Cupich denies working with Wuerl on ‘metropolitan model’ plan for sex abuse inquiries

Cardinal Blase Cupich Credit Daniel Ibanez 1 CNA 1 Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. CNA file photo

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago has denied collaborating with Cardinal Donald Wuerl on a proposal for handling misconduct complaints against bishops. The plan was formally presented during the U.S. bishops' conference General Assembly in Baltimore last week, as an alternative to draft measures that had previously presented by conference leadership.

CNA reported Nov. 16 that Cupich's proposal, which would see metropolitan archbishops and their diocesan review boards handle allegations of misconduct against the bishops of their provinces, was developed through collaboration between Wuerl and Cupich.

Cupich told news site Crux on Nov. 18 that "the allegation is false."

"At no time prior to the Baltimore meeting did the two of us collaborate in developing, nor even talk about, an alternative plan," he told Crux.

Sources in Washington, DC, and Rome told CNA that the two cardinals, who are the only American members of the Congregation for Bishops, had worked together on the idea over a period of weeks. Wuerl first publicly raised the plan in August.

It was the Congregation for Bishops that issued a surprise, last-minute directive Nov. 12 preventing the U.S. bishops' conference from voting to adopt any new measures in response to the sexual abuse crisis that has arisen in recent month in the U.S. Church.

Sources in the Archdiocese of Washington told CNA Nov. 16 that Wuerl and Cupich had first informed the Congregation for Bishops several weeks before the U.S. bishops' meeting about their idea for the "metropolitan model" to handle complaints against a bishop, further suggesting that the cardinals had continued to discuss the plan with congregation officials at some points prior to the bishops' meeting.

According to Crux, a spokesman for Wuerl "denied that any such advance cooperation took place." Crux also reported that a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington said that, although Cardinal Wuerl had spoken about the idea "in general terms" earlier this summer, "nothing was ever formalized, presented, or discussed with anyone."

Regarding the report by CNA that the two cardinals collaborated on the idea, and that the matter had been raised at the congregation, Crux reported that "both Cupich and a spokesman for Wuerl insist that's false."

Crux clarified its report Nov. 21, noting that "the Wuerl spokesperson said his denial applies to the immediate period before the Baltimore meeting, adding 'I have no idea' if Wuerl and Cupich had ever previously discussed possible responses to the abuse crisis."

Crux said its report was "updated after the spokesperson for Wuerl quoted above clarified the scope of his comment."

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Chicago told CNA that Cupich did not discuss the proposed "metropolitan model" with Wuerl at any time before the USCCB meeting in Baltimore. The spokesperson added CNA that Cupich did not ever discuss the "metropolitan model" at the Congregation for Bishops in Rome, or with any member or official of that congregation.

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