's Kate Veik transcribed this interview.
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